“Chick-N-Sketti”

So far this summer in New England it seems to be nice on Saturdays and rainy on Sundays. And since my day off is Saturday I am not complaining.

But rainy Sundays call for casseroles and slow-cookers and things that warm you up on a day not fit for man or beast!

This casserole is adapted from a recipe by the red-headed lady who lives on a cattle ranch and cooks on TV. You know the one, she considers herself a “pioneer.”

Behold my version of “chicken and spaghetti” ( get it “chick-n-sketti) casserole!

This dish is great as a make ahead for a pot-luck, freezes beautifully and leftovers can be portioned out for lunches!

The Recipe

1.25-1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

12 cups water (or enough water to cover and freely boil the chicken/pasta in your pot)

1 low sodium chicken bouillon cube

couple dashes of poultry seasoning ( I like “Bells”)

1/2 med white onion cut into fine dice

1 large green bell pepper cut into fine dice ( I used 2 medium size ‘cubanelles’ cause that is what I had)

1 40z jar diced pimentos, drained.

1 can ( 10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup

1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup

1 12oz box of spaghetti (broken up into small, aprox 1″ -2″ long pieces)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese ( separated into 2 cups)

1-2 tsp seasoned salt

1-2 tsp garlic powder

dashes of hot sauce to taste ( I like frank!)

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup of the water/broth reserved from cooking chicken/pasta ( may use less – depends on thickness of soup*)

Combine the water, bouillon, poultry seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add chicken and boil for 5 minutes, turn down heat to simmer and cover and cook 20 -25 mins more. Remove chicken and set aside to be shredded. Add pasta to same broth/water and cook till just al dente – don’t overcook. Cook about 2-3 mins under package recommendations for al dente. Remove pasta and retain at least a cup of the cooking broth/water. Lightly saute the onions in a tablespoon of butteror oil till they are just soft and a little golden. Combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, sauteed onions, diced peppers and pimentos, soups, broth/water*, seasoned salt, garlic powder, peppers, hot sauce and 1 cup of the cheddar till mixed and turn into a sprayed  baking dish. You will need at least a 2 quart size. You can taste for seasoning at this point because your ingredients/chicken should be fully cooked. Adjust as needed. (more salt, more hot sauce etc) Sprinkle the other cup of cheese on top and bake uncovered in a 350 degree preheated oven for 35-40 mins until cheese is brown and bubbly on top.

*use enough of the cooking water/broth to get the mix creamy but not too liquid. However the baking in the oven will help dry/thicken up things up -so err on the side of creamy rather than too “tight’

Full disclosure… I used Gluten Free Pasta and Gluten free canned soup…. shhh don’t tell the hubby!

 

A Visit To The “Onion Patch”

I have returned from vacation refreshed, renewed and perhaps 5 lbs heavier!

I highly recommend Bermuda as a vacation spot. Located about 650 miles out to sea approximately “across the pond” from the state of North Carolina, it is a small subtropical island and a British territory rich in maritime heritage, crystal blue water and beautiful views.

It received its nickname “the onion patch” from the fact that the famous Bermuda onions (more colors than just red too!) were the island’s primary export from the mid 1800’s till the early 1920’s when Texas took over as the largest exporter of onions. The onions were not native but they were brought to island as early as 1616 and quickly became a staple crop. Something about the “terrior” and sea climate that sets them apart creating a mild but bold, yet sweet taste.

In fact many famous people have weighed in on the topic…

“The onion is the pride and joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure.”
– Mark Twain, 1877

Bermudian people (affectionately referred to as ‘onions’) are often described the same way… bold, strong but yet mild and sweet. We experienced nothing but incredible hospitality on the island and will plan to return in the future.

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at "The Pickled Onion" restaurant in Hamilton Bermuda

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at “The Pickled Onion” restaurant in Hamilton.

 

 

 

Summer: 23 Days Away (And My Favorite Comfort Food Comes In-Season)

But who’s counting anyway. Ok maybe I am.

After this last winter here in the Boston area, summer can’t come fast enough! However we have had some pretty decent spring weather (maybe a little too hot for me, but then again a true ‘New Englander’ is really never satisfied with the current weather!)

As spring/summer comes so does my favorite comfort food…. Watermelon!

Yep Watermelon. I mean I love carb-loading on stews, mac-n-cheese, and warm bread from the oven as much as the next person. But truly watermelon is a comfort food for me. Growing up my mother would always serve this to us if we were feeling bad. “Easy to digest” she would say.  Admittedly it was the perfect first food after a bout with a stomach flu, a tooth pulling or even a fight with my brother. Somehow its refreshing sweet flesh always made everything better.

My father and I would sneakily compete to see who could get to the much-desired ‘heart’ of the watermelon first. The ‘heart’ is the best part – sweet and seed free. He would wander out to the fridge at night looking for the perfect TV snack only to discover that I had already carved out the best part!

To this day, my late night snack of choice is some watermelon!

2014-09-01 20.49.04

Spring: Day 67 (Snow In Montreal)

A recent business trip to Montreal had me both shivering with cold and eating a yummy classic.

poutine

“Charlevoix poutine with braised pork & Migneron cheese” to be exact.

If you are unfamiliar with “poutine” I will explain.

In the most basic form it is french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. The gravy is usually a chicken fat gravy. The cheese curds are the chewy, salty little pieces (milk solids) that are the beginnings of a great cheese. (like cheddar) Folks can opt to make Poutine more deluxe by adding meat, other cheeses and exotic garnishes.

This version had shredded, braised pork, an extra cheese called “Migneron de Charlevoix” and some green onion.

That extra cheese is extra special. Its made locally by Maurice Dufour and has helped bring the Quebec province into the artisanal cheese market.

This Poutine version really hit the spot that night considering the temperature was dropping rapidly into the 30’s and, yes I swear there was a few flakes of snow.

Author’s Note:

By the way… take a few minutes out of your day to remember that Memorial Day is more than grilled food and beach fun, it is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. Also a day to honor all who have served, not only in the past, but in the present.

Spring: Day 58 (Brunch On The Porch)

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!

We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.

So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.

And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!

So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)

dessert

Author’s note:

I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….

Spring: Day 44 (A Cold Month)

A couple of days over 55 Degrees (F) does not define a month.

Especially April in New England. Especially when its the coldest April on record for the region. Average temperature for the month: 48 Degrees (F)

There was snow in my backyard well into April.

So I am just saying – just because New Englanders think its time to break out the grill as soon as it hits 50 – there is still time for warm, comfort food.

Like the Italian stuffed shells I made the other day. (Freezing rain beating the windows while I cooked… Brrrrr)

There is nothing comparable to the comfort of cheese and pasta swimming in red sauce!

There is nothing comparable to the comfort of cheese and pasta swimming in red sauce!

A few little embellishments but really nothing too crazy. Pretty Traditional.

I did break up and saute a couple of Sweet Italian Sausages in a pan, added some frozen peas and a pinch of red pepper flakes before mixing it into (cool it first) the standard “ricotta-egg-parsley-parm cheese” mix. Boil your jumbo shells just to ‘al dente’ and once they have cooled a bit, stuff them with your mixture. Place them in a bath of red sauce (good quality jarred sauce is A-ok here) and bake covered at 375 degrees for about 30 mins. I like to pull mine out and remove the foil top, drizzle with a little EVOO and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan or Asigo and bake about 10 mins longer uncovered to get those crispy edges and the rich gooey cheese goodness.

Makes great leftovers and freezes beautifully.

 

(Leave out the sausage if you must – yes Holly I am talking to you :) )