King Ranch Casserole

Hold on to your britches, Minnesotans, I’m about to introduce you to a new casserole, ahem, hot dish.  Forgive me for assuming you’ve never heard of this concoction but I had my socks knocked off when I learned about the immense popularity of this casserole as I consider myself pretty well-versed in the subject given my Midwestern upbringing.  I saw this dish on an episode of “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” and took to the internet to find out what it entailed, and it was the equivalent of discovering tator tot hot dish for the first time, with hundreds of recipes, variations and photos at the ready.

Let’s start with the name – King Ranch – a quick Google search will teach you that the source of this casserole’s name is unclear and unlikely named after the ranch that bears this name, mostly because it’s a cattle ranch and this dish is made with chicken.  I heard an interpretation that this casserole was made to serve the ranch hands working long days at King Ranch, but the owners deny that’s the case.  Whatever the reason for the name, it’s memorable.

So, what the heck is this dish?  First, it hails from Texas so it’s going to hit you with Mexican flavors and some heat.  That includes corn tortillas, chills, Rotel and chili powder.  Second, it’s a casserole/hot dish so it’s going to gooey and hearty and calorie-laden so just sit back and enjoy and pretend calories don’t exist.  This hot dish involves layering corn tortillas with chicken, cheese and a spicy white sauce, then baking for an hour.  Simple enough if you have a little time on your hands and don’t mind chopping vegetables (this meal includes an onion, green pepper, mushrooms, garlic and optional chilis) as well as the meat from a roasting chicken.

With no further ado – here it is folks – King Ranch Casserole!  It’s not the prettiest in presentation but my, is it delicious. 

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King Ranch Casserole
Serves 8
This casserole includes layers of corn tortillas, chicken, cheese and a spicy white sauce, baked together until heated through.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup butter
  2. 1 white onion, diced
  3. 1 green pepper, diced
  4. 8 oz mushrooms, sliced and rough chopped
  5. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  6. 1 tsp kosher salt
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  8. 3/4 tsp chili powder
  9. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  10. 3 cups chicken stock
  11. 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  12. 10 oz can of Rotel
  13. 2-3 roasted green chilis, finely diced (optional)
  14. 18 tortillas
  15. 2 cups colby-jack cheese, shredded
  16. 1 whole roasted chicken, meat shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion, green pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened and translucent but not yet browned.
  3. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for 1 minute.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and chili powder, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the cornstarch and stir until absorbed and no longer white.
  6. Add the chicken stock to the pan, 1 cup at a time, stirring to combine. The sauce will be thick.
  7. Add the milk, Rotel and chills, stirring to combine.
  8. Spray a 9x11 baking pan with Pam, then layer with 6 tortillas (there will be overlap).
  9. Cover the layer of tortillas with 1/3 of the sauce, then 1/2 of the chicken and 1/3 the cheese.
  10. Cover this layer with 6 more tortillas, 1/3 of the sauce, the remaining 1/2 of the chicken and 1/3 of the cheese.
  11. Cover this with a final layer of 6 tortillas and spread the remaining 1/3 of the sauce over the tortillas to prevent them from drying out. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cheese over the top.
  12. Bake for 1 hour until bubbling and heated through.
  13. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. I save time by buying a rotisserie chicken from the store already cooked so all I need to do is remove and shred the meat.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Chicken George Sandwiches

Hello there fellow food lovers!  Apologies for my extended blog absence, this warm weather has me outside most hours of the day while the sun is up (and I’m not at work) and I’ve fallen sorely behind here.  How about an easy transition back into recipe sharing with a simple and delicious sandwich that can be served, hot, cold or at room temperature? 

 

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This, my friends, is a Chicken George sandwich.  I have no idea where my mom got the recipe but it was always a favorite of mine growing up.  Best of all, you can easily make this sandwich your own by tweaking the toppings and creating many a related offshoot of the original.  The traditional Chicken George in the Remes house consisted of a whole grilled chicken breast on a bun, topped with swiss cheese, chopped bacon, a ring of pineapple and lots of thousand island dressing.  My updated version is very similar – I stick with a grilled chicken breast but chop it up to make it easier to take a bite without removing the whole breast, and leave out the pineapple ring because the Mr. holds a firm belief that meat and fruit don’t mix, and it has started to take a hold in me.  Or at least impact what I make us for dinner, at a minimum.

If this doesn’t sound quite up your alley, what could you do to make this your own?  Trust me, it’s quite tasty and quick enough to make that you’ll be back outside enjoying the sunshine in no time at all, but I firmly believe in playing with recipes until they fit just right to your liking.  Try a different dressing, say, ranch or blue cheese, and omit or swap the slice of cheese for cheddar, mozzarella or colby-jack.  There are no wrong answers here people.  Enjoy!

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 A little update from my mom after she read the original post: 

  1. I got the recipe from Suz (her sister) and it was called George after a woman whose first name I can’t recall but whose last name was George. I think she had a chicken business for a while.
  2. Do you marinate your chicken in Good Seasons Italian Dressing?
  3. Too bad Mr. doesn’t like the pineapple ring; I think that’s what makes this sandwich great.
Chicken George Sandwich
Serves 4
This sandwich is a cinch to make and so delicious - grilled chicken topped with bacon, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing - it's a great summer staple and also great year-round.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb chicken breast, seasoned with salt and pepper
  2. 4 slices of bacon, fried and chopped, or 1/4 cup bacon bits
  3. 4 slices swiss cheese
  4. 4 buns, sliced in half
  5. Thousand island dressing
  6. 4 rings of pineapple (optional)
Instructions
  1. Grill the chicken until fully cooked. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes, then chop into medium-sized pieces.
  2. Take a sliced bun, remove the top half, and place the bottom half on a serving plate.
  3. Place 1/4 of the chopped chicken in a pile on the bun.
  4. Top with chopped bacon and a slice of swiss cheese.
  5. Place in the microwave for 10 seconds to get the cheese warmed but not melted. (this step is entirely optional and up to you)
  6. If desired, top with a ring of pineapple.
  7. Top with thousand island dressing, to taste, then cover with the remaining half of the bun.
Notes
  1. This sandwich can easily be made gluten free by ensuring your dressing is GF, and by substituting a GF bun or two toasted slices of GF bread.
  2. If you're having trouble fitting all the chicken and toppings on the bottom half of the bun consider this - when slicing the bun in half, slice it so that the bottom half is 60-70% of the total bun height. Remove the top, then hollow out the bread filling of the bottom half to make room for all the goodies. Replace the top half once you've compiled the sandwich and you have the same end product and a little less mess.
Adapted from Patricia Remes
Adapted from Patricia Remes
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Layered Chicken & Veggie Spread

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When a recipe post starts with a good photo it’s hard to drag the reader through too much written content… except that’s what I do most of the time.  Ha!  This time, I’ll try to restrain myself.  Looking at this photo makes me want to stand up, head to the kitchen, prepare this appetizer and then eat the whole thing.  Please forgive the fat kid moment I just had there.

My girlfriend Kristine introduced me to this appetizer a few years back and I love it – it’s got a great combination of veggies, meat and dairy.  You’ve got carrots, broccoli, green onions piled on top of chive & onion cream cheese with grilled chicken to boot.  Filling, delicious and not too guilty with all those veggies.  If you want to get crazy you could also pour a little sweet & sour sauce over this appetizer, which is heavenly, but missing from these photos because I forgot to pick some up at the store.  Alas.  Enjoy this spread with pita chips or crackers, or maybe even over a piece of toast. Easy to make and so delicious, you’ll find yourself making this recipe time and time again.  And hopefully not eating it all yourself, like I’m considering right now.

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Layered Chicken & Veggie Spread Appetizer
Serves 6
This spread starts with flavored cream cheese and is topped with chicken and veggies, and optional sweet & sour sauce.
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Ingredients
  1. 8oz chive and onion cream cheese
  2. 1 cooked chicken breast, diced
  3. 1 head of broccoli, diced
  4. 1 carrot, shaved or shredded
  5. 3 green onions, diced
  6. Sweet & sour sauce, optional
Instructions
  1. On a large plate, spread the flavored cream cheese.
  2. Top with chicken.
  3. Scatter veggies over plate.
  4. Pour sweet & sour sauce over the spread, if desired.
  5. Serve with pita chips or crackers.
Notes
  1. You can use any variety of vegetables in this recipe - try with diced peppers or cauliflower.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

 

Chicken Marsala

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Chicken Marsala is an Italian dinner entree made with chicken, mushrooms, shallots and wine.  While it takes a little while to prep the ingredients and cook the chicken, mushrooms and sauce, the effort is well worth it.

I don’t remember ever eating Chicken Marsala growing up and was exposed to it only a few years ago when a friend gave us a meal from one of those joints that preps all your dinner ingredients for you into packages for you to cook at home.  This gave me a pretty good idea of the basics on how to prepare this dish – coating and sautéing the chicken in seasoned flour, sautéing the mushrooms in butter and wine, and thickening the sauce with the flour that coated chicken – and after a few rounds of experimentation and some recipe research, the recipe below is now a go-to weeknight meal for us, and reheats really well for lunch the next day (if you’re into that sort of thing).

We love to eat this chicken meal on top of warm mashed potatoes – whether you choose to make those from scratch or buy a package of them prepared, potatoes add an extra element of flavor and help fill you up.

 

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Chicken Marsala
Serves 4
Chicken Marsala is a delicious meal of chicken, mushrooms and wine sauce, and can be served over mashed potatoes or with a side of vegetables.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
  2. 1 package (8oz) button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  3. 1/4 cup gluten free Bisquik OR flour
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 tsp pepper
  6. 1/2 tsp dried oregano flakes
  7. 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  8. 2 Tbsp butter
  9. 1 shallot, finely minced
  10. 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  11. 1/2 cup dry white wine OR Marsala wine
  12. 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
Instructions
  1. Mix Bisquik, salt, pepper and oregano in a large bowl.
  2. Clean and quarter mushrooms, setting aside in a small bowl.
  3. Finely mince both shallot and garlic, combining and setting aside in a small bowl.
  4. Dice chicken breasts into bite sized pieces, place in the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix to coat.
  5. Heat a large pan over medium heat, coating with 2 Tbsp olive oil.
  6. Remove chicken from the bowl covered in flour and seasoning and place in the hot oiled pan.
  7. Sauté chicken until lightly browned, and remove from pan to a large dinner plate.
  8. Pour remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil into pan with 2 Tbsp butter and heat through.
  9. Add mushrooms and cook 3-5 minutes until beginning to soften and brown.
  10. Add garlic and shallot, stirring to combine with the mushrooms, and cook for 2 minutes.
  11. Pour the wine into the pan and stir to loosen the cooked bits from the bottom of the pan, bringing to a simmer.
  12. Pour the stock into the pan, stirring to combine, and bring to a simmer.
  13. Once the liquid in the pan is heated through and starting to simmer, return the chicken to the pan, stirring to coat all pieces of chicken with the sauce, and cook for 5 minutes to heat the chicken through.
  14. Serve with mashed potatoes or a side of vegetables.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Chicken Pad Thai

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Pad Thai from Sawatdee is one of our favorite meals so we set out to recreate it at home. We were able to find pieces of the restaurant’s original recipe online and with a few tries were able to get the flavor right. Following a great deal of recipe research and experimentation, we have found the perfect recipe.  The noodles are soft but not mushy, you can taste the egg without being overwhelmed by the flavor, and the sauce… oh the sauce.  It’s flavorful with mild heat, which can easily be turned up with the addition of more garlic chili sauce to meet your needs.

Please note that we use two 12 inch frying pans to cook this meal, so all ingredients should be prepared and put into two bowls for easy addition while cooking. If you use only one pan and cook all ingredients at one time you risk steaming the meal instead of frying it due to overcrowding of the pan.

Listen, I’ve come a long way on the path of exploring spicy food.  Two years ago I had never tasted Pad Thai for fear of the heat, and today, I cook it at home weekly with an increasing level of spice.

I’ve shared this recipe with a number of food lovers and confirmed it’s a keeper!  You won’t be disappointed.

Chicken Pad Thai
 
Recipe Type: Dinner
Cuisine: Thai
Author: Bryna Krentz
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • MAIN INGREDIENTS
  • 1 package Thai rice noodles (14-16oz)
  • I lb chicken breast, diced into 1 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten, divided into two bowls
  • 1 package bean sprouts
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 6 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup salted cocktail peanuts, crushed
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • SAUCE INGREDIENTS – IMPORTANT TO DIVIDE INGREDIENTS BELOW INTO 2 BOWLS
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp garlic chili sauce (red sauce found in the Asian aisle)
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • This recipe makes a mild “Minnesota spicy” dish – if you prefer something hotter, add more garlic chili sauce and chili flakes.
Instructions
  1. Remove noodles from packaging and place 1/2 each in an 11×17 pan. Cover with room temperature water and let sit for 90 minutes. Test noodles for “doneness” with the “finger test” – remove a noodle from water and wrap 2-3 times around your finger. Noodle should wrap easily and not be stiff.
  2. Prepare sauce by mixing all ingredients in a bowl, or in 2 bowls, dividing ingredients equally between the two.
  3. Dice chicken and season liberally with salt.
  4. Rinse bean sprouts with water and set aside.
  5. Prep all other ingredients and set aside in 2 bowls per ingredient.
  6. Heat two 10-12″ frying pans over medium heat. Add oil and heat.
  7. Add eggs to each pan and stir constantly. Add chicken when eggs are nearly cooked through and cook 3-4 minutes until cooked through.
  8. Add noodles to each pan, then add sauce and juice of 1/4 lemon. Stir noodles to combine ingredients and cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce is absorbed.
  9. Add bean sprouts to pan, stirring to incorporate, cooking for 2-3 minutes until heated through.
  10. Add green onions and stir, cooking 2-3 minutes.
  11. Top dish with crushed peanuts and remove from heat. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.
  12. Serve pad thai with lemon and lime wedges, additional crushed peanuts and sriracha sauce for additional heat.
  13. Refrigerate leftovers, which reheat well the next day.