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March 16, 2015

{Make Ahead Monday} Chicken and Rice Casserole with Bacon



This is the epitome of a make ahead meal. Not only does half of the main ingredients come from the freezer, you can make it the day before and pop it in the oven when you're ready!

Every time I make a dish with rice, I always have some leftover, and I USED to just trash it if I didn't have enough of whatever I served along side the rice left for another meal. I mean, plain rice is pretty boring, am I right? However, a few months ago I made a recipe for fried rice (it was just OK, I'm on the hunt for a great one!), and it utilized leftover rice. The author of the post mentioned she often freezes leftover rice, which is just brilliant. I'd never thought of that, but now when I make rice I make more than I know we'll need specifically so I have some to freeze.

This recipe is a great way to use frozen rice. It also uses prepared shredded chicken, which you may or may not already have in your freezer. I always do! And, if you plan your menu accordingly, this could even use leftover bacon (well, if that's even a thing? Is it possible to save bacon for later? Well, yes, it is. It's H-A-R-D, but it's possible). If you're making something with bacon that week, just cook up a few extra slices!

I've been searching for a chicken and rice casserole that the whole family would like for over a year now, and this is finally it. The leftovers are fantastic for lunch too!

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Bacon
Ingredients:
6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
hot sauce, to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 cups cooked white rice


Directions:Preheat oven to 350*

Put butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour once melted, whisking until smooth and bubbly. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, salt and pepper. Whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.

Reduce heat to low and stir in 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Add hot sauce to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer while assembling the rest of the casserole.

In a large bowl, stir cooked rice and chicken. Add cheese sauce, mixing until combined. Stir in bacon pieces.

Pour rice mixture in a casserole dish, and top with extra 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and browning a bit, and the rice mixture is bubbling. About 30 minutes.


Source: Heavily adapted from Picky Palete

December 22, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake Bars


When I received an email from a friend menu planning for a then upcoming Thanksmas dinner with friends, I immediately jumped in and said I'd bring dessert. As I always do. But of course, I searched and searched for ideas, and nothing sounded just right to appeal to a group of people. All of a sudden it's like the day before and I still need to shop and bake. I wanted to do a cheesecake, but with everything going on I didn't know if I'd have time. So I turned to trusty Pinterest and just typed in Cheesecake Bars.

As soon as I saw these I knew I had to make them. I emailed a picture to Rob and all he replied was "Yep!".

I am so glad that I slacked and slacked on deciding, because these were simply amazing. And, they don't require any out of the ordinary ingredients, so I had everything on hand! I realize not everyone had Graham Crackers in their pantry but a) why not, they're delicious!? and b) just a quick stop and you're good to go!

These cheesecake bars are quick, simple and so delicious. No one has to know how quick and simple they are!

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake Bars
Ingredients:
Graham Cracker Crust
12 graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Cinnamon Roll filling
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flour
Cheesecake 
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with foil, and grease with cooking spray.

Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add sugar and cinnamon and pulse. Add melted butter and pulse until well combined. Press mixure into prepared pan, using a flat hard surface to really press it down, such as a glass cup! Bake for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare cinnamon roll filling by combining butter, cinnamon and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. Stir in vanilla and flour.

In a large bowl beat together egg and sugar until foamy. Add cream cheese and vanilla and beat with a mixer on low until smooth.

Pour mixture on top of graham cracker crust. Drizzle with cinnamon roll filling and use a toothpick to swirl in to the cheesecake layer.

Bake 20 minutes or until set. Allow to cook 30 minutes and then move to refrigerator to continue cooling for a few hours.

When completely cool, cut and serve!


Source: Creme de la Crumb


December 19, 2014

Reindeer Cookies




I've had a very busy December this year, and sadly I haven't had much opportunity to bake as much as I'd like. But what little bit I've baked, I've decided I wanted to try something different.

As much as I love a beautifully decorated sugar cookie at the holidays, they're time consuming, and time has not been on my side. It's not easy trying to get in to the swing of things just going back to work a few weeks ago, two kids, and this little project called "the holidays". So when my husband sent me a picture of some cookies he saw I knew that these would be a cute, yet QUICK alternative to decorated sugar cookies. Just whatever drop cookie recipe you want, some M&Ms, chocolate pretzels and chocolate chips and you're good to go! I chose to make these as peanut butter cookies because it's been awhile since I've had a peanut butter cookie, but also the coloring is more "reindeer-y" than sugar cookies!

I think these will be the cookies we make for Santa this year!

Reindeer Cookies
Ingredients:Peanut Butter or Sugar Cookie dough
Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Red M&Ms
Mini Brown M&Ms, or chocolate chips

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Make cookie dough as you normally would. Shape dough in to 1-inch balls. To make the reindeer shapes, lightly pinch the bottom of the ball a little to form a bit of a point. Gently flatten the shaped dough on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake according to your dough directions.

Once removed from the oven, working quickly gently press two mini chocolate covered pretzels in the tops of the "head" for antlers. Then brown M&Ms, or upside down chocolate chips for the eyes. Use the red M&Ms for noses!

Source: Inspired by Bakergirl

December 15, 2014

Make Ahead Monday: Poached Chicken, plus Chicken Broth

I'm back with another Make Ahead Monday post. We eat a lot of chicken in our house, and a lot of times I'll menu plan on using leftover chicken in dishes so that I can just grill an extra breast or whatever. It's a great time saver, especially now that I'm back at work and have an hour between getting home with 2 kids and getting dinner on the table. But, to save even more time, I sometimes like to poach a bunch of chicken on Sunday and chop or shred it for later in the week, or even the freezer. As an added bonus, if you poach it with flavor enhancers like veggies, bay leaves, a little garlic you can use the poaching liquid to make broth. This is also a great way to actually use some of the forgotten veggies on their last legs! It's not quite as flavorful as broth made with bones, but it works, especially for dishes where you don't need a lot of extra flavor from the broth. I love to use it to make rice!

This is great to do when chicken is on sale as well. Just poach some chicken, dice or shred, and save for later in the week, or freeze in 1 cup portions in freezer-weight bags. This way you always have some cooked chicken ready to go. If you have some cheese tortellini or ravioli in the freezer, you can have dinner on the table in 25 minutes (the only time consuming part is boiling water to heat the pasta!) This tortellini is one of my favorite quick recipes. You can toss some frozen veggies in there while the pasta is warming up as well!

You may be asking, can't I just get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Yes, yes you can. I do this often as well, but I like this when there's a sale, or I need chicken for other meals and carving a chicken just won't work!

Here are some great dishes that I often make using pre-cooked chicken.

One Pot Chicken Mudega Pasta Skillet
Chicken Picatta Pasta Toss
Creamy Lemon and Spinach Tortellini
Chicken Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto (or any risotto!)
Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken
Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
Quesadillas

Poached Chicken
Ingredients:
Chicken
Water (just enough to cover the chicken by about an inch)
Carrots
Celery
Peppercorns
Salt
Any fresh herbs you have around

Directions:
Place chicken in a large enough pot, cover with water by an extra inch. Add carrots, celery, salt, peppercorns and any fresh herbs.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Remove chicken and allow to cool for a few minutes before chopping or shredding.

Meanwhile, strain the liquid in to a large bowl. Discard vegetables and herbs. Allow poaching liquid/broth to cool before storing in the fridge or freezer.