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.

 

Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

What’s more healthy and hearty than chicken noodle soup? Hot broth, tender pieces of chicken, lots of fresh veggies… yum. Some of my fondest memories as a child were of coming inside after a long hard day of playing out in the snow to a big bowl of this soup. Much of the prep work can be done ahead of time, too. If you prep everything ahead, all you need to do is pop everything into a pot and let it cook!

The backbone of this soup is the chicken. You can boil up your chicken as the first step of the soup like the recipe suggests, but I usually have some ready in the freezer. I buy rotisserie chickens when they go on sale, strip off the meat and keep it bagged up in the freezer. When it’s time to make soup, I just thaw it in the microwave enough to break it apart, and toss it in the soup when it’s time. One chicken’s worth of meat is enough for one recipe of soup. Alternately you can use a whole raw chicken or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you boil your chicken, boil it 20-30 minutes for breasts. Chop up the meat and set it aside for later.

If the chicken is the backbone, the rest of the skeleton is the veggies. I use a standard mix of carrots, celery, and onions, but you could add corn, beans or whatever other veggies you like to the soup.

Vegetables
Vegetables

Next you need a big pot of water. I have a stock pot I use mainly for making this soup. Fill your pot with 5-6 quarts of water (that’s just shy of a gallon and a half). Your stock pot should be at least of 8-gallon capacity. Turn the heat on high to get it started heating up.

Stockpot with water
Stockpot with water

While the water is heating chop all your veggies to whatever size you like. I chop mine rather small. I also add a couple spoonfuls of pre-minced garlic. If I were to use fresh, I’d probably pop in 4 or 5 cloves, because I like a lot.

Chopped veggies
Chopped veggies

Pop all your chopped veggies into the pot of water.

Veggies in pot
Veggies in pot

Add in 6-8 chicken bouillon cubes. If you preferred, you could probably use chicken broth in place of the water and the cubes, but you’d need a gallon and a half or so of broth.

Chicken boullion
Chicken bouillon

At this point we add what gives this soup it’s Italian flavor. I add a handful of dried basil (approx. 1-2 tablespoons), and a can of stewed tomatoes. You can also add oregano or any other herbs or spices you like. I also add in a handful of dried parsley and two bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Handful of basil
Handful of basil

Let all the veggies cook for an hour. The water should go down a bit, but not too much.

Boiling start
Boiling start
Boiling finish
Boiling finish

 

 

 

 

 

After the veggies are cooked, add in your chicken.

Chopped chicken
Chopped chicken

Next add dry pasta of your choice. I add about 6 handfuls of egg noodles, which is roughly half a pound.

Egg noodles
Egg noodles

Let that cook for another 30 minutes and your soup is complete.

Finished soup
Finished soup

Serve it up in bowls, accompanied maybe by a nice crusty bread.

Soup is served
Soup is served!

Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

1 whole chicken or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 large tomatoes (may substitute a can of stewed tomatoes)
Parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound of pasta of your choice
6-8 bouillon cubes
Other veggies or herbs as desired

If using pre-cooked chicken, set aside. Otherwise, boil chicken in a pot of water for 1 hour or until done. (Boneless breasts are usually done in 30-40 minutes.) While the chicken is boiling, chop the vegetables. When the chicken is done, remove from the water, chop, and set aside. Place the vegetables into the water. Add herbs and cook the vegetables for 1 hour. Place the chicken back into the soup along with the pasta, and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy. Makes approx. 5 quarts of soup.