Tag Archives: dinner

Easy Zesty Green Beans.

See my latest recipe–delicious green beans with three ingredients and two minutes of prep time–here!

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Fried Cheesy Bites.

One of the things I miss the most about Indiana is Culver’s.  The closest one from where I live now is a good two hours away, so I haven’t been to one in a while now.  There are two things on the menu that I miss in particular: they have best frozen custard (I like my Concrete Mixer with peppermint syrup and crushed pieces of Heath bar), and I could eat my weight in their Wisconsin Cheese Curds.

I’ve really been craving those cheese curds lately.  So the other day, I loosely followed this recipe that I’d pinned ages ago, and made my own fried cheesy bites of heaven (okay, so they’re not as good as Culver’s’, but they’re still stinkin’ good).

Easy fried cheesy bites.

Easy fried cheesy bites.

They’re super easy to make, and you only need a few ingredients.

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

You’ll need:

  • Vegetable oil (enough to submerge your cheesy bites in your pan)
  • 4-5 sticks of string cheese (any kind)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

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First, fill your pan with enough oil to submerge your coated bites in (the amount will vary by the size of the pan).  Heat the oil on medium heat while you start on your prep.

Assembly line!

Assembly line!

Put the flour in one bowl, the egg (beaten) in another, and the bread crumbs in a third.

Experimentation time.

Experimentation time.

You’ll need four to five sticks of string cheese.  I’ve made these three times this week, and I used all mozzarella the first two times, and decided to experiment with mozarella/cheddar and colby jack the third time.

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Chop ’em up!  How small you go is up to you; I like cutting mine pretty small so there’s more of them to munch on (yes, I understand that it’s still the same amount of cheese, no matter how you cut it).

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Dump them in the flour.

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Using a spoon, stir cheese pieces to coat them in flour.

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If you have a little strainer like this, use it to shake out the excess flour.  If not, just use your hands: pick up each piece and shake off the excess flour before dropping it into the beaten egg.

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(The strainer works much better than doing it by hand.)

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Dump the floured pieces into the bowl of beaten egg.

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Using a fork, stir the cheese pieces to coat them in egg.

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Next, move them a few at a time into the bread crumbs.  Shake off excess egg; I find it’s easiest to fish a few pieces out of the egg with the fork, then pick them up with my fingers to shake them off and drop them into the bread crumbs.

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Stir with the fork to coat the pieces in bread crumbs.  Make sure that none of them are stuck together; you want each piece to be coated on all sides.

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Now they’re ready for frying!  Drop a couple pieces into the oil to see how hot it is.  If they turn dark golden brown within seconds, it’s too hot–take your pan off the heat for a few minutes and turn your stove down a little when you put it back on, and then fry your bites in batches of a stick’s worth or so at a time, monitoring them so they don’t burn.  If your trial bites stay pale (the oil should still bubble around them), then your oil’s not quite hot enough yet, but you can dump all the pieces in at once and they’ll fry slowly as it continues to heat.  They turn out fine both ways (so long as you watchfully don’t let them burn).

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Take them out when they’re a nice golden brown.

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Put paper towels on your plate to absorb excess oil.  Let them cool for a few minutes–but not too long, because they’re best hot!

Look at that glorious, golden, cheesy goodness...my mouth is watering now....

Look at that glorious, golden, cheesy goodness…my mouth is watering now….

So they’re not quite Culver’s, but they’re pretty darn good, and super easy!

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For your cut-and-paste convenience:

Fried Cheesy Bites

  • Vegetable oil (enough to submerge bites in pan)
  • 4-5 cheese sticks (any kind)
  • ⅓-½ cup flour
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • ⅓-½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  1. Heat vegetable oil in pan or skillet over medium heat.
  2. Chop cheese sticks into small bite-size pieces.
  3. Coat cheese pieces in flour.
  4. Shake excess flour off of cheese pieces.
  5. Drop cheese pieces into beaten egg and stir to coat.
  6. Shake off excess egg from cheese pieces.
  7. Coat in bread crumbs, taking care to coat all sides of each piece.
  8. Drop coated cheese pieces into hot oil; fry until golden brown.
  9. Remove golden brown cheesy bites from oil and let cool slightly on paper towel.

Enjoy!

 

 


Corn Flake Chicken.

This is my very favorite chicken recipe.

Corn flake chicken.

Corn flake chicken.

I’m a picky eater.  I don’t actually like meat (of any kind).  But this chicken dish is all crunch and garlic powder, which overtakes the chicken taste, and I love it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 1 lb thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • 2 cups corn flakes
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 stick butter

Preheat the oven to 350.

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Start by grinding up two cups of corn flakes.  My method is to dump them into a pie plate…

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…and use a bowl (like a mortar and pestle) to grind them.

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How finely you want to grind them is up to you; I try to avoid too much powder, but don’t leave any flakes whole.

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Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste.  I like a lot of garlic powder.  (Like, a lot.  Picture clouds of pale powder puffing up as I toss the flakes to mix it all up.  So. Good.)

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Mix the spices thoroughly into the corn flakes.

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Melt the stick of butter in a bowl or shallow dish.  (I melt it in the bowl I used as a pestle for the corn flakes; I’m all about fewer dirty dishes!)

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Next, set up your assembly line!

I intentionally use thin-sliced chicken for this recipe because I like the corn flake-to-chicken ratio to be as high as possible.  I’ve tried it with larger chicken breasts, and it just isn’t as good!  I’ve stopped buying thin-sliced for everything else, to save money, but this one is worth the higher price.

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Dip (and submerge) each piece of chicken into the butter.

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Coat it with the corn flake mixture.  (I roll it around a few times, then pile corn flakes on top of each side and press them into the chicken to get as much as possible to stick!)

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Arrange the coated chicken in the baking dish.

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Once they’re arranged, I sprinkle any remaining corn flakes over the whole dish, and pour a little bit of the leftover butter in for good measure (I love butter…).

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Pop it in the oven, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

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Done!

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Delicious golden goodness…

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Corn Flake Chicken

  • 1 lb thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • 2 cups corn flakes, ground
  • ½ Tbsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix corn flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in shallow dish.
  3. Dip chicken in butter, then coat in corn flake mixture.
  4. Arrange coated chicken in baking dish.
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

 


Dinosaur Meat (or, Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes).

The year my husband and I got engaged, we flew to California to spend Christmas vacation with his immediate and extended family.  It was the first time he’d brought me home, and I got lots of stories from his childhood.  One of my favorites was that when he was young, he believed for years (the first time my mother-in-law told the story, I think it was until he was ten; he gets older every time she tells it! 😉 ) that this particular meal was made of actual dinosaur meat.  (He defends his younger self by reasoning that he’d heard of mammoths and such being found relatively intact, preserved in ice.  Why not dinosaurs, too?  And why wouldn’t they sell the meat to grocery stores?  Why would parents lie about such a thing?  Aw, he was so trusting.)

So, we call this meal “Dinosaur Meat” in our house.  (It’s actually corned beef and cabbage with potatoes.)

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes.

We make it every year for St. Patrick’s Day, and a couple other times just for fun.  It’s an easy crockpot meal, and it smells soooo gooooood.

Seriously.  Half the time, I make it just so I can smell it cooking all day.  I don’t actually like corned beef (super picky eater here; I make this one for the hubby), but I love the way it smells.  So. Good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • Slab of corned beef, with seasoning (mine was a little over two and a half pounds)
  • Head of cabbage
  • 6-8 red potatoes

And, of course, you’ll need a crockpot.  And I like to use these slow cooker liners to cut down on clean-up, but–fair warning–they end up leaking once every three or four times I use them.  Like this time.  Which is why the first half of the pictures show a liner, and the second half don’t (it leaked so badly this time that I just pulled the liner out from under the cooking meat).  But they do help the other sixty-six to seventy-five percent of the time….

Quarter potatoes.

Quarter potatoes.

First, wash and quarter the red potatoes.

I am the master of making things fit.  (You should see me pack a suitcase.)

I am the master of making things fit. (You should see me pack a suitcase.)

Begin arranging potatoes in the crockpot.

Of course you can just dump the meat and potatoes in the crockpot any which way, but I prefer to fit as much in there as is physically possible.  I always arrange a ring of potatoes around the bottom before I put the meat in.

Add meat.

Add meat.

Add the meat.  (See how nicely those potatoes cradle the meat?  No wasted space!)

Add rest of potatoes.

Add rest of potatoes.

Add the rest of the potatoes.

This is why we buy corned beef.

This is why we buy corned beef.

This is the packet of seasoning included with store-bought corned beef.  This is what makes it smell so heavenly.

Sprinkle seasoning.

Sprinkle seasoning.

Sprinkle the seasoning over the meat and potatoes.

Cover with water.

Cover with water.

Add enough water to fully cover the meat and potatoes.

Turn it on.....this is an important step.

Turn it on…..this is an important step.

Cook it on high for 6-8 hours.  You’ll want to flip the meat over every once in a while, but otherwise, just sit back and enjoy that wonderful smell wafting through your house.  (I don’t even know what it is in that packet that makes it smell so good….it just does…..mmmmmm……)

When you get to 1-2 hours from the end…

Eighth cabbage.  Quarter, then halve?  Halve, halve, halve?  Whatever, you want eight chunks.

Eighth cabbage. Quarter, then halve? Halve, halve, halve? Whatever, I like it in eight chunks.

…wash and cut your cabbage to add.  I like to cut it into eight chunks; it fits better into the crockpot that way, and the pieces are more manageable.

Add cabbage.

Add cabbage.

Add the cabbage to the crockpot.  Add more water as necessary.

Hey, where'd that liner go?  Did you even notice?

Hey, where’d that liner go? Did you even notice?

I check it every so often to make sure it’s all mostly submerged, and stir it around a bit to cook more evenly.

Done!

Done!

The potatoes and cabbage will be nice and soft by the time it’s done, and the meat should be fairly easy to pull apart.

Please ignore the dirty dishes on the counter.  (I have children.  We make memories.)

Please ignore the dirty dishes on the counter. (I have children. We make memories.)

I make my husband handle the corned beef, because I don’t like meat.  He fishes it out of the crockpot and uses forks to shred it in a bowl or in the container we’ll put the leftovers in.

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…and he samples it repeatedly, until I forcibly pry the forks from his fingers and push him away from the counter so I can take another picture before dishing our servings.

Shredded.

Shredded.

He claims that the larger grain of the meat was one of the reasons he believed his parents about it being dinosaur meat.  Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Dinosaur meat!  And some other stuff.

Dinosaur meat! And some other stuff.

We told Kaylie, our three-year-old, we were pretending it was dinosaur meat, and then somehow the cabbage got renamed “alien brains”, too, so now this meal is just really weird.  (Any suggestions on what we should call the potatoes?)

Dinosaur meat, alien brains, and potatoes.  One of these things is not like the others...

Dinosaur meat, alien brains, and potatoes. One of these things is not like the others…

For your cut-and-paste convenience:

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes

  • 1 slab corned beef, with seasoning packet
  • 1 head cabbage, quartered
  • 6-8 red potatoes, quartered
  1. Arrange meat, seasoning, and potatoes in crockpot.  Cover with water.
  2. Cook on high for 6-8 hours.
  3. Add cabbage for last 1-2 hours of cook time.

And that’s how we make dinosaur meat!  Enjoy. 🙂


Pesto Cream Pasta.

Confession: When it comes to cooking, I like to cheat.

There are some things that are better made from scratch (like pizza dough), but if I can take a shortcut by using something pre-made, or dried instead of fresh (I killed all my herb plants), I tend to do it.  It’s easier, and often cheaper, and those are things I value more highly than making a dish taste marginally better by sticking to a complicated or labor-intensive recipe.

I still remember the day I discovered The Pioneer Woman.  I was still in the “PIN ALL THE THINGS!!” phase of my Pinterest relationship, and I admit I went a little nuts.  I even went so far as to print off several pages of cut-and-paste recipes gleaned from her website, some of which I managed to maintain the momentum to actually try within the week.  One of those was her Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce.

Pesto Cream Pasta.

Pesto Cream Pasta.

I love pasta alfredo, but my hubby finds it too plain, so the pesto in this dish gives it that extra kick of flavor.

I’m sure it’s better her way.  But making pesto from scratch?  Fresh basil is pricey, and homegrown, in my house, is, well, dead.  (Seriously.  Black thumb here.)  And pine nuts?  I think that was the deciding factor in going with jarred pesto instead of attempting to make it myself, because I have no idea what aisle the pine nuts are in at the grocery store.  (And I really am lazy enough for that to scare me away.)  So I cheated.

I’m glad I did.  Simpler works better for me, and this dish is still really good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 8-12 oz pasta (we like veggie pasta)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto

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Cook pasta according to package directions.  (I went with about 8 0z this night–for me, the amount depends on whether this is the main course or a side.)

Most things that start with butter and heavy cream end well.

Most things that start with butter and heavy cream end well.

While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and heavy cream over medium-low heat.

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(I get so bored waiting for things to melt or boil.  Not a patient person.)

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Once the butter has melted, add the pesto and parmesan.

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Stir to mix.

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When the pasta’s done…

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…drain it.

You know how when you make a sauce, and then pour it over something, there’s always quite a bit remaining, clinging to the sides and bottom of the saucepan and refusing to drip out at a reasonable rate?  (Again, not a patient person.)  There are two ways around this: either dump the pasta into the sauce (instead of the sauce onto the pasta), or…

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Dump two-thirds of the pasta back into the pot it cooked in (or into a serving dish), and pour the sauce over it.  Dump the remaining third of pasta into the sauce pot, stir to coat…

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…add it to the rest of the pasta and sauce.   No sauce wasted!

Pouring the pasta into the sauce is simpler, but I always end up cooking the pasta in the bigger saucepan and the sauce in the smaller one, and I’ve learned the messy way that there is not room to stir the pasta and sauce in the small one.

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And there you go!  Easy pasta, but not alfredo-boring.  I love it!

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

  • 8-12 oz pasta
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add pesto and parmesan; stir.
  4. Toss pasta in pesto cream sauce.

Enjoy!  (And if you have time to try it the “real” way, I’d love to hear from you how they compare!)

 


Lazy Chicken Dinner.

Confession: This is a lazy post.

Arrange two chicken breasts, two largish quartered new potatoes, and heaps of green beans in 8x8 baking dish; top with packet of Italian dressing mix and half stick of melted butter; cover with foil and bake 45 minutes at 350.

Arrange two chicken breasts, two largish quartered new potatoes, and heaps of green beans in 8×8 baking dish; top with packet of Italian dressing mix and half stick of melted butter; cover with foil and bake 45 minutes at 350.

Not only is this a super easy dinner idea, but it isn’t even mine.

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve undoubtedly seen this pin:

Seen this pin?  "4-6 raw chicken breasts, new potatoes, green beans (fresh or canned-really any green veggie would work. Broccoli is good, too). Arrange in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian dressing mix and then top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour."

Look familiar?

It’s usually accompanied by something along the lines of:

“4-6 raw chicken breasts, new potatoes, green beans (fresh or canned-really any green veggie would work. Broccoli is good, too). Arrange in 9×13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian dressing mix and then top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.”

Every pin I’ve seen of this image either leads to a broken link or to a page that, like mine, cites “Pinterest” as the recipe source; I got more of the same when I tried to Google-search the image.  Honestly, I feel kind of bad for whoever first pinned this, because their blog traffic should have been outrageous due to the popularity of the pin.  But no one seems to know where it came from!

Anyhow, I decided to give it a try last week.  And it’s a winner.  (Made it again already.)

I’m an incredibly picky eater (unless it’s chocolate, I mostly like only white and yellow foods–pasta, bread, cheese pizza, corn, popcorn, etc.–and I don’t like the taste of meat), but this dish is surprisingly good.  I can eat all elements of it, and that’s rare for me.  Add to that that it’s a one-dish wonder, with maybe five minutes of prep?  SCORE.

All you need are five ingredients:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • Chicken breasts
  • Green beans
  • New potatoes
  • Italian dressing mix
  • Butter

These are staples in my fridge and pantry, so there’s no shopping involved.  So easy.

Arrange chicken, new potatoes, and green beans in baking dish.

Arrange chicken, new potatoes, and green beans in baking dish.

I don’t eat much meat, and my almost-three-year-old is a light eater as well, so I use only two chicken breasts, two largish quartered red potatoes, and as many green beans as I can fit (we looooove green beans in this house–hence the five-pound can), arranged in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.

Sprinkle with Italian dressing mix packet.

Sprinkle with Italian dressing mix packet.

Although I basically halve the other quantities suggested, I still use the entire Italian dressing mix packet (I tried about 3/4 of the packet the first time, and the hubby suggested it could have used more seasoning; full packet was perfect!).

Top with melted butter.

Top with melted butter.

I top with half a stick of melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

With my smaller portions, we found that the chicken was too dry after baking for an hour, so I went with 45 minutes this time, and it came out perfectly juicy.

Done!

Done!

And that’s it.

Delicious dinner from items I keep stocked anyway and with almost no work?  Yes, please!

Delicious full dinner–meat, veggies, and carbs–from items I keep stocked anyway and with almost no work? Yes, please!

This lazy chicken dinner is now in my regular rotation.  Love it!  (Thank you, anonymous person on the internet, for this wonderfully simple recipe!)


Cheesy Chicken Packets.

Cheesy Chicken Packets

Cheesy Chicken Packets

This is one of my all-time favorite go-to recipes.  We typically eat it at least once a week.  It’s quick and easy, and I always have all the ingredients stocked except for the crescent rolls.

You’ve probably seen similar versions on Pinterest and elsewhere.  This one is my own combination of primarily this version and a friend’s cheesy chicken casserole recipe.  I haven’t tried any other versions, but this idea is very customizable, so play around with it!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 5-6 oz cooked chicken (you can buy a 5 oz can, or split a 12.5 oz can into two servings like I do)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350.

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Drain the can of cooked chicken (and divide into two portions, if using a large can).  Dump the chicken into a medium-sized bowl.

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I usually shred the chicken with my fingers, but you can leave it in larger chunks if you prefer.  I don’t really like the taste of meat, so my goal is to help that chicken hide in all the cheese.

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Add the cheddar and the milk to the bowl of chicken.  (That’s a 1/2 tablespoon pictured, because all my tablespoons seem to have disappeared from my kitchen.  Drat.  But use a whole tablespoon.)

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Mix well.

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Open the package of crescent rolls and unroll them into four rectangles; lay them flat on a greased cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together to prevent gaps.

(If you are doubling the recipe or using a smaller cookie sheet, you could alternatively form each packet one by one on a plate and arrange them on the cookie sheet once they’re filled and sealed.)

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Spoon gobs of cheesy chicken goodness onto one half of each rectangle.

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Leave room around the edges of each pile.

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Fold each rectangle over the filling and press the edges together to seal it.  Use your fingers to flatten each packet a little bit as you go.

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All sealed shut!  I like to rearrange mine to line up all pretty, but that’s just me.

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Microwave the butter in a small bowl to melt it.

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Like so.

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Brush each packet thoroughly with the melted butter.

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Sprinkle each packet liberally with bread crumbs.  I recommend using lots.

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Ready to bake!

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Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the packets are golden-brown.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 18

Like so.

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Mmmm!  Ready to eat!

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Enjoy!  I’d love to hear your variations on the packet idea!

Here’s the recipe, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Cheesy Chicken Packets

  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 1 can (5 oz) cooked chicken (or half of a 12.5 oz can)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Unroll crescent rolls and divide into four rectangles on cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together.
  3. In bowl, mix chicken (pulled into smaller pieces, if desired), cheddar, and milk.
  4. Spoon chicken mixture onto one half of each rectangle.  Fold rectangle in half to cover chicken mixture and press edges to seal shut.
  5. Brush packets with butter and coat liberally with bread crumbs.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown).