Weeknight Chicken Casserole
It seems logical to think that stopping somewhere on the way home and buying a pre-prepared dinner would be more expensive than making it at home. But by how much? And does it save you time?
I got a bug in my ear on this subject and decided to do a little research.
I went to the Boston Market website to make my comparison. Now, I’m not picking on Boston Market. They seem to have decent food offerings. They also have more than 500 locations and more than 14,000 employees, so they have to be doing some things right. I am using them for my comparison thinking many of you are familiar with the company.
I wanted to compare chicken dinner offerings. On the front page of their menu they feature a chicken dinner that includes a large piece of chicken including dark and white meat, some red skinned potatoes, a serving of green beans and a piece of cornbread. A pretty normal dinner.
So what does it cost for a family of four to buy this dinner at Boston Market? If you buy the “package deal” you get it for $37.37. If you were to buy it individually (so maybe not everyone would eat the same thing) it comes in at $10.92 per person or $43.68 for dinner for four.
My next stop was my grocery store. I live in Chicago, so it stands to reason that maybe the food here is a bit more expensive than where you live. So let’s factor that into the equation. I priced out four options for my chicken. In the deli they have the pre-prepared rotisserie chickens. They are $6.98 each. They are sort of small, so to feed four I’d probably buy two. If you go to the fresh chicken section, a six-pound chicken will run you $14.00. That will definitely feed four. And if you buy your chicken cut up, enough to feed four will run you $11.
Let’s go to produce. One pound of green beans will run $1.75. That’s plenty. If you choose frozen beans they will run you two dollars.
The red potatoes are 75 cents a pound. If you buy three pounds you’ll feed four hungry people and might even have some left over.
With the cornbread I got lazy, so I found one in the bakery that was $4.50. You’ll get six sizable pieces from that choice, so a couple of pieces will be left over.
The most expensive options here add up to $22.50. So buying it and taking it home is about 60 percent more expensive. That’s a lot. But you might be saying… but I’ll save time!
Let’s look at that a bit more...
Weeknight Chicken Casserole
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We want our comfort food.
This dish incorporates cauliflower instead of pasta for the base. I have to tell you. I hate the smell of raw cauliflower. I hate the smell of steamed cauliflower. But put cauliflower instead of pasta and cover it in creamy cheese sauce, and I’m IN! BIG YUM!
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This dish can be made in several styles. Just pick your favorite meat rub for the seasoning and it can go from Mexican to Italian in an instant. I chose Cajun rub for mine and it had a nice zip. Great flavor.
Servings: Serves 4. Can be easily doubled.
4 cups of cauliflower bites. This will be about ¾ of a large cauliflower. Don’t have to be totally accurate on this measurement. Just make the pieces bite sized and enough to cover the base of your 9-by-9-inch ovenproof casserole.
2 Tbl of butter
1 package of chicken tenders
1 Tbl of your favorite meat rub. I used Cajun.
1 cup of frozen peas (peas are higher carb but in each portion you’ll only get a few)
For the sauce:
2 Tbl of butter
2 tsp of potato starch (Don’t let this scare you. Potato starch is low carb and makes a great sauce thickener)
2-1/2 cups of grated cheese. You can choose your favorite. I used a Colby/Jack combo. You could use Gruyere to make it more French. Use pepper jack for extra zip. Use cheddar to be neutral American. Any block cheese you can grate to make a sauce will work.
1-1/3 cups of whipping cream
¼ tsp of black pepper (or to taste)
¼ tsp of grated sea salt (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Get out your 9-by-9-inch casserole. Cover the bottom of the dish with your cauliflower; just to eyeball it and make sure you have enough.
In a saute pan, add the butter, melt it on medium and cook the chicken tenders until they are lightly browned and no pink remains in the middle. Then cut them into bite sized pieces. Toss with your chosen rub.
While the chicken is cooking you can make your sauce.
Use a medium sauce pan. Put in the butter and melt it on medium. Add the potato starch and stir it in. Add the whipping cream and three fourths of the grated cheese. Just eyeball it. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir regularly until cheese melts. When it’s all melty get out a large bowl. Put in the cauliflower, the peas, the chicken and the cheese sauce. Stir it all up. Then put it in the casserole dish.
Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake in your oven for approximately 40 minutes. Poke it with a fork to see if the cauliflower is done to your tastes. If you want it to have a bit of bite, it’s probably done. If you want it to be mushier like pasta, you might want to cook it a bit longer.
Let it sit out on your stove for about 10 minutes before you serve it, or you might burn your mouth.