Living without a kitchen is no easy task. It’s a bit like camping in your own home, except camping has one clear advantage — you can go home whenever you are fed up with roughing it.
Last month I was without a functioning kitchen for three days while we had our outdated acrylic panels and drop ceiling in the kitchen removed. We also replaced those fluorescent eyesores, popular in the 1980s, with soft recessed lighting.
Yes, it was a process — and kinda messy.
Throughout the kitchen face-lift, all the appliances were draped with tarps and sheets. Making do without simple devices such as a sink or stove, I felt a little like a bewildered refugee in a modern world.
Kitchen-less, I was plagued by one question: How would we feed ourselves during the renovation?
Then it came to me: “Shoot. We’ll just have to eat out!”
On our first stove-less night, hungry and tired, we picked up dinner from the Chinese restaurant close to home. The food was just so-so, or as my mom used to say, “nothing to write home about.”
On day two, battling the constant presence of dust, barking dogs and the overall inconvenience, the thought of pizza or any fast food sounded tiresome.
Call it real food or real comforting food, I was craving a home-cooked meal. Little did I know our dinner was a phone call away.
Mom-in-law called and invited us over. She was making her delicious chicken noodle casserole with its cheesy, creamy sauce and egg noodles. We ate dinner with her, and then took an entire casserole home for night three. It was just what the kitchen remodeling doctor ordered.
This constantly tweaked-over-the-years casserole would never make the top 10 Weight Watchers recipes, but served with a fresh garden salad, who cares? It was hot-dish heaven.
Evolved over the past 15 years, Mom’s versatile recipe allows you to use whatever combination of chicken and whichever heat level of Rotel your family prefers.
She told me she alters and adjusts the recipe according to taste and uses whatever she has on hand. Sometimes she adds the noodles and seasoning from a package of Lipton Soup Secrets, sometimes cheddar, fresh Parmesan or mozzarella cheese and onions.
For a lighter version, I recommend low-fat cream cheese and sour cream.
All I can say is whatever you add, this creamy chicken casserole is soul soothing.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.
CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
16 ounces egg noodles
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel mild diced tomatoes & green chilies
1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Poach chicken in a large pot of simmering water. Cook until no longer pink in center, about 12 minutes. Remove chicken and two cups of chicken water from pot and set aside. Bring remaining chicken cooking water to a boil and cook pasta in it. Drain. Cut chicken into small pieces and mix with noodles.
In a separate bowl, mix together mushroom soup, chicken soup, tomatoes, sour cream, chicken broth and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir together cream soup mixture with the chicken mixture. Place in a greased, 2-quart baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until heated through.