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This dynamite casserole uses Velveeta and canned soup, but gives instructions on how to make with a roux and cheese, if you prefer. I know you’ll think I’m nuts when you see the Velveeta in the recipe – I rarely use Velveeta except for Grilled Cheese, and that’s only when I need a dose of comfort, yet here it is…in this Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Casserole.

Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Casserole - shown here baked in individual casseroles

Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Casserole – shown here baked in individual casseroles

Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Casserole, serves 12 so I often divide it into two: I make one and freeze one (it freezes beautifully) or I’ll make one and give one when I know someone who’s been ill, moved, had a baby, etc. This casserole screams comfort, it’s easy, and it consistently surprises me how people just seem to love it – and I’ve served it to neighbors, friends, church funerals and to the occasional “Gourmand.”

I never tell anyone how its made! Let that be our little secret! I’ve been making this for 30 years or so, ever since a caterer friend of my Mom’s served it at my Sister’s wedding and featured it in her book, “If It’s Good, It’s Gourmet.” Her version was a bit more elegant with green Spinach noodles, an addition of sliced green olives and a beautiful sprinkling of slivered almonds on the top.

I needed fast, filling family food my kids would eat, so I made a few changes, cut back on the butter, and I use rototini to catch the wonderful sauce. Directions for making this without the Velveeta and canned soup are under “put your own spin on it,” below.

Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Casserole, serves 12, cost $4.62

  • 2 cups white meat chicken or turkey, cooked
  • 1 chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Velveeta, cubed, about 8 ounces
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms, or freshly sliced, sautéed in butter
  • 2 cans cream of chicken or celery soup, or substitute “cream of anything soup.”
  • 1 cup chicken broth, may be reserved from cooking chicken or turkey
  • 14 ounces spinach egg noodles, whole wheat or high protein pasta (you can use a pound)
  • 4 ounces slivered almonds or bread crumbs

If not using leftovers, cook poultry in broth. (Reserve about a cup of the broth in case sauce needs to be thinned. if you don’t have broth, don’t sweat it, just thin with a bit of water, if needed.)

Cook noodles till al dente. Saute vegetables in the butter until tender.

Cube up Velveeta and melt in the microwave in a large bowl with the soups until melted, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Don’t burn it! Add the vegetables. Add a little broth if needed – should be creamy, not thick and gloppy.

Fold in pasta. Give it a gentle stir and add a little more additional broth if needed. The consistency should be thick but still able to “flow” over and through the pasta.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 – 40 minutes, until warmed through and bubbly. Top with almonds or bread crumbs during last 20 minutes.

Note: I often substitute diced carrots for the mushrooms in this recipe – see photo.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

 Strategies Applied:

  • Chicken or Turkey:  This is a great dish to make if you have chicken or turkey left over, but either way I’ll figure the protein for as little as 69 cents a pound up to 99 cents a pound, the latter being an easy price to find either on sale. 2 cups is about 8 ounces.  Cost at 99 cents a pound is 50 cents.
  • Green Bell Pepper:  You could substitute the more colorful (and more expensive)colored peppers, but for this dish I do like the green better.  I find it on sale all the time for 69 cents a pepper, and sometimes 59 cents.  Watch the per unit and per pound pricing on the sales, and buy the largest possible on the per unit prices.  Cost:  69 cents.
  • Onion:  At 66 a pound, an onion is about 20 cents.  Store in a dark, cool place away from your potatoes.  I keep mine in a paper grocery sack by my kitchen door.  Pick them up in quantity when you see them on sale.  I often get mine from Aldi’s.
  • Celery:  On sale for 98 cents, 2 stalks are about 20 cents.  Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock.
  • Butter:  On sale for Easter this week, 1 pound is $1.49 – stock up as much as you can during Holiday weeks and freeze. Three tablespoon is about 15 cents.
  • Velveeta:  If you object, use real cheese. We don’t use Velveeta a lot at our house, but to me, Velveeta grilled cheese are a childhood comfort thing, and it is good in this dish.  If you buy, look for sales with coupons in the spring, generally around Easter, sometimes the winter holidays and often midsummer.  I look for specials at the store where you buy so many Kraft items and get an extra discount or money on the next purchase.  A good price is $3.99 for a 2 pound box.  You’ll need about a 1/4 of the box – $1.00.
  • Mushrooms:  Never pay full price, they go on sale every few weeks for 99 cents for 8 ounces, or half the usual price.  You can actually saute up a bunch and but in your freezer in smaller portions.  Mushrooms have fantastic organic compounds and are really great for you.  You’ll need about 4 ounces, cost 50 cents.
  • Canned Soup:  Feel free to use the Cream of Anything soup recipe; you’ll need to double.  I try to stock up on a few basic canned soups in the fall, and with coupons and sales I often buy them at no cost.  Easter is generally the last time you’ll see a good price on canned soup. Cost free.  If you have to buy “on sale” without a coupon or offer, you can expect to pay 50 to 69 cents a can.  I’ll count $1.38 cents toward the recipe.
  • Chicken Broth:  I always make my own with leftover bones and parts.  Cost free
  • Noodles:  I buy the higher quality high protein pasta, with sales and coupons I haven’t paid anything for pasta for several years now.  Look for coupons on the manufactures sites and on olive oil.  Cost 0
  • Slivered Almonds or bread crumbs:  Almonds are the more expensive choice, buy with coupons, stock up and freeze during Christmas sales, and check out Aldi’s.  I used breadcrumbs from leftover bread: Cost 0.

Nutrition:

Per Serving: 459 Calories; 26g Fat (49.4% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 103mg Cholesterol; 1074mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 3 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Put Your Own Spin on It:

  • Vegetables can be varied: Red Pepper can be added as well as Carrots, Broccoli, etc., it’s really not particular and is a very forgiving recipe.
  • Topping: A buttered bread crumb topping like the one in Make Your Own Casserole is fantastic on this.
  • If you are opposed to the Velveeta and canned soups in this, you could certainly cook your vegetables in the butter, but increase to about 4 tablespoons. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons flour, working it into the butter and cooking for about two minutes. Slowly add 3 1/2 cups of liquid. Use about 2 cups of milk and the rest chicken broth. Bring to a boil until thickened enough to leave a clean trail on the back of a spoon. Turn off heat and add, bit by bit about two to three cups of shredded cheese. Seasoning will need to be adjusted to taste, salt, pepper, perhaps a bit of celery salt. A half teaspoon of Worcestershire will help, as well. See the recipe for “cream of anything soup.” 
  • This is fun to make in individual ramekins as shown above, and there is the added bonus, when served this way, of your family being less likely to over eat. I like to serve this with a dark green salad or a cooked green like kale or turnip greens.

Freezing:

When I freeze casseroles like this before baking, I line my casserole dish with foil, letting the foil hang over the dish so it can be completely wrapped, add in the mixture and freeze. When frozen, I take it out of the dish, wrap well with aluminum foil a second time, label with name, date and reheating instructions and freeze. To bake: Unwrap the first layer of foil, plop it into the casserole dish in the initial layer of foil and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bake as directed above, may need to add a few minutes time. Hopefully the clean up is easy because of the foil.

My Pay Off:

A very easy few minutes work to make this, and I have one large or two smaller casseroles with a few leftovers.  I’ll often freeze one of the casseroles or take one to a friend or family in need.

Cheesy Chicken Casserole made October 2011.

This is part of my 12 Days of Turkey posting – Twelve Ways to Use those Thanksgiving Leftovers. Click the link or check out the tags to the left.

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