CHICKEN CHILI CASSEROLE
This casserole is very adaptable and versatile: you can add heat by increasing the chili powder and crushed red pepper. Or you can decrease the seasoning to make it less hot for someone who cannot tolerate the spices. You can also make it easier on yourself by using a rotisserie chicken instead of fresh chicken breasts. Don’t have chicken? Substitute ground beef or ground turkey. Or, leave out the animal protein altogether and add additional beans to make it vegetarian.
Allen always said, “Oh, boy!” when I mentioned this casserole was on the weekly meal plan. But his favorite version, and mine, is the original version with nice chunks of chicken.
Not only is it easily adaptable but it can be refrigerated so it can be baked later. It can even be frozen for a month or so, thawed overnight in the refrigerator, and then baked. And it is perfect to bring to others so they can quickly bake it themselves when needed.
MAKE A LARGE CASSEROLE, OR MULTIPLE SMALLER ONES
There are times when I feel like I want some of this casserole, but I just don’t want to eat the same thing all week long. So I portion it into small foil casserole dishes that I can freeze. That way, I can reward myself with a no-work dinner after an active day of yard work. This time of year, I can’t help but think of what King Arthur said to Guinevere in Camelot: the autumn leaves “whisk away completely”. Dang, I sure wish it worked like that in MY yard! But since it doesn’t, I can console myself with the thought that dinner is ready to bake when I come inside.
In addition, these little casseroles are great to give to a friend who deserves a break and/or a food hug. When ready, I can just take it from the freezer and quickly have it ready as a nice surprise for someone.
Sometimes I get creative with the type of tortilla chips that I use. My favorite variation is to use lime flavored tortilla chips. I also like nacho cheese flavored and I even tried baked tortilla chips once, but the casserole was too soggy. Yuck– learn from my mistake and don’t even try that.
RINSE THOSE CANNED BEANS
Start by crushing the chips quickly by hand and sprinkling them in the bottom of the casserole dish. Then quickly sauté the chicken chunks with garlic and add the tomato sauce. I know it is important to to drain and rinse the canned beans, because it rinses away a lot of sodium. I couldn’t remember how much salt is rinsed out, so I researched again to find out. Sure enough, rinsing reduces sodium anywhere from 35-40 percent, so I think that is definitely worth doing.
After cooking the chicken, stir in the beans, olives, and spices, and scrape the mixture over top of the crushed tortilla chips. Finish by sprinkling the top with cheese. While that bakes, it is easy to make a simple tossed salad or coleslaw to round out the meal.
Chicken Chili Casserole
- Cooking Oil Spray
- 6 ounces tortilla chips, slightly crushed
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 15 1/2 ounces canned kidney beans, drained & rinsed
- 1/2 cup green or black olives, sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup each shredded Monterey jack cheese and cheddar cheese–or– 2 cups shredded Co-Jack Cheese
Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with cooking oil spray. Line the pan with crushed chips and set aside. Next, sauté the chicken in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until opaque. Then add garlic and stir quickly for about 1 minute to mellow the pungency. Stir in the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the cheese. Scrape this tomato mixture over chips and top with cheeses. Finally, bake the casserole in a preheated 350-degree oven 30 minutes or until heated through and cheeses melt.