Chicken enchilada casserole.

Two months of adjusting to life with a baby attached to me more often than not, and I think I may be getting the hang of it. (Tip: Don’t get too used to any “normal” – just roll with it.) To be honest, Little Man isn’t that much of a hassle in everyday life, although breastfeeding every 2-3 hours definitely creates a schedule I have to stick to.

That schedule means I’m more limited with my cooking. I definitely understand the value of casseroles and batch cooking, now! My latest Pinterest search led me to a wealth of make-ahead freezer meals that I’m looking forward to trying out. One of those meals was the Layered Enchilada Casserole. We had almost everything on hand already, and I figured if we didn’t like it, I wouldn’t worry with making one to freeze.

It turns out this one was a hit, and it made well even though I altered the recipe from Joyful Momma’s. I’ll be making it again, and have some waiting for us when I don’t feel like cooking.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
serves 6-8

ingredients:
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can kernel corn, drained
1 can green chiles
1 can mild enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese
Tortillas chips

directions:
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 2 quart baking dish. Mix chicken, beans, corn, chiles and sauce. Layer chicken mixture and tortillas chips in baking dish, ending with chicken mixture. Top with cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve warm with sour cream, sliced jalapeños, or whatever your heart desires.

*You can use canned chicken in a pinch; or you can boil chicken breasts until done, and shred them yourself. My new favorite trick is to shred them using my KitchenAid – just put the cooked chicken in the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, and turn it on “Stir.” In a few minutes, you’ll have restaurant-quality shredded chicken!

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Grilled honey-soy chicken.

With the temperatures as high as they have been lately, it’s been an ideal time for getting your grill on. It’s just not as satisfying to stand around a grill with a heavy jacket and skullcap, as it is to hang around in a tank top and shorts. At least, it’s not as satisfying to me. The other night, chicken was on the menu, but the seasoning decision was a little up in the air. We were cooking for the family, and while some of us like it spicy, others can’t eat anything much more than some barely-applied black pepper. Cullen had to step out for a while, so everything got left up to me. I decided I’d halve the seasonings between blackened and… something else. A few minutes of searching Epicurious yielded Grilled Lemon-Honey Chicken Breasts, and it sounded just like what I was looking for. Even better, I had everything in the kitchen to make the marinade!

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A Georgia tradition–chicken mull.

While it is not unusual for me to proudly proclaim my Kentucky heritage, there are a few things that, like Kentucky’s hot browns and Ale-8, Georgia has all to its own. I’m going to address one of them today, and that is chicken mull.

Yes, indeedy, you read that right: mull. Not unlike “church fluff” and “funeral potatoes” in its own right, chicken mull is something you’ll often see at a church potluck or family gathering, usually in the colder months (when they make an appearance). It is also one of those foods that just doesn’t venture too far from its origins – chicken mull, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist far out of North Georgia, quite possibly not even out of the general Athens area. I know it definitely didn’t exist in my houses when I was growing up. Chicken and dumplings, chicken and stars, chicken noodle – chicken mull was nowhere to be found. Don’t confuse it with chicken stew, which is a different animal altogether. Stew involves vegetables, is mostly broth and leaves out the cream.

Though the origins of chicken mull elude me, I can be fairly sure that it was created in a time of a short-listed pantry. It’s pretty simple to make – shredded chicken, stock or broth, milk, crackers and salt and pepper. If you buy a whole chicken, as seen here, instead of chicken in a can and stock in a box (or can), you add cooking time but save money – poaching the chicken gives you plenty of stock and more than enough meat, but requires shredding by hand and straining the stock (my preference) before adding the meat and remaining ingredients into your liquid. You also have the option in such case to control what goes into your mull – always a plus in my book. The frugality appeal is what has made it so popular as a church potluck – cheap and easy, in monstrously gigundous rather large quantities if needed.

(Behold, my ugly CrockPot. Ahem.)

Mull is comfort food at the top of the list – creamy, thick and velvety on the tongue. Easy to make, and enough for leftovers to eat the next day or freeze for another time.  Fix it with a salad and have a full meal. The best way to eat it is hot out of the pot, with a generous helping of Texas Pete (no Tabasco, please), and maybe some extra crackers.

Chicken Mull
A Family Recipe

ingredients:
One whole roasting chicken (4-5 lbs)
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cans of evaporated milk or 3 1/2 cups milk or cream
2-3 sleeves of Ritz (or crackers of choice)
Salt and pepper to taste

directions:
Boil chicken in deep stockpot or crockpot, with enough water to cover, until meat is done and tender. Remove chicken from stock, let cool enough to handle, and shred meat from the bone. Strain stock back into cooking pot, add shredded meat, milk and additional broth. Let cook to a simmer, add crushed crackers and salt and pepper, and cook to desired thickness. Add more crackers if needed. Serve with hot sauce and extra crackers if desired.

It really is as simple as that. More crackers means a thicker mull; using milk or cream means a richer mull than using evaporated milk. It’s extremely forgiving, and very tasty. I promise you won’t regret making it the next cold night that comes around!

Chicken tacos.

Skinless, boneless chicken breast, marinated in olive oil and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole for a couple hours, then grilled until char marks appear and the scent of spiced chicken wafts up from the plate and infuses the kitchen, then sliced into edible strips, easily placed on a tortilla blanket.

Purple cabbage, washed, patted dry and thickly chiffonaded for a leafy, satisfying crunch.

Shredded mozzarella (not pictured), sprinkled lightly under the chicken strips to melt and create a gooey, slightly salty bond between chicken and tortilla.

Storebought salsa, spooned atop chicken for a mildly spicy kick of tomatoes, peppers and jalapeño seeds. What’s a taco without salsa?

Sauteed, blackened Vidalia onions pieces (also not pictured), cooked in a seasoned cast iron skillet with a pinch of salt and brown sugar, browned to a floppy, flavorful, juicy mess and strewn under chicken and cabbage, over shredded cheese. Soft on the outside, still maintaining a gentle al dente bite.

Sour cream to melt around all these things and bring the flavors together, a creamy, tangy base of a self-created taco sauce, wherein all the juices of grilled chicken, fresh cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and melted cheese come together in celebration.

Homemade white flour tortillas, mixed, kneaded and flattened by hand, with love, and set to brown on a searing-hot iron skillet, still infused with onion and brown sugar, then removed and let cool for packaging by hand.

Delicious.