Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce (aka Meatball Subs)

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Dad jokes.  They are a staple in my life.

My dad is one of the punniest guys around.  You know the jokes – “I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger.  Then it hit me.” or “Have you ever tried to eat a clock?  It’s very time consuming.”.  (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle)  Any member of the Weslaco youth group during the 80’s or 90’s that travelled in the church van with my dad would most likely remember the pun that follows him pointing to a round bale of hay.

Before my husband calls me out I must admit – I get my humor from my dad. Texting between the two of us generally consists of memes, jokes and snapshots of the best church signs around town. You could say we have a punstoppable bond.

I know.  Groan.

I recently made this dish for my dad when he came into town.  I don’t want to brag… but he did say it was “the best meatball sub he’d had all day” (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle) ♥


Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

This one couldn’t be more simple, y’all.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef/pork, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.  I prefer the mixture of ground beef and pork when making meatballs, as you can see I chose here.  Save the all-beef for meatloaf 😉

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.  I just eyeball the measuring part here, but I end up with somewhere around 2 dozen meatballs.

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In the bowl of a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  You can use any ‘flavor’ of pasta sauce here, whatever you have on hand.

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Side note: Sadie is ever-so hopeful.  At least she has that “kitchen spot” down!

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Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.  You may have to stack them up a little, just try to wiggle all the meatballs down into the sauce a bit.  You can always give them a stir about halfway through cooking to move them around in the sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve the meatballs up on the sub rolls according to your preference.  I detest soggy bread so my favorite method is to hollow out the sub roll a bit, place a few meatballs on top, cover with provolone cheese and broil it a bit.  I then serve it with a side of extra sauce for dipping.   

However you serve it up, these meatballs are an easy, delicious addition to your dinner rotation!

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Full Recipe

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce

aka Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.

In a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.

Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve on sub rolls, topped with with cheese.

Mojito Pie

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It’s been a gorgeous couple of days over here.  The rain has given us a break, the sun is peeping out and the temperatures are climbing back to that comfortable level I appreciate. It’s that little taste of the warm days to come that has me craving something “summer”.  We’ll just ignore the showers of pollen that have all our cars a strange tint of yellow and focus on the sunshine part, yes?

To me, summer means simple, clean, fresh flavors.  Something to cool you off when the temperatures rise. That’s Mojito Pie all day long!  This is a super simple recipe that can be made even quicker with the help of a couple store-bought ingredients.  Whichever route you take, try this frozen pie out for a tasty call to summer evenings.

What flavors make you start thinking of the long, warm days of summer?


Mojito Pie

  • 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Quick method:  replace the above ingredients with 1 prepared graham cracker crust 

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 large lime
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Quick method:  replace the whipping cream and sugar with 2 cups thawed whipped topping, divided

  • 1 T rum, light or dark, optional

Let’s start with that crust.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter and salt until the entire mix is moist and crumbly.  Press the crumb mix onto the bottom of plastic wrap-lined 9-inch round pan.  That plastic wrap is going to help you pull the frozen pie out of the pan for serving later.  Pop the crust into the freezer to set a bit while you mix up the filling.

For that quick method: remove the packaging from graham cracker crust, saving the lid. I said quick, yes? 🙂

I went quick on this one!

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If you want something just a tad different, crushed pretzel pieces can replace the graham cracker crumbs in the filling.  You may consider in this case omitting the 1/2 tsp kosher salt if your pretzels are salted to start.  Crush the pretzels up pretty fine before mixing with the melted butter or you may have some difficulty getting the crust pressed and holding in the pan.

Now the filling. Beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, lime zest, juice and mint in medium bowl with a mixer until well blended.

Whisk in the rum, if desired.  You can use white or dark rum, both work equally well in the pie.  I may just shy away from any spiced rum varieties as to not take over the classic lime and mint we’ve got working.  Will’s a fan of dark rum, that’s what we typically have on hand, so I grabbed this one from our bar to add in. The rum adds a little flavor but if you aren’t feeling it, or serving this pie in company that includes children, simply skip this step.  You’ll still enjoy the lime & mint combo of a classic mojito drink!

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Whisk the heavy cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form.  Or, for the quick method, grab the prepared whipped topping. Whisk 1 ½ cups whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture.  We’re hanging on to that other 1/2 cup of topping for, well, a topping later!

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Spoon the pie filling over the chilled crust, smoothing it out to all the edges. I like to decorate a pie with what’s in the pie as a little heads up, so I used some extra lime slices and mint, pressing them gently into the filling so they will set.

Cover and freeze the pie at least 4 hours, or until firm. 

For serving, use the plastic wrap to help you remove the pie from the pan.  Run a knife under hot water to help slice into the frozen pie a little easier.  Serve the Mojito Pie topped with the remaining whipped topping and maybe another sprig of mint or some fresh lime zest just for fun.

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Can’t you just hear summer calling?


Full Recipe

Mojito Pie

  • 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Quick method: replace the above ingredients with 1 prepared graham cracker crust 

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 large lime
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Quick method: replace the whipping cream and sugar with 2 cups thawed whipped topping, divided

  • 1 T rum, light or dark, optional

For the crust:

Mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and salt.

Press onto bottom of plastic wrap-lined 9-inch round pan.

Freeze until ready to use.

*Quick method: remove packaging from graham cracker crust, saving the lid.

For the pie filling:

Beat cream cheese, sugar, lime zest, juice and mint in medium bowl with mixer until blended.

Whisk in rum, if using.

Whisk heavy cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Whisk 1 ½ cups whipped topping into cream cheese mixture.

*Quick method – whisk in 1 1/2 cups of prepared whipped topping

Spoon pie filling over crust.

Cover and freeze 4 hours, or until firm.

Serve topped with remaining whipped topping.

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

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I’m a sucker for pasta.

In my opinion, a pasta dish doesn’t have to have a ton of ingredients, mix-ins or additional items across the top to be amazing.  Give me a great noodle, a simple sauce and some cheese and I’m in.

Case in point – this amazingly tasty, easy to pull together fettuccine alfredo dish. By using roasted peppers and garlic you get such deep, bold flavors.  Alfredo sauces can be heavily loaded with butter, cream and cheese and while this one definitely has all those elements, it’s not overwhelming.  The peppers and garlic truly are the star of the dish. Using the blender or food processor makes it an attainable dish for any night of the week.  So attainable that I may be guilty of making this nearly every week.

Like I said… I’m a sucker for pasta 🙂


Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

  • 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted and mashed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 16 ounces Fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Let’s start by talking about roasting garlic and peppers.  Don’t let this intimidate you – it’s a simple process that greatly boosts the flavor in your recipe.

For the peppers: rub a little olive oil all over the outside of the peppers and place them on a parchment paper- or foil-lined baking sheet.  That will save you from scrubbing those sheet trays later!  Turn your broiler on high and place the tray of peppers directly below the coils.  Let the peppers char and get completely black on the top side, then turn them over allowing each side to blacken and blister. Once they are completely charred, place the peppers in a bowl and cover them up with some foil.  You want them to steam so that the skins start to loosen from the meat of the pepper.  After about 20-30 minutes, take the peppers and using either a paper towel or your fingers, rub the blistered skin off of the meat.  Pull the meat away from the stem and remove all the seeds inside.  You’ll be left with soft, delicious roasted peppers!

For the garlic: Take a head of garlic and carefully slice off the upper portion of the head  – you want to expose the tops of most of the garlic cloves.  Using a serrated knife works the best here. Make a little pouch out of foil and place the head of garlic in the middle.  Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Bunch the foil up over the top of the garlic, leaving it open to vent just a little.  It’s a good idea to set the pouch on a sheet tray just in case there are any leaks.  Roast the garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  The garlic will be a nutty brown color and so soft that it will easily press out of the pods after cooling a bit.

Alright!  Let’s make the pasta!

Cook the fettuccine in salted, boiling water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and set it aside.

While the pasta is cooking, grab a large pot or a skillet with sides to it and heat up the tablespoon of olive oil.  You’ll appreciate the sides to the pan you are using when we toss the pasta into the sauce at the end of this recipe.  Cook the onions in the olive oil until they are soft.

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Place the roasted red peppers, the roasted garlic and the cooked onions in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Isn’t it such a beautiful color?!

Go back to the pan you used for the onions and melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the red pepper puree.

Add your choice of broth, the half-and-half and  a little salt and pepper.  This is a good time to check for seasoning – but keep in mind that you’ll be adding parmesan in a bit and cheese = salt.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan and fresh parsley.

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Add about half of the cooked fettuccine and toss the pasta until it is well-coated.  Add the rest of the pasta and toss again – doing this in two steps makes the tossing just a bit easier.

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You can easily bulk up this dinner by adding any protein to it, chicken or Italian sausage being our go-to options.  This dinner, we went for the Italian sausage option.  We browned the sausage with a little bell pepper and tossed it in with the cooked pasta here.  Grilled or sauteed chicken would also look lovely across the top of the dish!

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However you serve it up, garnish the dish with a little more grated parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.

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Try this one out sometime soon!  If you’d like an even quicker weeknight dinner option, you can find roasted pepper and roasted garlic prepared at your grocery store.  I typically find them both in the veggie/tomato aisle.

What’s your favorite pasta dish?


Full Recipe

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

  • 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted and mashed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 16 ounces Fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in heavily salted water to al dente.

Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or skillet with sides, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onions until soft; about 5 minutes.

Place roasted red peppers, garlic and onions to a blender or food processor and puree.

Add butter to the pan the onions were cooked in and melt over medium heat.

Pour in the red pepper puree.

Add broth, half-and-half and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Stir to combine, taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper as desired.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Add half of the pasta and gently toss to coat. Add remaining pasta and toss.

Garnish with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.27 PM

A few years back, Will and I had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration hosted by my chef-BFF, Pati Jinich.  I love her simple, classic style of cooking and have enjoyed cooking many of her recipes. They are full of great techniques and easy to follow.  She may or may not know that she is my BFF… but that’s beside the point.

Chef Pati demonstrated an entire menu from her cookbook, Mexican Today, and we got a signed copy of the book at the end.  Will and I have been through this cookbook several times, finding our favorites throughout. The To Die For Ceviche is, well, to die for. The Mango Pecan Tart will be in my kitchen soon. One of the true highlights though is the section devoted to sauces. We love to make enchiladas and we have played with a few of them.  We ultimately landed on this version of a traditional red sauce – you can stuff the enchilada with any filling and they are always delicious. While it may look complicated, it can all come together pretty quickly once you have the basic technique of creating a puree from dried peppers down.  As a bonus, any extra sauce freezes nicely for another use.  It’s been fun adapting such a tasty recipe to our kitchen!

I’d like to think my BFF would be proud.


Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles.  You’re looking for the outer skin to crisp and blacken. 

Place the toasted peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat. Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they plump back up a bit.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.18.22 PM

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Side note: that soaking liquid also makes a great broth for a side dish of rice!

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.  Be ready!  That sauce will jump and quickly splatter everywhere!

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.22.32 PM

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more. Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.23.58 PM

In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, “pass” the tortillas through the oil to soften them. You basically want to drag both sides of the tortillas through the hot oil until you see the tortillas start to bubble up just a bit. It should only take a few seconds. Don’t skip this step – if you try to roll the corn tortillas without softening them they will crack and tear as you stuff and roll them.

“Pass” the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.  Tonight, we went with a beef filling – ground beef browned up with onions, peppers and pinto beans.  This red sauce would also be fantastic with shredded chicken or a straight cheese filling!

Line the rolled enchiladas in the prepared baking dish. Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.17 PM

What filling will be in your version of Enchiladas with Red Sauce?


Full Recipe

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until the skins are crisp and blackened.

Place the peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat.

Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they rehydrate, soften and plump up.

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

Once hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more.

Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

When the oil is hot, pass the tortillas through the oil to soften them.

Pass the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.

Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Tortilla Soup

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As promised, here’s one for my Weslaco friends – taking you all the way back to Yogurt Kountry.

My dad is a minister.  We lived in Weslaco, where he served as Associate Pastor and Music Minister at First Baptist Church, for nearly 20 years. We spent a lot of time at the church and knew our small town pretty well.  Sharing the alley with First Baptist was a small strip center which housed Yogurt Kountry, facing Texas Blvd, the “main drag” of Weslaco.  Yogurt Kountry was easy access from the church and as such we had many lunches there. They had a variety of sandwiches to choose from and as the name implies, frozen yogurt with several flavors and mix-ins as a end-of-meal treat.  The star of the menu however was, by far, the Tortilla Soup.

I imagine Yogurt Kountry employees making vats of this soup each day.  I know that the recipe was highly coveted back in the day and it was a well-guarded secret for the fans asking to recreate it at home.  I believe that the restaurant changed locations around the time I packed up and moved to Waco but the menu remained unchanged, showcasing this chunky, homey soup.

I’m not sure if Yogurt Kountry is still in business or if it, like myself and my family, has moved on to other adventures.  Lucky for us though – we were finally able to get our hands on the formula and ensure that the small sandwich shop from Weslaco, Texas lives on forever through our warm bowls of Tortilla Soup.

What food memories of your hometown do you have?  Comment below!


Tortilla Soup

  • 6 pieces of chicken, or 3 leg quarters
  • 2-3 celery sticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 (1 pound) bag frozen corn (I tend to use half a bag)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 T caldo de pollo
  • 1 T caldo de tomate
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded American cheese

To start, we are going to boil the chicken and create a nice broth in the process as the base of the soup. Place the chicken, celery and half of the onion in a large stock pot and fill it with water to about an inch from top of the pot.  Add the garlic salt and pepper, bring to a boil and cook until the chicken is done, about 20 minutes.

I went for three leg quarters in this recipe –  I think chicken thighs are extremely flavorful and lend themselves well to this soup.

***You can definitely speed this recipe up a bit by starting with chicken stock and pre-cooked chicken.  To do so, fill your stock pot up with chicken stock, add the celery (this time chopped celery) and onion, bring to a boil and then pick up the recipe at the point of adding the rice.  You can also  make this soup vegetarian – simply swap the chicken stock out for vegetable stock, swap the caldo de pollo for another tablespoon of caldo de tomate and omit the shredded chicken.  I may also bulk up on the green pepper and tomatoes for a heartier soup.***

When chicken is done, remove the chicken and celery sticks, leaving the broth and onion in the pot. If you’d like to increase the amount of soup, add another cup or two of water.

Chop the celery and shred the chicken; set aside.

Add the rice to the pot and continue to cook until rice is almost done, about 15 minutes.

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Add the cooked chicken and celery along with the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the other half of the chopped onion.  Just a note – I usually only add about half of the bag of corn.  This is a fairly chunky soup so I back off on the corn just a touch.

A quick note about two ingredients that I love – caldo de pollo and caldo de tomate.  Essentially, these are chicken and tomato bullion.  In our house, we lovingly call them “chicken powder” and “tomato powder”. They pack a punch of concentrated flavor and are super handy to have in your spice drawer.  Taste them before using for the first time to get a feel for the salt level and then I think you’ll find a new friend in your everyday cooking!  I often add a little caldo de pollo or caldo de tomate to the water when boiling rice for an added boost of flavor.

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Check the seasoning of your broth, adding more salt, pepper or “powders” as desired.

Cook 15-20 more minutes, or until the onion is clear.

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Stir in some chopped cilantro, reserving a little top the soup with.

To serve: ladle the soup into a bowl and top with tortilla chips and shredded American cheese.

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Full Recipe

Tortilla Soup

  • 6 pieces of chicken, or 3 leg quarters
  • 2-3 celery sticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 (1 pound) bag frozen corn (I tend to use half a bag)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 T caldo de pollo
  • 1 T caldo de tomate
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded American cheese

Put chicken, celery and half of the onion in a large pot.

Fill to about one inch from top with water.

Add garlic salt and pepper.

Boil until chicken is done.

When chicken is done, remove the chicken and celery sticks, leaving the broth in the pot.

If needed, add another cup or two of water.

Chop the celery and shred the chicken; set aside.

Add the rice to the pot and continue to cook until rice is almost done, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken and celery along with the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the other half of the chopped onion.

Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or caldo de pollo/tomate as desired.

Cook 15-20 more minutes, or until the onion is clear.

Add chopped cilantro.

To serve: ladle the soup into a bowl and top with tortilla chips,shredded American cheese and chopped cilantro

Cream of Poblano Soup & Firecrackers

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No matter where you live, you can probably think of that “one place” that has that “one thing” they serve that you have to get every time, right?  It’s the Mom & Pop hamburger stand that has those amazing onion rings.  Or the local coffee shop with the perfect latte and cookie combo. Or the sandwich shop with THAT soup.

For those of you around the Lake Jackson area, we’ve got that sandwich shop. You know the one… it may have changed locations once or twice (or more) but THAT soup is always on the menu, served in a mug, creamy, warm and ready to please.  And they serve it with THOSE crackers, the ones that are so tasty with just a little kick. It’s no soup-of-the-day, it’s Cream of Poblano soup and they serve it with Firecrackers.

When ordered at The Picket Fence, Cream of Poblano soup is more of a sidekick, pairing with whatever sandwich or salad you choose to go along with it.  For dinner at our house, we add in some shredded chicken to make it a heartier, stand-alone meal.  If you want to stay true to the original recipe or prefer a vegetarian option, simply leave out the chicken and swap the chicken stock out for veggie.

You ready to try it out?

And stay tuned, my Weslaco friends.  I’ve got another famous sandwich shop recipe coming your way that you will most definitely remember.  Yogurt Kountry, anyone? 😉


Cream of Poblano Soup & Firecrackers

For the crackers:

  • 3 sleeves saltines
  • 1 C canola oil
  • 1 pkg (3 T) dry ranch dressing mix
  • 2 T red pepper flakes

For the soup:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 jalapeños (add more for extra spice)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup half-and-half or cream
  • Shredded chicken, optional
  • Tortilla chips
  • Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or other white melting cheese)

Let’s start with the crackers, as they will need to sit for a little bit.

Place the crackers in a large container with a secure lid, or in a large ziploc storage bag.  I’ve found that a gallon size bag usually does the trick for three sleeves of crackers.  I also like to control the salt just a little bit, so I tend to use the saltines with the unsalted tops.

Mix together the canola oil, ranch mix and red pepper flakes.

Pour the mixture on top of the crackers.

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Gently mix the crackers so that the oil mixture coats every cracker.  This is where the Ziploc bag saves you a little mixing stress –  just gently turn the bag over in your hands for a few minutes so that the oil gets into each cracker.  Then, for the next couple of hours, give the bag/container a flip every now and then, making sure the crackers are as evenly coated as possible and a bunch of oil hasn’t settled at the bottom.

After a couple hours, I like to put the Firecrackers in a clean, airtight container where they will keep for several days.  You can switch out the flavors of the seasoning as well – the second picture is a batch we mixed up with a Parmesan pesto blend  in place of the ranch mix.

Now for the soup!

You’ll need to roast the poblano and jalapeños.  If you haven’t ever roasted peppers before, there are just a couple of easy tricks.  

To start, rub a little olive oil or vegetable oil over the peppers and place them on a sheet tray.  Place them under the broiler, or directly on a hot grill, and char the outsides of the peppers.  You want them to be black and blistered.

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Once the peppers are blackened, place them in a bowl and cover it with foil.  Let them sit and sweat for a while so that the blistered skin starts to peel off.  Then just use your fingers to wipe most of the black char and all of the seeds and membranes from the peppers, leaving you with perfectly roasted strips.  Give the peppers a rough chop.

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In a large pot, saute the roasted peppers, onions, garlic and carrots in butter until they begin to soften and the onions become clear.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper.

Add the flour to the pot and stir, cooking the flour just a bit.

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Slowly add the chicken (or veggie) stock, stirring as you do to get rid of any lumps. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Using either an immersion blender directly in the soup pot, or transferring the soup carefully to a blender, puree the soup to your desired consistency.  I like a fairly smooth soup here, but if you prefer a chunkier version you can skip this step altogether.

Stir in the half-and-half/cream.  This is also where I mix in the shredded chicken – just  leave it out if you prefer to do so.  I went extremely easy here and took advantage of a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for this one.

Give the soup a good stir and let it heat through for a few minutes.   As soon as it is as hot as you like it you are good to go!

Place a few tortilla chips in a bowl and spoon some of the soup over the top, sprinkling with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or any other white melting cheese you have on hand – I’m pretty partial to the HEB Mi Comida blends).  You can most definitely play around with other toppings if you like – some sour cream, chopped chives or green onion, bacon bits, sliced fresh jalapeño, whatever you like!  BUT – you must serve them with Firecrackers 🙂

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What’s your place with THE thing they serve?  Let me know!


Full Recipes

Cream of Poblano Soup

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 jalapeños (add more for extra spice)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup half-and-half or cream
  • Shredded chicken, optional
  • Tortilla chips
  • Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or other white melting cheese)

Broil poblanos & jalapeños until blistered on all sides.

Place peppers in a Ziploc bag or in a bowl covered with foil for about 15 minutes.

Peel the skin off the peppers, remove the seeds, then roughly dice the peppers.

Saute peppers, onions, garlic and carrots in butter until tender.

Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with flour and stir.

Slowly add the broth, stirring out any lumps.

Add salt to taste.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Using either an immersion blender or a stand-up blender, puree the soup to your desired consistency.

Add the half-and-half or cream.

Add chicken, if using, and heat through.

Place a few tortilla chips in a bowl or cup.

Top with soup and cheese.

Firecrackers

  • 3 sleeves saltines
  • 1 C canola oil
  • 1 pkg (3 T) dry ranch dressing mix
  • 2 T red pepper flakes

Place the crackers in a large container with a lid or a large resealable plastic bag.

Mix other ingredients together and pour over crackers.

Gently mix for several minutes then cover/seal the bag.

Turn container/invert every 20-30 minutes for a couple of hours.

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

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Last year as my Valentine’s gift to you I shared one of my favorite recipes, Crème Brûlée.  It’s still top of my list 🙂

However, we gotta mix it up a bit!  This year for Valentine’s Day, let’s go chocolate.  We use bittersweet chocolate for this recipe, specifically I grabbed a bag of the Ghiradelli semisweet chips, and that gives the dessert a rich, deep chocolate taste.  I’d say that’s a Valentine treat for any sweetheart!

Are you making a treat for your love this year? What’s on the menu?


Chocolate Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 T sugar, plus additional for topping
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • up to 1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 250.

Heat the cream and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.  Keep the mixture on the heat, stirring occasionally, until the cream just starts to simmer – you’ll notice this most by small bubbles rising at the sides of the pot.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate until the mixture is nice and smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 3 T sugar until well blended and a pale shade of yellow. Whisk in the vanilla – I like a good hearty tablespoon, but you may want to start with a 1 1/2 teaspoons if you aren’t as big of a fan.

Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so you don’t cook the egg yolks.  I mean, they’d be chocolate-flavored egg yolks… but still.  Go slow.  Once you have it all whisked together, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or some cheesecloth to catch any bits you don’t want in your finished product.

Set four ramekins or small baking dishes in a large roasting pan.  Pour the chocolate custard evenly into the ramekins, then pour hot water into the roasting pan around the ramekins, letting the water level come up to about halfway on the dishes.  Place the roasting dish in the oven on a middle rack.  Bake the custards until just set, about 60-70 minutes.

Let the custards cool completely at room temperature.  Then wrap them up in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least one hour.

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of granulated sugar across the top of each custard and rock it back and forth a bit so that the top is evenly coated with a layer of sugar.  Using either a kitchen torch or the oven broiler, melt and brown the layer of sugar.  A kitchen torch will give you more control and a more even brown across the top.  If you are using your broiler, keep a very close eye on the custards, you may want to move them a bit halfway through and the process will happen fairly quick.

Let the desserts cool just until the sugar hardens and serve.  For me, two of the best things about Crème Brûlée is not only the texture difference between the creamy custard and the hard sugar shell but the contrasting temperature between cold and warm as well.  I have to admit… Crème Brûlée will always be one of my favorites – in any flavor!

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Full Recipe

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 T sugar, plus additional for topping
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • up to 1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 250.

Heat cream and ¼ cup sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Keep over the heat, stirring occasionally, until cream just starts to simmer.

Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3 T sugar until blended and pale yellow.

Whisk in vanilla.

Slowly whisk cream mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly so as to not cook eggs.

Pour through fine mesh sieve.

Set four ramekins in a large roasting pan.

Pour custard evenly into ramekins.

Pour hot tap water into roasting pan, about halfway up sides of ramekins.

Place roasting dish in the oven on middle rack.

Bake until just set, 60-70 minutes.

Let custards cool completely at room temp.

Refrigerate at least one hour.

Sprinkle about 1 T granulated sugar across the top of each custard so it is well covered.

Use a kitchen torch or broil the sugar until melted.  

Let cool until sugar hardens and serve.

Begonia’s Banana Pudding

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Begonia was a friend of my Grandma McGee.  I can imagine the two of them sitting together chatting about life, griping about life’s little irritations, celebrating the successes, sharing recipes and smiling.  Lots of smiles.  Begonia shared this recipe with my Grandma and it’s become a family favorite over the years.  It always makes me think of my Grandma and makes me smile like I know they would be.

There’s a surprise ingredient in this pudding, one I really wasn’t a fan of growing up.  I mean, who likes to put sour cream on things?! (I’ve thankfully overcome this dislike in my more recent years)  If you aren’t a fan of sour cream, you have to give this a try.  It gives the pudding a richness without adding more sweet to the mix.

Do you have any favorite namesake recipes?  What are they?


Begonia’s Banana Pudding

  • 5 bananas, sliced
  • 3 small, or 2 large, instant banana pudding mix
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz cool whip
  • 12 oz sour cream
  • 1 box Nilla wafers, or similar product

This couldn’t be easier, y’all.  Mix and stack your way to sweetness!

To start, line a bowl or individual parfait cups with wafers.  I like to break a few up so that they make a pretty complete bottom layer but you do you with the amount of wafers you use.  If you ask Will, he’s going to say “load it up with wafers!” If you are going for presentation power, use a glass dish and be sure to get the wafers all the way to the edge so that you can see them against the glass.

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Whisk together the pudding mixes and milk. Stir in the cool whip and sour cream until everything is mixed well and smooth.  Trust on the sour cream, y’all.  It works.

Carefully layer bananas and pudding on top of your base wafer layer.  If you want the pretty presentation, just be sure to carefully line some banana slices right at the edge of the dish and then carefully smooth the pudding over the top and to the edges.  It will set and firm up a bit if you let the completed dish sit in the fridge for a while.   Keep alternating layers of wafers, bananas and pudding until you reach the top of your dish or run out of material!

Top with crushed wafers (extra cool whip is nice too).  You are good to go from here, or set the dish(es) in the fridge for a bit and the pudding will firm up a little more.

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If you are smiling right now, Begonia would be proud 🙂


Full Recipe

Begonia’s Banana Pudding

  • 5 bananas, sliced
  • 3 small, or 2 large, instant banana pudding mix
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz cool whip
  • 12 oz sour cream
  • 1 box Nilla wafers, or similar product

Line a bowl (or individual parfait cups) with wafers.

Mix pudding and milk.

Add cool whip and sour cream, mix well.

In the bowl, or parfait dishes, alternate layers of pudding, bananas and wafers.

Top with crushed wafers.

Sausage Potato Skillet

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Happy New Year!  (We can still say that even if January is already two-thirds done, yes?)

If your house is anything like my house you are ready for an easy, throw-down dinner.  This is it! A one pan wonder!

I truly don’t know where this recipe came from.  I can say, however, that it was a staple in our house growing up in Weslaco.  It’s such a quick, easy go-to that I never much thought about how good it was… other than to give my mom a good (full of love) teasing about it’s frequent appearance at the dinner table.  (We’ll talk about “gourmet sandwiches” some other time, Mom 😉 )

Then I graduated from Baylor and made my move to Lake Jackson.  I’d make this for dinner and take leftovers for lunch the next day.  Without fail, every time, someone would comment on the dish and ask for the recipe.  It threw me a bit because I don’t think my mom or I ever even wrote the recipe down, it was just one of those things we could toss together.  The first time I made it for Will he loved it and began requesting this dish for dinner.  Again, it blew my mind a little.  This dish?  The sausage-potato meal we’ve always had?!

So here it is, all typed up in its one-pan glory from my childhood home to your present day: Sausage Potato Skillet.  May it make one of your upcoming dinners simply wonderful 🙂


Sausage Potato Skillet

  • 1 link smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can corn or hominy, drained

Pay attention, this one goes quick 🙂

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in a skillet with a little olive oil until the veggies begin to soften. Use a large skillet with plenty of room to toss everything up together.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper but start a little lighter than normal on the salt as the smoked sausage will bring some of that in for you.

Add the sliced sausage and saute until the sausage begins to brown a bit.

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Add the corn or hominy and toss it all together.

So, I love hominy.  Hominy is made from either white or yellow corn – the kernels are soaked in a solution of either lime or lye which removes the hull, and often the germ, from the kernel and causes the grain itself to puff up much larger than its original size.  The texture is definitely chewier than regular corn and, I think, has a more pronounced corn flavor.  I dig the taste and texture of hominy and often will just saute it with butter, salt and pepper as a side dish. Somewhere along the line, I decided that hominy needed to replace the corn in this dish and I’ve never looked back.   Will, however, does not share my love of hominy.  Bummer.  We often either go back to the regular can of corn here or omit it completely when making this dish at home. In an effort to give you this dish in all its original glory though, I felt it best to demonstrate with the hominy.  (Sorry, Will!)  Don’t worry, y’all.  He still ate it 😉

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Add the cubed potatoes, tossing them around a bit to mix them in. Season again with salt and pepper. (If you like a little kick, this is a great spot for some cajun seasoning as well!)

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Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the skillet, about 2 or 3 tablespoons. Cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes.  If you don’t have a lid that fits your skillet, just set a cookie sheet over the skillet or place a piece of foil loosely over the top.  You want the potatoes to steam in that water and a lid helps that process.

Once the potatoes are soft, remove the lid and continue to cook until all the excess moisture has cooked off, about another 5-10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

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What recipes do you have that have survived your childhood home and worked their way into your adult life?  Leave a comment and let me know!


Full Recipe

Sausage Potato Skillet

  • 1 link smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can corn or hominy, drained

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in a skillet with EVOO until beginning to soften.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the sliced sausage and brown.

Add the corn/hominy.

Add the potatoes, toss around and saute a few minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the skillet.

Cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat and lightly simmer until the potatoes are soft, 15-20 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the excess water has cooked off, another 5-10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chicken Spaghetti

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It’s a busy time of year so I figured for my final post of 2018 I’d share one of my favorite make-ahead, enjoy-now or freeze-for-later meals!

Who doesn’t love a good chicken spaghetti, right? It screams comfort food.  Will and I have a difference of opinion on mix-ins or toppings for this one as he, for some strange reason unbeknownst to me, does not enjoy mushrooms and black olives.  So, you’ll see in the recipe how we navigate that craziness 😉

This recipe makes a healthy amount, so I typically bake one smaller dish for dinner and pack another up in a foil pan to freeze for later.  In this case, we even loaded up some small foil loaf pans to freeze for grab-and-go lunch options.  I love having this recipe, in large or small amounts, on hand!

I hope that you have enjoyed the recipes I’ve shared throughout 2018.  I’d love to hear if you have made one or two, how you enjoyed them and what you would like to see into 2019!  For now – sending you best wishes and many blessings this Christmas season and into the New Year!

-Lindsey


Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs chicken, boiled & shredded -or- 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz Velveeta, diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese, diced/softened
  • 2 cans “cream of” soup – use chicken, celery, mushroom; mix & match
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 16 oz spaghetti

Preheat your oven to 350.

To start, you can make this recipe even easier by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken, I’ve done that often.  This time however, I picked up a whole chicken when they were on special and boiled it before starting the spaghetti.  If you boil your chicken, simply cover the bird with water and then add whatever veggies and seasonings feel right!  This time, I tossed in a couple carrots, one onion quartered up, a couple bay leaves and some thyme, a bit of parsley left from another recipe, freshly ground black pepper and caldo de pollo.  Whatever you do, add in some caldo de pollo – or in other words, chicken bullion.  It will add a boost of flavor to your stock and we’re going to use that stock later down the road.  So heads up – save the stock!

Once cooked, pick and shred the chicken.  Remember – save the stock!

You can use a variety of peppers here – I like the colorful assortment here of poblano and small sweet red, yellow and orange bell peppers.  Dice them up along with an onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Saute the veggies until they are soft, seasoning with salt and pepper.

If you have a family of mushroom-loving people, add the mushrooms in with the veggies and let them cook a couple minutes as the veggies soften.  Since we are a house divided, I hold off on the mushrooms right here.

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As the veggies are cooking, cook the spaghetti to al dente – just so it has a little bit left to it as it will cook a little more as the dish bakes. If you boiled your chicken, strain the veggies and herbs out of the stock and then boil the spaghetti in the stock rather than plain water so the pasta takes in that delicious chicken flavor.  If you are using rotisserie chicken, add a little caldo de pollo (bullion) to the water when it comes up to boil.  This is your chance to flavor the pasta itself.  Important:  when you drain the spaghetti, reserve about a cup of the pasta water/stock.  We’re putting that stock to use today!

In a large bowl, combine the two cream soups, Rotel, olives, Velveeta and cream cheese.  If you are an H-E-B shopper, there is store brand cream of poblano soup that works very nicely here!  For the Velveeta, you can cube up a brick or, as you see below, the shreds work nicely as well.  You do want to be sure the cream cheese if softened so it stirs in nicely.  Give the mix a taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Again, I skip the olives here…

To the large bowl, add the shredded chicken and the cooked veggies.  Give it a really good stir so the warm veggies starts to melt and combine all the cheeses.

Add the cooked spaghetti and stir well again.  This mixture will be thick – add that reserved pasta water/stock a little at a time until you get the consistency you are after. You want it to be well mixed and that water/stock will help to get all the yummy cheese mixture coating every noodle.

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Spray either one 9×13 baking dish or two small dished with nonstick spray and fill ’em up! Here’s where my mushrooms and olives come into play – they go on top of “my half” 😉

For the baking dishes – cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

For the freezing dishes – let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze until ready to enjoy!

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Don’t worry – Will totally missed all the olives and mushrooms in the above picture.  😉

What’s your favorite comfort meal and/or freezer meal?  Let me know what you think!


Full Recipe

Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs chicken, boiled & shredded -or- 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz Velveeta, diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese, diced/softened
  • 2 cans “cream of” soup – use chicken, celery, mushroom; mix & match
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 16 oz spaghetti

*If you boil the chicken, save the stock to boil the spaghetti in

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute onions, bell pepper, poblano pepper and garlic until soft.

Add the mushrooms and saute a few minutes.

Boil spaghetti (in stock, if available) and cook to al dente.

Reserve about a cup of the pasta water/stock after cooking.

In a large bowl, combine cream soups, Rotel, olives, Velveeta and cream cheese.

Season to taste with s&p.

Stir in shredded chicken and onion mixture.

Add cooked spaghetti to chicken mixture.

Mix well as the cheeses melt.

Add reserved pasta water/stock as need to desired consistency – up to 1 cup.

Grease a large baking dish (or two small pans) with non-stick spray.

Pour chicken spaghetti into dish(es) and cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes.

If freezing:  Let cool completely, cover pan with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.  Bake, from frozen, covered with just foil, at 350 for 45-60 minutes.