Monday, February 16, 2009

Chicken Vegetable Penne Casserole

When I went home for winter holidays in December, my guy made a concoction of cream cheese, parmesan, and gouda with mushrooms, baked with spaghetti. As you can imagine, it was extremely tasty, what with the immense quantities of cheese. You might call it a cheese cake. It actually came out tasting rather like the tuna and green pea casseroles my mother used to make when I was growing up.

Since then, I've been keeping the casserole idea in the back of my mind. I picked up a hard-to-find can of cream of mushroom soup last week, and this week, I created my chicken vegetable casserole. I guess you could call this the healthy version, since it features so many vegetables. I'm not sure about the nutritional information in one cream of mushroom soup can, but that's really all the fat you need. One thing my casserole lacks is the delicious cheddar cheese or crispy fried onion crinkle topping. I really miss cheese. It is so essential to most foods that I love. Nevertheless, I can live without it, and this dish still tastes good without cheese.

The beauty of this dish is that you could probably use any vegetable that happens to be on sale or that you happen to have left over in your fridge. It's also quite easy. The basic idea is to barely cook the pasta, set it aside, then barely cook the rest of the ingredients and mix it all together with creamy soup. Bake everything, top it with something crunchy or unhealthy like cheese, chips, fried onion crisps. or bread crumbs. I recommend using at least some sweet vegetables, such as peas or carrots, in addition to whatever else you want to throw in. I also added some cinnamon and coriander. I bet some nutmeg would be good as well. American food is so bland compared to all the Indian food I've been making recently. The contrast is startling. Onto the recipe--

Cubed chicken (350 g) and cubed vegetables, cut to about twice the size of a pea
1 can cream of mushroom soup
+ 1 can milk
1 diced onion
4 diced cloves garlic
small package penne pasta
chicken bullion
1 t. dried basil
salt and white pepper/black pepper to taste

My Vegetables:
3 small green bell pepper - 100 yen
1 carrot - 30 yen
1 package green beans - 198 yen
1/4 package parsley - 25 yen
1 head broccoli - 158 yen
6 shiitake - 128 yen

What to do:
  1. Boil water, cook pasta until a bit under al dente firmness. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent pasta from getting too soft. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Sweat garlic and onion in olive oil. Add cream of mushroom soup plus 1 can milk. Add carrot, broccoli, and chicken. When chicken is halfway cooked, add remaining vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, herbs, and bullion to taste. Mix in penne pasta when chicken is just barely undercooked.
  3. Transfer to 9 x 13" casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Quite healthy and easy to eat because there are so many vegetables in the creamy sauce. I just wish I had some cheese!

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