King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a South Texas favorite because it travels well, freezes, and tastes great. The best part for me is that it’s made in advance , which makes it a great time-saver, especially when you’re expecting company. I thank my Houston friend, Bonnie Clyburn, for introducing me to this delicious dish. I’ve downsized and lightened the original recipe. Feel free to double the recipe for a crowd.
KING RANCH CASSEROLE
7 6” corn tortillas, cut into large strips
2 Tbsp. real butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 clove minced garlic
1 4-oz. can green chilies, rinsed and drained
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 can low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can low sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup
½ cup light sour cream
2 cups grated 2% Colby-Jack cheese (I use my Vitamix to grate cheese)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional) for garnish
Spray a 9″ X 13″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cover bottom of dish with half the tortilla strips.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté onions, garlic, and green chilies until softened (about 3 minutes).
Add tomatoes and green chilies to the skillet and reduce heat. Simmer until liquid evaporates.
Stir in the salt, pepper, and cooked chicken. Remove from heat.
Spread half of this mixture over the tortilla strips covering the bottom of the baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, combine the soup and sour cream. Spread half of the soup mixture over the layer of chicken and tomato mixture in the casserole.
Sprinkle half of the cheese over the casserole.
Create another layer with the tortilla strips, chicken mixture, remaining soup mixture, and remaining cheese.
Pour the chicken broth over the casserole. Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, preheat oven to 325° and remove casserole from the refrigerator to sit (at least 15 minutes, up to an hour).
Bake the casserole (uncovered) 1 hour, or until cheese browns and casserole bubbles.
Remove casserole from oven and allow it to cool at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro (optional) and serve.
Yield: 4 – 6 servings.
Very Berry Shake
It’s hot. We’re in the midst of summer, a time when we love a frozen treat. You can burn fuel driving to the local ice cream shoppe, spend several dollars for a milk shake, and return home feeling guilty for overindulging on sugar and fat. Or you can save time, money and calories by making your own milk shake. Here’s a recipe I make in my Vitamix.
- 1 cup 1% or skim milk
- ½ cup frozen cherries
- ¼ cup frozen berries medley (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries)
- ¼ cup frozen strawberries
- 1 prune for added natural sweetness (optional)
- Add all ingredients to the Vitamix. Secure lid but leave the plug out to insert the tamper.
- Run the Vitamix on Variable Speed 1, gradually stepping up to 10 then High. Use the tamper to push the frozen fruit into the blades.
- Run until the mixture is smooth but do not overprocess. When the consistency resembles a milk shake (about 1 minute), stop the Vitamix, remove container, and pour into a glass. Enjoy!
Yield: 1 large or 2 small shakes
Variation: Pour extra mixture into molds to make frozen pops.
If you make this for the kids, you don’t have to tell them it’s good for them. Using whole fruit and milk, you have a delicious treat that contains vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. The milk adds calcium. Treat yourself and your family guilt-free!
Remember the scene in My Cousin Vinny when Vinny cross examines a witness about the proper way to prepare grits? Or Vinny questioning the diner cook, “What exactly is a grit?” Too funny.
Grits are an important part of Southern cuisine. A serving of grits provides one gram of fiber and is a tasty side dish. My husband enjoys grits with eggs, and I like cheese grits with my catfish. Whether you like your grits plain or cheesy, you can make your own with little effort. (Don’t be tempted by the instant grits. Blech!)
Grits for breakfast or anytime.
Makes 2 cups
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup old fashioned grits
- ½ tsp. salt (optional)
- 1 tsp. real butter
- In a 2-quart pan, bring water to a boil.
- Gradually stir in grits and salt. Reduce heat to its lowest setting.
- Cover the pan and cook until grits reach desired consistency (approximately 20 minutes. Occasionally lift lid and stir the grits.
- Remove from heat, stir in butter (or cheese) and serve.
Sir the grits occasionally to prevent lumps.
For cheese grits: Remove pan from heat and stir in one ounce sharp cheddar cheese (or your choice) until melted. Butter optional.
Melt in 1 oz. cheese for cheese grits.
Hasty Tasty Meatloaf
Everyone has a meatloaf recipe it seems. It’s a beloved comfort food that also stretches a buck. I vary my meatloaf, depending on my mood and what’s in my refrigerator. This is my favorite, ideal recipe. I use fresh produce, but chopping in the Vitamix makes quick work of the preparaton. I bake it in my Pampered Chef® stoneware loaf pan. If you use a metal pan, lower the oven temperature to 350°.
Hasty Tasty Meatloaf
- ½ pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 large egg
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- ¼ red bell pepper
- ¼ green bell pepper
- ¼ yellow bell pepper
- 1 cup oatmeal (uncooked)
- 1 can tomato sauce, divided
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375°
- In a large bowl, combine the two ground meats with the egg.
- Remove the plug on the Vitamix lid, set Vitamix speed to Variable Speed 4, and turn on. Gradually add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper quarters until all are chopped. Add chopped vegetables to the ground meat.
- Add all other ingredients except reserve half the tomato sauce. Mix just until blended.
- Transfer mixture to a loaf pan and shape into a loaf. Cover with remaining tomato sauce.
- Place loaf pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove meatloaf from oven and allow it to cool 15 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Start to finish is about an hour. While the meatloaf bakes, you have plenty of time to steam potatoes and vegetables, set the table, and brew the iced tea. Enjoy your comfort food!
About four years ago, I posted my recipe for jambalaya. I updated it for the July fourth holiday. This time I used Johnsonville Andouille Sausage for a more traditional flavor. Since today’s high temperature is expected to be 97°, I’m cooking indoors in my air conditioned kitchen. Too hot for grilling today!
Jambalaya In A Jiffy
Makes 6 servings or 10 side-dish servings
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound Andouille flavored smoked sausage (cut in 1″ chunks)
1 cup uncooked brown rice (White rice will overcook)
1 10-oz can diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 cups broth or stock
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Cajun Seasonings to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
1 Bay leaf
½ pound frozen shrimp, cleaned and de-tailed
Heat the oil in the bottom of a 6 quart (or 6 Liter) pressure cooker over medium high heat. Sauté rice to brown, then add onion, celery, garlic, and sausage. Stir often until rice is browned, about 2 minutes. Add all other ingredients except the shrimp. Stir to mix.
Secure the lid to the pressure cooker and bring to pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook under pressure 15 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes.
Release pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions then remove the lid. Caution: steam will be very hot! Fluff rice with a fork. Stir in frozen shrimp then return pan to medium heat. Cook just until the shrimp are pink (about 5 minutes). Remove bay leaf and serve!
This is a healthful, high-fiber dish you can enjoy hot and again in leftovers, such as jambalaya burritos.
♫ Son of a gun gonna have big fun on the bayou! ♪
Paella is one of those wonderful one-pot meals with peasant origins. Traditionally, paella was cooked over an open fire in the fields when workers took a break for lunch. The ingredients depended on what was available and could include everything from chicken to rabbit. Coastal areas of Spain popularized the addition of seafood, again whatever catch was available.
The most expensive ingredient is the saffron, yet I know of no suitable substitution. The good news is a little bit of saffron goes a long way and stores well in your refrigerator.
Paella can be a healthful dish, but the recipes I found were time consuming. Not to be discouraged, I experimented with ways to serve paella with minimal fuss. My hasty tasty version of paella uses a 6-quart pressure cooker and mostly frozen ingredients. From start to finish, the meal takes just about half an hour to cook.
Hasty Tasty Paella
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice¹
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups frozen pepper stir-fry
- 1 ¾ cups chicken stock or broth
- 6-8 saffron threads
- 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ½ pound frozen shrimp, cleaned and shelled
- ½ pound frozen sea scallops
- ½ cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Brown the rice in the olive oil over medium heat in the bottom of the pressure cooker pot.
- After rice is browned, add the pepper stir-fry, broth, saffron, paprika, and chicken. Secure lid and bring to pressure.
- Cook under pressure 15 minutes.
- Remove the cooker from heat and allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes. Then carefully release pressure and remove the lid according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remove the chicken to a cutting board for slicing. Fluff the rice with a fork.
- Return cooker to medium heat and add remaining ingredients. Cook just until seafood is cooked, approximately 5 minutes or until shrimp is pink.
- Remove cooker immediately from heat and stir in sliced chicken. Transfer paella to a large shallow serving bowl or individual bowls and serve.
Yield: 4 generous servings
¹Do not substitute white or yellow rice for brown rice. Anything other than brown rice will overcook.
Variation: Use fish or mussels instead of or in addition to the shrimp and scallops.