Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chicken Spaghetti

8 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 large can (28 oz.) tomato puree
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (or use a small can of mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasonings
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and kept in warm water.
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat), room temperature
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. parsley
1/2 cup French fried onions, crushed lightly
Brown the chicken in a large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook until onions are transparent. Stir often to prevent burning. Add the tomato puree, garlic, and Italian seasonings. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often.
Drain the spaghetti well. Mix the sour cream with the cream cheese and the ricotta, blending well. Add the parsley and blend well again.
Put half of the spaghetti in a large, greased dish and cover evenly with the cheese mixture. Add the second layer of spaghetti and the chicken, mushroom, onion mixture. Cover with crushed onions and bake for 30 -35 minutes in a 350 degree oven until bubbly.
Lillian: This dish is so versatile and can be changed by topping with mozzarella cheese or Ritz crackers mixed with a bit of melted butter instead of the onions. This freezes well and can be made in two dishes instead of one large one. This makes a huge amount of spaghetti and I make it in my large lasagna pan, if I am making it for a group.

Martha:  This is a delicious dish!  The ricotta, cream cheese and sour cream give it a creamy layer that enhances the taste of the sauce.  Now Sis, I'm going to tell everyone something that I would do if I were making this and was short on ingredients.  I would use a jar of spaghetti sauce in place of the seasonings and tomato puree.  This would also give you the option to add other flavors depending on the sauce you use.  You can also use linguine instead of the spaghetti which is what I did just for the heck of it.  My testers loved it!

Food Tester Carol:  A Pyrex dish with a layer of linguine on the bottom, baked in savory flavors and mingled with sour cream form the basis for the layers of tastes in this recipe. The linguine is topped with pieces of chicken breast, a hearty sauce (that is so good it should be a family secret) and then crowned with crispy tidbits of French onions lightly browned at the edges. Why are layered dishes like this such fun, like finding a treasure chest and going through the riches, layer by layer! This is a must-do recipe and one that can be served with a simple green salad when friends are invited to dinner.

Tip:  When reheating casseroles, it's best to defrost them in the refrigerator overnight. If that isn't possible, cover and reheat in a 350°F (175°C) oven, allowing almost double the baking time. To test for doneness, insert a knife or a wooden skewer in the center of the food, if it's hot to the touch when removed trust that it's hot throughout.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chicken Noodle Casserole

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and cut into cubes
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 jar (2 oz.) pimientos, drained
1 can (8 1/2 oz.) sweet peas, drained
1/2 lb. medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix chicken, soup, milk, pimientos, peas and noodles.  Pour into 2 qt. casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Mix bread crumbs, cheese and butter together.  Sprinkle over dish.  Bake 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Serves 6.

Martha:  This dish was originally a recipe using tuna that I changed to chicken.  It also called for frozen peas which I substituted with canned and I added the Parmesan cheese for added taste.  Turned out great.  I think the next time I make this I'm going to add some almond slivers to give it another texture.

Lillian: I remember the tuna casserole and made it, or one very similar, many times. I'd like this one even better with the chicken and I don't think that I'll change a thing from how you have made it, Martha. Great dish and so easy on the cook and the budget.

Tip:  Generally a casserole takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to bake.  Because of this you might want to consider using dried herbs in the dishes that require cooking time of more than an hour.  Fresh delicate herbs tend to lose their flavor when exposed to extended periods of high heat.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cashew Chicken

2 whole chicken breasts (boned, skinned and cut into 1" cubes)
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup celery, cut into 1/4" bias slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup sliced green onion (optional)
1 med. tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cashews

Heat oil to 350º. Combine cornstarch, soy sauce, water, salt and pepper in small bowl; stir until blended; set aside. Add chicken, mushrooms, celery, and garlic to hot oil. Stir fry 3 minutes or until chicken turns white. Stir in water chestnuts and green onions. Stir fry 3 minutes, stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes Stir in tomato and cashews. Cook 2 minutes more.
Serve over rice or noodles.
Serves 5.
Lillian: I think that this recipe was given to me by our daughter, Susan, years ago. I do know that it is really delicious and a bit different. It is very nice for a company dinner or a nice dinner for a quiet evening at home. It is also quite low in calories and healthy, as well.

Martha:  Made it, loved it and so did my food testers.  I actually made extra by increasing the recipe by 1/2.  The reason was to try something else with this dish.  I took the leftovers and made lettuce wraps.  I'm actually taking some for my lunch tomorrow.  These will not only be tasty but also healthy. 

Food Tester Carol:  Chunks of tender chicken breast, cooked in a mild Chinese sauce with oriental vegetables, with crunchy water chestnuts and cashews bringing additional surprise and delight, turn this Asian treat into a true comfort food. Comfort foods do not overwhelm or shock with flavor. They do what this dish does, provide you with familiar flavors and mild seasonings, perfect on a day when what we need is a sense of security and a reassurance of the gentle pleasures of life.

Tips:  With most of us working, taking care of kids and trying to create quick, yet tasty dishes, we are always looking for the easiest way to speed up the process.  One way that helps is to stock up on pre-cut and peeled vegetables like carrots, onions, broccoli florets, etc. in either your supermarket or at a salad bar.  Yep a salad bar.  Most charge by the pound but have no problem with you picking out nothing but the specific items you might need.  It might not be as economical as you would hope but if you're doing a stir-fry and need carrots, onions, broccoli, pea pods, etc. you might be surprised at how much cheaper it is to buy from the salad bar than to buy each individually.  Plus look at the time spent not having to preparing them.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chicken, Tortellini and Vodka Sauce

1 bag (1 lb.) 3 cheese tortellini
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. oil
1 jar Vodka Sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Drain.  Stir in garlic and butter.  Cut chicken into bite size pieces.  Heat oil in large frying pan.  Cook chicken until done.  Stir in Vodka Sauce and Ricotta.  Heat and stir until well blended.  Add tortellini.  Pour into 3 qt. baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted.  Serves 6.

Martha:  I love tortellini and I actually made this dish around it.  Of course I wanted the chicken but have never done much with vodka sauce.  This came out to be a great tasting combination.  I did turn my broiler on and let the cheese brown just a bit, which I personally like.  The dish isn't 'wet' with sauce.  The sauce actually came out thick and stuck to the chicken and tortellini coating it perfectly. 

Lillian: Like Martha, I love tortellini. I had pasta with the vodka sauce and mushrooms recently and it was really delicious. It was also the jarred sauce and that made me realize that not everything has to be "homemade" to be good. Being from the "old school" of cooks, I take pride in making all of my own sauces as well as other ingredients in a casserole. This has been a delicious lesson.
Tip:  When a recipe calls for alcohol of any kind, does the alcohol cook out completely?  A study was conducted and showed that alcohol remained in several recipes after the preparation was complete.  In the survey a pot roast was simmered with burgundy for 2 1/2 hrs; a chicken dish simmered for only 10 minutes after the burgundy was added; scalloped oysters made with dry sherry baked for 25 minutes; and cherries jubilee was doused with brandy, then ignited.  The results showed that anywhere from 4 to 78 percent of the initial amount of alcohol remained when the dishes were done.  The jubilee had the most alcohol left even after being doused.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chicken Chowder

1 large chicken breast, cooked and chopped
4 slices of bacon
2 1/2 cups chopped, peeled potatoes (3 medium)
1 Tbsp. dried onions
1 cup hot water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
2 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup cheese
salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and reserve 1 Tbsp. of drippings in pan.  Dissolve bouillon in hot water.  Pour into pan.  Add potatoes, onions, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and Old Bay.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  In a bowl whisk milk, half-and-half and flour.  Add to potato mixture.  Cook and stir constantly until slightly thickened and bubbly.  Stir in chicken, bacon and cheese.  Cook until hot and cheese melts.  Serves 4-6. 

Martha:  I found a recipe for New England Clam Chowder and decided to see how it would work using chicken instead of the clams.  It turned out pretty good but didn't have enough flavor.  That is when I decided to try adding the Old Bay.  I took out a spoonful of the chowder and added just a tiny amount of the Old Bay.  That was exactly what this dish needed.  

Lillian:  I love Chowder and soups.  Chowders are more filling, I think, and this one would supply everything that we need in a meal.  I always thought that the Old Bay Seasonings was for seafoods, but this proves otherwise.  I think, too, that I would add a bit of whole kernel corn as I love Corn Chowder.

Food Tester Maggie:  This Chowder is the best!  It's perfect for a cold day when you want something warming and filling.  And Martha is right, the Old Bay hit the spot.

Tips:  When a recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken cut into pieces, this is what you do.  For perfect pieces, place the uncooked chicken on a cutting board (used for chicken only).  Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken crosswise across the grain into 1/4 to 1/2" strips.  These strips also make great Buffalo chicken tenders but if the recipe calls for diced, line up the strips on the cutting board, a few at a time and cut them again into chunks.  So simple!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Parmesan

Olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 med. green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup calamite olives, pitted
1 can (14.5 oz.) Diced tomatoes in sauce
1 jar (24 oz.) 4 cheese spaghetti sauce
6 - 8 boneless, skinless chicken strips
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. water
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. Spaghetti, cooked

In a large sauce pan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and bell peppers.  Sauté 5 minutes.  Add olives, tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.  Turn heat low enough to simmer. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a non-stick frying pan, heat enough olive oil to lightly cover bottom of pan.  In a shallow bowl mix flour, salt & pepper.  In 2nd bowl mix eggs and water.  Place Panko bread crumbs in 3rd bowl.   Dip chicken strips into flour bowl, then into egg mixture, then into panko coating on all sides.  Place into frying pan and brown on both sides.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place chicken evenly in dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Spoon sauce evenly over chicken and cheese.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted.  Sprinkle with 2nd cup of mozzarella cheese and place back in oven to melt remaining cheese - 5 - 10 minutes.  Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Martha:  When I found the original recipe for this dish I thought - OK, I'm going to make it just as it is and no changes - not!  I made several ingredient changes, one being the spaghetti sauce instead of 2 cans of tomatoes.  I changed the bread crumbs to Panko, left out the garlic and bay leaves and basil since the spaghetti sauce had its own seasonings.  The olives and frying the chicken in the olive oil gave the breading and chicken a light, delicate olive taste.  This dish was really a hit with everyone that ate it.  The sauce is a little on the thick side and I thought that wouldn't work well with the spaghetti but boy was I wrong.  You didn't need a lot of sauce to season the pasta. 

Lillian:  I love Parmesan and this sounds so good.  The double layer of Mozzarella cheese, plus the Parmesan, is delicious.  Like you, I don't think that you must drown spaghetti in sauce and actually prefer very little sauce on my pasta.  This works so well and the thickness of the sauce makes it cling even more to the spaghetti.  A watery sauce just won't work well here.  This will please the entire family, or just for a nice dinner for two (with left-overs for another night).  This is a "must try" recipe.

Food Tester Carol:  Did you ever know that the tomatoes in spaghetti sauce could sing? Well they do in this recipe. Mixing a can of tomatoes with a can of pasta sauce makes the tomato component of this dish surprisingly light. They are in perfect harmony with the chicken breasts and finished off in the oven with melted mozzarella and Parmesan! You can come home from work and whip this up in very little time, just as Martha did on a spring evening, delivering it while it was still daylight!

Tips:  A lot of times a recipe will call for your poultry to be placed in a brine, but what exactly is a brine?  Brining is like a marinade.  It keeps the food moist and tender.  It's a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it's cooked.  Salt changes the structure of the muscle tissue allowing it to swell and absorb water and flavorings making the turkey or chicken tender.

Most brines start with water and salt - 3/4 lb. of salt per gallon of water but since you aren't using the brine to preserve your chicken you can cut back on the salt.  When picking a salt for your brine, you will normally choose either Kosher salt or table salt without iodine.  Sea salt can be used but it's a bit more expensive.  But keep this in mind when measuring out your salt.  Kosher salt and table salt are not equal in weight.  Table salt weighs about 10 oz. per cup where as Kosher salt weights between 5 to 8 ounces per cup depending on the brand.  So if you use Kosher salt you must use more than 1 cup to achieve the same saltiness that you would get form 1 cup of table salt.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled & cut into small pieces
4 quarts of water
7 chicken bouillon cubes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Montreal steak seasoning
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp. dried, minced onions
4 Tbsp. corn starch
pepper to taste
1 pkg. (14 oz.) egg noodles

In a large soup pot bring water to a boil.  Add bouillon cubes, bay leaves, salt, and Montreal steak seasoning.   Boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Add carrots, celery, onions and chicken.  Boil on medium heat until carrots and celery are done.  Mix corn starch in about 1/2 cup of water until smooth.  Pour into pot and stir to blend.  Bring the soup to a boil and allow the corn starch to thicken, about 4-5 minutes.  Add egg noodles and cook until done.  Season with pepper and more salt if needed.

Martha:  This recipe originally came from a site titled Turnips 2 Tangerines.  I did make a few adjustments for my own taste but you can see the original recipe by going to their site.  I took this soup to my daughter's office and the comments I've received back all say the same... "This is the best every!"  

I cooked my 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in my toaster oven until done.  I like baking my chicken instead of boiling to help hold in the flavor.  You can add more chicken but if the 2 breasts equal about 1 lb. it really goes a long way.  You can add more or less carrots, celery and onions depending upon your taste.  I liked using the dried onions because they don't seem to overpower the taste like a fresh onion sometimes does.  If you decide your soup isn't quite as thick as you might like, you can always add more corn starch in small amounts but always make sure it comes to a boil for thickening.  Your soup will be thicker the next day so keep that in mind too.  This is a dish that I tasted with every step to get the flavor I wanted.  One of the biggest keys, I think, is the Montreal steak seasoning.  Enjoy!

Food Tester Lisa:  This is the most amazing creamy chicken noodle soup I have ever had.  You can't get any better than this!.

Food Tester Leslie (My daughter!):  Yes I have to admit I am biased, Martha is my Mom but I do not remember this recipe while growing up.  My Mom brought a crock pot full of the creamy chicken noodle soup to my office for the girls here to share.  I have been sick with a cold for the past week and not able to keep much down.  The soup was amazing.  I not only kept it down but had two bowls full, it is true comfort food.  I will be making this at home for my family.  Thanks Mom.

Food Tester Carol:  My 95 year old mother says it's like the chicken and dumplings that her mother used to make.  Her mother used to go out and kill a chicken, pluck it, cook it and then make her homemade dumplings for it.  I knew what mother meant.  It has such an intense chicken flavor that permeates the creaminess and the vegetables, we will want to have this a lot.  We both think it's the best chicken noodle soup we've ever tasted!

Tip:  Something else I learned the hard way about eggs is to always look inside the carton when you get them home, before putting them in the refrigerator.  There is always the possibility of an egg breaking during its trip from the store you your home.  If you do find a cracked egg, remove it immediately and if it has leaked onto the other eggs, wash them immediately.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chicken, Wild Rice & Sausage Casserole

2 pkg. Ready to Serve Brown & Wild Rice
4 chicken breasts, cooked, boned, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. mild bulk sausage
1 can (4 oz.) Shiitake mushrooms, drained
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (or 1 cup French fried onions)

Cook rice according to package.  In a large frying pan brown sausage, breaking into pieces.  Drain excess grease. Add mushrooms, soup, Worcestershire sauce and milk.  Mix until well blended.  Add rice and chicken.  Mix well.  Place in 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine breadcrumbs and butter.  Sprinkle over dish (or use French fried onions, no butter added).  Bake 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and breadcrumbs are slightly browned.  Serves 8

Martha:  I was a little unsure about using the sausage in this dish but from the reviews I've gotten from my food testers, I'm glad I did.  The original recipe called for long grain & wild rice but I decided to speed it up by using the Ready to Serve Minute Rice.  I also changed the fresh mushrooms to the canned Shiitake.  It called for canned milk which I changed to half & half.  And then I did something that I do quite often.  I sprinkled half of the dish with the Panko and butter breadcrumbs and the other half with French fried onions.  That gave me 2 different tastes.  Which did I like best?  Both!

Lillian: This dish is great for a pot luck dinner especially since the bulk of the work can be done the day, or evening, before it is needed. For home, I will have to bake it in two smaller dishes and freeze one for later use. This one is definitely a "try it, you'll like it" recipe.

Food Tester Carol:  If you are just lolling around on a Sunday afternoon and need something to bring you up to a positive spin and make you feel like singing, then try this recipe which will be a quick and easy way to remind yourself of all the great Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with sage dressing. How does Martha get such a nice “bite” in these dishes, that are tender and easy to eat but still have something crunchy to make them feel like a snack!

Poultry Seasoning (this isn't a tip but it's good) - This blend brings out the best flavors of chicken and poultry without adding salt.  It's a good addition to stews, soups, casseroles, stuffings, and dumplings.
1/2 cup dried sage, 1 cup dried parsley, 1/4 cup dried rosemary, 1.4 cup dried summer savory, 1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram or 1/4 cup dried, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1.2 tsp. onion powder.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chicken with Wild Rice

1 box Uncle Ben's Long grain and wild rice
     roasted garlic and olive oil
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut up
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 leek, rinsed and chopped
1 can (4 oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Cook rice according to package.  In a skillet heat oil.  Add chopped leek.  Sauté stirring occasionally until starting to brown, 2 - 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and broth.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5 - 7 minutes.  Sprinkle with flour and whisk to blend.  Add milk and bring to a simmer.  Cook 1 minute stirring constantly.  Add Parmesan cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Evenly spread rice in bottom of pan.  Top with chicken.  Pour sauce over top of chicken, spreading evenly.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Bake until bubbly and almonds are golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Serves 6.

Martha:  The original recipe called for wild rice.  While looking around in my pantry I spotted a box of Uncle Ben's wild rice with garlic and olive oil and decided this might just work.  I was right!  It also called for sherry which I didn't have so I used chicken broth.  That worked too.  Then it called for fresh mushrooms which I was out of so I used canned mushrooms.  It had one more ingredient that I left out completely - green beans.  I just decided not to add them.  It all worked out perfectly because I simply decided to Think With My Taste Buds.

Lillian: I really like all of the ingredients in this recipe and I love green beans, although I can see that they wouldn't be necessary to make this a delicious meal. Instead of adding the green beans, just add a green salad on the side and a nice hot roll or biscuit. Delicious!!!

Food Tester Carol:  A friend of mine always says that you can tell when someone has loved making a special dish. That is the case with this recipe designed by Martha—with ample pieces of tender, moist white chicken meat, Uncle Ben’s wild rice (and the surprise crunchy petite lentils), a foundation flavor of leeks, garlic and just enough parmesan to pull all of the varied flavors together. Each component on its own is appealing but it was the imagination of one who loves cooking that reached beyond to pull in the unexpected flavor of the parmesan which blends them all together into a perfectly balanced and palate pleasing dish!

Tip:  If you're trying to eat healthier and maybe even lose some weight, remember to remove all the skin and fat from your chicken before freezing.  After removing the skin and fat, lay each piece individually on a baking sheet, cover and place in the freezer.  After my chicken is frozen I place my chicken breasts individually in freezer bags.  This allows me to pick out as much or as little for the dish I'm cooking.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Swiss Chicken Broccoli Casserole

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled
4-6 slices Swiss cheese
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1 pkg. frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed
2 cups stuffing mix
1/2 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place chicken breasts evenly in dish.  Cover each with a slice of Swiss cheese.  In a large bowl whisk both soups, milk, pepper, sage and mustard.  Stir in broccoli and stuffing mix.  Spoon over chicken.  Pour melted butter over dressing.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until bubbly.  Serves 4 - 6.

Martha:  I found a recipe for this dish on The Southern Lady Cooks site.  I did make a few changes, of course.  I added the mushroom soup and eliminated the canned chicken gravy and can of mushrooms.  I also used pre-cooked chicken making this a much quicker dish.  You can use bone in or boneless but I like using the boneless for this dish.  For my stuffing I used my favorite blue package Pepperidge Farm.  I almost forgot, I added the broccoli too giving it an added flavor.

Lillian: Like you, Martha, I almost always have cooked chicken in the freezer as well as stuffing mix or homemade stuffing. It makes it so easy to put a meal together quickly and yet have a tasty dinner. One of my favorite chicken recipes is the one "My Sister's Chicken Delicious" and it calls for the cooked chicken, stuffing mix and soup. Why not try adding the broccoli to that dish, as well. I think that it would be super delicious. This is a real hit.

Martha:  Sis, that's a great idea and we do have your sisters Chicken Delicious as a recipe in this book.  

Tip:  I've always heard the term poultry but never really paid much attention to its real meaning.  Poultry actually refers to any domesticated bird raised for its eggs or meat... chicken, turkey, capon, game hen, duck, goose, etc.  Interesting.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Butterfly Pasta Chicken

8 oz. Farfalle pasta
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless chicken, cooked and cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chicken broth (reserved from boiling chicken)
1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and cut into strips
1/2 cup half & half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package, drain and set aside.
In a large skillet heat oil.  Add garlic, chicken, basil, Italian seasoning, pepper and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes allowing liquid to reduce and flavors to absorb in chicken.  Add tomatoes, half & half and cheese.  Stir well.  Toss pasta into chicken mixture.  Heat and serve.   Makes 4-6 main dishes.

Martha:  Sis, you know I love to read and now and then I actually learn something.  In one book there was a character that enjoyed cooking.  This make believe character actually taught me the Italian translation for Farfalle.  It means 'butterfly.'  For years I've called this form of pasta, like everyone else, 'bow ties' because that's what they look like.  Now that I know the true meaning of the word they will always be 'butterflies' to me.  My Butterfly Pasta Chicken is so good.  The original recipe called for wine which I substituted with broth, it called for uncooked chicken which I changed because I keep cooked chicken in the freezer for quick dishes.  It called for whipping cream which I didn't have but I did have half & half.  And it also called for crushed red pepper which I changed to black pepper. I also added the extra teaspoon of Italian seasoning giving it the perfect blend of flavor.  This dish was a real hit with my food testers.

Lillian: Having grown up in the "melting pot" area outside Pittsburgh, I knew what Farfalle was and still we called them "bow ties". There are so many types of pasta and this one is so perfect for this recipe and the name tells it all. This dish is sure to be a winner at your table whether for family or guests. It also makes a great dish to take for a potluck dinner or to a shut-in. You've done it again, Martha.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

White Chili

1 lb. chicken, boiled and cut into bite size pieces
2 cups chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)
2 cans (15-16 oz.) white beans, undrained
1 pkg. (1.25 oz.) White Chili seasoning (I used McCormick)

In a large pan mix all ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Cover.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Serves 6.

Martha:  I keep seeing recipes for 'Chicken Chili' but have always thought that was simply not for me.  While at the grocery store I saw a packet of McCormick's White Chicken Chili and decided why not at least give it a try.  I'm so glad I did.  I actually think I like this better than Chili made with beef.  It is spicy so I cut that down a bit by using a second can of beans.  Also, the package called for cooking the chicken in oil but I decided to boil mine.  It also called for water which I changed and used the chicken broth.  And to top mine off I used cheese crackers.  Boy was this a winner!  I may never make chili with beef again.

Lillian: I don't like Chili but this one is different. If this is still too spicy, I would try using a partial package of the McCormick's seasoningThere are so many dishes that are normally made with beef that can be changed over to chicken making them healthier but just as tasty.

Food Tester Carol:  My 94 year old mother took one taste of this and said, with great appreciation—“this has real kick!” What she meant, of course, at 94 is that the spiciness was beautifully balanced in this dish, just the right spicy energy and just the right substantial chicken and white bean base!

Tip:  There have been times that I've not had enough of a specific pasta shape for a full recipe so I simply mix shapes of similar size.  This especially works with my chicken salads and chicken casseroles.  I've also found myself not having enough spaghetti or lasagna noodles to make a dish.  I just change up my recipe a bit and use pasta for either one I happen to be short of.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken

2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small sauce pan sauté garlic in butter.  Remove from heat.  Add brown sugar and mustard.  Spray baking dish big enough for the chicken with non-stick spray.  Place chicken, bone side down in pan.  Spoon butter mixture over chicken.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until done.  Baste 2 to 3 times during baking.

Martha:  This is so good.  The recipe that gave me the idea used olive oil instead of butter and it didn't include the mustard.  It was also baked at a much higher temperature for less time.  My method worked great.  The chicken came out juicy with the flavor of butter and garlic throughout the meat and the garlic taste on the outside.  The original also called for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I decided to use the bone-in which were very large weighing about 3/4 lb. each.  Each was enough to make 4 servings.  When I worked this up I added my garlic to the butter, then the sugar, gave it a taste until I had it just right.  Then I did the same thing when adding the mustard.  Great dish and looks good too.

Lillian: This is a real winner! I only eat white meat of chicken, while Bill will eat any of it, so this is more to my liking. I want the meat juicy and tender, while thoroughly cooked. This is it!! The Dijon mustard adds just the right amount of zing to the tasty sauce that you use to baste the meat with. Can't lose on this one!

Tip:  I've seen dishes that have been cooked in clay pots but didn't know much about them.  I do know that they make very pretty serving dishes when cooked as individuals.  This is what I found out about these pretty little pots.  Clay pots are a wonderful way to bake almost any type of marinated poultry.  The pot seals in the juices and imparts a richer flavor to the dish.  Most dishes take less time to cook in a clay baking pot than in a conventional baking dish so start checking for doneness 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the recipe suggests.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chicken Cobbler

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
2 cups chicken broth
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups biscuit mix or self-rising flour
2 cups milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
3 bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Pour melted butter in pan.  Spread shredded chicken over butter.  Sprinkle with black pepper and sage.   In a small bowl mix biscuit mix/flour with milk.  Slowly pour over chicken.  In a medium bowl whisk together 2 cups of chicken stock, chicken granules and soup.  Slowly pour over biscuit mix.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Don't overcook or your dish will be dry. 

Martha:  This recipe will also make a delicious Chicken Pot Pie by adding cooked carrots, potatoes, peas, etc. when you add the chicken.  The crust ends up rising to the top with all the delicious meat and sauce on the bottom.  Yummy!

Lillian: This is so easy, much like the "impossible pie" recipes of years ago. Ease, great taste, plenty to serve a family and not expensive.. just doesn't get any better, does it?

Tip:  For many years I've boiled chicken when I make chicken salad, casseroles and many other dishes.  It was easy and didn't require turning on the oven but the meat always seemed to come out dry.  Then I found this posting by the NC Extension service.  This is their advice for cooking chicken.

First of all, there are two basic methods for cooking: dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat methods include baking, roasting, grilling, sautéing, and deep frying. Moist heat methods include microwaving, poaching, baking in parchment, steaming, and slow cooking. This is the rule: when cooking chicken breasts with dry heat, use high heat and cook for a short period of time. When using moist heat, use low heat and cook for a longer period of time. Now when I say longer, that doesn’t mean hours. Grilled chicken breasts cook in 8-10 minutes, while poached breasts cook in about 15 minutes. And here’s another tip: when cooking with dry heat, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness so they will cook evenly.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Aaron's Chicken Bake

4 chicken breasts
1 stick of butter
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Add onion and sauté 4-5 minutes.  Remove onions from pan.  Add chicken and seer on both sides.  Spray a 2 qt. baking dish with non-stick spray.  Pour onions into dish.  Place chicken over onions.  Pour drippings from pan over chicken.  Sprinkle Cajun seasoning over chicken.  In a bowl whisk broth, lemon juice and flour.  Pour over chicken.  Cover with foil and bake 45 - 60 minutes (depending upon thickness of chicken).

Martha:  There is a story behind this dish.  One of the men I work with went quail hunting and while out the guide told the hunting party about a dish that would make the best quail you've ever eaten.  Now he told them how to make this while out in the woods with nothing to write this recipe down on.  Aaron decided he could remember it since it was so simple.  Well, when he told me what he remembered about the recipe he had the flour at 1 cup.  I personally thought that was too much so I cut it down to 1/2 and it could probably be cut down to 1/4 for a little bit thinner sauce.  He also told me the recipe called for 1 cup of white wine which I changed out using the broth and lemon juice.  I also changed the seasoning salt to Cajun seasoning.  And of course, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of the quail.  Well, I did good!  The sauce comes out almost like a pudding, which may not sound appealing but believe me it is.  This is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever eaten. 

Lillian: I, too, would substitute chicken for quail. I would also go for the thinner sauce by using less flour. Seasoned salt would be used instead of Cajun seasonings for a tamer taste. This is a simple and easy recipe, though, making it a time saver.

Martha:  One of the food testers tried this the day after and said the texture of the sauce reminded him of Chicken & Dumplins and that every bite of the chicken actually had flavor.  That is something that you can't say about most chicken dishes.  You usually have flavor on the outer portion but not throughout the meat.  This dish is a keeper.

Tips:  Did you know that cross-contamination is one of the biggest causes of Salmonella?  One way to avoid Salmonella starts right in the grocery store.  When you buy meat you need to make sure the package isn't dripping not that there are drippings from other packages on the one you're about to buy.  And before you place it in with your other groceries, always put it in a separate plastic bag that is usually available there at the meat counter.  If not there, ask for one.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
1 carrot sliced thin
2 med. potatoes cut into chunks
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 sheet puff pastry
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Dissolve cornstarch in broth.  Add to melted butter.  Stir in milk and heat until sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.  Add carrots and potatoes.  Reduce heat and add cheese.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Stir in chicken.  Pour into 2 qt. baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Lay puff pastry over top, trimming edges as needed.  Bake 1 hr.  Serves 6

Martha:  This recipe consists of ingredients pulled from 3 different recipes.  I pulled what I wanted in my own dish but still keep the consistency thick enough for a good pot pie.  When I worked up this dish I had 1 cup of left over fried chicken that I had separated from the bone and cut into pieces.  To this I added 1 boiled chicken breast.   I also noticed that I had no carrots but did have a bag of frozen soup mix in the freezer.  I picked out about 1/2 cup of carrots from the mix to go in my dish.  Worked perfect!  One of the original recipes called for 2 cups of cheese.  I liked the idea of the cheese but not so much that I would lose the true chicken taste.  As for the puff pastry for my crust, that was my idea and when it flaked up and turned golden brown I couldn't wait to give it a taste test.  Cutting into that crust and getting a chunk of chicken and delicious sauce - oh my!  So good.

Lillian: Puff pastry is so good as the crust on pot pies. I have always made a good rich pie crust for this, but have eaten the puff pastry topped pie in restaurants. Both are excellent and both hold that delicious chicken, carrots and potatoes in rich broth. Can it get any better than this?

Tips:  As well as "flattened" chicken, some of our dishes call for chicken that has been cut up into bite size pieces or strips.  For perfect pieces, place the uncooked chicken on a cutting board, remember to keep this board for chicken only. Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken crosswise across the grain into 1/4-inch strips. If a recipe calls for diced uncooked chicken, line up the strips on the cutting board and cut them again into chunks. 

Cream of Cauliflower Chicken Soup

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. oil and 1 Tbsp. oil
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup half & half
2 Tbsp. corn starch
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a bowl drizzle 2 Tbsp. oil over cauliflower.  Spread evenly over cookie sheet and bake 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and Italian seasoning.  Sauté about 1 minute.  Add broth and cauliflower.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes.  Dissolve corn starch in half & half.  Add to pan, whisking to blend.  Stir in cheese, chicken, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.  As soon as the soup comes to a boil, remove from heat & Serve.  Serves 6

Martha:  This soup can also be made using broccoli but I promise you the cauliflower is a must try at least once.  I came up with this when I found a cauliflower soup recipe.  I made a few changes and additions creating the recipe above.  It was a real hit with those lucky enough to give it a try.  When I served up a dish of this for myself I sprinkled a little cheese on top and sprinkled it with oyster crackers.  Perfect for a cold winter day.

Lillian: I love cauliflower no matter how you fix it. This recipe gives the full flavor of the cauliflower with the added bonus of Italian seasonings. This is different and so good.

Martha:  It actually gives you those flavors plus the chicken and they all blend so well together.

Tips:  Some of our recipes call for chicken that has been "flattened" or pounded.  This used to give me some concern as to how this was done but it is really quite simple.  First you place your uncooked chicken between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, a flat circular meat tenderizer, a rolling pin, or even the bottom of a small pan, gently pound the chicken from the center to the outside until the desired thickness is reached.  The whole key to this is pounding from the center.  If you pound from the outside 1st you'll get thick centers and very thin outsides.  Believe me, I've made this mistake many times.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bihon (a Philippine Recipe)

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Bihon noodles (rice thread noodles, found in Oriental section)
Hot Water  (see Bihon package instructions for amount)
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 of 16oz. pkg. (about 2 cups) cabbage, carrot slaw
1 med onion chopped
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp. oil
soy sauce, to taste

In a large pan (Dutch oven is great), heat oil and add garlic.  When hot, add shredded chicken and onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  While this is cooking put hot water into a bowl and add Bihon noodles.  You can break or cut them if you like them shorter.  Set aside.  Add slaw mix to chicken mixture.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add soy sauce to taste.  Drain Bihon noodles and add to meat mixture.  Stir and add more soy sauce if it looks too dry.  Serve hot with egg rolls.  Leftovers are great and can be re-heated in the microwave.  Serves 4-6.

Lillian:  This delicious dish is from our grand daughter-in-law, Jhoanna, and is from her native Philippines.  This is so good and she makes it with either chicken or shrimp.  This Bihon is easy to make, is really good and it makes huge servings.

Martha:  I made this dish plus.  I did put about a 1/2 tsp. of ginger in mine which was a great addition.  I also did something else different.  I divided the dish in half using one half to fill my egg rolls, which I baked instead of frying.  I served the meal with a heaping amount of Bihon, 2 Bihon stuffed egg rolls and sweet chili sauce for dipping.  So good!  I will advise one thing to anyone making this, especially if they do the egg rolls too.  Break the Bihon noodles up before adding to the slaw/chicken mixture.  It makes it so much easier to mix everything together.

Tips:  I can remember when I was a kid and we went on a picnic we would always have fried chicken.  We had coolers but not like those we have today.  Ours didn't keep our foods that cold and by the time we drove to wherever we were having lunch the fried chicken had gotten a bit warm.  Then it would be brought out for us to eat... after we finished our game of tag or whatever we might have been playing.  I have no idea how we escaped food poisoning from eating that chicken.  Now I know that cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours and it needs to be packaged up in an air-tight container and store it in a really good cooler to keep it safe. 

Artichoke & Spinach Smothered Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (8.5 oz.) Artichoke Hearts, quartered
1 pkg. spinach, thawed, squeezed, dried and chopped
1 med. onion
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large frying pan heat oil on medium high.  Sauté onions and garlic.  Remove from pan, allowing to drain well.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan.  Fry 2-3 minutes on each side, browning slightly.  In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients and onion/garlic, stirring well.  Place chicken in a 2 qt. baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Evenly spread artichoke/spinach mixture over chicken.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until chicken is completely done.  Serves 4. 

Martha:  I love spinach and artichoke dip so when I spotted a can of artichokes in my pantry I knew I had to come up with something good and boy was this dish a success.  I tasted after each addition and the rosemary brought everything together perfectly.  I served this over white rice and I, as well as all of my food testers that were lucky enough to try this dish, loved it.  Even those who said I don't like spinach or I don't like artichoke loved it.

Lillian: I also love the Spinach-Artichoke dip! That is my favorite appetizer. I never thought to use it to top baked chicken but you are so right! It is delicious! Isn't it fun to play in the kitchen and come up with something so crowd-pleasing? I made mud pies when I was a little girls and now my kitchen is my own kingdom!  My girlfriend and I used to make mud pies and decorate them as cookies and cakes and an old man who lived down the street from her used to admire our "baking" . One day, he gave us each a nickle for two "cookies" and went on his way. Our mothers told us that we had to give the money back since they weren't what the old man could eat and he just laughed and said that he knew that and to keep our nickles. We thought that we were so rich and so smart!
Tips:  I've always wondered why I couldn't use the liquids I marinated my chicken in to baste with.  Here is what you are actually supposed to do to keep bacteria out of your done dish.  You should always let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, even for a short soak of 30 minutes and never baste the cooked chicken with the same marinade that's touched raw chicken: either make extra marinade and set aside a portion just for basting, or boil it for two to three minutes, enough time to kill any bacteria.  Now my basted chicken is safer!