Chicken Spaghetti for 25

This recipe has been in my family for so long, I don’t remember which cookbook it came from, originally.  It was one of those civic/charity league cookbooks, I think…Junior League of Tyler, perhaps?  My mom gave it to me MANY moons ago and we’ve served it for quite a few “Help!  I need to feed a crowd!” occasions since, including Hubby’s graduation from the police academy and Girl’s christening, although I haven’t made it in a VERY long time.  I’ve adapted it significantly enough from the original version that I feel that I can now call it my own.  This is a real winner of a recipe, since it can be prepared ahead of time and only takes 20 minutes in the oven before serving.  It is very rich and creamy…not a “healthy” recipe, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s pretty universally appealing (all but the most finicky kids seem to like it and the mushrooms are big enough to pick out, if anyone objects to them) and hearty enough to not need a lot of side dishes.  We’re having a small crowd over for dinner tomorrow night, so I think it’s time to dust this one off again…

Chicken Spaghetti for 25

12 skinless, bone-in chicken breasts

1 white onion, sliced

4 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 bay leaves

2 whole peppercorns

one bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 carrots,  cut into 2-inch pieces (or about 8 baby carrots, cut in half)

4  1/2 cups white wine, divided (you’ll need a little more than one bottle and can save the remainder of the second bottle to drink with the completed spaghetti – remember:  don’t ever cook with a bottle that you wouldn’t drink)

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup flour

2 cups half and half

4 1/2 cups sour cream

3 4-ounce jars of chopped pimientos

3 8-ounce jars mushroom pieces (or 2 1-pound boxes of fresh, sliced mushrooms, sauteed until golden browned and softened)

juice of 3 lemons

2 T Worcestershire sauce

dash cayenne pepper

salt and white pepper to taste

3 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti noodles

1 package Pepperidge Farms pastry shells, baked according to package directions

Place chicken, onion, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stems (not the leaves), thyme and carrots in a large, covered stockpot.  Add 3 cups of wine and enough water to cover and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked, but still tender.  Strain and reserve chicken stock.  Remove chicken meat from bones and dice it.

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add flour; cook for 1 minute.  Add half-and-half, sour cream and 3 cups of the reserved chicken stock; blend well.  Add pimientos, mushrooms, lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the chicken.

Unbaked casseroles, ready to go in the oven (or freezer.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook spaghetti in the remaining reserved chicken stock and remaining 1 and 1/2 cups wine according to the package directions (maybe undercook it just a TINY bit, because it will absorb more liquid as it bakes later), adding more water, if necessary, and drain.  Divide the spaghetti evenly among three 8-inch X 12-inch or 9-inch X 13-inch Pyrex-type (oven-safe) baking dishes.  Cover each with equal amounts of the chicken sauce.  Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.  Crumble pastry shells on top of each dish.  If desired, casserole can be frozen, at this point. (cover tightly with plastic wrap and then foil.  Thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.)

Bake casseroles, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from oven and top with finely chopped parsley leaves for garnish (I forgot to do this last night.)

Ranch Dip for Veggies

Recipe here.

Another tray that I made for Girl’s birthday party.  This is great as a salad dressing or a dip and is vastly better, despite what The Pioneer Woman says, than the stuff in the green and white package.  Sorry I don’t have a better photo of the dip, itself, but I was taking these photos as 11 hungry girls were standing by, eager to dig in.

I’ve added the gluten free tag to this post, but, be sure that your ingredients (sour cream, mayo, etc.) don’t have any starch wheat-based additives or thickeners.  If you make this with all-natural (sour cream is supposed to be just dairy, and mayo is supposed to be just eggs and oil, maybe a little lemon juice) ingredients, it will be gluten-free.

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

Recipe here.

This dip is really tasty and extremely kid-friendly.  It’s basically just cream cheese frosting, made with brown sugar, so it’s quite sweet and a little bit goes a long way, but whenever I’ve made this for Boy or Girl’s friends, or to take in to school for a class party, it has been INHALED.  Just make sure that folks know what it is, because I made the version pictured above with half dark brown sugar and it turned out so much darker than usual that some of the girls at Girl’s birthday party last night thought that it was peanut butter.

Key Lime Cupcakes

Recipe here.

For Girl’s birthday party tomorrow.  Had to try one tonight…you know, just to make sure that they were OK…before I served them to the children.  I wouldn’t want to serve them an inferior baked good, you know…

The verdict?  Yum!  The cake itself is rich and moist and slightly Red Velvet-y (because of the buttermilk,) but without any chocolate flavor, of course.  I omitted the green food coloring, so the cakes are white on our cupcakes, rather than green (eww!)

The frosting is creamy and delicious with a PRONOUNCED lime tang.  I love citrus and the flavor of these definitely does not disappoint.  I sprinkled a TINY bit of extra lime zest on top of each cupcake after frosting.  I didn’t frost them too heavily, so had an extra cup of frosting leftover.  I’ll have to come up with something to do with it.  It might be really nice on a loaf of zucchini bread…

The Moosewood’s Caribbean Vegetable Stew

Recipe here.

This was quite yummy.  I added a bit of garlic (about 2 cloves, pressed) and about 2 tsp of Jamaican Jerk seasoning.

For the chile, I used one roasted hatch green chile from Central Market (although it would have been even better with two.)  I just LOVE the Hatch Chile festival week!  If you’re in Central Texas and haven’t already checked this out, you are missing a bet.  Head over there right away – only 2 days left!  They have huge grills set up outside the store and roast hatch chiles all week long.  They sell bags of the roasted chiles (hot or mild, your choice) and feature all kinds of hatch chile products all week (tortilla chips, enchilada sauce, chile con queso.)  They are the best chiles EVER.  I always buy a bag to use right away and another to chop and freeze for future use.  YUM.

Veggie Sandwich

Vegetarian Girl LOVES the “Veggie Delite” sandwich from Thundercloud Subs (a fairly famous Austin chain,) so I thought that I would try to create an “at home” version for her.

I used:

a whole wheat hamburger bun


thinly sliced cucumber

thinly sliced tomato

caramelized onions

sauteed mushrooms

She liked the sandwich, but said that it was a little bland and that she’d like to add some lettuce, pickle slices and chopped olives next time.  So, not bad for a first stab, but we’ll know how to fix it next time.

Some other great possible additions or substitutions would be:

baby spinach leaves or your favorite kind of sprouts

avocado slices or a smear of mashed avocado (or even guacamole – yum!)

a spread of cream cheese or a slice of your favorite cheese (instead of the hummus)

grated carrot

Hoisin-Glazed Scallops with Sauteed Spinach and Peanut Butter Noodles

Peanut Butter Noodles recipe here.

The scallops recipe is from the subscription-only section of Fine Cooking’s website, but basically, you just cook the scallops in a VERY HOT lightly oiled pan (after sprinkling them with a tiny bit of cayenne and salt) until they’re browned on both sides and opaque throughout and then you lightly brush them with hoisin sauce.  Easy peasy.  The accompanying spinach recipe is slightly more difficult to sum, but I didn’t use it, anyway.  I just sauteed my spinach the same old way, with a little Baby Bam.

I’ve added the “vegetarian” tag to this post, because the peanut butter noodles would be (and were, for The Girl) an acceptable vegetarian entree, on their own.  They were delicious and were a huge hit with all four of us.  You could add any veggies that suit your taste (mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby corn, broccoli, etc.) and you could add a bit or sriracha to spice it up, if you like that sort of thing.  We added cucumber, grated carrot, red bell pepper, cilantro and finely chopped peanuts.

White-on-White Buttermilk Cake with Jack Daniels Buttercream

Recipe here.

I actually made this in January, but somehow forgot to post it until now (just came across the photos when clearing off my laptop’s desktop,) but it was definitely more memorable than my behavior would have you believe.  This was a delicious, rich cake that was fluffy and sweet without being cloying and would be a perfect birthday cake for anyone except the most fervent teetotalers.

Will be a definitely repeat…possibly for Hubby’s birthday in a couple of months?

Wheat Berry Salad with Raisins and Pistachios

Recipe here.

This was quite tasty.  It had a nice lemony tang to it, and the chewiness of the wheat berries was very filling.

Now, that being said…if you hate raisins and goat cheese, or if you’re not crazy about cilantro or are frightened by unfamiliar novelty grains, this salad isn’t going to convert you.  It is exactly the sum of its parts, so if you like the parts, you’ll love it; if you don’t, you won’t…

Spinach and Cheddar Souffle

Recipe here.

I’ve always loved souffles and absolutely adore Ina Garten, so when I saw this recipe in House Beautiful magazine, I knew that I had to try it.  It was totally easy and really is foolproof.  I confess that I even forgot and opened the oven door once and the souffle still didn’t fall.  Yummy and cheesy, but also light and fluffy.  We served it with a fresh tomato-and-basil salad (tomato from our garden…basil from Girl’s sweet Spanish teacher’s garden) and it was beautiful.

Vegetarian Girl, clowning around with the souffle after it came out of the oven.

Beautiful Tomato-Basil salad…no recipe necessary, just sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced basil, a generous pour of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  This is basically just a cheeseless Caprese salad, but it was delicious.