“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!

 

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!

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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 30: (Florida Corn)

Here in New England we have a saying… “knee-high by fourth of July!”

What we are referencing is the corn needs to be about “knee-high” in the fields in order for it to be on schedule for our typical growing season. This means local corn doesn’t really come into the stores until early august. (Maaaaybe late July if we had a warm spring and a farmer willing to take a gamble and plant early)

But if you are willing to contribute to a “carbon-footprint” you can have your “fresh” corn-on-the-cob in May, grown and flown in from Florida.

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Just one of those things that I must have!

(More from me about corn here and here!)

Spring: Day 16 (Parsley and Feta)

We finally hit 50 degrees around here and moods are improving everyday! Snow is still lurking in the yard but bare patches outnumber the snow patches and the crocus are making a run at growing!

As I continue to “single-handily” will spring to come sooner with my cooking, I incorporated some fresh parsley into my dish. Poor parsley doesn’t have many admirers. But I think nothing says “fresh” and “bright” like some chopped parsley added in. And not just as a garnish but as a primary player!

Pan seared steak with sauteed potatoes, red/green bell pepper, shallots, feta cheese and lots of fresh parsley!

Pan seared steak with sautéed potatoes, red/green bell pepper, shallots, feta cheese and lots of fresh parsley!

A couple of tips:

I like to add the feta and parsley in after I cook so they retain the fresh, bright green of the parsley and the cold, salty of the feta!

Also its nice to only toss in the shallots in the last-minute or so – the rawness is removed but they are not “cooked” to death!

In general, with exception of the potatoes, I enjoy not overcooking my veggies – no pre-blanching – just throw them in the hot pan and cook till just starting to get tender!

Other posts proclaiming my love for Parsley here and here !!

Springing Forward

Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.

So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.

Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.

 

If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.