Slow Cooker Sunday: Chicken Tikka Masala

Welcome to my new (and first) series… Slow Cooker Sunday. As the temperatures drop and the craziness of the holidays approach you may want something hearty and stress-free for dinner and the perfect solution to that is a slow-cooker dinner. You put all of your ingredients into the cooker in the morning, set it to cook on a high or low setting depending on your time needs and by the time you are ready to sit down to dinner your meal is ready and clean-up is a breeze. It can’t get better than that. A slow-cooker meal is also perfect for during the week, whether you are working, running errands or taking care of kids. That dreaded question that may run through your mind throughout the day – “what should I make for dinner?” – can easily be answered. So be sure to check back every Sunday to see what new meal I post. For today’s first Slow Cooker Sunday meal I am bringing you Chicken Tikka Masala. This is something I always order whenever I go out to an Indian restaurant. I am always tempted to order something different but I always settle on this favorite.

I began by cutting about a pound and a half of boneless skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and marinating them in yogurt for a few hours. Afterwards I placed them in the bottom of my slow cooker. In case you are wondering, marinating the chicken in yogurt helps to tenderize the chicken.

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Next, in a sauté pan I cooked a diced onion and three minced garlic cloves in olive oil until the onion was softened. I then stirred in fresh grated ginger, tomato paste, garam masala, paprika and Kosher salt. Garam masala is what gives this dish its incredible flavor. Typically it’s a blend of black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, black and green cardamom, bay leaf and cumin. Initially I looked for it in the international aisle of my supermarket and with no luck there I checked out the spice area and was able to find it among the McCormick Gourmet spices. I should have known it would be among the “fancy” spices in the glass bottles… LOL!

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I then added the onion mixture to the chicken in the slow cooker along with a can of diced tomatoes. After stirring everything together I covered it and cooked it on high for 4 hours. I typically like to use my slow cooker on the low setting, but, I needed this dish to be done in the early afternoon.

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Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking I stirred in heavy cream and left the cover off of the slow cooker so the sauce could thicken. Meanwhile I made basmati rice…

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Which I served on the side with some of the chicken. This was INCREDIBLY delicious and just as good as the Chicken Tikka Masala I’ve had at some of my favorite Indian restaurants. I can’t wait to make it again.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bit-sized pieces

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons garam masala

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups cooked basmati rice, to serve

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in the yogurt for up to six hours or as little as an hour. Shake to remove the excess yogurt and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions have softened. Stir in the ginger, tomato paste, garam masala, paprika and salt. Transfer to the slow cooker on top of the kitchen. Add in the diced tomatoes. Stir to combine everything.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Make note of the start time because 15 minutes before the end of cooking add in the heavy cream. If you would like a thicker sauce leave the cover off for these final 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

*Please note I use a 5 1/2 quart slow-cooker.

Recipe from the kitchn

Chicken Pad Thai

Whenever I go to a Thai restaurant my go-to dish is always Chicken Pad Thai. It’s pretty much foolproof and always delicious. A few years ago I attempted to make it myself and was happy with the outcome – it was super simple and tasted awesome. I recently dug out the recipe I used and whipped it up for dinner.

To begin I prepped all of my ingredients; minced garlic and ginger, sliced three thinly sliced chicken breasts into strips and julienned 2 carrots and 1 zucchini.

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Two of my other ingredients were rice noodles and Asian chili paste.

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Next I whisked together soy sauce, water, peanut butter and the chili paste until it was smooth.

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To cook the vegetables and chicken I began by sautéing the garlic and ginger for about a minute and then adding the vegetables and chicken and cooking everything until the chicken was cooked through.

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While I was cooking the vegetables I prepped the rice noodles by soaking them in warm water (I brought a pot of water to boil and then removed it from the heat). Luckily the rice noodles now come in these individual packets (there are four in a box) so I knew exactly how many noodles I needed – 2 packets. The last time I cooked with rice noodles – granted it was some time ago – they didn’t come in these nifty packages so I had to use my best guess as to what was half of the package.

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The noodles soaking…

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Once the noodles were ready (I followed the directions on the package and soaked them for 5 minutes) I added them to the pan with the vegetables and then added in the peanut/soy sauce I made along with light brown sugar and cider vinegar. I tossed all of the ingredients together to distribute the sauce and let everything cook for a few more minutes and then it was time to enjoy my homemade Chicken Pad Thai and it was delicious!

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Chicken Pad Thai – Modified from here

Servings 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons Asian chili paste

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 zucchini, julienned

2 carrots, julienned

8 ounces chicken breast, sliced into strips

1/4 pound rice noodles, follow directions on package to prepare

1 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoons cider vinegar

Optional for garnish:

Lime Wedges

Chopped Peanuts

Bean Sprouts

Directions:

1. In a bowl whisk together the soy sauce, water, peanut butter and chili paste.

2. Heat a large sauté pan (or wok) over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once the oil is hot add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute. Add the vegetables and chicken and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Add the noodles and toss to coat them.

3. Add the peanut/soy sauce, brown sugar and cider vinegar and toss to distribute. Cook until heated through.

A Quick and Easy Coq au Vin

The first time I had Coq au Vin was at a cooking demonstration class at Williams Sonoma. I purchased the braising base that was used at the class but unfortunately my result was nothing like the one I tasted at the class. I think part of the reason was that I still wasn’t all that comfortable with cooking – I’m more of a baker, but, slowly but surely my cooking ability is starting to even out with my baking ability. Recently I came across a recipe for Coq au Vin in a magazine and decided to try making it once again, this time from scratch, and I had much better results. And in case you are wondering, Coq au Vin is a French dish of braised chicken in red wine and normally contains bacon, garlic, onions and mushrooms.

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Up first I sliced baby bella mushrooms, minced 2 cloves of garlic and chopped some fresh thyme.

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I then cooked three slices of bacon, which I cut into half-inch pieces, in two teaspoons of olive oil until they were brown, but not crispy.

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After removing the bacon from the Dutch oven and setting it aside I browned four chicken thighs which I seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Next I cooked the mushrooms along with a 16 oz. bag of frozen white pearl onions for a few minutes until they began to soften.

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Following that I added in the thyme, garlic and a tablespoon of tomato paste.

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And then red cooking wine. I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes until the wine reduced by half…

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And then added in chicken stock.

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And finally I returned the chicken to the pot, reduced the heat to low and partially covered the pot and allowed the chicken to cook through and the onions to soften, about 40 minutes.

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And for the final step, I dissolved three tablespoons of cornstarch in an equal amount of water and added it to the cooking liquid after transferring the chicken to a plate. Once the liquid thickened I returned the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat the chicken. I must say I have used cornstarch to thicken cooking liquids before but I normally just add it directly to the liquid, dissolving it in water is a much better method as it eliminates the possibility of any clumps forming in the liquid.

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Final Verdict… Definitely something I will make again, although I think next time I won’t add the cornstarch.

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Easy Coq au Vin – Slightly modified from here

Ingredients:

3 slices center cut bacon, cut into half-inch pieces

2 tsp. olive oil

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

16 oz. frozen pearl onions

10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 tbsp. tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red cooking wine

2 cups chicken stock

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

1. In a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven, cook the bacon in the oil over medium heat until browned but not too crispy. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl lined with a napkin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (I used about 1/2 tsp. each). Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Stir in the tomato paste, thyme and garlic. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and gently simmer, turning the chicken once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in tbsp. water. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the cooking liquid to a bowl. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat.

Sweet & Sour Chicken

The past few days I have been on a roll with cooking dinner. It probably helped that I went through my recipe binder and planned out a few meals for the week. Today I am going to share with you a quick and simple recipe for Sweet & Sour Chicken that I got from an issue of Rachael Ray Magazine a while back.

I usually try to do all of my prep-work for whatever I am cooking or baking before getting started, this way I don’t miss anything and I can work smoothly through the recipe. For this Sweet & Sour Chicken recipe I prepped my ingredients by doing the following: cut a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs into 3/4 inch pieces which I then coated with cornstarch and soy sauce, chopped up a green bell pepper into 3/4 inch pieces, minced up a tablespoon worth of fresh ginger, and finally, drained the pineapple juice of an 8-ounce can of pineapple chunks and set the chunks aside while whisking the juice along with cornstarch, soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, cider vinegar and sugar.

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It was then time to start cooking. I began by cooking the chicken in a large skillet over medium-high heat that I coated with canola oil. Once the chicken was browned I added in the minced ginger.

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Next up I added in the pineapple chunks and the bell pepper and continued cooking the mixture until the peppers were just beginning to get tender.

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And lastly I added in the ketchup mixture and brought it to a boil and cooked it until the sauce thickened. I then lowered the heat to low and continued cooking it for about another 15 minutes to be sure that the chicken was cooked through.

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Then it was time to enjoy my homemade take-out cuisine. I served the chicken with basmati rice and it was the perfect complement. While you do get some hints of the sour components – the soy sauce and cider vinegar – of the chicken the sweet part is definitely the stronger flavor of the two. I am definitely not complaining though… This is one dish I can see myself making quite a few more times.

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Sweet & Sour Chicken

Ingredients:

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed, then cut into 3/4-inch pieces

6 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 can (8-oz.) pineapple chinks in juice, drained, juice reserved

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

 

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, 4 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining cornstarch and soy sauce, with the ketchup, sugar, cider vinegar, and pineapple juice.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the pineapple chunks and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the ketchup mixture, bring to a boil and cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.

Pesto Chicken Packets

As I mentioned in a previous post I was rained-in last week and went on a bit of a cooking binge making a Chicken Corn Chowder, a Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake and a Pesto Sauce; the latter of which I finally put to good use and made Pesto Chicken Packets – a recipe I came across in an issue of Rachael Ray Magazine a few years back. Let me take a few steps back though and go over how I made the Pesto Sauce.

To make the sauce I combined 3 cups of basil, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, a garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor.

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I pulsed the ingredients until they were combined.

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And then let the machine run while I drizzled 2/3 cup of olive oil into the mixture.

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After transferring the mixture to a bowl I stirred in a 1/4 cup of freshly grated of Parmesan cheese.

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Since I wasn’t using the Pesto Sauce immediately I stored it in an airtight container in my refrigerator. After being in the fridge for a few days I added a little more olive oil to the top of it to make sure it would stay fresh. And when I was ready to use it was perfect.

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On to the Pesto Chicken Packets…

Along with the chicken and pesto, I also needed zucchini, plum tomatoes and scallions for the recipe.

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I prepped the vegetables by slicing the zucchini, chopping the tomatoes and trimming the scallions.

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Then it was time to prep the chicken packets for the oven. I drizzled about a teaspoon of olive oil in the center of a 12-inch long sheet of aluminum foil and placed a thin-sliced chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper on top of it. I then spread about a tablespoon of the pesto over the chicken.

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Next it was time to cover the chicken with about a handful of the sliced zucchini and chopped tomatoes and a few of the scallions. Prior to closing the packets I also dolloped about two tablespoons of the pesto on top.

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I placed all of the packets on a baking sheet and baked them in a 355 F preheated oven for 40 minutes.

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And voila, they were perfectly cooked in that time. This is definitely a great recipe for chicken as the juices of the zucchini, tomatoes and of course the pesto produces a chicken breast that is perfectly juicy and flavorful. I served them with brown rice and no worries I did take the chicken along with all of its components out the aluminum packet prior to eating it. How else was I going to be able to mix all the wonderful juices in with my rice?

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Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, washed

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

1. Place the basil, pine nuts, basil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.

2. While the machine is running drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

 

Pesto Chicken Packets

Ingredients:

Extra-Virgin olive oil, for drizzling

5 Thinly sliced skinless and boneless chicken breasts

Salt and Pepper

1 cup Pesto

2 zucchini, thinly sliced

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

10 scallions, trimmed

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 355 F. Cut five 12-inch long sheets of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil in the center of each sheet.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 piece of chicken in the center of each sheet and spread 1 tablespoon pesto on top.

3. Mound a handful of the zucchini and tomatoes over each chicken breast along with two pieces of scallion. Dollop a few tablespoons pesto over each mound. Fold the foil over the chicken and vegetables; pinch the edges to seal.

4. Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

Chicken Corn Chowder

Many people don’t think of summer as the time to eat soup, but, some of the best soups can be made during the warmer months. Especially with the bounty of vegetables that are in-season. Just think of the amazing soups that can be made with watermelon, tomatoes and corn – all three of which have their peak season during the summer. A few years ago I made a Corn Chowder after attending a culinary event at a local Williams-Sonoma and I saw a Corn Zipper used and knew I had to have one. Well, that Corn Zipper has been sitting in a utensil drawer ever since then until last week when thinking of what to make for dinner I saw it and instantly knew what I wanted to make… Chicken Corn Chowder. Just in case you are wondering, a Corn Zipper is exactly what it sounds like, a tool that allows you to zip corn kernels right off of the cob. It’s much easier and safer than using a knife! As luck – or not so lucky depending on how you look at it – would have it I ended up making this chowder on a rainy day last week that resulted in some heavy flooding in my area so I was essentially rained-in. Hence, I took advantage of the day and also made a pesto sauce and a Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake which I will be posting about within the next day or two.

Along with corn, the other vegetables I added to the chowder were celery, carrots, onion and potatoes.

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My lovely corn once it was shucked. I lucked out with picking perfect corn just by touch because it was way too crowded in the corn area of my supermarket to shuck it there.

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Here are the chicken and vegetables prepped and ready to go. I poached the chicken thighs in chicken stock along with salt, pepper and some spices (onion powder, garlic powder and oregano) for about 40 minutes. More than likely I cooked it longer than need be but since it was in liquid it didn’t dry out or anything. I diced up the celery, a carrot and the onion and mixed it together along with a minced garlic clove. And finally I cut two potatoes leaving them in large chunks so they wouldn’t break down while cooking.

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Using a large Dutch oven I began by sautéing the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in melted butter for two minutes – this is more or less a mirepoix. A true mirepoix calls for two parts onion and one part each of carrot and celery.

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I then added in a 1/2 cup of flour and stirred the mixture to make a roux. Once the roux had browned I set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

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While the roux was cooling I combined the corn, potatoes and 3 cups of chicken stock in a pot and brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. My gauge for the cooking time was the tenderness of the potatoes. I didn’t want them to be completely cooked through, but, I wanted them pretty close to being done. I then added the chicken stock mixture to the roux – a little at a time – whisking it briskly so it wouldn’t get lumpy and then returned it to the heat and brought it to a boil.

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Once the chowder came together – it was thick – I then heated 2 cups of half-and-half in a small saucepan and added it along with the chicken to the chowder and some salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. I let it simmer for about another 15-20 minutes so the chicken could heat through and the potatoes could finish cooking. This chowder was absolutely delicious and even better the next day.

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Chicken Corn Chowder – Adapted from here

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups half-and-half

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into pieces (I poached two chicken thighs, but you could easily use a store bought cooked rotisserie chicken)

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I used 4 ears of corn)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 clove garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 potatoes, cut into chunks

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

1. If you are choosing to cook your own chicken, prepare it whichever way you like. You could use leftovers or as I did simply poach the chicken with chicken stock and spices.

2. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or a large pot) over medium heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until the roux I lightly browned and then set aside to cool to room temperature.

3. In another pot combine the corn, potatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Add this to the roux slowly, whisking it so it doesn’t lump. Return the pot to the heat and bring it to a boil. The mixture should become very thick.

4. In a small saucepan, gently heat the half-and-half; stir it into the chowder along with the cooked chicken. Add the nutmeg and the salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat so the chowder can simmer and so the potatoes can finish cooking and the chicken can heat through.

5. Enjoy!

 

 

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

You ever have something so delicious at someone else’s house that you can’t wait to make it yourself? That’s what happened to me this week. Over the weekend I had Chicken Spaghetti casserole at a friend’s house and instantly knew I had to make it myself. So, when I had some leftover chicken from dinner the other night I knew exactly what I would be using it for.

First up I got all of my ingredients prepped and together: 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup of diced green and red bell peppers, two cooked chicken thighs shredded, half an onion diced, a can of cream of mushroom soup and spaghetti (I used only half of this one pound box). I should note that my measurements versus the original recipe are different since I opted to halve my version.

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After cooking the spaghetti – I broke it into thirds prior to adding it to the boiling water- I mixed it with all of the ingredients minus 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Prior to draining the spaghetti I reserved about 2 cups of the water from which I added about a cup to the mixture so it wouldn’t be too dry.

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I then poured the mixture into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish and topped it with the remaining shredded cheese

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And finally after baking it for 30 minutes in a 350F pre-heated oven it was ready and just as delicious as the first time I had it!

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The original recipe…

Chicken Spaghetti

Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond

Total Time: 1 hr. 40 min

Prep: 20 min

Cook: 1 hr. 20 min

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

1 whole raw chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 pound thin spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces

2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar

1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Two 10 3/4-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup

1 medium onion, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken pieces to the boiling water and boil for a few minutes, and then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken and 2 cups of the chicken cooking broth from the pot. When the chicken is cool, remove the skin and pick out the meat (a mix of dark and white) to make 2 generous cups. Discard the bones and skin.

Cook the spaghetti in the chicken cooking broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When the spaghetti is cooked, combine with the chicken, 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the green peppers, red peppers, seasoned salt, cayenne, soup and onions, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved chicken cooking broth, adding an additional cup if needed.

Place the mixture in a 9- by 13-inch casserole pan and top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake immediately until bubbly, about 45 minutes. (If the cheese on top starts to get too dark, cover with foil.)