Mock Chicken Tetrazzini

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Have you ever found yourself short on ingredients but long on hunger? I found myself in this predicament last Saturday. After completing a quick inventory of my fridge, freezer and pantry, I tallied a 12 oz package of spaghetti, one sleeve of crackers, cream soups, chicken breasts, celery, onions, 2 bell peppers – green and red, garlic and a half bag of shredded cheddar cheese.

I scoured the cooking websites for inspiration but soon discovered I didn’t have enough ingredients for recipes pulled from my search results. Although I was hungry, I didn’t feel like schlepping to the store. What to do? Determined and motivated by a growling stomach, I decided to make a hodgepodge of the various recipes I found and develop my own.

First, I seasoned the chicken breasts with seasoned salt, pepper, and onion powder. Placed it in a pot with one stalk of celery, half an onion and half a green bell pepper. I covered with the chicken and veggies water and brought to a boil. I then lowered the heat and let simmer 1-2 hours. Once done, I removed the chicken breasts from the pot so they cool enough for me to handle. I reserved the stock.

I cooked the spaghetti according to the package instructions, drained and set to the side.

While the spaghetti was cooking, I chopped the remaining half of the onion, the red bell pepper, and two cloves of garlic. I sauted the vegetables in a little butter until they were tender. I added one can of cream of chicken soup and one can of cream of mushroom soup to the vegetables. I then added half a can of milk and about half a cup of chicken stock, stirring until well incorporated. I shredded the chicken and added it and the cooked spaghetti to the soup mixture, making sure the soup coated the chicken and noodles. I then added the remaining the stock. I poured the mixture into a 9×13 pan and sprinkled cheddar cheese on top. I placed the pan in a 350 degree oven and baked for twenty minutes.

While the dish was in the oven, I crushed a half sleeve of crackers (I used Ritz Crackers) and melted approximately 1/4 cup of butter in a saucepan. I removed the dish from the oven, sprinkled the cracker crumbs on top of the cheese then drizzled the butter over the crumbs. I placed the dish back into the oven and baked for ten minutes.

I was a bit nervous before the first bite but, boy oh boy, it was good. I was surprised because this is the first time I have ever variated from a recipe and it actually worked.

I have been making the effort to eat healthier, so I realize the processed foods, butter, etc. goes against that goal. I wouldn’t eat this every day nor every week for that matter. However, it is a simple and satisfying meal that was beyond easy to prepare. Given the shortcuts I took, I can’t call this a true Chicken Tetrazzini. For a more authentic dish, try this version by Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis.

If you decide to try my recipe, let me know how it turned out. Or, offer ways to kick it up or make it healthier!

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