Baby, it’s cold outside

So around here, it’s been about a bazillion degrees below zero. It started with last week’s storm, and since then it’s just been unbearably cold.  Now I live in Ohio, so winters are usually unpleasant, but this one seems especially tough.  Anyway, we got out of work early that Friday because of the weather, and when I got home my husband suggested we order a pizza.  But not only would they not deliver, driving ourselves to pick up a pizza was going to be treacherous and a pizza, in my book, is just not worth it.  So I looked in my pantry to see what I had to make for dinner.  It was cold, and snowy, and one of those nights you NEED a hot casserole to warm up your bones.  And while chili always warms me up, we had just finished the leftovers and I wanted something different.  Then I remembered something my mom made when we spent all day outside in the snow, wrapped up in scarves and hats and those mittens that had the long strings that attached them together.  Anyone else have those?  Sometimes I think I still need them.  Anyway,we would come in with snow caked in our boots and our cheeks as rosy as could be, and she always had tuna casserole waiting for us.  Bubbling and cheesy, right out of the oven.  I changed mine to chicken noodle casserole because my husband is allergic to seafood (super tragic, I know!)  If your weather is cold, snowy, or you’re looking for a great casserole – this is it.  I try to double the batch and freeze one casserole for later.  Nothing beats a quick-prep meal!  What I love absolutely most about this meal is that it is not fancy, but still is a classic dish.  The ingredients are easy and usually what everyone already has in their stock.   I try to use the same pot all the way through so that I have two dishes to clean.

Chicken Noodle Casserole

2 large or 3 small boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

1 16 oz bag frozen peas

1 12 oz bag egg noodles

1 medium onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

8 oz cheese (I used Vermont White Cheddar)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed

Cook noodles until al dente, about 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In the same dutch oven or heavy pot, heat up 1 tablespoon of butter and add celery, onions, and garlic and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Set aside.  In the same dutch oven or heavy pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and whisk in flour, forming a roux.  Slowly stir in milk, chicken broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, constantly stirring.  Once at a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let thicken.  This usually takes about 4-5 minutes.  Whisk in shredded cheese, forming a cheese sauce.  Combine chicken, noodles, peas, and onions into the cheese sauce.  Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the Ritz with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the Ritz on top, and bake for 10 more minutes.  Dig in and enjoy!

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