To Taste: Grandma’s Chicken Divan

I grew up with the luck of enjoying my Grandma’s home-cooked dinners every night. My favorite of her dishes was the Chicken Divan – a casserole of broccoli, pulled chicken, & a cheesy sauce. If she wasn’t making it fresh for dinner, she was always sure to have portions frozen to indulge my divan requests. Not too long ago, I finally convinced her to share her recipe.

Grandma's Chicken Divan

We had a serious surplus of broccoli in the fridge so I had to get creative with ways to get rid of it. A giant casserole of my Grandma’s Chicken Divan seemed perfect. The first direction on the recipe was to blanch broccoli and layer it in a greased casserole.

Broccoli Base

I thawed half a chicken worth of white & dark meal STILL hanging out from my Rustic Roasted Chicken dinner. I can’t believe how many Leftover Lightning! meals came out of it!. I pulled it & layered it on top of the broccoli.

Pulled Chicken layered on the Broccoli Base

I was missing some ingredients from the next step, so I improvised with what my pantry staples could offer. I only had (1) can of Cream of Broccoli & Cheese Soup, so I combined it with mayo, lemon juice, & some water to loosen it up. Grandma’s recipe called for smoked paprika, but all I could dig out was some chili powder. My spice cabinet is really a disaster right now. Once the cheesy mixture was combined, I spread it on top of the pulled chicken & broccoli layers.

Cheesy Soup Blend over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base for Chicken Divan

I melted some butter, combined it with seasoned bread crumbs, & sprinkled it over the whole casserole.

Breadcrumbs over the Cheesy Mixture over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base

And then I realized I missed a step in the recipe. What’s new. But this was an important step. The CHEESE! How could I FORGET THE CHEESE? I quickly shredded mild & sharp cheddar cheeses and had no choice but to layer it on top of the breadcrumbs. It was only a minor mistake, just a good thing that I caught it. The casserole looked & tasted so delicious. I know I did my Grandma’s recipe proud!

Grandma's Chicken Divan

P.S. Follow along with my steps & feel free to recreate, but my Grandma’s actual recipe will remain a secret among family 🙂

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To Taste: Baked Toni

I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.

Fat Rigatoni

While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.

Baked Toni

Baked Toni

  • Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
  • Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
  • Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
  • Garlic – (1) T, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Dried Basil – (1) T
  • Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
  • S&P – to taste
  • Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
  • Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
  • Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
  • Grated Parmesan – to taste
  • Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
  • Olive Oil – as needed
  1. Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
  2. Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
  3. Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
  5. Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
  8. Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
  9. Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  10. Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
  12. Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Leftover Lightning! Sunny Fried Chicken Breakfast Wrap! A la Dre!

Wow, I’m one lucky girl! Dre made me a delcious breakfast two days in one week. First, were his savory Bacon, Egg, & Gruyère Toast Cups for our VDay breakfast. This time around, he embarked on a Leftover Lightning! adventure of his own. He sauteed red bell peppers & onions and scrambled them in eggs, melting the sliced Gruyère atop the last two whole wheat tortillas. He finished the wrap with crispy bacon & leftover fried chicken breasts from his VDay Dinner for another sunny breakfast a la Dre ❤

Sunny Fried Chicken Breakfast Wrap

Vday Bfast: Bacon, Egg, & Gruyère Toast Cups a la Dre <3

I’m the one who does a vast majority of the cooking, so I was excited to hear that Dre planned to make me breakfast AND dinner on Valentine’s Day. Sunday is the only day that we both have off (may it be school or work eating up our time), so my only Vday wish was to spend the day together. In the morn, I stayed in bed watching whatever crappy TV I wanted while Dre got to cooking. About an hour into his kitchen session, love was in the air! I smelled something delicious!

Trio of Breakfast Toast Cups

That delicious something was breakfast delivered in a perfect package of love. Dre presented me with a charming trio of whole wheat bread cups baked full of eggs, turkey bacon, & gruyere and perfectly seasoned with S&P. All that was leftover was a bed full of crumbs, but I loved every bite.

Breakfast Toast Cups w/ Creamy Yolk, Turkey Bacon, & Gruyère

To Taste: Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

Dre’s main request for Friday’s dinner was Mac & Cheese WITH BACON to accompany my Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozz Stuffed Chicken Breasts. On a shopping trip last week, I picked up the most adorable red casserole dish and this was the perfect opportunity to christen it. I needed to refresh myself on Mac & Cheese basics and Alton Brown seemed like my go-to man. I forgot how easily you can turn a basic rue, some milk, onion, & cheese (and bacon, of course) into the most comforting of foods. Mmmm, Mac & Cheese!

Shredded Mozz, Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, & Velveeta

I put Dre in charge of finishing up the Mac & Cheese. He crumbled bacon and tossed it into the macaroni & melty cheese mixture. The jumbo macaroni were perfectly filled up with the bacon & gooey cheesiness. He gets half the credit on this cooking venture for that move!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

No Baked Mac & Cheese is complete without a crunchy crust and why not have it add to the cheesiness! Dre crushed up some Cheez-Its, tossed with melted butter, and sprinkled on top. It added a crunchy texture to the creamiest, yummiest Mac & Cheese I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself! And how cute is that casserole dish?!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese w/ a Cheez-It crust

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

adapted from Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

  • Macaroni – (1) lb, cooked al dente
    • Farfalle, Orchiette, Spirals & Shells all work well, too
  • Butter – (3) T + (2) T
  • Flour – (3) T
  • Milk – (3) cups
  • Whole Grain Mustard – (1) T
  • Paprika – (2) tsp
  • Bay Leaf – (1)
  • White Onion – (1/2) med onion, chopped
  • Shredded Cheeses – (4) cups or more
    • I used (2) cups Mild Cheddar, (2) cups Mozzarella, & (1) cup of Smoked Gouda
  • Velveeta – (8) oz, cubed
  • Smoked Bacon – (4-5) slices, cooked & chopped (optional, I guess…)
  • Cheez-Its – (1.5) cups, crushed
    • Next time, Goldfish!
  1. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Melt (3) T of butter in a heavy pot on Med and add flour. Stir for about 5 min until it turns a light caramel brown, watching closely.
  4. Add Milk, Mustard, Paprika, Bay Leaf, Onion, & S&P and stir. Bring to a simmer on Med for about 5 min. Remove Bay Leaf.
  5. Immediately add the cheese mixture to the pasta in a large bowl or your stock pot and coat. The bacon crumbles can go in now, too.
  6. Pour mixture into a large, greased baking dish or casserole.
  7. Crush (1.5) cups of Cheez-Its in a sealed plastic baggie and then toss with (2) T melted Butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over Mac & Cheese.
  8. Bake for about 30-40 min until bubbling. Remove and let it sit for (5) min before eating.

To Taste: Cheesy Smashed Cauliflower

I finally took Dre on an Amish adventure to Lancaster County complete with a stop at Shady Maple Smorgasbord. I regret that I went to one of my favorite places to eat and didn’t take any pictures! Shame on me! We did, however, make a few farm stand stops on our scenic ride home where I picked up a beautiful head of  Cauliflower.  I knew I’d have to transform it  into a tasty creation though, if anyone was going to enjoy it as much as I would!

I recalled an episode of 30 Minute Meals where Rachel Ray make a quick batch of her Smashed Cauliflower with Cheese. I stuck to the basic parameters of the recipe but impressed myself with the addition of  shredded Smoked Gouda (from the never ending wedge in my fridge). The smokiness really enhanced the depth of flavors in such a simple dish. It was so good, I didn’t even have to pass it off as mashed potatoes, though you know I tried!

Farm Fresh Cauliflower & our Jack-o-Lantern

P.S. We also picked up a pumpkin on our Amish adventure that Dre & I carved for Halloween. BOO!

CHEESY SMASHED CAULIFLOWER
adapted from Rachel Ray’s Smashed Cauliflower with Cheese

  • Cauliflower – 1 large head cut into florets
  • Chicken Stock – about 3 cups, 2 cans, or enough to cover Cauliflower
  • Butter – let’s say 2-3 T of the REAL stuff, no oleo here!
  • Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Mozzarella, Parmesan, etc. – (1)+ cup of your favorite shredded cheeses
  • S&P
  1. Place Cauliflower florets in a medium pot & cover with Chicken Stock.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then cover & reduce heat to a simmer until Cauliflower is tender, about 15 min total.
  3. Drain the cauliflower once tender, reserving the stock. (You could also turn up the heat and reduce the stock instead of draining, but who has the time?!)
  4. Add the butter & cheese. Smash with a potato masher, adding in stock until you reach desired consistency. Think “thick grits”!
  5. Season w/ S&P and serve. It reheats really well, too, so feel free to make a double batch to enjoy all week!

Leftover Lightning! Roasted Turkey, Zucchini, & Tomato Pizza!

I’m enjoying the house to myself for an evening, which usually means I have to cram a bunch of relaxation & chores into one night. Amongst laundry, the World Series, & making homemade Apple Butter for Dre, I needed to make sure I had a good dinner to keep me going. I’ve been getting back into cooking on the regular, but kept it fairly easy this week as I’m battling the infamous flu. Luckily, I had plenty of leftovers to work with: Pizza Sauce from Lazaro’s delivery on Sunday (Mmmm, Garlic Knots!); leftover Dijon Turkey Tenderloin, Roasted Zucchini & Grape Tomatoes from Monday’s quick din; and, a leftover 8″ mini Boboli shell (leftover from last night as I pretty much ate this exact dinner). I layered the pizza with sauce, diced turkey, & veggies and topped with shredded Mozzarella & Smoked Gouda (my fave, still leftover from Make Your Own Pizza night). 10 minutes in the toaster oven on 450 and YUMMM!

Roasted Turkey, Zucchini, & Tomato Pizza via Leftovers