Beyond Bland — Putting Chicken to Work

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There is nothing quite like having a baby to throw things a bit out of whack.  Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely adore my little boy, but the past seven months have been a period of getting by, and I can make no promises going forward.  Life has been about getting the family clean, dressed, and fed and making sure I fulfill any other obligations that come my way. Have I resorted to boxed meals and take-out?  Not exactly, but our menu hasn’t featured many new recipes, instead favoring good ol’ standbys.

But as the calendar turned, I was determined to turn a corner myself and not let life completely overwhelm me and squelch my culinary creative thinking.  As those of you who have been with me for a while know, I enjoy cooking and baking and sharing, and I’m striving to fit that into my life (along with regular de-cluttering and cleaning of the house).  So here I am.

I will not boast a meal that is worthy of fireworks or fanfare.  Yet.  Rather, it’s real life in action.  Can you find something like this out in the realms of Pinterest and the like?  I would guess so.  I didn’t search.  But I’m content to know that by giving it to you here I save you time searching (we can discuss later how a quick search for dinner turns into a brand new board for redecorating your living room).

The initial concept is simple: provide a versatile, neutral main ingredient that you can us in many different ways.  Read: the ever-popular, overused boneless skinless chicken breast.   Too often it’s doomed to dryness, but with a little seasoning and a long, gentle cook in the slow cooker, it easily becomes something destined for dinner.

After this, the possibilities are endless.  Thanks to the precooked chicken, in less than 30 minutes you can have dinner on the table.  The easiest application is a pack of slider buns, a bottle of barbecue sauce and/or hot sauce, a bag of potato chips, and a bag of baby cut carrots.  Dinner.  Done.

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But think about it: chicken tacos.  Quesadillas.  Buffalo chicken wraps.  Chicken and stuffing casserole.  Chicken salad pitas.  Chicken parmesan.  Chicken fettuccine alfredo.  Chicken pot pie.  Chicken tortilla soup.  White chicken chili.

Or this.

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Individual buffalo chicken shepherd pies. With cheesy bacon and ranch potatoes**  Bar food in a bowl, no?

So, what are you going to make?

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Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

  • 4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken breast (or feel free to use boneless skinless chicken thighs or a combination of both)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Place chicken in large slow cooker.  Add water.  Place chicken bouillon cube in water and sprinkle chicken with salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours* or until tender. Shred with two forks right in slow cooker or remove and shred on large cutting board, if easier.  Add back to cooking liquid.  Serve or portion out and refrigerate/freeze for future use.

*Chicken may be cooked from frozen state.  Cook on high for recommended time or until tender.

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Buffalo Chicken Shepherd’s Pie with Cheesy Bacon & Ranch Potatoes

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 cups prepared mashed potatoes (use instant or follow directions for smashed potatoes here)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. Ranch dressing mix
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Place rack in middle position of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 9″ pie plate or 8 individual ramekins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Cook bacon in skillet or in microwave till crisp.  Crumble and add to mashed potatoes with bacon fat (up to 2 Tbsp.).  Add cheddar cheese and ranch dressing mix and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Combine chicken, onion, and celery in medium bowl.  Combine butter, hot sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper in small bowl and pour over chicken mixture.  Stir to combine.

Place chicken mixture in pie plate or divide between ramekins.  Top with mashed potatoes.  If using ramekins, place on rimmed baking sheet.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are browning and mixture is beginning to bubble around edges.  Serve.

**I realize it’s not the most glamorous or well-lit picture: it was dark out and I didn’t think these would survive the night to become leftovers.  And the kids were hungry; proper staging wasn’t going to happen.  Feel free to make it yourself and take a proper picture.

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6 responses »

  1. Elisabeth, so glad to have you back! Great Shepherd’s Pie recipe. What’s not to like? It’s got Chicken, Bacon, Ranch, Mashed Potatoes. . . My boys will say YUM!

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