May 20, 2018:

Hola!

Yesterday Prince Harry married American Meghan Markle and I couldn't get enough of the royal wedding. What a gorgeous dress, the bride was radiantly beautiful and the church at Windsor - oh my goodness, the flowers alone were soooo beautiful. There's nothing like a good love story to make one appreciate how precious we can be (and should be) to each other.

I'm glad the weather was perfect yesterday for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding. I can't say the same for around here. Spring keeps teasing and then going away. This morning I woke up to a "balmy" 47 degrees F outside, rain, damp, and I turned the heat back on! It's May 20th, the heat. should. not. be. on. Period.

Last Thursday, however, was beautiful. I was able to get a goodly amount of yard and garden clean-up done over several days last week. I also took some photos of my flowering tree anchoring the north corner of my house and made the current collage. I think it's an ornamental cherry, and on the the other end of the house, I think that's called a purple sand cherry? I'll have to check that. The blossoms on the tree do not have a distinct fragrance, but the purple shrub that wants to be a tree (despite my hacking it back, back and back yearly - I'm losing, by the way) has myriad blossoms with a distinct fragrance. I can't decide if the scent is too beautiful to bear or too awful to smell, it certainly can be overpowering!

This coming week will be the third cut of the grass this season. We had rain late Friday night and then for several hours earlier this morning. This rain, on top of the rain we had over four days the prior weekend, and the grass is growing like nobody's business! I don't mind doing the grass, though, as long as it's not too hot, too cold, not raining, and not too windy. I'm not picky at all, am I...

I still have a lot of raking out of areas that suffered from snow mold over the winter, and have not yet really tackled cleaning out the north flower bed in the backyard. That will be a chore!

But Memorial Day weekend is coming. This coming Saturday I will be out with a friend (who has a nice large van - goody!) stocking up on potting soil, top soil to fill in never-ending low spots in the yard, grass seed, and lots of plants! For some reason, this spring seems busier than those in prior years. I can't figure out why that is...

Jan

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's Cooking Time! Alfredo Chicken Mashed Potato Casserole

Hola!

This is the time of year, when it's bitterly cold outside, the sidewalks are iced over and it's not safe for this woman who mainly travels on foot and by bus to be out and about much, to batten down the hatches and work inside my comfy and cozy retirement nest!  I experiment with cooking on days like this.

On Sunday I got an idea for a recipe because I wanted to use an older frozen package of mixed veggies in my freezer and I did not want to make my usual easy-peasy version of ground beef Shepherd's pie.  I outlined the recipe in my head and today I picked up the remaining ingredients to put the dish together.  It's sort of a take on a chicken pot pie - but in a large casserole, with mashed potatoes rather than a crust, and Alfredo sauce rather than a classic beef gravy or tomato-base that is used in traditional Shepherd's Pie or a smaller crusted version of a chicken pot pie.

Sorry for the photo of the already partially eaten casserole.  I didn't think about blogging this until after I'd already dug into the casserole for supper! 



The basics are easy:

Ingredients:

-- One pound (more or less) of chicken tenders, cut into about 1 inch size
-- One standard size (I believe it is 8 ounce) jar of ready-made Alfredo sauce (I used Prego brand because it was on sale and I have used and liked other Prego ready-made sauces)
-- One 8-ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans)
-- Eight "servings" (per package) of instant mashed potatoes, made per directions on package.  I went the lazy cook's way, you can also make yours from scratch!

Directions: 

-- I cooked the cut-up chicken in a large frying pan/skillet.  I added about 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the chicken in a few tablespoons of olive oil and cooked quickly on high/medium heat.
-- Meanwhile, frozen veggies were made in microwave in a 1.5 quart covered casserole dish per package directions.
-- The cooked veggies (drain if necessary) were added to the cooked chicken in the large frying pan.
-- Entire jar of Alfredo sauce was added to and mixed into cooked chicken and veggies in the frying pan.
-- A "crust" of mashed potatoes was spread across the bottom of the (now empty) casserole dish that I'd used to cook the frozen veggies. 
-- The chicken/veggies/ Alfred sauce mixture was then poured over the "crust" of mashed potatoes in the casserole dish and topped with the rest of the mashed potatoes.
-- Baked for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees F, uncovered, long enough for peaks on mashed potato top of casserole to brown on peaks and form a mild crust.  If you want crustier potatoes/more browned peaks, bake longer.  The sauce was bubbling up all around the sides of the casserole.

After cooling the casserole (still uncovered) for about 20 minutes inside the now opened oven (to let the heat into the house), I served myself up a dish and oh boy - it was GOOD! 

Easy to make, makes a LOT - I will have enough for at least six-seven more meals and will freeze most in individual servings.  This is a rich and hearty dish for a cold winter's day.  YUM!


NOTES:  I will make my mashed potatoes "drier" next time I make this dish, because even though I baked the casserole uncovered and also made sure there was no excess water in the cooked veggies, adding a full jar of Alfredo sauce made the casserole "wet."  The mashed potatoes did not turn to mush, but if you want them to have more body, add extra dry flakes to your instant mashed potatoes (if you use instant like I did) to make them stiffer.  If you make your mashed potatoes from scratch, use less milk and butter than you normally do to make a stiffer potato.  Increasing baking temperature (I use 350 degrees F as my default setting for most of the casseroles I make) and/or extending baking time may also help "dry" the casserole out a bit, too.  This will depend on your personal preferences.

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