I LOVE this casserole! Cheesey as any good macaroni and cheese should be, but with that extra kick from Green Chile seasoned tomatoes, a little extra spices and all made EASY with pre-cooked, pre-seasoned Rotisserie Chicken. THIS IS NOT A BORING OLD PASTA and CHICKEN RECIPE!
And easy to make, only complicated part is a simple Roux used to thicken the sauce. But the steps are laid out and anyone can make this.
So... if you want to double up and freeze a casserole for later (or divide in half for a smaller meal now and one for later), this freezes perfect. Here's a few tips
First, be sure the actual baking dish is freezer to oven safe. Those ubiquitous Pyrex brand clear dishes work best. You can also use a Foil disposable pan to freeze and bake, then transfer into a presentation dish to serve.
Second, always best to thaw the casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before baking. You can bake a frozen casserole right from the freezer. But the edges will be baked more crispy than the center by the time it is finished. To go straight from freezer to oven to table, just increase the baking time by 30 minutes. But again, you will have better results if you plan ahead and thaw the meal as much as possible. Leaving the casserole out on the counter for 2 hours (covered with the foil) also helps. The casserole will not be thawed completely but will cook more evenly. If you do this, cook for another 20 minutes. As usual, but even more so, keep an eye on the dish as it cooks. Once the liquid is bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy, the dish is done no matter how much time you cook.
Third, 60 days... Two Months. NO MORE... Prepare and freeze, but date the dish. Cook and serve within 60 days for best results. Any longer and you will have freezer burn and the dish will start to turn on you. Personally, I am a 30 day guy, but I have baked these right at 60 days and it was fine.
OK.. Read over the recipe. The freezing tips are in italics. Enjoy and let me know what you think of this rather unique take on a meatloaf!!
Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese
- Meat from the Breasts (3-4 Cups) of a Store Bought, pre-cooked, pre-seasoned Rotisserie Chicken, deboned and chopped
- Non Stick Spray
- 1 Pound Favorite dried Pasta, prepared as directed on box EXCEPT, cook al dente style, 2 minutes less than directed on box.
- 1/4 Cup Butter
- 1/4 Cup Flour
- 4 Cups Half and Half (can substitute Whole Milk)
- 1/2 tsp Chipotle Pepper Spice (Optional, more or less to taste)
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Brick, 8 ounces Cream Cheese
- 1/2 Pound, 8 ounces Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. freshly shredded, divided, save 1/4 (4 ounces) for garnish on top
- 2 Cans (28 Ounces total) Spicy Mexican Style Diced Tomatoes with Chilies (drained)
- 1 Package Frozen Spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove as much liquid as possible
- 6 Green onions (Scallions) Chopped, divided, save half for garnish on top.
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish when serving.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, prepare a 9X13 Casserole pan with non-stick spray
- Prepare pasta as directed on box... IMPORTANT, cook al dente, only cook two minutes less than directed on the box. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.
- while the pasta is cooking, Chop, shred, measure, open and drain all ingredients.
- Also while the pasta is cooking, in a medium size saute pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Once butter has melted, add the flour one TBS at a time until incorporated. Continue cooking and stirring almost continuously (stop for a few seconds to drain the pasta and stir the milk (next step) for 5 minutes (you are making a roux).
- Also while the Pasta is cooking, in a large pot, heat the half and half to a low simmer, being careful to not over cook and burn the milk. Stir every couple of minutes.
- Once the 1/2&1/2 has started simmering,
- add the roux and stir to mix.
- Add the Cream Cheese and 3/4ths of the shredded Cheddar Cheese and stir until melted.
- Add the Chipotle Spice, Salt and Garlic powder and stir to combine.
- Add the Pasta, Tomatoes, Spinach (be sure to thaw and SQUEEZE as much liquid out as possible and half of the green onions and stir to coat and mix.
- Pour everything into the casserole dish.
- Top with the garnishes, the remaining green onions and cheese
- At this stage, I froze a smaller casserole dish filled with the cooked Mac and Cheese. ... cover the freezer casserole with Aluminum Foil, pushing the foil down so there is as little air between top of casserole and the foil as possible (prevents freezer burn). Pop in the freezer. When you want to cook this, just transfer to the refrigerator 24-48 hours before you plan to thaw and cook. If you do not have the time to thaw in the refrigerator, thaw in the microwave slowly. This dish needs to be completely thawed before re-cooking. Be sure to date the dish and use within 2 months. Once thawed, cook as directed below.
- Or to eat today, Bake for 45 minutes until the cheese on top has begun to brown creating that golden brown and delicious look.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese, Serve HOT and ENJOY!
You get the idea. From Scratch Pizza to Chinese Take Out recipes, Lots of Soups and Chili... Appetizers to Main Courses (Still can't find a dessert, but I am looking). More than enough ideas for that store bought bird to shine with just a little extra work
A list of something NEW worthy of being shown off at a neighborhood BYODish (Bring Your Own Dish) Party, a Family special occasion dinner, Any Big Holiday Gathering or of course that glorious day when you bring a dish to share with your Church family...
Ages ago, literally almost a half century ago I was listening to our pastor talking about a PotLuck Dinner. It happened to be scheduled around a church work day when we were expected to weed, polish and do general cleaning and maintenance around the church (you know, back in the day when there were no no-wax floors and church pews smelled of Old English furniture polish). I am of course paraphrasing, but as I recall the pastor said,
"A potluck, like a church requires work. At a potluck everyone is expected to contribute.. At a church no one should come empty handed and no one should leave unfed".I will confess that in my youth I brought more store bought plastic spoons and forks than I ever brought covered dishes and crock pots of fresh made love and caring delights. But now that I have become a hobbyist cook, I occasionally am reminded of those days and people from my youth. I reminded and I do wish that I could drop a dish of some new creation on those old tables at my fondly remembered Liberty Baptist Church. Tables covered with newspapers and loaded with God's bounty prepared with love and caring... Enjoy
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