Cooking can really be simplified if you put a little creativity and thought into it. Just like I did when I made this home made chicken salad and this cheesy spicy chicken and spinach bake ziti.
I was in Charleston South Carolina and while there for lunch I had chicken salad sandwich,I noticed that the chicken salad had grapes in it, I thought mmmm, never had that before, but I liked it. There happened to be an excess and so I brought some home, to my surprised my entire family ,my husband and children loved the chicken salad, so I thought i would make it for my husbands and for the kids to take to school for lunch as well. The thing though as I was thinking of making the chicken salad, I realized I also had to make dinner. The question then becomes how do I make the easy on myself. Then I thought as I bake the chicken for the chicken salad, I thought I could make extra chicken breast and create something delicious for the children.
CHICKEN TO BAKE
- 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- salt n pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Wash chicken in vinegar and water, clean removing excess fat
Season chicken with salt n pepper,
Bake for 45 minutes.
Save the liquid from the bake chicken for later.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN SALAD
- 3 baked chicken breasts (Finely chopped)
- 1 cup chopped dark grapes ( cut into 4 pieces each)
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumbers
- 2 tbsps. chopped sweet red onions
- 2 medium tomatoes chopped
- 3 tbsps. mayonaise
DIRIn a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well.
Refrigerate before serving.
INGREDIENTS FOR BAKED ZITI
- 2 box baked ziti ( cooked al dente for about 3minutes)
- Remaining 2 baked chicken breasts
- 1 cup half n half
- 1/2 cup water
- juice from bake chicken (about 1 cup is what you should get)
- a bunch of fresh spinach ( roughly chopped)
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2medium size carrots grated
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/4 tsp all- purpose seasoning
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1tsp. red pepper flakes ( you can always do more or less. )
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups grated american cheese
- 1 tsp. all- purpose flour.
- 1/2 stick of butter ( a little extra for greasing baking pan)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
DIRECTIONS FOR BAKED ZITI
Preheat oven to 350
In a bowl combine all dry seasonings
In a saute pan on medium heat add oil and butter, let butter melt, add minced garlic and chopped onions.Let saute for about 2minutes, add all-purpose flour and stir continuously for about 2 minutes, then add chopped chicken, and chopped tomatoes, stir for 2 minutes. Then add water, left over juice from chicken and half n half . Bring to a boil grated carrots and chopped spinach stir then add 1 cup of shredded american cheese, stir until melted
Grease pan, add 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of shredded american cheese to the bottom of pan spread out. Add 1/2 of the pasta mixture then add 1/2 of the remaining cheese spread out over the past mixture add the remaining pasta mixture then to the top spread out the remaining cheese. Bake for 1 hour
Please keep in mind, I did this because of the chicken salad my husband requested, so you can play around with this recipe. Id simply just making the bake ziti for dinner, you do not have to cook the chicken first, you can cut the chicken in bite size pieces, and add an additional tbsp. olive oil. To cook you heat all the olive oil in pan, add chicken and cook chicken for about 7 minutes, turning constantly, remove chicken from pan and sit on a plate, then follow original cooking directions.