Keep a chicken casserole in the freezer for hectic days

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

After a couple of hectic days recently, I came home late and checked the refrigerator, pantry and freezer trying to figure what we would have for dinner. I wished I had a chicken casserole tucked in the freezer or had stopped by the store on the way home for a rotisserie chicken for putting a casserole together to serve with a salad.

Having a chicken casserole in the freeze comes in handy for many occasions, such as those times when a friend is sick or someone from church calls needing a dish for a funeral.

I have decided to set aside a day and fill the freezer with casseroles to be prepared for those days when I am too tired to cook or need a dish to take somewhere.

I will boil two chickens with onions, celery and salt for a couple of hours or until tender. That will provide enough chicken and broth for at least two casseroles.

If you don’t have time to boil chickens, pick up rotisserie chickens and stock at the grocery.  For making casseroles, select rotisserie chickens that are plain or “naked” rather than with spices.

Purchased chicken broths and stocks are improving.  They are available in cans or cartons, and choices include organic, free range, fat free and low sodium.

Some of the following casserole recipes call for making an easy sauce, while others are prepared quickly using canned soup.  If you have diet retractions, there are many choices, including low sodium, fat free, reduced fat, among others.

Laura McKay makes a tasty Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole that makes one large dish or two small ones that freezes well. A busy mom, Laura uses cream of mushroom soup with sour cream and milk for the sauce. Cheese, onion and celery enhance the flavor of the dish.

Connie King makes a quick chicken casserole using chicken tenders mixed with sour cream and chicken soup topped with crushed crackers.

Judy Sellers creates a similar dish with cooked rice, while Annette Lovett adds broccoli, mushrooms and pimientos to a chicken and rice casserole, making it a meal in a dish.

Tamar Lisenby adds crunch to a chicken casserole with celery and water chestnuts.

Pasta is also a popular choice for a casserole.  Emily Smyth makes a scrumptious Chicken Tetrazzini with angel hair pasta. She prepares a creamy sauce laced with sherry.

Chicken Casserole with Pasta, Cheddar and Olives is a variation on Chicken Tetrazzini with cheddar and olives adding a different flavor.  I received this recipe years ago from an Atlanta caterer who sold them frozen to busy mothers and people headed to the lake for the weekend.

An oldie but popular casserole has been the Chicken and Broccoli lightly flavored with curry powder. I think Dell Chester was the first person to share this recipe. Over the years, I have adapted it to substitute artichokes or asparagus instead of broccoli. Adding shrimp instead of a vegetable enhances the dish.

Look over the following recipes and select a couple casseroles to prepare for storing in the freezer. If you are going to the lake or beach this weekend, place one or two frozen ones in a cooler to bake for supper when you arrive.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

RECIPES:
Chicken Casserole with Pasta, Cheddar and Olives
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or a rotisserie chicken
2 chopped onions, divided
1 cup celery stalks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup butter
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1 cup half and half
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
8 oz. pkg. thin spaghetti or penne
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped or 2 to 3 tsp. dried
1/4 cup ripe olives, sliced
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
In a large pot boil chicken, 1 onion and celery until chicken is tender. Partially cool; drain broth and reserve. Salt and pepper to taste. Chop cooled chicken.
In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter; sauté mushrooms, the other onion and celery. When onion is cooked, add half and half, broth and wine or more broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir over low heat until heated.
Make a paste of flour and softened butter; add to skillet. Simmer until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
Cook pasta in remaining broth, add water if needed. Add salt. Cook as directed on package; drain.
Toss pasta with chicken, mushroom mixture, parsley, olives and Cheddar cheese.
Pour into a 9 by 13-inch pan that has been coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until hot.
Note: Can refrigerate and bake later or freeze.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Laura McKay
Recipe makes two 9 by 13-inch casserole dishes or four smaller dishes. Can halve or double recipe. Freezes well.
2 (6.2 oz.) pkgs. fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
1/4 cup butter
2 medium onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 (8 oz.) cans sliced water chestnuts (optional)
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
4 cups shredded cheese, divided
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
16 oz. sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
Prepare rice according to package directions; set aside.  Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onions, celery and water chestnuts. Sauté 10 minutes or until tender.  Stir in rice, chicken, 3 cups cheese, soup and next 4 ingredients.
Spoon mixture into two lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking dishes. Top casserole evenly with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake 5 more minutes.

Chicken Tetrazzini
Emily Smyth
Can use a rotisserie chicken and canned chicken broth instead of cooking chicken breasts.
4 large chicken breasts
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, cut up
1 onion, quartered
1 lb. angel hair pasta
Stew chicken with celery, carrots and onions. When cooked, remove chicken and discard vegetables. Strain broth and reserve 2 cups for later.
Use remaining broth plush enough water to cook pasta. When cool, cut chicken into bite-size pieces.
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced (optional)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, fresh or canned
Sauté onions, pepper and mushrooms in butter; set aside.
Sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup cream or half n half
2 cups chicken broth (reserved from above)
2 Tbsp. sherry
7 oz. jar chopped pimientos
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Melt butter and add flour over low heat. Slowly add cream. When thickened, add reserved chicken broth and remaining ingredients, including mushrooms and onions. Increase heat to medium and cook until thickened slightly, stirring frequently.
Spread pasta in bottom of greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Top with chicken and pour sauce on top. Make sure sauce covers all of chicken and pasta. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Can prepare ahead.

Chicken Casserole
Connie King
3 lb. flash frozen chicken tenderloins
1 tsp. salt
32 oz. sour cream
2 small cans cream of chicken soup
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Topping*
2 sticks butter
2 stacks saltine crackers (unsalted tops)
Boil chicken tenders with 1 tsp. salt until cooked. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
Spray 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with Pam and cover bottom of dish with chicken. Mix sour cream, cream of chicken soup, paprika and cayenne pepper in mixing bowl: mix well. Spread over chicken.
Crush saltine crackers. Melt butter and pour over cracker crumbs. Mix well. Pour butter/crumb mixture on top of cream sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1 hour or until sides are bubbling. Can freeze unbaked.
*Note: Can cut topping in half.

Chicken and Rice Casserole
Judy Sellers
4 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken breasts
2 cups cooked Minute Rice
Three 10 ¾ oz. cans cream of chicken soup
8 oz. carton sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers mixed with ¼ cup melted margarine
Place cream of chicken soup, sour cream and chicken broth in a boiler and heat until hot and smooth.
Remove from heat and add chopped or shredded cooked chicken breasts, cooked Minute Rice and pinch of salt and pepper.  Place in 9×13 casserole dish and sprinkle Ritz Cracker and margarine mixture to cover the top.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tuscan Chicken and Pasta Casserole with Spinach and Artichokes
1/2 lb. boneless chicken breasts, diced, seasoned and cooked
1 box frozen chopped spinach, cook as directed and drain well
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 lb. sliced mushrooms, sautéed
8 oz. pkg. penne pasta, cooked and drained
1/2 cup butter
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
In a 9 x 13-inch greased pan, combine pasta, chicken, spinach, mushrooms and artichokes.
To make sauce, melt butter in saucepan on low.  Take off heat and add cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Replace pan on burner, and stir until sauce is smooth, without letting it come to a boil. Pour over pasta mixture; fold to blend.
Top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until cheese melts. Can remove cover last 10 minutes.
To prepare ahead, store in refrigerator until ready to bake. Can freeze.

Chicken-Broccoli-Cheese-Rice Casserole
Annette Lovett
1 pkg.  frozen broccoli florets or fresh equivalent of 10 oz. box
1 to 1 ½ cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1 small jar (8 oz.) Cheese Whiz
2 heaping cups cooked white rice (more if you want)
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of celery soup)
1/2 soup can milk
1 jar (4.5 oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 jar (4 oz.) pimientos, drained
About 1/4 to 1/3 cup sliced almonds or slivered, toasted, optional
2-3 cups cooked chicken, diced
Ritz crackers
Cook broccoli just until tender, being sure not to overcook.  Drain well; set aside.
Sauté chopped celery and onion in the butter.
Mix celery/onion mixture with the Cheese Whiz, soup and milk and cooked rice.  (The cheese mixes more easily if it has not been in the refrigerator and if celery/onion mixture and rice are still warm.)
Stir in mushrooms, pimientos and almonds.  Stir in cooked chicken.  Gently fold in cooked broccoli.
Pour mixture in greased casserole dish (or dishes – this makes a lot).
Crush Ritz crackers and scatter on top. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Chicken Supreme
I always double and add extra chicken and cook in 9×13 casserole.  Great use for rotisserie chicken.
Tamar Lisenby
1 cup cooked chicken, cut up
1 cup chopped celery, partially cooked
1 cup cooked rice
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1 tsp. grated onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
¾ cup mayonnaise
Toppings:
Buttered cornflake crumbs
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Boil chicken and cut in pieces.  Mix all other ingredients, except toppings, with chicken and place in casserole.  Cover with buttered cornflake crumbs and sprinkle almonds over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Chicken And Broccoli, Asparagus, Artichoke or Shrimp Casserole
1 cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces
2 pkg. cooked broccoli, cooked artichoke hearts, asparagus or 1/2 to 1              lb. cooked shrimp
2 cans cream of chicken soup (can use reduced fat)
1 cup mayonnaise (can use reduced fat)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. curry powder
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Paprika
Place broccoli or other choice around edges of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch casserole dish; place chicken in the center.
Combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder; spread over chicken and partially cover broccoli. Sprinkle cheese over top. Combine breadcrumbs and butter; sprinkle over cheese. Sprinkle paprika over top.
Bake in 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 6.  Can be prepared ahead.

Chicken Lasagna
Marion Scharpf
8 oz. pkg.  lasagna noodles, cooked
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
Seasonings: 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. basil
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
24 oz. cottage cheese or ricotta
1-2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella
3/4¾ cup Parmesan cheese
To make sauce, melt butter in saucepan; blend in flour. Slowly add chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring 1 minute until thickened. Remove from heat; add seasonings and chicken.
To assemble lasagna, place noodles in 9 by 13-inch greased baking dish. Add layer of chicken cottage cheese mixed with eggs and mozzarella. Make a second layer and then add with chicken; sprinkle with Parmesan. Can store in refrigerator until ready to bake.
Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.

Chicken Supreme with Almonds
Betty Traylor
This is great for Sunday dinner. Prepare ahead and bake after church.
6 cups chickens, cut in chunks
Two 8 oz. cans chicken broth
8 oz. angel hair pasta
4 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup lemon juice
Medium onion, grated
3 oz. slivered almonds, sautéed in butter
Crushed potato chips
Spread Pam to coat 10 by 15 by 2-inch, four-quart glass baking pan (or use 2 small pans).
Cook chicken in broth. Remove chicken and reserve broth for cooking pasta. Place cooked pasta in greased pan.
Mix chicken chunks with soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and onion. Pour over pasta.
Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until bubbly. Mix potato chips and almonds; spread on top to cover. Bake 10 minutes longer. Freezes well.

Chicken and Asparagus Casserole with Almonds
7 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/2 cup melted butter
3-3/4 cups milk or light cream
2-3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups Minute rice, uncooked
1-3/4 cups grated American or cheddar cheese
2-1/4 cups cooked asparagus
3 cups sliced or diced cooked chicken
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend flour, salt and onion salt into butter; gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over hot water until thickened. Add chicken broth.
Pour rice into baking dish. Sprinkle half of cheese and top with asparagus; then add chicken. Pour on sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over dish. Top with sliced almonds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 8.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
An oldie that is always popular.
3 whole chicken breasts, cooked and chopped or rotisserie chicken
10 ½ oz. can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
8 oz. (1 cup) sour cream
4 tsp. poppy seeds, divided
1 stack Ritz crackers, about 30, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine soup, sour cream and 2 tsp. poppy seeds; mix well. In a greased 13 by 9 inch pan layer half soup mixture; cover with chicken and then top with remaining soup mixture. Combine crushed crackers, other 2 tsp. poppy seeds and butter; mix well. Spread crumbs over top of chicken dish. Bake 30 minutes.

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