Friday, February 28, 2014

Cajun Cheesy Chicken and Pasta (FREEZABLE Mac and Cheese Casserole) - 52 Church PotLuck Main Course

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I love a good scratch Mac and Cheese... and this is about as good as it gets.

Made easy with Cream cheese to add to the creaminess, and the chicken comes from a store bought pre-cooked, pre-seasoned Rotisserie Chicken.

This does come with a bit of a kick, Cajun spices, hot sauce and even the BAM of Garlic.  Consider personal taste and your audience.  If you have a house of adults that love the spice... go for it!  If you have a few young'uns or "spice sensitive"" adults, simply cut the spices in half (or even less) so only a hint of Cajun comes through.

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!!

OK... Here's what I did...

Cajun Cheesy Chicken and Pasta (Mac and Cheese)

  • 1 Box (1 pound) Pasta (I like the screw shaped, holds more cheese sauce)
  • 1 Pound (about 3 cups) Cooked Chicken (I used meat from a Store Bought Pre-Cooked Rotisserie Chicken)
  • 8 Ounces (save @1/2 Cup for Garnish) Cheddar Cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1 Brick (8 Ounces) Cream Cheese
  • 3 TBS Butter
  • 1 Cup Diced Onion
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Cup Green Onions, Sliced, green and white parts
  • 4 Large Eggs, Beaten
  • 1 (12 Ounce) Can Evaporated Milk
  • 3 TBS Flour
  • 1 TBS Yellow Mustard
  • 1-3 TBS Cajun Spices (to Taste)
  • 10 drops Tabasco Hot Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray a 9X13 Freezer to oven to table Safe Baking Dish (Pyrex) with non-stick spray.
  2. Prepare pasta according to directions on the box EXCEPT, cook very al Dente, 2 minutes less than what is suggested on the box).
  3. When finished, drain, mix in the Chicken, all but 1/2 cup of shredded Cheddar Cheese and Cream Cheese with the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Stir in Green Onions.
  4. Stir this into the cheesy pasta mix.
  5. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, evaporated milk, flour mustard, hot sauce, Cajun Spices and salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Pour this over the pasta
  6. Top with remaining 1/2 Cup of Cheddar
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, until the edges are bubbly and the top has crusted to a golden brown.
  8. 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 
  9. Serve HOT and Enjoy


This recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Church PotLuck Dishes"!

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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