So after what should be our final frost-potential this past week, we finally planted our garden. (I like to act like we were smart enough to wait, but really we just couldn’t get to it before now). We probably went a little crazy in the gardening center and brought home more seed packets than we can actually fit in our beds and flowers that we really have no idea what to do with. But we are too stubborn to be told we don’t know what we’re doing, and even though this may be true we’ll at least give it a try, bad soil and all. We’ll see what survives.
I am most excited about (and most confident in) my little herb garden. I have been dreaming of having an herb garden for quite awhile now. I wanted one so badly last year, but our apartment faced a tiny courtyard and was shaded by trees and I was just sure we wouldn’t get enough sun. But now I have them boldly planted in a row. Rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley. And I cannot wait to use them.
But in the meantime let’s talk about something a little opposite of fresh herbs, and that would be casseroles. I know, a little unusual for us around here because, much the the chagrin of my mother as I was growing up, I hated casseroles. And even now, I really don’t like them too much. They’re too mysterious, too full of possibly bad potential that gets covered up by all that stuff out of jars. Really, just give me a piece of nicely baked chicken.
I understand their value in society though. I really do. They feed a lot of people. They can be made ahead of time. Between us, they can often be made pretty cheaply. So when I needed to come up with something to feed all those people who graced my house for Easter last week, something that I could make ahead of time and stick in the oven real quick when we got home from church, Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole, aka one of the three casseroles I like to eat (the other two being potato casserole and corn casserole, which really are more like side dishes), was the first thing that came to mind.
And sure, the filling is good (chopped up chicken mixed with cream soups and sour cream). But, like the soup last week, what really gets me is the bread aspect, which in this case is crushed saltine crackers soaked in melted butter. Oh those buttery saltines. And when they are mixed with the poppy seeds and almonds and spread out over the top and toasted perfectly in the oven, oh that topping is what I go for first every single time. In fact, I’ve amped it up a bit from the original recipe which only asks you to use 6 tablespoons of butter and half a package of saltines. I’m not sure what size casserole dish they were using, but I think it definitely needs more. Because really, the rich things in life and food are why were actually all here, right?
Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole
adapted from an old church cookbook
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of celery soup
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 sleeve saltine crackers
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Begin by cooking the chicken. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, until done. Let the chicken cool slightly, and then chop or shred it into small pieces.
3. In a large bowl combine chopped chicken, cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery soup, and sour cream. Mix well and then spread into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
4. In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. When the butter is melted, add almost the entire envelope of saltines (all but the last five or ten), crushing the saltines over the pan as you drop them in. Add the poppy seeds and almonds, stirring it all together.
5. Spread the cracker mixture over the casserole evenly.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly on top. Serve warm.