Puttin on the Ritz

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ritzy chicken When I was growing up we would go visit my grandparents each summer for several weeks, and every time we were at my Mammaw’s home she would always make this super special chicken dish.  It was so special that we were sure it took her all day to make it.  It was creamy, full of chicken and topped with crunchy stuff…plus it was so pretty it had to take her forever to make it!  We always felt so special that she would take all that time to make us one of our favorites…it was definitely a highlight of each trip.

When I went off to college I decided to go to Texas Tech, which was only about 1 1/2 hours from my Mammaw.  One weekend I was visiting her and I asked her if she could please show me how to make that super special chicken dish with the crunchy stuff on top.  She kinda laughed and then said sure, it would be her pleasure, plus it was so easy to make we could have it for dinner that night.  I must have had a confused look on my face because she laughed once again and then told me to go get the chicken and soup out of the pantry.  In my head I was so confused…chicken was in the pantry??  In a can??  Surely she didn’t use canned chicken, but yes she did…I never would have guessed!!

As I continued to grow up and develop my culinary style a little more I decided it was time to tackle this favorite childhood dish…only I was going to make it my way, and hope it worked.  The first thing was to deal with the canned chicken stuff.  I had a few options I could go with…I could roast a whole chicken, roast some chicken breasts or thighs or I could go to the store and buy a rotisserie chicken…the later was definitely my most favorite idea, and of course the easiest by far.  Plus it just makes it that much quicker for those busy weeknights.

 

Ritzy Chicken
Serves 12
A delicious chicken casserole with buttery crackers and a creamy filling...this is comfort food for sure
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken with skin removed)
  2. 8 oz reduced fat sour cream
  3. 1 cup fat free Cream of Chicken Soup (check out my easy Homemade recipe posted below)
  4. 1 tbsp. pepper
  5. 2 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1 tbsp. poppy seed, divided
  8. 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (30-32 crackers)
  9. 2 tbsp butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray, set aside
  3. In a large bowl combine chicken, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, pepper, garlic powder, salt and 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds
  4. Pour chicken mixture into casserole dish
  5. Crumble a sleeve of crackers over the top of the chicken mixture
  6. Drizzle melted butter over the top of the crackers
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until crackers begin to brown and edges are bubbly
  8. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving
  9. ENJOY!!
Each serving is 9 WW+ points
  1. Nutritional Info
  2. Calories 385 Calories from Fat 174 Total Fat 18.2g Saturated Fat 10.0g Trans Fat 0.0g Cholesterol 31mg Sodium 684mg Potassium 243mg Total Carbohydrates 35.5g Dietary Fiber 2.8g Sugars 6.0g Protein 10.9g
  3. Vitamin A 3% - Vitamin C 1% - Calcium 5% - Iron 75%
  4. Nutrition Grade D+
The Half Baked Life http://www.thehalfbakedlife.com/
Next came the canned soup, I cannot stand canned cream of chicken soup at all but I am a HUGE fan of my homemade cream of chicken soup.  The soup is full of flavor, creamy, rich and so easy you will never buy the canned stuff again.  To make it even better it is low in Weight Watcher points so it is definitely one of those recipes that you will want to keep in your recipe box.  I usually have some soup in my freezer, just in case I get a hankering for this casserole. 

 

Oh and by the way the crunchy stuff on top that was so good we couldn’t get enough of it was my favorite crackers, Ritz, crumbled up and then drizzled with butter…I mean can it get much better.  I knew I loved this casserole!!

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup
Serves 8
An updated version of my original Homemade Cream of Chicken soup...it is just so good I had to do it again
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups Fat Free Chicken Stock
  2. 1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 tsp chicken base
  3. 1 tsp. pepper
  4. 1 tsp. dried basil
  5. 1 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1 tsp onion powder
  7. 1 tsp dried parsley
  8. 2 cups fat free milk
  9. 1 cup flour
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan combine chicken stock, bouillon cube, pepper, basil, garlic powder, onion powder & parsley over medium heat to a simmer
  2. In a small bowl whisk together milk and flour until smooth
  3. Slowly add in milk mixture, whisking constantly
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 10-15 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached, stirring often
  5. Let cool to room temperature and then either store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in smaller portions to use as needed
  6. ENJOY!
Each serving (1/2 cup) is 2 WW+ points
  1. Nutritional Info
  2. Calories 87 Calories from Fat 2 Total Fat 0.2g Trans Fat 0.0g Cholesterol 1mg Sodium 137mg Potassium 258mg Total Carbohydrates 16.1g Dietary Fiber 0.7g Sugars 3.3g Protein 4.4g
  3. Vitamin A 3% - Vitamin C 2% - Calcium 8% - Iron 6%
  4. Nutrition Grade A-
The Half Baked Life http://www.thehalfbakedlife.com/
The real test was going to come though when I let the Mammaw taste it.  I took some over to her, and made her taste it on the spot.  Being the funny Mammaw that she is she made a face like she didn’t like it and then smiled super big and said it was one of the best things she had ever eaten!  It is hard to believe that with just 2 simple changes this casserole was taken to a new level and it was even better then I remember as a kid…now that is a success in my book!!

cupcake-crop

 

  Happy (half) Baked Day – MJ

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you can do it…just trust me

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salted car sauceSalted Caramel anything is a down fall for me.  I love it in brownies, cookies, cakes, coffee, on ice cream, on biscuits or lets be real honest straight out of the jar…it is just that good.  Now I have found a recipe that is perfect in my mind, it is creamy, rich, buttery with just the right amount of salt in each bite.  OK, I know what you might be thinking…you want me to make homemade caramel?  YES I DO!

I understand how intimidating the idea is, I was nervous about it as well, until I started making it.  As I was watching the sugar and water turn into a deep caramel color and then saw it come together with the cream and salt I couldn’t stop smiling…I had just made caramel sauce!!!  I couldn’t believe it…I was so excited.

The Hubby was in his office working and I was so excited that I yelled at him and made him stop working just to come see it…it wasn’t cool enough for him to taste just yet, but it was just so pretty I had to show him.  Needless to say I am not sure he was as impressed as I was, but that’s ok he loved it once it cooled down and he could taste it.

I have already used the sauce in some Pumpkin Brownies & Banana Pudding (recipes coming soon) for our weekly family dinner and everyone loved it.  Some even put extra sauce on the brownies and pudding because it was just that good!  Trust me this is one challenge you want to take on…you can do it…trust me!!

Salted Caramel Sauce
Serves 24
A homemade caramel sauce with just the right amount of salt in each bite
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  2. 1/3 cup water
  3. 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  4. 1 tbsp. butter
  5. 3 tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan combine sugar and water - This is the only time you will be able to stir the mixture until you add in the cream, if you stir while the sugar is cooking it will turn into rock candy
  2. Place saucepan over medium low heat and let sit until sugar starts to dissolve and begins to bubble, 5-7 minutes
  3. Increase heat to medium high and let mixture continue to cook until it begins to turn a deep caramel color, 5-7 minutes - make sure to watch very closely as it can burn very quickly in this step
  4. Remove pan from heat and carefully add in the cream and butter - the mixture will bubble violently but just let it sit until it stops
  5. Return pan to low heat and stir in salt until caramel is smooth and deep in color, about 3-4 minutes
  6. Remove from heat and let sit until it is room temperature
  7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator
  8. Use on everything...trust me you will be creating recipes just to use this sauce!!
  9. Congrats you did it...now ENJOY it!!
Each serving (about 2 tbsp.) is 3 WW+ points
  1. Nutritional Info
  2. Calories 109 Calories from Fat 38 Total Fat 4.2g Saturated Fat 2.6g Cholesterol 15mg Sodium 360mg Potassium 7mg Total Carbohydrates 19.0g Sugars 18.8g Protein 0.2g
  3. Vitamin A 3% - Vitamin C 0% - Calcium 1% - Iron 0%
  4. Nutrition Grade F
The Half Baked Life http://www.thehalfbakedlife.com/
Go ahead…you can do this…your family, friends, neighbors and YOU will be so glad you did, plus it is low in WW+ points!!

cupcake-crop

 

  Happy (half) Baked Day – MJ

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Chicken Parm a la The Hubby

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chicken parm tenders The Hubby and I have a favorite local Italian restaurant that we like to visit fairly often.  When we first started going, over 10 years a go, we would try different things but now we seem to order the same thing again and again.  I get a dish that is made with jalapeño fettuccine and cream sauce and The Hubby get chicken parmesan with fettuccine alfredo.  OK, I know some of you just had to read that last part again…who pairs chicken parm with fettuccine alfredo?  Well, The Hubby does.  I have to admit I thought it was a little strange as well, until I tried it one time, everything in one bite, and it  was quite delicious.  The bit of red sauce with the crispy chicken and the creamy alfredo made for a perfect bite…one that I knew I wanted to recreate at home and surprise The Hubby with. 

quick alfredoA few weeks a go we moved my Mammaw into her new home which is just around the corner from us and we wanted to celebrate with an impromptu family dinner.  I had all the ingredients for chicken parmesan with alfredo, to surprise The Hubby with, and I knew I could pull it together quickly so I ran home to get started to surprise the whole family.  In my haste to defrost chicken I pulled out chicken tenders instead of breasts, so chicken parm tenders it was.   I prepared the tenders as I would  a chicken breast just didn’t have to cook it as long, which in this case worked out perfectly.  I also kinda loved the serving size of the tenders, the ladies ate 2 and then men ate 3 or 4…it was great!

The fettuccine alfredo came together very quickly and everything was ready to go when the chicken was out of the oven.  It was creamy, rich and absolutely delicious.  This alfredo is going to be a go-to recipe for The Hubby and I.

 

Chicken Parm Tenders
Serves 6
Chicken tenders are transformed into chicken parmesan, making them more fun to eat and so pretty on the plate
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders (or 2-3 chicken breasts split in half and cut into tenders)
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1/2 cup water
  4. 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or bread crumbs)
  5. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  6. 2 tsp Italian Seasonings
  7. 1 tsp dried basil
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 1 tsp pepper
  10. 4 cups Jar Marinara Sauce
  11. 1 cup part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and generously spray with nonstick spray
  3. Place tenders (or cut-up chicken breasts) in-between 2 pieces of plastic wrap
  4. Using a meat mallet, or a heavy saucepan, pound out chicken to 1/4-1/2 inch thin
  5. In a small shallow bowl beat together egg and water until well combined
  6. In another shallow dish mix together bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning, dried Basil, Salt & Pepper
  7. Dip each tender in the egg mixture then press into the bread crumb mixture making sure to coat each tender, shaking off any excess
  8. Place coated tenders on the baking sheet
  9. Spray tenders lightly with nonstick spray
  10. Cook for 15 minutes, and then flip, continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes
  11. Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce into a casserole dish, making sure to cover the bottom
  12. Place cooked tenders on top of sauce
  13. Spoon remaining sauce over the tenders and sprinkle shredded Mozzarella over each tender
  14. Place into oven and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown on the edges
  15. Serve with the pasta of your choice or on its own...it's delicious!!
Each serving is 5 WW+ points
  1. Nutritional Info
  2. Calories 247 Calories from Fat 30 Total Fat 3.3g Saturated Fat 1.5g Trans Fat 0.0g Cholesterol 39mg Sodium 716mg Potassium 31mg Total Carbohydrates 24.6g Dietary Fiber 0.5g Sugars 16.8g Protein 21.8g
  3. Vitamin A 15% - Vitamin C 8% - Calcium 19% - Iron 16%
  4. Nutrition Grade B-
The Half Baked Life http://www.thehalfbakedlife.com/
Go ahead…trust us.  You will love this pairing.

Quick & Creamy Alfredo
Serves 8
A quick, creamy, delicious and full of flavor alfredo sauce...perfect for a weeknight dinner
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups fat-free Chicken Stock , divided
  2. 12 oz fettuccine pasta
  3. 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  4. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  5. 1/2 cup skim milk
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1 tbsp. pepper
  8. 1 tbsp. garlic powder
Instructions
  1. In a large pasta pot combine 3 cups chicken stock and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil
  2. Once boiling add in pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente
  3. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water and place pasta back into pasta pot
  4. Add in cream cheese, parmesan cheese, milk, remaining 1 cup of chicken stock, salt, pepper and garlic powder
  5. Stir until cheese is melted and everything is combined
  6. Add in remaining pasta water if sauce is too thick
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary
  8. Serve immediately and ENJOY!!
Each serving is 5 WW+ points
  1. Nutritional Info
  2. Calories 193 Calories from Fat 46 Total Fat 5.1g Saturated Fat 2.8g Trans Fat 0.0g Cholesterol 46mg Sodium 669mg Potassium 122mg Total Carbohydrates 26.8g Sugars 2.4g Protein 10.2g
  3. Vitamin A 5% - Vitamin C 1% - Calcium 9% - Iron 11%
  4. Nutrition Grade B-
The Half Baked Life http://www.thehalfbakedlife.com/
It was a huge hit with the family and we all decided Chicken Parmesan al la The Hubby was the only way we would ever have it again. 

cupcake-crop

 

 Happy (half) Baked Day – MJ

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