Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Cheated and I'm Not Sorry


I grew up in the TV dinner generation, the frozen pizza generation, beans & weanies heated on the stovetop generation.  If I wanted a can of green beans, I heated those up on the stovetop too.  I remember eating a lot of food out of cans.  I was so excited when we got our first microwave oven!  I could heat Spaghettios up in about 8 minutes!  Ha ha.  But that was really the way it was back then.  And I grew up okay and don't have any health problems as a result.

When my kids were small, it was convenient and easy to get them to eat things like Kid Cuisine TV dinners and Chef Boyardee Ravioli.  They generally wouldn't eat home-cooked food, unless it was plain and bland.  But, as they got older and I gained a whole lot more experience in the kitchen, I kind of stopped (for the most part) buying processed or frozen or canned food, with a few exceptions.  I will buy Velveeta and RoTel, and I like the convenience of crushed tomatoes in a can.  I buy various hot sauces and wing sauces and other condiments, only because I haven't perfected my own.  Occasionally I crave some Jalapeno Kettle Cooked Chips.  And, dang it, maybe once a year I want a hot dog.

It's just that my tastebuds started enjoying fresh and from-scratch food.  Sure, I will on occasion buy my towering 5'10" 14-year-old son some boxed mac & cheese or Hot Pockets, but he eats sometimes five times a day (he's hungry, darn it) and he needs something quick to microwave.  But we're not paleo or vegan (obviously since bacon is one of the Four Food Groups) or non-GMO or gluten free.  Don't get me wrong, I applaud those of you who have the strength and the fortitude to stay strong on your path of good health and wellness.  We are just not that dedicated.  I am mindful and wary of buying foods full of chemicals and, well, no real food, but I don't really follow a strict plan.  

But, every now and then, I remember a recipe from my past. I really enjoyed that recipe as is.  Sure, I tried replacing some of the ingredients with a homemade version before.  But maybe I was tired...or lazy...or I just waved my hands in the air and just didn't care.  I made King Ranch Chicken.  And, yes, I used the dreaded "cream of" soups.  And it was fantastic!  My husband looked at me in shock and wondered what my plan was for this elusive canned soup that hasn't touched our pantry in a few years.  Yes, I bought them.  Yes, I cheated.  And I have no regrets.  

King Ranch Chicken is a beloved Tex-Mex recipe that supposedly originated on King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the world.  The ranch is over 800,000 acres and spans six counties.  Whether it comes from there or not, this casserole is good.  Ask any Texan if they've had it and I betcha the majority will say yes.  

KING RANCH CHICKEN
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
One 10.75 ounce can cream of chicken soup
One 10.75 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
One 10-ounce can RoTel
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 T cumin
1-2 T chili powder, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 of the RoTel can of half and half, if necessary
8 corn tortillas
2 T butter
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno over medium high heat until tender. Add in the chicken, RoTel, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, cumin, chili powder, garlic and cilantro.  Cook until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  If the sauce seems too thick, fill the RoTel can halfway with some half and half and whisk in.  Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a 9 x 13 casserole pan, pour in half of the sauce.  Layer the 8 corn tortillas over the sauce, overlapping if necessary. Pour on the rest of the sauce and spread it to cover the tortillas.  Sprinkle the cheese all over the top and bake the casserole for about 15 minutes to heat it through and melt the cheese.  For a twist, try substituting the corn tortillas with your favorite flavor of Doritos crushed up!