I love routines. Always have. There is comfort in knowing what to expect; and while some might find them boring, I care to disagree! I spent the first few years of college eating the same Raisin Bran breakfast in the dining hall every morning; I throw in a load of laundry at almost the exact same time every day; and I keep the same running checklist of daily chores to work through as I go about my afternoon. I have about a zillion routines that I perform without thinking at this point (like turning on the coffee pot as soon as I walk in the kitchen), but one habit in particular ranks highest on my list of priorities. Pulling a hot and cheesy King Ranch Chicken Casserole from the oven at 6:00 p.m., setting the table, and sitting down to a homemade dinner with the family is always one of the best parts of my day.
Even when the three-year-old is screaming because he wants Fudge Stripe cookies for supper and he hasn’t taken a nap in 6 months — this time of day brings us all together around the table.
Sure, there are plenty of evenings when Keith works late and I end up feeding the kids at 5:30 so that I can give them baths and put them to bed at a reasonable hour. We’re not the Cleavers from Leave it to Beaver, and our family dinners certainly include plenty of potty humor (we’re talking 3 boys here!), tears when someone doesn’t like what I serve, and antsy toddlers trying to get down from the table before we’re done.
But the routine of preparing a homemade supper — even when it’s as basic as this one dish King Ranch Chicken — and sitting down at the end of the day to enjoy it, brings a sense of calm to our otherwise chaotic household. No matter how many items are left unchecked on my “to do” list, and no matter how many times I lost my patience with the kids over the course of the day, I can find a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I managed to get a satisfying dinner on the table…one more time!
If you’re not familiar with King Ranch Chicken, it’s a classic Tex-Mex potluck favorite that includes Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with green chilies, chicken in a cream sauce, and plenty of cheese! I include layers of wholegrain corn tortillas here, as well as chopped bell pepper and onion, for a complete and satisfying meal. This one dish King Ranch Chicken Casserole is an easy dinner that only requires 10 minutes of prep, and it can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for a later date.
It’s a classic for a reason — and it just might become part of your dinner routine, too!
King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- 1 lb. cooked and diced chicken about 3 cups
- 1 10.5 ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup (NOT diluted) (I used Campbell’s Healthy Request)
- 1 10 ounce can tomatoes with green chilies (I used Mild Ro-Tel)
- 1 small green bell pepper finely diced
- 1 small onion diced
- 8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
- 8 corn tortillas
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together chicken, soup, tomatoes and chilies, bell pepper, and onion.
- Place four of the tortillas in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. I like to cut the tortillas in half so that it’s easier to cover the dish. It’s fine if they overlap some, too.
- Spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
- Repeat layers with remaining ingredients, finishing with cheese on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes (or until heated through and bubbly).
Note: This casserole can be prepared in advance and frozen before baking. If you’re cooking it frozen, you will need to increase the baking time to 45-60 minutes.