chicken enchilada casserole

I have an unabashed love for Mexican food. But who doesn’t?

For the hubs and I, we get our Mexican fix from several different local joints around town – we have a place for excellent margaritas and good food, a place for good margaritas and amazing food, and a place for amazing margaritas and amazing fish tacos. Depending on our hunger {or thirst} cues, one of said places often makes the cut.

But what does one do when you’re craving enchilada casserole?

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I can’t remember what struck that particular chord in me not long ago, but I had such an intense craving for an enchilada-style casserole that I just could not shake it. So imagine my surprise when this recipe found its way, seemingly right into my hands, not long ago! I immediately bookmarked it and knew that it would make a dinner appearance as soon as I could make it happen.

Luckily, a week-long deluge of rain {followed by an equally rainy weekend} presented the perfect opportunity. A wet Sunday afternoon set the tone for dinner, and yes…it was time for me to make this. I rolled up my sleeves and set to work, happily bumping around my tiny kitchen, working away and rolling tortillas up with delicious filling.

The beauty of this dish is multifold…it requires few pieces of equipment, utilizes ingredients most of us have on hand, comes together in no time, and can be made to fit anyone’s taste buds. I stuck pretty closely to the original recipe, but as I sit here typing, my mind wanders to the idea of using shredded pork instead of chicken, crumbled queso fresco instead of shredded Mexican blend cheese, mixing pico de gallo in with the enchilada sauce, incorporating other vegetables into the topping…you see where I’m going with this.

It’s dishes like this that keep me coming back for more, both seconds at dinnertime and into my repertoire of favorite recipes. Enjoy! And do share any variations you might come up with when you prepare it – I’d love to hear from you!

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from The Kitchn}

Easy enough to throw together even on the busiest of nights, this chicken enchilada casserole will leave you feeling satisfied and happy! Can be customized to fit any taste buds, or particular diet {sugar-, dairy-, gluten-free, etc.}. Leftovers freeze beautifully, or can be prepared and frozen in advance.

Ingredients:

1 {15-ounce can} red enchilada sauce *whatever brand you prefer is fine!

10-15 corn tortillas, set out to room temperature

1 lb. cooked shredded chicken* {can be from a rotisserie chicken; 2-3 cooked chicken breasts; or pressure-cooker chicken}

1 {4-ounce can} diced green chiles

1 to 1-1/2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

1 medium red pepper, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced into strips

optional toppings: sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, pico de gallo, salsa, sliced avocado, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

*I prefer to toss the chicken with a bit of seasonings, done to taste – here, I used: salt and pepper, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin. Feel free to do so according to your preference! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Ladle enough of the enchilada sauce into the dish to barely cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce – about 1/4 cup or so. Set dish aside, but within reaching distance.

On a covered work surface, begin assembling the enchiladas. Lay one tortilla out, and spread down the center {no more than 2-3 Tbsp.} the shredded chicken. Top with a small scoop of the diced green chili. Gently roll the enchilada up and place it seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling mixtures, until you cannot fit any more into the dish.

One the casserole dish is full, sprinkle on the sliced onion and red pepper. Cover completely with remaining enchilada sauce, ensuring that all the surface area is covered. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Portion out and assemble with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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butternut squash & blue cheese spread

Call me basic, but this girl loves some squash.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

In my humble opinion, squash should be celebrated year round – not just autumn, when it’s in season and oh-so-plentiful. Typically, I try to shop seasonally {helps with keeping my food local, costs down, etc.} but squash somehow always finds a way into my cart, shopping trip after shopping trip. It’s a versatile vegetable; salads, main dishes, soup and chili {yes, even in the spring and summer!}…I never find myself tiring of it. Good thing the hubs doesn’t either, otherwise we might have a bit of a problem.

But back to the recipe, lest I get further swept up in preaching my love for squash…

This is definitely a new, and fun, twist on a squash dish. As I mentioned above, none of us are strangers to using said vegetable in all sorts of dishes. But when racking my brain for an autumnal dish to bring on a trip, I thought “why not do something squash-based?” and sure enough, the internet didn’t let me down.  This dip is seriously delicious, and seriously addicting.

Roasted butternut squash meets up with its herbacious friends in a warm, creamy spread. It is bursting with tangy blue cheese, but not so heavy that it leaves you feeling like you need a nap after just a few bites. In fact, the lot of us polished this entire dish off in one sitting, and trust me – not a single one of us felt bad about it. You can scale back on the cheese if you’d like, but I highly suggest leaving it all in. I served it with toasted whole wheat naan bread, rather than chips; they were a bit sturdier, and the nutty flavor of the naan complemented the dip so nicely.

I could easily see this as a spread on sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, dolloped onto a vegetable-based soup or stew…the possibilities are endless! And it can be prepared ahead of time, too; just assemble the dish until the step before you bake it {seal tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to heat through}. You’ll be the star of the party with this one. Truth.

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Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Spread {recipe adapted, slightly, from How Sweet It Is}

Squash lovers, meet your new dip addiction. Blended until creamy and smooth, lusciously rich…perfect for any get-together, and sure to please even the pickiest of palettes! The flavor combinations are out of this world. 

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash

3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

pinch grated nutmeg

10 ounces crumbled blue cheese {I used a reduced-fat version, but full-fat would be fine as well}

1 Tbsp. EACH of these dried herbs: oregano, basil, parsley, sage

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss the squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Toss and bake for 15 minutes more, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

Add the squash {and any olive oil drippings} into the bowl of a food processor along with the nutmeg, dried herbs, and half of the blue cheese crumbles. Blend until completely smooth, and transfer to an oven-proof dish.**

Cover with remaining blue cheese crumbles, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until warmed through. Stir to incorporate melted cheese on top.

Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately with your dipper of choice.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

*images courtesy of How Sweet It Is*

philly mac n’ cheese

From a culinary standpoint, birthday celebrations are a big deal in our house. I look forward to them every year {more so the hub’s birthday than my own} because not only are they are good reason to pull out a good bottle of wine, but because we tend to go over the top in terms of dinner.

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We celebrated the hub’s birthday not long ago, and we spent quite some time trying to figure out what kind of meal to prepare. Every year, I let him decide on exactly what it is he wants. No limits, no rules – his dinner wish {and dessert!} is my command. It’s pretty much a win-win for both of us; he gets a meal of his own creation, and I get to have fun whipping it up in the kitchen!

When he settled on the more traditional mac n’ cheese, I asked him to come up with some sort of twist on it, sort of a way to spice it up a bit. We bounced ideas back and forth…flavor combinations, dishes that he likes, we we somehow steered the conversation to sandwiches.

“What about a philly?”  I asked him. His eyes lit up, and I knew we had found the dish of the year. The end result? – a combination of a few staple dishes in my repertoire, with some funky additions that make it perfect for him. It’s an indulgent dish, and you bet that we will be bringing this out again once the cooler autumn months come around.

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Enjoy!

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Philly Mac n’ Cheese {recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Definitely one of the more creative birthday dishes we’ve dreamed up over the past few years, this mac n’ cheese hits all the notes of a classic cheese steak sandwich: perfectly loaded with cheese, traditional vegetable add-ons, and of course…oh-so indulgent. 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. dried pasta, such as cavatappi

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup freshly shredded champagne cheddar cheese {if not available, feel free to swap out with extra sharp cheddar}

1 package frozen spinach {cooked, drained, and cooled}

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms

2 cups chicken {cooked, cooled, and shredded}

1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup Panko {Japanese bread crumbs}

olive oil, for sauteeing the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet, cook the mushrooms with a splash of olive oil until lightly sauteed, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and melt he butter. Add the cornstarch and cook, stirring well, until the cornstarch is thoroughly incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and an generous pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking frequently to smooth out any lumps, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add a pinch of pepper and stir to incorporate. Slowly add in both the Gruyere and champagne cheddar cheese, making to sure combine thoroughly.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir well. Next, fold in the spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan and Panko. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of roasted vegetables {we opted for asparagus!}.

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lightened up spinach artichoke dip

A lot of times, what we deem as “traditional” appetizers often get a bad rep. I mean, it’s not hard for that to happen. When we peel back the layers of ingredients and really dive in, we find that most are loaded down with heavy, not-so-healthy ingredients…full-fat mayonnaise, cream cheese, sour cream, an oftentimes an exorbitant amount of cheese on top. And that doesn’t even take into account the accouterments {fried chips, toasted bread, crackers and pretzels}. Now don’t get me wrong! – I am a big believer in maintaining a balance; everything in moderation, exercise portion control when needed. But sometimes, you might just want to do some serious work on appetizers and not feel guilty about it!

Enter this dish…

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It’s bubbly, browned, crusty and FULL.OF.FLAVOR. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to your new favorite {and jazzed up!} spinach artichoke dip! Glancing down through the ingredient list, you’ll recognize instantly a few of my staples: Greek yogurt, blended cream cheese, etc. But what really makes this dish shine and stand out from its cousins is the explosion of spices and vegetables that we’re packing in. In just about 3 cups of dip, we’re utilizing smoky paprika, spicy garlic, onion powder, red pepper flakes{!!}, and tangy Parmesan. Seriously, your taste buds won’t know what hit them upon the first bite.

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This is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and is on constant rotation in our home. This can easily be doubled or tripled for the countless summer BBQs we will all surely be attending this summer; is wonderful spread onto sandwiches; I’ve even thrown it into a fritatta with shredded chicken. A dish with many purposes; not only super healthy, but super flavorful and oh-so-flexible!

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Lightened Up Spinach/Artichoke Dip

A perfect dip for throwing together at the last minute, this is one of our go-to items for date nights at home. It’s tangy, refreshing, bubbling over with flavor…and good for you!

Ingredients:

12 ounces frozen spinach, cooked {make sure you drain it really well}

1 {14 ounce} can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

5 ounces of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. cream cheese {I like to use a Greek yogurt/cream cheese blend that is available at my grocery store}

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. onion powder

large pinch of red pepper flakes {optional}

nonstick cooking spray

salt & pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a round glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside {mine holds about 3-4 cups worth of dip}.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix well to combine; take extra care to make sure that the cream cheese and yogurt are thoroughly mixed into the vegetables and spices.

Spoon dip into the prepared baking dish. Top with additional Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is starting to turn golden brown and the edges are bubbling over slightly.

Serve hot with toast points, sliced vegetables, chips, etc…whatever you like.

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Enjoy!

Vegas.com – A Challenge!

Awhile back, y’all might remember that my friends over at vegas.com provided me with an opportunity…a “challenge” if you will. I was asked to pick a dish from one of the famous Las Vegas hotels, and put my own unique twist on it. In typical Alicia fashion, I dove in head first, excited to stretch my culinary legs and see what I could come up with!

for those of you who might want to peak back, here’s my dish!

So I couldn’t be more excited to announce today that I was offered the opportunity to do it again! This time, we had a different list of restaurants to choose from. Immediately, a ‘roast chicken’ dish caught my eye. Something so simple, but offers endless possibilities. My brain started working and, after a few days of rolling ideas around, I finally got the light bulb – shepherd’s pie!

Now, before I go any further; this was no ordinary roast chicken dish. We’re talking gorgeous sauces, fine mushrooms, season vegetables. The whole nine yards. I mean, it’s Vegas after all! So I thought it would be a lot of fun to make the ingredients from the Vegas dish mimic the appearance of an actual shepherd’s pie. Fun, right?

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Perfectly seasoned ground chicken replaces the traditional beef.

Diced asparagus looks a lot like peas!

Mushrooms and onions add an earthy note to the dish, which pairs oh-so-nicely with the white wine that we’re incorporating into the base of the dish.

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And of course, no shepherd’s pie is complete without a generous spread of mashed potatoes..but I went rogue and used my smashed cauliflower! Delicious.

This is one dish you’ll want to recreate over and over, I promise. After the first bite, the hubs proclaimed it “one of the best casseroles he’s ever had.” The proof is in the pudding…er, casserole.

Here we go!

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Vegas-Style Shepherd’s Pie

Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided on making some fun modifications to one of Vegas’ most famous restaurants; I took their classic roast chicken recipe and made it my own! 

Ingredients:

smashed cauliflower {here’s my go-to recipe…so quick and simple!}

1 lb. ground chicken {I used extra lean, because it was what I had on hand}

1 large onion, finely diced

1 box of baby portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 lb. asparagus, washed and sliced into medallions

1/4 cup white wine {you can use chicken stock, for an alcohol-free version}

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil for coating the pan

1/2 – 1 cup of cheese {your preference; this will be used for the topping}

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside for later.

Add a drizzle of olive oil into the bottom of a large nonstick saute pan. Bring up to medium heat; once the olive oil is sizzling, and in the ground chicken. Use a wooden spoon to break into pieces, and cook until done. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Without cleaning the pan, add in the diced onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the white wine and bring the heat up to high {this will help cook off the alcohol, as well as reduce the liquid}. Add in the asparagus, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add in the mushrooms and cook only until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Prepare the casserole: place the cooked chicken into the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Next, top with the onion/asparagus/mushroom mixture. Evenly dollop the smashed cauliflower on top, making sure to seal in the edges. Lastly, top with the desired amount and type of cheese.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is beginning to brown slightly. For additional crunch, turn the broiler on and let it go an additional 1-2 minutes.

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Enjoy!

st. patty’s day ideas!

Top o’ the morning, all!

With St. Patrick’s Day {and its collaborative foodie celebration} right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite recipes with y’all – both from a food & cocktail perspective. Some of them gear towards traditional, while some others are a bit of a…twist…but regardless, they are are equally delicious! I’d love to know – how do you like to celebrate this holiday,  if at all?

For the Table:

Boxty

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Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

Smoky Cheese & Potato Soup

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Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

Beef, Onion & Mushroom Tart

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Mussels in Irish Cider

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Apple & Bramble Cake with Bushmill’s Custard

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Irish Cream Bundt Cake

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For the Bar:

How to Make an Irish Martini - Steve Brown Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Irish Martini

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Sweet Hospitality Group's Irish Farmhouse Cocktail - Photo Courtesy: © Sweet Hospitality Group

Irish Farmhouse

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Irish Coffee

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Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone

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Time for a Drink: the Emerald

The Emerald

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Milk Punch

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Slainte, everyone!

shepherd’s pie

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious and hearty meal?

Shepherd’s Pie has long been a favorite in our household; it’s easy to prepare, utilizes common ingredients most of us have on hand, and can be stretched to feed anywhere from a few people to an entire army. I love sitting down to a piping hot serving after a long day at work; the aromas are so therapeutic, and seeing the steam wafting from the bowl just brings about the most soothing feeling.

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When I decided to make this, I decided to veer slightly from tradition, but still maintain the integrity of the dish. After all, you can only adjust a recipe so much before it takes on an entirely new face, no? So rather than go all crazy and try to tweak every little aspect, I picked the common denominators – the ground meat and the usual mashed potatoes – and decided to just play around with those.

The result? Lean ground turkey and mashed cauliflower!

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This take is full of flavor, texture, and…it just makes you feel good. In my humble opinion, that is the best kind of dinner – fresh, simple, and leaves you feeling good; maybe wanting more, or…maybe just reach for a Guinness and call it a night. Your call!

Slainte!

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Shepherd’s Pie {adapted from Epicurious}

What better way to ring in the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day than with a traditional dish? Quintessential in our household, this will satisfy the pickiest of palettes. The best part? – it’s healthy and good for you!

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. ground meat {I used a 93% lean ground turkey – but feel free to use ground beef, ground lamb, etc.}

1 to 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen peas, cooked and cooled slightly

mashed cauliflower {here’s my version!}

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: grated cheese of your choice for topping 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish {8″x 8″ or 9″x 9″} with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, like I did, you could use two individual baking dishes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, garlic and meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the fat and then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and herbs. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

In the baking dish{es}, layer in the meat mixture, then the cooked peas, and finally top with the meat mixture. Garnish as you like with cheese.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.