close

Quickie Gourmet

Dinner Ideas

Crave-able Chicken Casserole

craveable-chicken-casserole2

Winter is the best time for comfort foods. Warm, hearty, rich meals that call to you when it’s chilly outside. Anytime is a good time for eat-some & freeze-some meals. Crave-able Chicken Casserole is a family favorite. It’s a recipe that I’ve shared with friends more times than I can count. Although I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe, I must give credit to my brother-in-law for passing along the recipe to us: many thanks bro!

What is in a good casserole? Protein, veggies, sauce, carbs, and of course, cheese. The crave-able chicken casserole has it all. You probably know I am a big advocate of non-GMO foods and in my house we do our best to grow our own veggies and fruits. When we can’t grow ‘em, I make sure that I do my best to buy organic veggies, or exclusively grass-fed, or free-range meats. I make sure the dairy I buy comes from cows not treated with RBST, which is a synthetic hormone that causes the cow to produce more milk than is natural. I don’t have any paid or affiliate links in this post but will list which brands I’ve found that are produced without GMOs.

Crave-able Chicken Casserole Recipe

  • approximately 12 Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Large Cans Cream of Chicken Soup (I prefer homemade dbl batch)
  • 2 Boxes Herb Seasoned Stuffing (I prefer Mrs. Cubbisons)
  • 3-4 Carrots, washed and sliced
  • 3-4 stalks of Celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 8-16 oz of Cheese, shredded (I prefer Tillamook cheddar)

Season and grill the chicken thighs. Meanwhile wash and chop your veggies and shred the cheese if not pre-shredded. Remove thighs from grill, making sure not to over cook, set aside. Place water according to Stuffing directions into a pot with veggies and set to boil. Once boiling add stuffing and mix, cover and turn off heat, set aside. Chop or shred chicken into small pieces. In a separate pot, add the soup and one can of water, mix and allow to come to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally. Fluff stuffing with a fork after 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take out two 13×9 pans. Add soup to cover bottom of pans, then layer with stuffing. Layer chicken on top, then more soup, more stuffing, more chicken and finally cheese. Repeat with the second pan. Depending on how generous you are with your layers, you may only have enough for a second 8×8 pan.

Place one pan in the oven for 30 min. This will help the flavors to meld and the cheese to melt. Cover the other pan and stick it in the freezer for a no-prep dinner another day.

Craveable Chicken Casserole
Craveable Chicken Casserole

Dish up your Crave-able Chicken Casserole and enjoy! I like to use a knife to line out serving sizes in the pan before scooping it out with a spatula, it helps me to know how much i’ve indulged, LOL. We don’t drink sodas anymore, but back-in-the-day when we did, the best pairing for this dish was an ice-cold Coca Cola Classic. Yum!

In our house Crave-able Chicken Casserole goes by many names: Chicken Slop, Chicken Goodness, Chicken Puke (My husband’s favorite). It isn’t a pretty plated dish, but it sure does taste good.

Over the years I’ve experimented with adding (on different occasions) croissant rolls to the top of the dish, pie crust to the bottom, with leftover turkey instead of chicken, and served with homemade cranberry sauce as a dip on the side. They all came out yummy, but I still prefer the basic recipe as it is posted.

Let me know how yours turns out and if you have any tasty modifications you made, please share them with us in the comments below!

read more
Dessert

Fall Caramel Apple Pie – Yum!

apples-caramel-apple-pie

What do you do when a friend gives you two grocery bags full of the best little apples? You make a fall apple pie of course! But not just any apple pie. Today we are making the best Caramel Apple Pie you’ve ever tasted. Yum!

Fall Caramel Apple Pie
Fall Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

1 Pie Crust (boxed, Ice Water or Granola)

Pie Filling

  • 5-6 Large Apples or 10-12 Small Apples
  • 1.5 TBS Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of Cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar

Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 C Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBS Flour
  • 2 TBS Butter, Melted
  • 1/4 tsp + Pinch More Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Pecans, Chopped

Caramel Topping

  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

About 8 hours before making your pie, open a can of sweetened condensed milk, pour about 2/3 of the can into a pint sized mason jar and seal the lid. Place in crock pot full of water (covering the mason jar by about an inch) and set to low for about 8 hours. Place remaining sweetened condensed milk in a ziplock bag in the fridge.

Prepare your pie crust. Take apple coring tool and core washed apples. Slice in half and then in rings about 1/4” thick. As you work, place sliced apples in a bowl of cold water with juice of 1/2 lemon to prevent browning.

Once finished slicing apples, drain the water from your bowl and dry apple slices on a tea towel or paper towels. Place back in dry bowl. Add pie filling spices and brown sugar and mix well. Next, arrange apples slices in pie pan on top of crust.

Add several thin tabs of butter on top of apples.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Now we will make the streusel topping. Mix brown sugar, flour, nuts and cinnamon together with a fork. Then add in melted butter. Stir until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over top of the apples.


Bake at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Use a pie ring or foil to cover the edges of the pie crust after the first 10 minutes of baking. After baking time is complete, remove from oven.
Dulce De Leche Apple Pie
Caramel Apple Pie

Allow to cool completely. Now, take your caramel topping from the crock pot and pour into a small bowl. Mix in the remaining sweetened condensed milk from the fridge. Use a whisk and mix well until it is smooth. Drizzle this over top of the Apple Pie. Slice and enjoy a bite of homemade caramel apple pie goodness.

I think the caramel topping is more of a dulce de leche flavor, which works really well for a Caramel Apple Pie and any leftover can be put on the scoop of vanilla ice cream that goes with your pie. Yum! If you still have leftover caramel topping, put it back in a mason jar, seal and store in the fridge. It will keep for about 5-7 days.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ice Water Pie Crust

1 Cup Flour
1 Stick Butter, Frozen and Cubed
1-2 TBS Ice Water

Mix in food processor until small beads of dough form, give a few pulses more. Put dough on floured surface, roll to just large enough to cover pie pan. Try not to handle dough more than necessary to avoid transferring heat from hands to dough.

Tip: If your pie turns out “soupy”, next time either dry the apples more thoroughly or add in a tablespoon of Corn Starch (non-gmo of course!) to the apple filling spice mix.

read more
Quickie GourmetSnack Foods

Best Cucumber Salad Of Summer

Best-Cucumber-Strawberry-Salad

The Mission: Create the best cucumber salad recipe

I wanted a quick side dish to take to BBQs and the obligatory football parties. After trying several recipes I found online but not finding any worthy of going back for seconds (my daughter didn’t find any of them to inspiring either) I decided to create my own recipe for the best cucumber salad. I am always in need of healthy & tasty snack foods that are easy prepare. Now that the end of summer harvest is happening, we have a ton of yummy produce.

Here in the hot desert climate where we live, cucumbers and strawberries (everbearing variety) tend to produce the most fruit in late spring or early fall. So I have an abundance of these two fruits at the moment. There are many uses: flavor water with them, eat ’em sliced, make tatziki sauce…and cucumber salad of course.
I wanted a salad with a hint of sweetness, balanced with a slight zing and I wanted to use my favorite herb, fresh basil. At the end of summer there’s also a bountiful supply of basil to be used, dried and stored.

My sister surprised me a bag full of fresh-picked cucumbers yesterday. I went to my garden and picked some strawberries and basil. Back in the kitchen I gathered the honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion and Himalayan Salt. Then I washed and started dicing. Keep the skin on your cucumbers if it isn’t too bitter or thick.


Double Bonus: Keep the skin on your vegetables to save time in the prep process! Skin of fruits and veggies contain a lot of nutrients and fiber which helps balance digestion of sugars the fruit contains.

Best Cucumber Salad of the Summer

Prep Time: 10 Minutes. Makes Approx. 4 Cups

  • 6-8 Strawberries diced
  • 1 Medium to Large Cucumber, diced
  • 1 Sprig of Basil, chopped (leaves only)
  • 1 TBS Onion finely chopped
  • 1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Honey
  • 1/8 tsp Himalayan Salt

Combine diced strawberries, cucumber and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and chopped basil. Use a whisk or fork and vigorously mix the sauce. It will emulsify, trust me, just keep at it. I think it took me about 2 minutes of stirring. Add sauce to the strawberry cucumber onion mixture and stir until well coated. Cover and refrigerate.

Voila Best Cucumber Salad of Summer. Try not to eat it all before you can share your yummy dish with someone you love! Like this recipe? Please share it.

What is your favorite cucumber recipe?

Quick Tip: Buy the best olive oil in bulk and use a funnel to fill an old (washed) wine bottle. Add a liquor pour spout inserted in the top and now you have a fun oil dispenser. The dark glass protects the oil from UV damage and the spout makes a no-mess pour. That’s how we upcycle in my house!Photo Wine Bottle Used As Oil Dispenser

 

read more
Quickie Gourmet

Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Scrumptious

Shepherds-Pie-Ready-To-Eat 2

Want a crave-able dinner recipe that is easy to make, healthy and covers lunch and dinner for a few days? This easy Shepherd’s Pie meets all those requirements AND is on my super-tasty comfort food list. Whip this dish up in under 45 minutes using only a pan, bowl, baking dish and mashing device.

Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, hence the name Shepherd’s Pie. Add gravy and finish with mashed potato crust, voila deliciousness. It is a traditional dish belonging to the British, Irish and Scottish. The Scottish dish was originally prepared with pastry instead of potato according to the Oxford Companion to Food . Make it with beef or turkey and the dish is called Cottage Pie.

Don’t be intimidated! The process is easy despite the long ingredient list. All the ingredients should be familiar. Bonus: you can substitute seasonal vegetables from your garden (or farmer’s market) and this dish will always be fresh.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients

  • 3 Lbs Yukon Gold potatoes cubed
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 large egg, separate yolk from white
  • 1-2 C cheddar or colby cheese shredded
  • 3-4 medium size garlic cloves
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 carrots, quartered and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 carton of mini portobello mushrooms sliced
  • 2 LBS ground lamb, beef or turkey
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 3-4 medium size garlic cloves
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 4 TBS flour
  • 2 C beef or vegetable stock Or Substitute 1 C for Red Wine
  • 4 Tsp Worcestershire

Lets get to cooking this easy Shepherd’s Pie!

Clean and cube your potatoes, then boil them in a large skillet of salted water for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse potatoes, place into large bowl and add butter. Now set the potatoes aside and rinse out the skillet.
Yukon Gold Potatoes Cubed and Boiled
While the potatoes boil, chop onion, carrots, mushrooms and peel garlic. When the skillet is rinsed, add olive oil and meat and begin to brown over medium heat. If meat is excessively fatty as lamb often is, spoon away some of the drippings at this point. Then add chopped vegetables, mushrooms, salt and pepper to the pan about halfway through cooking.


Once meat is cooked through reduce heat to medium-low and and add peas, pressed garlic and butter and stir. Preheat broiler on high. Sprinkle flour all over the meat mixture, then mix well and cook for 1 minute. Now add 1 cup Beef Stock (or wine), and allow to reduce for about 4 minutes. Next add beef stock and Worcestershire and reduce to a nice thick gravy. Remove from heat.


Add egg yolk, pressed garlic, cheese and milk to the potatoes and blend on low or mash using a masher. Since I keep the skin on the potato, I like to mash with a blender on low. However, I am careful to make sure I don’t over blend, else i’d end up with a gluey mess. Blend until ingredients are just mixed, and there aren’t any large chunks of potato left (smallish potato pieces are okay).

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Add Milk, Egg, Cheese and Garlic

Take a 9×13 baking dish and an 8×8 baking dish and wipe baking surface with olive oil. Spread meat and gravy mixture into the bottom of each pan. Finally, top each with mashed potatoes and then sprinkle with paprika.


Place one easy Shepherd’s Pie in the oven (on High-Broil setting) with the rack close to the top of the oven. Broil for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally, until the top of the potatoes are slightly crusted over and are golden brown. Remove from heat and serve. Don’t forget your glass of of wine on the counter. Enjoy!

Cover and freeze the other Shepherd’s Pie to save it for a quick meal another day.

Indeed, this may just be one of my favorite comfort food casseroles. Below are some additional options to spice it up!

Optional additional seasonings:

For lamb, beef or elk:
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp celery salt in place of regular salt
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed

For turkey:
1-2 TBS McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning

read more
Dessert

Best Ever No-Bake Cheesecake (Minus the Cheese)

Brilliant Berry Icebox Cheesecake Minus the Cheese

In honor of the once-in-a-generation summer solstice and full moon occurring on the same evening this week, (June 20th), I give you a pie worth passing on to the next generation! And in deference to the “great heatwave” we are experiencing in the southwest lets make it a super-simple, no-sweat, light yet delicious Beat-The-Heat No-Bake Cheesecake (minus the cheese), in Brilliant Berry flavor. Guaranteed as delicious as the Strawberry Moon was beautiful this year.

While technically there is no cheese in this no-bake cheesecake, I promise that you’ll love it all the same. This is a healthy, raw, almost vegan version of an old favorite. You can even make it without the added Maple Syrup and Honey to cut sugar if your diet requires it, and it will still be a tasty treat.  

This dessert combines the health benefits of virgin coconut oil and berries, and is rich enough to satisfy the biggest dessert craving, but light enough to not weigh you (or your scale) down.
Without further adieu:

Brilliant Berry No-Bake Cheesecake (Minus the Cheese)

2 Cups Mixed Berries, Defrosted If Frozen
Generous 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Cashew Butter
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1-2 TBS Honey (to taste)
1-2 TBS Maple Syrup (to taste)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 Granola Pie Crust

Blend first seven ingredients until smooth. I use the large blender cup that came with the NutriBullet. Taste and adjust for sweetness as desired. Pour into pie crust. Freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove, cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Thank you Strawberry Moon. Enjoy!

Brilliant Berry Icebox Pie
Brilliant Berry No-Bake Cheeseccake (Minus the Cheese)

I made this pie for my bug’s first birthday as an alternative and healthy smash cake. It was a huge success. Not only did she devour the pie, but she had an amazing sensory experience with the smooth and creamy texture too.

For a different twist: Use cherries with a drop of almond extract, or straight up strawberries in place of mixed berries for a variety of no-bake cheesecake tastiness (minus the cheese).

My husband insists that this is the best berry pie ever. Give it a try and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Granola Pie Crust Recipe


2 1/4 Cups Sunbelt Bakery Banana Nut Cereal
3 1/2 TBS Butter

Pre-heat oven at 375. Blend cereal ’til crumb consistency. Melt butter. Mix butter and crumbs well. Press into pie pan with the back of a spoon. Place in pre-heated oven. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove and cool. Pie crust should be golden brown and fragrant.

Hot Tip to Stay Cool:

Beat the heat. Keep heat out of the kitchen by using a small convection oven outside. I move my convection oven outside next to my BBQ during the summer months. The oven I use is big enough to cook with a 9×13 pan, and also fits a 12×12 square baking sheet. You can find this style of convection ovens at most retail stores for $85-250. I purchased mine at an estate sale for $40. It is perfect for casseroles, pies, sweet potato fries, pizzas, etc.

read more
Dessert

Fresh, Homemade Fig Newtons

Fresh-Figs

Fresh, Homemade Fig Newtons

Summer is in full swing and the heat is on! Not many varieties of fruit trees produce ripe fruit in the dead heat of summer, especially during the 115°+ heatwave we get in the southwest each year.  Enter the fig tree.  It’s been around since the dawn of man.

The fig is a smallish tree that grows in more of a bush like way, with branches twisting, arching and growing downward. This gem of a tree produces hundreds of plump, sweet fruit each year, but not until the sun warms the earth enough to cook an egg on the asphalt. The fruit is enhanced by the late summer monsoons which imparts even more juicy sweetness.

In years past we’ve eaten the fruit from our Blackjack Fig, given it away, shared plenty with the hungry birds in the neighborhood, and composted the expired fruit, yet we still have more than we can consume.  This year I was determined to not let any go to waste.  Fresh fig newtons, anhttp://afulltimemama.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.phpyone?  Leftover fig preserves? Yes please!

Image of Fresh Fig Jam  Cooking In A Sauce Pan
Fresh Fig Jam For Homemade Fig Newtons

What makes a yummy fig newton?  Figs, of course. And a hint of lemon, and the gooeyness of the center. Then there is the shortbread cookie that is soft and not overly sweet, with a taste of vanilla. Add a dash of cinnamon and voila tastiness perfected.

Here is my recipe, give it a try and let me know what you did to put your spin on it, be sure to comment below!

Fig Mixture:

  • 15-20 Fresh Figs (I had a mix of small and medium size figs), chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • Lemon Zest from 1 Medium Organic Lemon
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Shortbread:

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbs Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 4 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Zest

Remove butter and eggs from fridge to bring to room temperature.

Trim stems off figs. Chop figs into fine, small pieces. in medium saucepan add first four ingredients and bring to boil over medium-low heat, stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer just under an hour, stirring frequently.  Once mixture is thick, similar to jam, remove from heat. Once cool, add vanilla and mix. Note: if your figs weren’t very juicy you may need to add up to 1/4 cup of water while simmering.

Preheat oven to 350°. While simmering fig mixture, in a medium-size bowl whisk together the dry ingredients for shortbread.

In a large bowl, beat together softened butter, maple syrup, then add eggs and mix on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and lemon zest and mix well.

Gradually add flour mixture to large bowl of wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until well combined.

Take a large piece of parchment paper, spray it with cooking spray or wipe with olive oil.  Fold in half, oil sides together.  Grab about 1/4 of dough mixture and pat into a flat square-ish shape.  Place between oiled parchment. Cover bowl of dough and place in fridge. Roll dough in parchment, attempting to keep square shape, until dough is approximately 1/4” thick. Place in freezer for 5 minutes. Tip: Roll the dough/parchment on a cutting board, then pick up the board and stick the whole thing in the freezer.

Remove rolled dough from freezer, carefully peel back top layer of parchment, use a knife to cut dough in half. Spread fig jam on one half.  Carefully use knife to separate dough from parchment, place one half of dough on top of fig covered other half of dough.  Pinch edges together to seal shut.  You can also use dough from fridge to help seal up any cracks.  Slide cookies on to baking sheet.  Place baking sheet in oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven when shortbread is puffed up and just turning golden brown. Note: I baked in a large convection oven, on my back patio in 115° ambient temperature, so baking times may need to be adjusted.

Want fresh fig newtons year round?  If you have an overabundance of fruit, can it!

Giving fresh figs away is always a fun experiment.  Most people have never eaten a fresh fig before and aren’t really sure about what you are trying to feed them. Then they try a bite and either love it or hate the texture. Proceed with caution if you choose to give homemade fig newtons away (if you can get out of the house with them before they are all gobbled up) because you may end up with a horde of fig newton crazed people sleeping on your doorstep waiting for your next batch of cookies to be made. You’ve been warned.

read more