The Easiest Thing You'll Ever Make: Creamed Chicken Sandwiches

It's hard to believe that something that looks slightly disturbing can taste SO good, but I cannot tell a lie. It is amazing!

It may very well be just a regional or even local staple, especially at church potluck dinners, school lunches and local county fairs. Creamed or shredded chicken sandwiches. Yum. 

This is the brand we use, because it's what they sell here.....

This is what you need: 

1/2 small onion, minced or finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil (or cut the fat even more and just spray the pan with no stick spray) 
27 oz. can of boneless, cooked chicken
10.5 oz can Cream of Mushroom soup (another way to cut fat: use a fat free soup) 
Salt and coarse ground black pepper (probably less than 1/2 a tsp each, here) 

This is what you do: 

Saute the onion in the olive oil, or in a sprayed skillet, over medium heat, until the onion is transluscent. 
Open the can of chicken and skim off any visible fats and drain the majority of the broth from the can
Add chicken to the skillet and shred it further with a fork
Add mushroom soup to the skillet and stir to combine everything
Sprinkle on salt and pepper
Heat for 5-10 minutes. 

THAT is it. 

This amount will make enough for between 8-12 sandwiches, depending on how much chicken you add to the bun. My husband likes to top his off with pickles. Yuck. But, hey, if you like pickles, go for it. 

The more you know: 

Stick the chicken can in the freezer for a good 30 min. to an hour before cooking. The cold will solidify the chicken fat (which is gross) so it's easier to remove it. You could probably also throw the chicken in a strainer and rinse it off, if you REALLY want to remove some fat, but then, you'll be removing some flavor as well. 

If your creamed chicken is too soupy, add a few spoons of instant potatoes. This will thicken it up without changing the flavor. 

Leftovers can be frozen or kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, just warm up in a pan or in the microwave as needed.  


A Little Autumn with Your Soup?

This is a soup, the recipe for which I got from a former friend who got it from some newspaper, newsletter or magazine and then used it to make this tremendously lovely soup for her cafe. I no longer know where she is or what happened to her cafe, but this remains..and THIS is absolutely FABULOUS, even if I'm the only one in the house who likes it.  I guess you have to first like squash and squash-related recipes, first. 

Honestly, the most labor-intensive part of this whole deal is peeling and cutting up the squash. You need a sharp, serrated paring knife or a sharp larger knife....and you need to be absolutely CAREFUL, keeping the knife and the blade pointed away from you and away from your hands at all times!  

See how oddly shaped it is?  It's very unwieldy and tempermental and TOUGH to cut up! A tablesaw might work better. 

So, apart from that particular task, cutting up the veggies and putting it all together in the pot takes all of about 5 to 7 minutes. 

Keep on reading or you'll never know how to make this delightful soup....and you won't get to see all the lovely pictures of the entire process!  


Think Inside the Box

Sometimes, you just gotta go with the same old, reliable, somewhat boring boxed, processed foodstuffs, like Chef Boyardee Pizza. Thing is..it's a PIZZA, you can doctor it up and make it your own. We're not too adventurous when it comes to pizza additives, but have found that the addition of bell pepper, red or yellow (not green) just adds something phenomenal to the flavor. Mushrooms are a must....but I can't stand what happens to fresh mushrooms on a pizza, the drying, shriveling, rubbery effect. Yuck. So, I stick with canned varietals. And of course, onion!

Inspired by I don't know what, I also brush the entire pan with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle it lightly with Italian seasoning and just a touch of kosher salt. The beloved could do without either of those, but I think it just adds to the flavor and takes away from the overly processed tone of such a meal. 

Dough. DOH! 

What a work of art, eh? 

Cheeses. Many. Whatever was in the fridge, including Kraft Touch O' Philly Mozzarella, Sargento Sharp Cheddar, left over from the Maccheroni al Formaggio, and a few sprinkles of shredded Di Giorni Three Cheese blend. Not so much cheese as to form a solid wall, but enough to add flavor and yet still able to see the pie below. 

18 minutes at 425 degrees F. I'm slow to shoot pics. Deal. 

Oh my heavens. Guess who's having left overs for lunch today?  
Using a word I don't normally ever type or speak out loud, it was DELICIOUS! 

Someday maybe I'll get really adventurous and add zucchini and eggplant and fresh basil and some other kind of cheese, but for now, it's tried, it's true and it's been on our menu for decades.  


Cheese, Please?

Several months ago, I watched Lidia's Italy, on PBS of course, and saw this: 

I knew I just had to make it. One or two problems abounded. No "pipette" pasta, no Italian bread, no fresh sage (my plant is producing sage-looking leaves with no discernable sage flavor or scent) and no affordable Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano to be found. Never fear, there are always moderations to be made in order to come up with some semblance of deliciousness in this household! 

Soaking cheese. How exciting! 

Since my sage plant is defunct, I decided to add a VERY minimal amount of ground sage. Since it could possible become TOO much, I opted for about a pinch....probably less than 1/16 teaspoon. Also a sprinkling of white pepper just for good measure. 

Melty cheese. What is NOT to love? 

See, the Large Elbow noodles are more than sufficient as a replacement for the short, squatty pipette. 

So, here's the deal with the baguette. The store was all out of fresh Italian loaves the other night, all they had left were the bake-at-home baguettes. I knew from experience that these buggers were hard as a rock after baking, so I figured one would be fine for making the fresh breadcrumbs. However, I should have baked it Friday night and let it sit for a few days to completely stale out. It was entirely too soft for grating and for the food processor, so I ended up with these longer shreds, most of which got thrown out, but I ended up with probably 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs. In the future, I will use a very stale Italian loaf and I will probably make 3-4 cups of crumbs because crumbs, baked and butter soaked, are hard to beat. You can never have enough of them, in my humble, crumby opinion!

Buttered the dish, with unsalted butter, before added the mix. Here she is, pre-baked.

She was so productive, she sprouted offspring....really, no, I made the entire box of pasta and all that cheese and do not own a baking dish with which to hold such a massive amount of food. I'm fairly sure, after cooling, that this can be frozen, either whole or in individual servings. This was FAR too much food for two people. More on that in a bit! 

Plated. Then et. 

So, In all honesty, this is NOT something I would ever serve again as a main course. It was just too much blah after about 4 bites. It would be perfect as a side for healthier fare such as grilled chicken or even some sort of fishy dish, but on it's own, it was just too much. It's very heavy, clearly not healthy and should be used only in moderation. To be far, though, I must admit that I totally forgot to add my cheap version of permsan to the bread crumbs, so there was a little bit of clavor lost and I'm almost 100% certain that if you can afford all the expensive cheeses, there would be even more flavor. Yet, still...

So, if you've got a hankering for a hunk of cheese, try it--maybe cut the recipe in half and you'll still have enough left over for freezing or to share with your block. You could also change up the cheeses, go for all white or all yellow, or if you want some spice you could probably toss in some zesty pepper jack. Play around. Live on the edge of the noodle. 

Happy Monday!  


A Little Pie with Your Meat?

As per usual, I saw this lovely piece of work made on America's Test Kitchen a while back. Of course, I set my mind to actually constructing it. That took a while. Mainly, fear held me back. Fear of making my own pie crust. Fear of royally screwing this up, though, it's got so very few ingredients, it's kinda hard to screw it up. Be warned, however, this is an IMMENSELY labor-intensive recipe. And while I am certain it won't take you the 4.5 hours it took me (because I get distracted easily and go do other shit)....it will take at least 2 hours, if not a bit more. Check out the pics and then see ALL the way down at the bottom for my final, verbose thoughts!  

I won't be going into finite detail, as you can check out the more than worthy and well-explained details for the recipe by clicking that big linkie right up there.  For now, keep reading and see how big a mess I can make! 


Simply NOT Organic

You should know that I don't have a lot of faith in anything labeled organic...whether it comes from a store or farm or farmer's market. In fact, I'm going to surmise that it's actually just a chance for the non-organic farmers to get rid of the produce that isn't quite up to PERFECT IMAGE par....because many of the experts will tell you that organic foods might be blemished or imperfect "BECAUSE" they are natural. So the stuff that normally would've been fed to the swine, cattle and landfills is now repurposed as organic.


Mind you, if you're a lawyer for the produce and farming industries, I said that I'm SURMISING this...I did NOT say it's a proven fact. :P

And actually, through the course of shopping and actually paying attention, I have noticed that the NON-organic stuff is a lot less perfect and less stable than its organic siblings.

Something really frightened me.  Back in July, the 23rd to be exact, I bought a package of "fresh" rosemary at Kroger.  Kroger brand "Simply Organic".

Maybe we should take a moment to consider what we consider to BE organic.  To me, it SHOULD mean, fresh, non-GMO, no chemical fertilizers, waters, pesticides or herbicides, no NOTHING just an heirloom, non-hybrid (redundant, yes) seed that grows into a fruit or vegetable and needs to be sold within a few days of harvest.  Ok, so here's the rub....

This picture was taken this morning, about 10 minutes ago:

This is OCTOBER 6.  July 23 to October 6....that's right...TWO and ONE-HALF MONTHS ago, I bought it.  Today it still looks like it did that first day. No mold, no discoloration, no wilting, no nothing. You may ask how I can tell that something is rotten in the state of Organics?  Because I have grown rosemary.  I have picked stems and I have watched them wilt, even with refrigeration, after a few days. This is highly, HIGHLY abnormal behavior for cut plant stems. Highly ABNORMAL.  

So, when the label says "No Preservatives" and Grown "organically"...I think I'm going to err on the side of BULLSHIT...because something, somewhere along the way made this "plant" grow to last.  Just for shits and giggles, it's back in the fridge, and we'll check on it periodically to see JUST HOW LONG it takes for it to spoil.  Needless to say, I think I'll just start and continue new herb plants because I have no desire to be preserved, above or below ground, for another century.  

Next up, remember when I got the farm-grown, fresh tomatoes?  September 3rd, if you don't recall.  Approximately one month ago.  Here's the haul on that day....

Note that the tomatoes and the cuke were consumed. Now note the unsuspecting zucchini on the left.  That was September 3rd.  This is today, again, October 6th: 

So, in a month, other than getting a little dirty because I dropped some olive oil on it while cooking....other than that, it is totally free of blemish, spoiling and still hard as a zucchini-shaped rock.  No, this farm does not advertise organic or non-GMO products, but still, it's a vegetable, grown on a FARM...you would think it would behave as normal garden-grown vegetables do.  

Clearly, there's some GMO action going on inside that less-than-squashable squash.  

So, yeah, organic? I don't buy it.  Literally or figuratively.  

Grow your own. That's the best advice I can ever give.  Even if you do use hybrid, GMO seeds, you'll at least be able to control exposure to chemicals and soil condition. 

Now, run away screaming. 

Happy Sunday! 

If you want to see what became of these items, go HERE


More On Meals: Spend Less Make More

There are a metric fuqueton of coupon-clipping, money-saving websites designed to keep you searching for the latest, greatest, biggest deals and savings every single minute of every single day. To that, I say:

Sure, if you don't have to work and you can afford the gas to drive here, there, hither, tither and yon just to save 10 cents at one store, go for it. And, since I am most definitely known to be wrong, on many occasions, I could be wrong about this observation--couponing actually makes you buy MORE. I hear the stories about the women who can get a month's worth of groceries for a measly $20...but I have yet to make that happen in my own shopping cart. I do not have the patience, the time, or the dedication to buy 5000 newspapers just to get the coupons, nor do we have stores here that double coupons, or let you combine a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon, etc.  They're getting wise to it, and those days, trust me, will come to an end.  

So in the interest of saving your sanity, focus on the things that ARE reasonable.  
  • Loyalty cards 
  • BOGO offers
  • 10 for $10 offers
  • Sunday coupons
  • Online coupons
  • Store or generic "value" brands
  • Clearance items
Any combination of these will help you save several $ on your shopping without driving you insane in the process. Well, maybe just a little insane. 

Loyalty Pays

I have yet to see a Wally World loyalty card and I despise that particular business, so I attempt to avoid shopping there whenever possible. The only reason I go there now is to get Polaner All-Fruit because my normal store, Meijer, stopped carrying it for some ungodly reason.  Damn them. Kroger, while carrying it charges about 50% MORE than Meijer did, and I can get it for $1.98 at Wally World. Puke, but it works until I find something better.  

Anyways, get loyalty cards at the stores you shop most....Meijer, Kroger, Costco, wherever. These cards give you access to savings that you won't get if you do NOT have them, especially at Kroger.  Keep in mind that I'm writing about what works here, in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana, but this can apply to whatever stores you have in your area. At Meijer, the loyalty card is in the form of "MPerks". You go online, clip their store and manufacturer coupons, and get the chance to earn big bucks for buying so much of whatever....say, buy $20 worth of produce and get $5 off coupon.  They don't offer rewards as often as I would love them to, but when they do, I can usually hit the big mark and earn $20 off my bill. Kroger, you have to swipe your loyalty card at check out...and their "sale" prices for loyalty will NOT apply if you don't have that card.  Kind of a bait and switch tactic, in my humble opinion....because they make the loyalty price big, and keep the normal price small...and then leave you with sticker shock at checkout if you don't have their card.  I don't shop there much. Their stores are weird and somewhat very overpriced. I have a CVS card, but rarely go there, as we don't use a lot of prescription drugs, so there's not much need to make a special trip. (See you save money on gas, if you do NOT go places!)  

You get it.  Card = Saving Money


The ultimate delight when you want to stock up, if you can find multiple coupons...the BOGO coupons.  I just had one for shaving cream that the beloved uses...so we get two. Stocked up. VOILA. Stores will also offer BOGOS on stuff too, just have to watch the ads. 

10 for $10

My personal favorite. Who doesn't want stuff for a buck. You DO have to watch it though because sometimes, the stuff is already a buck, so you're really not getting a deal at all. This is great for produce, like bell peppers or carrots or mushrooms....not so great for those individual broccoli crowns, which are like $0.75 regularly...you'd be paying MORE. Yikes.  Also great for croutons, or canned fruit that's normally way over $1. You get it. And, usually, you do NOT have to buy 10 items to get the $1 price....just make sure your store allows that first before you go insane. You will NOT be saving much money if you have to buy 10 of everything.


Whether you get them from the Sunday paper, at the checkout lane or online, coupons work. Even if you can't find a store that doubles them. Places like Coupons.com and Redplum.com let you pick what you want to print. The coupons that print at checkout at your store (at least at Meijer) SOMETIMES are a killer deal....but mostly I get coupons for Coffeemate, since that's the one thing I buy EVERY SINGLE TIME I am there. Then, when you have a favorite brand of something (here, it's Earthbound Organic or Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressing), you can sign up on their company websites and usually on FB to get even more coupons.  The real trick is to use them when the stuff is on sale.  For instance, sometimes, Meijer has a 2 for $4 sale on the Marzetti dressing, so I get them and use the coupon which makes them 2 for $3.  Can't really beat over 50% savings, now can you?  Same with the Earthbound stuff.  2 for $5 lettuce, less the $1 off 2 coupon...you get it...just watch for sales. They happen often. Sign up for the coupons, clip the Sundays and of f you go.

Store Brands

Ewwwwwwww. Sometimes, yeah, eww. Other times, no...it's good. It's the same.  Pasta, croutons, dairy (sour cream, milk, half & half, etc.), spices. You just have to watch and make sure it really IS cheaper than the name brand stuff.  And, surprisingly, Meijer carries all natural, peanut only peanut butter...no added sugar, no added nothing, just peanuts. And it's cheaper than the overprocessed, sugar-ridden crap.  We will be oh-so-very crushed and saddened if they ever stop making it. You just have to try things and see what works for your own tastebuds. That really is the only way.


Especially meat, which you can freeze as soon as you get home or use immediately, produce, which yeah, I'm not into the whole everything organic fad, because I've worked in produce. I know. I see. The ONLY way you're going to get truly organic stuff is to grow it yourself and even then, you're going to fail unless you live under a dome on land that has never been touched by humans.

So, I guess what I want to emphasize is that there are tons of ways to save money. Maybe not as much as the coupon-freaky people do (no offense), but still....
  • Use these methods (coupons, clearance, etc.)
  • Make a list
  • Buy what you really need and only what you really NEED 
If you have some trick or method to your own shopping madness, do share!  



Ok, so I found this recipe in my Ziplist email....which I must admit, as far as email subscriptions go, this one is pretty spiffy AND pretty useful....but anyway....I found this:

Since I love chicken, love Teryaki sauce and I love jasmine rice, I figured it would be a win-win, for me anyway. The beloved is NOT so fond of Teryaki, so there's that.  Here's what happened: 

Note the beast. This crockpot has been in my life since I first went to college. Some (cough, sputter) 20+ years ago. It has yet to fail. Believe it.

Save yourself some dishes and make the sauce in one pot...like the CROCKpot....then all you have to do is dump the chicken in and you're good to go.

I did remove the chicken to a plate and shred it there...then I threw it back into the sauce to coat it. That might have been the straw that broke the overwhelming camel's back.

I added about half a bag of frozen mixed veggies to the rice before turning on the cooker. The rice to water ration of 1:1.5.  To accommodate the intruding vegetation, I bumped it up to 1.75 cups water.

 Looks fairly similar to the recipe shot...just can't see my sesame seeds because I forgot to add them BEFORE I took this shot. OOPS.

Ok, so this would have been completely and utterly blissful with about 3 cloves less garlic. It was VERY, VERY, VERY garlicky and I'm not altogether certain if I'm just sensitive to large amounts of garlic or what, but it was GARLICKY.  I make it again, I will definitely probably only use about one clove and maybe not even a large clove. Otherwise, you couldn't ask for an easier recipe. Took all of five minutes to throw it together...I cooked it on low for a little over 5 hours....put the rice on to cook about 30 minutes before the chicken was done....and sliced up the green onions, or scallions for you fancy folk, and put it all together on the plate.

Again, it was probably a mistake to put the shredded chicken back into the sauce. That was my fault. But still, garlic abounded!

So then, in the interest of not wasting foods, I decided I might disarm some of that garlic by trying to make it into a shredded BBQ chicken sort of thing.  I added about 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and about 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, because YES more sugar will kill the garlic.  Sure it will!!! Not. Well, sorta, but instead, it nearly put me into a sugar coma. However, served over a hawaiian bun (with even more sugar), it was a fairly decent and very sweet lunch. I won't do that again. It was good once.

This is, in my guesstimation, a very versatile recipe. You could probably get away with added some onions and mushrooms into the pot too.....don't think I would add broccoli, unless towards the end, as it would get really, really mushy after 5 hours of slow cooking.  Maybe at the 4 hour point, add raw, or even frozen bits....but not any sooner than that.  Maybe even some fresh pineapple. For even MORE sugar. :D  But how can you NOT love pineapple and teryaki together? Seriously!  

So, do try it...and if you love garlic, use the full, required amount. If not, cut back to one clove. Then, enjoy!