Chicken Casserole

I met one of my oldest friends, Terri, through playing Dungeons & Dragons many years ago. In addition to our love of role-playing, we also both love gardening, canning, and cooking, and she passed on several recipes to me. This is one of those recipes.

This casserole can be time consuming to make from scratch, but several parts of it can be made and saved ahead of time, to just be combined when ready. If you keep pre-cooked chicken in the freezer, as I try to do when I can, and have homemade chicken broth in the freezer or pantry, or canned broth, most of the work is already done and you can skip ahead to assembling the casserole.

If not, we start with a pot of water. This will be the base of our broth. I usually start with about 3 quarts of water or so.

Pot of Water
Pot of Water

Put your pot of water on High, and assemble your broth ingredients. I use onion powder, garlic powder, 5 chicken bouillon cubes, and some butter to start the broth. We’ll also need two cans of cream of chicken soup (or homemade if you have it) and some stuffing mix to assemble the casserole. I prefer stuffing crumbs to cubes for this recipe, but you can use cubes instead if you like.

Ingredients
Ingredients

Put the broth ingredients in the pot as its heating and prepare whatever chicken you are going to use.

Broth Ingredients in Pot
Broth Ingredients in Pot

I use two large boneless skinless chicken breasts, or about two pounds of meat. I keep mine frozen, and for this recipe you don’t need to defrost them first. As soon as the water comes to a boil in the pot, carefully add the chicken breasts. Reduce the heat just enough so the pot won’t boil over, and let the chicken boil until done, 20 to 40 minutes.

Breasts in Broth
Breasts in Broth

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the broth and let it cool until you can handle it. Let the broth continue to boil while you chop up the chicken into bite-size chunks. Place the chicken into your casserole dish. I use a 2 1/2-quart casserole for this recipe.

Chopped Chicken in Casserole
Chopped Chicken in Casserole

In a bowl, combine your cream of chicken soup with 1 cup of milk. Use a whisk to get rid of lumps as you mix them. Pour the mixture over the chicken in the casserole dish.

Chicken and Soup In Casserole
Chicken and Soup In Casserole

Continue boiling down your broth until there is approximately 2 cups left in the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool a bit first if you plan to use your hands to mix the stuffing. I let it cool 15 minutes on the counter.

Boiled Down Broth
Boiled Down Broth

Add your stuffing mix to the broth and mix together. You can use a spoon, but I prefer to use my hands, that way I can better feel how wet or dry the mix is and whether it needs more mixing.

Mixing Stuffing
Mixing Stuffing

Then arrange the stuffing on top of your casserole.

Stuffing On Casserole
Stuffing On Casserole

Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Your finished casserole should be hot and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Finished Casserole
Finished Casserole

If you have pre-cooked chicken, you can make the broth using only 1 quart of water, boiling it down to half. If you use canned or homemade broth, just place 2 cups in a pan and heat it just to boiling, then mix your stuffing with it. If you use your own broth but start with raw chicken, boil the chicken in plain water until done then chop, and heat your broth to mix with the stuffing as above. In this case, discard the water used to boil the chicken.

As an aside, when I started making this recipe years ago, stuffing came in a 16 ounce (1 pound) bag. These days it comes in a 14 ounce bag for the same price. Manufacturers apparently realized that if they just keep raising prices, eventually consumers complain and stop buying their product. So instead, they just put less product in the packaging, then eventually make the packaging smaller, hoping we won’t notice the difference. I’ve noticed. Take a look at the products you buy, they’re all getting smaller and less for the same money. It’s the same as raising the price.

Chicken Casserole

2 tablespoons of butter
Garlic powder and onion powder to taste
5 chicken bouillon cubes
2 pounds of chicken meat
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of milk
1/2  of a 14oz bag of stuffing mix (16 oz if you can still find it)

Place 3 quarts of water in a pot and bring to a boil. While it’s heating, add onion and garlic powder to taste, as well as 2 tablespoons of butter and 5 chicken bouillon cubes.

When the water comes to a boil, add chicken and cook 20 to 40 minutes or until done. Time will vary based on the type and size of chicken you use. When chicken is done, remove from pot and let cool enough to handle, then chop into bite-size pieces. Let broth continue to boil while chopping. Place chopped chicken into the bottom of a 2.5-quart casserole dish.

Combine soup and milk in a bowl, whisk until smooth then pour over chicken.

Boil broth until 2 cups remain, then remove from heat and cool a bit. Combine stuffing mix with broth and arrange over the casserole.

Cover and bake casserole at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Casserole should be hot and bubbly. Cool for a few minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

Crock Pot Chili

In the middle of summer, when the temperatures soar and being outside is like being in a sauna, it’s nice to stay indoors in the air conditioning. When you think about making something for dinner, the last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen by cooking over a stovetop or firing up the oven. Crock pot to the rescue! I love my crock pot. You just put ingredients in it, turn it on, and forget it until it’s done hours later. It doesn’t heat up the room, it doesn’t require constant care and stirring, nothing could be easier.

Chili in summer? Sure! We eat chili dogs in summer, why not chili? This isn’t the sort of chili that goes on hot dogs, because of all the beans, but this yummy stew tastes great any time of year, freezes well, reheats well, and is exceptionally easy to make with a crock pot.

The four main ingredients to this recipe are beans, meat, tomatoes, and spices. As with any recipe, you can add, subtract, or substitute as you like to meet your own tastes. First, let’s talk spices. I use chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, fresh onion and garlic, and a packet of chili seasoning mix. You can, of course, omit the packet and just mix individual spices you like, but I like the convenience and taste of this spice mix, and I do supplement it with my own as well.

Spices
Spices

Next up is the crock pot itself. If you don’t have a crock pot, I would recommend you get one. You’ll never be sorry. They are so convenient and easy to use and clean. I have two of them. The smaller one is an older 4-quart model. I also have a bigger 6-quart cooker but I don’t use it very much because my recipes don’t fill it, and it’s hotter than my smaller one, so tends to overcook smaller recipes.

Crock Pot
Crock Pot

Chili without beans is just beef. I add a variety of beans to my chili for varied taste and texture. Use fresh or home canned wherever you can, but all I have available to me at the moment is store-bought canned items. I use 1 can of dark red kidney beans, 1 can of light red kidney beans, and 2 cans of pinto beans. Make sure you thoroughly rinse and drain your beans before using. I think the pintos add a nice smooth gravy-like consistency to the chili. I also use two cans of tomatoes, 1 can always stewed tomatoes, and the other either another can of stewed or something like diced or chili spiced diced tomatoes. Chili spiced ones already have spices in them, and a thicker tomato sauce, which is nice, but if I use them I usually cut down on the spices at the end of the recipe so they’re not too strong.

Beans and Tomatoes
Beans and Tomatoes

First get your beans drained and just pour them into the crock pot. Here you can get a better idea of the different beans. I’m hoping to grow all these in my garden next year.

Beans In Pot
Beans In Pot

Next up is the tomatoes. Your tomatoes should be at least diced, if not smaller. I mentioned I use stewed tomatoes, mainly because I like the flavor of them. They contain celery, peppers, and onion in them. But as you can see in this picture stewed tomatoes come in fairly large chunks not good for chili.

Stewed Tomatoes
Stewed Tomatoes

For this reason I chop them up fairly small in my food processor before using them in most recipes. Once chopped to whatever size you like, add them into the pot with the beans.

Tomatoes In Pot
Tomatoes In Pot

Next I chop up a whole onion and use a generous portion of garlic. I love garlic.

Onions and Garlic
Onions and Garlic

Now for the beef. I use one pound of ground beef for this recipe. This is the only actual cooking part of this recipe. Brown it in a skillet over medium heat on the stove, chopping it up as it cooks into small pieces. I also add generous amounts of onion and garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper while browning it. If you wanted to avoid any stovetop cooking, you could have the beef pre-cooked and frozen for use as needed. You could also put your onion and garlic into the skillet with the beef to cook if you wanted instead of putting them into the crock pot raw, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Beef In Pot
Beef In Pot

Now for the spices. The packet directions call for adding the spices to the meat in the skillet, but I just pour them into the crock over the cooked meat, along with a handful of chili powder and some cumin.

Spices In Pot
Spices In Pot

Mix everything together. The chili at this point may seem overly dry and thick, but don’t worry. As it cooks, the veggies give up their liquids and mix with the spices into deliciousness.

Raw Chili In Pot
Raw Chili In Pot

All you have to do now is put on the lid, turn the pot onto high, and let it cook for about 6 hours. You can also cook it on low for 10-12 hours if you want to set it before work and eat it for dinner when you get home.

Cooked Chili
Cooked Chili

Just give it a stir and serve in bowls. You can top it with cheese, sour cream, green onions, or anything else you like. I usually top mine with plenty of cheddar cheese and serve with bread, rolls, or biscuits. You can freeze leftovers and they reheat wonderfully, or just pop them in the fridge, they probably won’t last long.

Finished Chili
Finished Chili

Crock Pot Chili

1 1-pound can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 1-pound can light red kidney beans, drained
2 1-pound cans pinto beans, drained
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans stewed tomatoes, or 1 stewed and 1 diced or chili-spiced diced tomatoes
1 packet of chili seasoning mix
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1-2 teaspoons of ground cuminsalt and pepper to taste
onion powder and garlic powder to taste

Brown ground beef in a skillet. Add garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper to taste while cooking. Chop meat into small pieces as it cooks. Layer ingredients in crock pot, give it all a good stir to mix well, then cook on High for 6 hours. (Or 10-12 hours on Low.) Serve in bowls with your favorite toppings, accompanied by bread, rolls, or biscuits. Makes approx. 3 quarts.