King Ranch Chicken

Today was kind of blah, overcast with sprinkles, and I was looking for something to do that didn’t involve polishing the stainless railing or the scum growing on the side of the boat.  I’m not always in the mood to cook, primarily due to the weather and whether I want to use the stove/oven and add more heat to the boat.  However, today was windy and the air was cool.  I was dying to try out some of the recipes in my January issue of Southern Living.  Actually, it’s Aunt Rosie’s magazine that ended up in my luggage and has brought joy and mirth to my kitchen. I’ll see what else it’s added when I step on the scale tomorrow morning.

The January issue is about 50 Southern Comfort foods and I made the King Ranch Mac and Cheese. All of the credit for this story goes to Southern Living.

You start with throwing a 16 ounce package of small or medium elbow pasta in boiling, salted water. Do not over cook the pasta.   Here’s a tip for keeping your pots from becoming dull – don’t add the salt until the water comes to a full boil and you are ready to toss in the pasta.  Never add oil or butter to the water as it coats the pasta and the pasta does not cook as well.

While your pasta is cooking, chop a medium onion and green pepper.  Put this in your cast iron skillet or any skillet with ½ a stick of butter – saute until tender.  I used unsalted butter and it turns out just fine.  I’m always looking for ways to cut down on sodium.

Stir in a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies.  You can use a can of Rotel, however, if you don’t like or don’t have Rotel, you can use a can of organic diced tomatoes and add a can of diced green chilies.  You could also substitute fresh jalapenos.  If you use fresh jalapenos, keep all the liquid from the tomatoes.  Otherwise, I drained the tomatoes.  There are many articles out discussing the dangers of using canned tomatoes as the can is lined with a form of plastic.  NOT GOOD.  But there are plenty of products that now come in boxes and I always look for those when I can.  Even organic goods in cans are still lined with a form of plastic.  Since I am in Panama, there is little I can do about the containers my food comes in.  Believe it or not, there is precious little in the way of fresh produce here or I would use chopped fresh tomatoes. You can too.  Keep all the juice from your fresh tomatoes.

Next, stir in 8 ounces of velveta cheese.  The actual recipe calls for “packaged pasteurized prepared cheese product”, but we all know this means velveta, a brand name, which the magazine avoided using. I brought back 2 boxes of such “cheese” on my last trip and was more than willing to use ½ of a box for this recipe.  I found jalapeno velveta and that is what I used today.

Next stir in 3 cups of chicken.  I only used one 7 ounce package of Tyson premium chunk white chicken in the foil package and it turned out to be plenty for the recipe but you can use whatever amount you want.

Next stir in a can of cream of chicken soup. You can find organic in a box in the states but again, not here in Panama.

Next stir in half a cup of sour cream.  Any brand, even fat free.

Next toss in at least a teaspoon of chili powder and a teaspoon of ground cumin.  Stir well.

Now that you have all the ingredients stirred together, pour over the pasta and stir well.

Put all of this in your cast iron skillet or any glass 9 x 14 baking dish, top with cheddar cheese, and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.

The dish is very pretty and you could proudly serve this for any occasion.


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