I’ve always avoided cooking competitors, not because I can’t cook but because I’ve never really altered any recipe enough to feel comfortable saying it’s my own. I think it’s because I’m a big baker that I’m not one to monkey too much with recipes – though yes, I do realize life isn’t all cakes!
The other day, this day to be precise, I learned about the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Casserole Party, put on by the Crazy Casserole Lady benefiting the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen. Now growing up in the South, I’ve encountered lots of casseroles over the years. I’ll be the first to admit though that I didn’t partake in most of them. What can I say. I was a picky child, so the concept of throwing in a little this and that, firing up the oven, and calling it a meal wasn’t so appealing. Spaghetti casserole was one of the few though I embraced as a child, so it seemed to be an appropriate one to go with to prepare for this event. Let’s be real – it remains an awesome way to re-engineer your spaghetti the next day into something slightly different. Hurrah leftovers! I decided this cooking competition was a perfect first one for me.
I started with this recipe I found online on Mom!Mom!.com, altering it more to my liking (remove mushrooms – due to allergy, nix peas – due to strong anti-pea feelings, substitute bacon for ham – because everything is better with bacon). I used it as a good opportunity too to check out my local butcher. It was my first visit to one (in general, not just to this particular one), and it got the wheels turning on other things I’d like to cook in the future. It also just meant the bacon in the recipe is extra amazing. I didn’t overdo it based on the original recipe, but really wanted to up the amount of bacon. Depending on how the end result tastes, might do that next time I make this.
Chicken & Bacon Spaghetti Bake
- 4 ounces Spaghetti
- 1/4 pound thick-sliced bacon, diced
- 1 large Onion, chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons Flour
- 2 cups Tomatoes, canned, chopped, undrained
- 12 ounces Evaporated Skim Milk
- 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup Milk, skim
- 1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups Chicken, skinless light meat, cooked, cubed
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Oregano (to taste)
- Crushed red pepper (to taste)
Break spaghetti pieces in half & cook according to package directions. Drain.
In large saucepan, cook the bacon, onion and garlic until onion is transparent.
Slowly add the flour and blend into the saucepan. Add undrained tomatoes, evaporated skim milk and milk. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and is bubbly. Add shredded mild cheddar cheese (or can use colby cheese, if you prefer) and stir till melted.
Stir in cooked spaghetti, cubed chicken, and zucchini.
Pour into a 2.5-qt casserole dish and top with parmesan. Add black pepper, oregano, and crushed red pepper (optional, though in keeping with flavors I like, I wanted to add in my usual Italian seasoning favorites). Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes.
I’m excited for tonight and can’t wait to see what casseroles the others bring to the event! I’ll have to report back on the flipside!
What are some of your favorite casseroles?