Chicken and Spinach with Cheese-Stuffed Ravioli Casserole

Chicken and Spinach with Cheese-Stuffed Ravioli Casserole

What are your thoughts about casseroles or “hot dishes”, as they are known in some parts of the country? What images does the word casserole conger up in your mind?

For me, I have two thoughts, either ‘yum!’ or ‘bleh!’. Mostly I have a positive outlook on casseroles. I find them warm and comforting, family friendly and welcoming. My favorite casserole from my childhood is Penny Casserole. I revamped it a few years ago and posted both the original and the updated versions here on the blog. You should go and read that post; it’s funny, involving yours truly locking myself out of the house in the middle of the night barefooted in 40-degree weather. Continue Reading

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I’ve been thinking about this casserole for a couple of weeks now and am so excited to finally have been able to pull this off. The concept as I formed it in my mind was super simple, but I suddenly became stymied by how to make the sauce. I mostly knew what flavor profile I wanted, but for some reason I kept avoiding really working out the details.

Finally, after a considerable amount of time spent giving myself motivational speeches, I made the sauce. The base is a basic bechamel (white sauce). For building layers of flavor I used lemon juice, dijon mustard, and smoked paprika. This sauce turned out so delicious.

Grocery Store Dilemma–Swiss Cheese and The Man at the Deli Counter
The three main elements in chicken cordon bleu — chicken, ham, and swiss cheese — are present, of course, in this casserole. They are layered, making for very simple preparation. The only catch in making this for the first time came when I went to the deli counter at my grocery store and the man behind the counter asked me which kind of Swiss cheese I wanted. “Regular Swiss cheese,” I answered.

“Are you sure that’s what you want?” he questioned.

“Ummm…yes…no…yes…no…welllll, I thought that’s what I wanted,” I said.

“What are you making?” he asked. I explained that I was making Chicken Cordon Bleu (I didn’t want to explain the casserole thing).  “Oh well, in that case,” he said, “may I suggest that you use Baby Swiss Cheese. It has a milder flavor and I like it better than regular Swiss Cheese although the regular Swiss Cheese is traditional in chicken cordon bleu.”

I felt my will power and determination melting away, like wax on a lit candle. I guess that I just have one of those faces that says, “My mouth is only pretending it knows what it’s talking about.” In the meantime, the deli guy had sliced a piece off of both of the cheeses and handed them to me to sample. There was a definite taste difference between the two cheeses. I was in crisis. I had to make another decision. I hadn’t planned on having to make any decisions about the type of Swiss cheese I was going to purchase.

As is so often the case with me, I am a tower of indecisiveness when given closely related options. So I just stood there, looking hesitant. And indecisive. “Tell you what,” the man said, “I’ll give you a 1/4 pound of each one and you can decide at home which you like best. Make half of your recipe with one kind and half with the other kind.”

“Okay. Thank you.” I replied cheerily, wanting to appear as if I really had some control over the situation.  The man sliced the cheeses and handed me my packages. “Let me know how everything turns out,” he said. “I’d be interested to know which one you prefer.”

Yeah, that’s going to happen. I am the master of my fate…

I almost let myself get trapped into which ham I should use, but I squared my shoulders and didn’t waste any time with trying to figure out the perfect ham. Thin sliced deli honey ham in a one pound package in the lunch meat section. No way was I going back to the deli counter and choose between honey ham, black forest ham (yummmmm!), hickory smoked ham, Boar’s Head hams (several), etc. So, the lunch meat section had Oscar Meyer deli-style honey ham on sale in the one pound package and I made my decision without a moment’s hesitation. I AM the master of my fate…really, I am. I only needed 1/2 pound, but the extra 1/2 pound would be put to good use either in sandwiches or in a second trial run on the chicken cordon bleu casserole.

The Rest of the Story

So, which did I prefer? The Baby Swiss. Why? Because it had the word ‘baby’ in it and cute little holes instead of the big gaping holes of a good traditional Swiss cheese. That’s why. And it was delicious. And it melted all creamy and smooth. It was perfect. The deli guy was right.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Cooked chicken either from a roasted deli chicken or from a home baked or boiled chicken is the right choice for this casserole. Use both white and dark meat for flavor and moisture content. The first time I made this dish, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They ended up being dry and chewy, spoiling the otherwise excellent flavors of the casserole. My best suggestion is to use a rotisserie chicken from Costco, if there is a Costco near you. I really can’t say enough good things about those Costco chickens; talk about finger lickin’ good!

A crunchy, simply seasoned panko bread crumb topping finishes this casserole beautifully. I love the texture contrast that it brings as well as the subtle flavor.

Update 7/18/2012
Due to the recent notoriety of this recipe and some very helpful suggestions from readers here and on Tasty Kitchen, I am changing the recipe slightly.

  1. The amount of butter in the topping has been lowered from 6 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons. You may even be able to get by with less. Let me know what works for you.
  2. Initially the sauce may taste perfectly seasoned, but after the casserole cooks, salt from the ham and the baby Swiss cheese is released, adding extra salt to the overall casserole. Therefore, I have lowered the salt in the sauce from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 3/4 teaspoons. Depending on your salt sensitivity and the saltiness of your chosen chicken, ham, and cheese, you may wish to lower the salt in the sauce more and also either lower or delete the seasoning salt in the panko breadcrumb topping.
  3. The sauce may seem thin, initially, so I have given the option of using 3 cups milk instead of 3 1/4 cups milk. I have found that the sauce develops nicely with about 15 minutes cooking time over medium low heat and frequent stirring. If you choose to speed things up, by using less milk and/or more flour, your results may not be as desired. My best advice is to leave the sauce recipe as it is written to preserve flavor and texture.
  4. AND, I just can’t help but put this personal note in here. The casserole was designed to “imitate” the flavor of chicken cordon bleu in a casserole form. It has been suggested by some folks that this recipe would be good with the addition of noodles or broccoli. While that may be true, and I can see how the addition of either one of those items would have their merits, this should no longer be called a chicken cordon bleu casserole. Certainly it is a good base recipe for changes and additions. The sauce would be good with quite a variety of different casseroles. However, I really have never had broccoli or noodles wrapped up in my chicken cordon bleu. Just a thought. 😉

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Recipe by Terri @ that's some good cookin'

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cooked chicken (about 6 cups), diced or shredded
  • 1/2 pound very thinly sliced deli-style honey ham (I used Oscar Meyer Deli-style Honey Ham)
  • 1/4 pound (approximately) thin-sliced Baby Swiss cheese, regular Swiss cheese is also acceptable (Baby Swiss recommended for taste and creaminess when melted)
  • For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3-3 1/4 cups whole milk (yes, you need the fat to help the sauce perform well)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (or the finely grated zest from one lemon if you are concerned about the lemon juice causing the sauce to break. I've never had a problem with the sauce breaking, but I acknowledge that this can happen.)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • For the topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I used Johnny's)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Put cooked shredded or diced chicken on the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Rough chop the ham and scatter it over the top of the chicken.
  4. Lay the Swiss cheese on top of the ham.
  5. For the sauce:
  6. Melt the butter in a large sauce pot. When butter is melted, quickly stir in the flour to form a smooth roux. Do not brown!
  7. Once the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the cold milk while stirring briskly to make a smooth sauce. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
  8. Pour sauce evenly over the casserole, being certain to get some of the sauce around the edges of the pan.
  9. For the topping:
  10. Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium sized microwaveable bowl. Take the bowl out of the microwave and stir in the panko bread crumbs, seasoning salt, and crushed dried parsley. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.
  11. Bake casserole uncovered for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly throughout and topping has turned a light golden brown.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes prior to serving.

Notes

Since this recipe has appeared on the Tasty Kitchen Blog, there have been questions about the lemon juice causing the sauce to break. I have not encountered this problem. If you have any concerns about this happening with the sauce, I would suggest that you use lemon zest from one lemon in place of the lemon juice. Stir the zest into the sauce along with the mustard, salt, paprika, and white pepper.

http://tsgcookin.com/2012/03/chicken-cordon-bleu-casserole/

 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

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Tamale Pie

This recipe is an oldie but goodie and hails back to the early days of my marriage when John and I were living on a starving student’s budget. Those were good days for learning to stretch a dollar and to make every morsel of food count. Casserole style recipes were a particularly good investment because they took simple ingredients and turned them into tasty meals with  left-overs for the week. (For a family of two adults.)

The recipe presented here is slightly updated from my original recipe. I now use fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotle chile powder.

Tamale Pie

Recipe by Terri @ that's some good cookin'

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (4 ounce) can sliced black olives
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained or 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder, (or less, depending on heat preference)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 box cornbread mix, prepared according to package directions
  • For garnishes--sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
  2. Brown the ground beef along with the onion and garlic. Drain the grease from the meat.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beans, black olives, green chiles, corn, chile powder, cumin, chipotle powder, and salt and pepper. Cook until heated through and very little liquid remains. Be careful not to burn ingredients.
  4. While the ground beef mixture is cooking, prepare the cornbread mix according to package directions.
  5. Pour the ground beef mixture into an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Top with cornbread mixture. Bake until cornbread is golden brown on top and ground beef filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. It may take more or less time, so just start checking on the progress after about 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, etc. This is even good served on a bed of lettuce and topped with the listed garnishes.
http://tsgcookin.com/2012/02/tamale-pie/

 

Potato Casserole {a.k.a. Funeral Potatoes}

Funeral Potatoes {potato casserole}

So, I was at work the other day and one of the nurses asked me why I didn’t have a recipe for Funeral Potatoes on my blog. He said that in an effort to help out his wife with the cooking, he had downloaded a recipe from the internet. Apparently the family voted the recipe as a total dud, giving it a five tongue depressor down rating.

If you’re not from Utah, you may be wondering about the name ‘funeral potatoes’. For whatever reason, these potatoes are often served at a family dinner after a funeral, along with ham, salads, rolls, and desserts. It’s not a societal rule that these potatoes be served following a funeral; it’s just that they are easy to prepare, can be made in advance, and a pan of them will feed 12-16 people, depending on the size of appetites being addressed.

At my house, we often have these potatoes around Easter, mostly because that’s about the only time we have ham. Funeral potatoes and ham are meant to be together. As a matter of fact, ham cubes or bacon in these potatoes would be amazing.

The recipe that I am using here is fairly standard for potato casserole/funeral potatoes. It has been around long enough to have earned the label ‘tried and true’.  I originally got the recipe from my mother in-law (hi Mavis) and have only made a couple of minor changes in it. Mavis’ recipe calls for 8-10 potatoes cooked whole with the skin on and then are peeled and shredded.  However, I have switched over to the use of packaged shredded potatoes instead of cooking and shredding the potatoes myself. Frozen shredded potatoes did not exist back in the olden days. Yes, my dears, those days actually existed. Out of respect for the original recipe, I am including instructions for using fresh potatoes.

I have also reduced the amount fat that was contained in the original recipe. The butter has been reduced from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons, the sour cream has been changed to light, and the cream of chicken soup has been reduced to 1 can and I use the low fat, low sodium soup. I can’t bring myself to use reduced fat cheese, so that has stayed the same. I l.o.v.e. cheese.

So, Nurse “S”, here’s a recipe for you and your family. Enjoy.

Potato Casserole {a.k.a. Funeral Potatoes}

Recipe slightly adapted from my mother -in-law, Mavis

Ingredients

  • 8-10 whole potatoes in skins (this is only if you are using fresh potatoes instead of prepackaged frozen potato shreds) Boil until almost tender. Cool, then peel. Grate into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Proceed with adding the remainder of the ingredients listed below except for the frozen shredded potatoes.
  • Or
  • 1 (30 ounces ) package of frozen shredded potatoes (also called hash browns)
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 (14 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup (I used a low fat, low sodium cream of chicken soup)
  • 2 cups sour cream (I used light)
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste (maybe 3/4-1 teaspoon salt--hard to say)
  • 1 cup cornflake crumbs, crushed Ritz-style crackers, or crushed potato chips (I prefer crushed Ritz or a similar buttery cracker)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Put potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside. I can't tell you how much salt you'll need. Potatoes can be a little tricky--they seem to require more salt than seems reasonable. But, I'd rather have too little salt than to have too much salt. You can always add more salt at the table per personal preference.
  3. Mix together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and melted butter.
  4. Stir in the cheese and onions and mix well.
  5. Pour over potatoes. Mix lightly.
  6. Transfer to a lightly buttered 9" x 13" baking dish or a dish of equal volume.
  7. Sprinkle cornflake crumbs (or chosen topping) over top of potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour until casserole is bubbly and the top is crispy.
http://tsgcookin.com/2012/01/potato-casserole-aka-funeral-potatoes/

 

Funeral Potatoes {potato casserole}
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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

I wish the days were longer, or rather that it would stay daylight for a couple of hours longer. I wish that I was longer, like about 2 inches longer. I wish my house was longer–maybe about 4 feet longer…or 10 feet longer, but then it would also need to be wider in order to match the longer.

So many longer wishes.

We’re always full of wishes, probably; I am, at least. Despite all of my wishing, though, I make an effort to be grateful. It’s best to be more grateful than you are wishful. When I first started practicing being more grateful, it took some effort to think about the things in my life for which I was grateful. A few years ago when I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, I would sit down each night and write about my day in my journal. I would include a list of things for which I was grateful…things like being able to hear and see my little grandson, or gratefulness that my washing machine worked, or gratefulness for shopping carts, or gratitude for the random person that smiled at me in the store.

When I am at work, it is easy to see many things for which I am grateful. A nurse is privy to lots of information about other people’s lives; sometimes it is great information and sometimes the information is very sobering. I walk fast at work and have to remind myself to slow down, especially when I am entering a patient’s room. Sometimes I forget to slow down and go zipping around my patient’s room. Once in a while a patient will make a wistful remark about how they wished they could walk fast. I tell them that I walk fast right now while I still can and that most likely my turn is coming for a hip or knee replacement and I’ll be just like them, wishing I wasn’t in pain and that I could move like I used to do.

When my daughter, Katie, was three years old she used to get so upset because she was three and not four. She would say, “I can’t wait to change to four.” Then finally one day it was her fourth birthday. I said to her, “Katie! You have finally changed to four!”. She was only happy about that for a minute or two and then she said, “Yea, but some people have already changed to five! Now I have to wait a whole year until I change to five.”

There is a woman with whom I work. She walks fast, too, but she is always smiling. (I am a very serious fast walker, always worried about getting this or that done on time or how I’m going to get 12 things done at once.) One day someone made a comment about their age and situation in life. They were the same age as my co-worker. My co-worker responded with, “Really? I am having the time of my life!” I looked at her and realized that she really was having the time of her life. Her’s is not a perfect life, but her perspective about her life makes her life good.  Which reminds me, I need to tell you sometime about Marcia. I’ll have to devote a post to Marcia, one of my former patients from a couple of years ago. What an incredible woman. She deserves her own post.

Shepherd's Pie

Among the things for which I am grateful today is shepherd’s pie. It’s a very simple food, about as unfancy as you can get . It is completely unpretentious, which is great. Sometimes food gets so complicated and pretentious that we feel like we need to dress for dinner in our own homes. Jeans and a tee-shirt are perfect for eating shepherd’s pie. You can feel completely comfortable eating it out of mismatched dishes that are considered “rustic” because they have definitely seen better days. I mean, seriously…take a look at the pics, shepherd’s pie is all about taste, not looks. I even looked around the internet (AFTER I got all of my pics done) and only found a couple of pics that looked any better. Some clever people made their shepherd’s pie in cute little ramekins to add style to this dish. Sigh…sorta, kinda wish I had thought to do that.

I’ve made this version of shepherd’s pie with good ol’ basic ground beef. Traditional shepherd’s pie is often made with lamb. I’m not a fan of lamb. I’ve tried to like it, I really have, but it just isn’t going to happen for me. So, I am delighted to offer hamburger in this dish. John likes shepherd’s pie. He’s going to love this version of it. I didn’t really do much to change it, just enriched the flavors a little bit. I hope that you like it, too.

Despite the fact that the ingredient list looks a bit long, the dish really comes together fairly quick.

Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe by Terri @ that’s some good cookin’
Printable Recipe 

Ingredients

For the mashed potatoes:

  • 6 medium potatoes (a russet-style potato is best)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • grated sharp cheddar cheese, set aside to use as a topping for the potatoes

For the ground beef filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen peas (these are added last, just before filling is put into casserole dish)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dry thyme

For the gravy:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions
For the mashed potatoes:

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Put in sauce pot and fill pot with cool water to cover the potatoes. Add salt, to taste. You will probably have to adjust the salt when you mash the potatoes.
  2. Bring the potatoes to boil and cook until fork tender. Drain well.
  3. Mash potatoes well. Hint: I use an electric hand mixer to make my mashed potatoes. I’ve always made mashed potatoes this way and it works beautifully.
  4. Blend in the cream cheese. Thin with a little milk, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.

For the hamburger filling:

  1. While the potatoes are cooking, make the hamburger filling.Begin by heating a large, deep skillet, then add the olive oil to the skillet.
  2. Add ground beef and break apart to brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, granulated onion, and granulated garlic.
  3. Cook hamburger and seasonings for 2-3 minutes, then add the chopped onions, chopped garlic, diced carrots, and the thyme. Cook covered over medium or medium low heat until carrots are tender. Stir as needed. This will probably take about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Set aside while gravy is made.

For the gravy:

  1. In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat.When hot and bubbly, add the flour.
  2. Stir flour and butter together until smooth. Cook, stirring frequently until mixture takes on a light tan color.
  3. Carefully and quickly stir in the beef broth. Be careful because the liquid will may spatter and stream will rise. It is necessary to stir quickly (I use a whisk) so that lumps will not form from the flour. If there are lumps, don’t worry about it. Break them up as best you can. No one will ever notice them in the final product anyway.
  4. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the seasoning salt. Cook and stir until gravy has thickened.

Finishing:

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
  2. Stir the gravy into the hamburger mixture.
  3. Add the peas and stir to distribute evenly.
  4. Cover the pot or skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes so that flavors can blend.
  5. Lightly butter a 2-quart casserole. Spread 2 cups of the mashed potatoes in the bottom of the casserole dish.
  6. Pour the hamburger filling on top of the mashed potatoes. Spread evenly.
  7. Top with remaining mashed potatoes and spread potatoes evenly. Note: Check mashed  potatoes prior to adding to the top of the filling. Thin with a little milk if necessary for easier spreading.
  8. Top with grated cheddar cheese.
  9. Place casserole dish on a lined baking pan to catch any spills from the hamburger filling while baking. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Cook’s note: You may notice in the picture at the top of the page that I topped the casserole with breadcrumbs. This, of course, is completely optional. I used 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Shepherd's Pie

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