My local grocery store puts out a magazine a few times a year full of recipes and meal ideas. Of course, it’s promotional material, touting their proprietary brands and such, but no matter. I NEVER turn down free recipes!
One of them – a chicken and broccoli casserole topped with crushed cheese crackers – inspired this dinner. The bacon ranch twist was all my idea, because what isn’t improved by the addition of bacon??
Since the girls have moved out and moved on to independent life, I only have three palates to please anymore. Solves a lot of problems for me! But if they were still at home, I have no doubt they would have gladly eaten this without complaint. It was so much of a hit that the hubs took the entire leftover portion to work with him the next day – no lunch for me! 🙂
This easy, peasy bake begins with good old boneless skinless chicken breast. The original recipe called for tenders, but since it gets chunked anyway, I went for the breasts instead because they were $ 1.29 cheaper per pound for the same meat. Frugal is just the way I roll.
You could certainly use boneless skinless thighs as well. I may try using a combination of the two the next time I make this since the darker thigh meat stays moist and has a lot of flavor.
Cut the chicken into cubes about 1″ in size and toss them with the ranch seasoning mix.
Cut the chicken into 1″ cubes and toss with the ranch seasoning mix.
Now, we have to have a talk about bacon. We use it so much in our home that we buy it – and cook it – in 5 pound lots. Our preferred method is to bake it at 400 degrees F for about 10 mins. per side. It’s faster than frying in smaller batches and the house doesn’t smell like stale fried stuff for days. 🙂
Then it goes into the freezer. It’s easy to take out and thaw just a piece or two for breakfast or in a BLT. And the little crumbles at the bottom work well for sprinkling on fish or into salads. I used 4 slices for this bake and just crumbled them into the chicken mixture.
The broccoli was a steam-in-the-bag time saver, but this recipe doesn’t require it to be cooked prior to baking.
Simply thaw the frozen broccoli and coarsely chop it before mixing it with the chicken and bacon mixture.
Cheese is what brings the dish together. Literally. It’s the binding agent. The original recipe called for shredded Monterey Jack, but that isn’t quite as ‘zesty’ as I wanted this meal to be. So I swapped in pepper jack instead, scattering it over the chicken mixture in a baking dish coated with non-stick spray .
Then into a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes for the chicken to cook through and the cheese to get all ooey and gooey goodness. While the bake does its baking thing, it’s time for some fun with the cheese crackers!
The recipe I used as a basis for this meal actually bakes it with the crackers on top, but I decided I wanted them to retain their original crunch – much like a good crouton on a salad. So I topped the bake with the crackers in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
I went for the Cheez-It grooves Hot cheddar flavor to up the zesty-ness factor even more. You need about 1/4 of the box to yield about 1 C of crumbs, maybe slightly more. In the picture of my ingredients above, you can see them already in a zipper bag ready for the crushing.
Introduce the cheese crackers to the back of a big spoon, a rolling pin, or whatever you typically use to crush dry ingredients. My trusty crab mallet worked just fine.
The final verdict: this was a quick and easy dinner to pull together, and the spice level was pleasing.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement, even though there weren’t enough leftovers for two. As I mentioned above, I might try a combination of breasts and thighs next time. But the biggest change I think I’d make is to add some sort of sauce. Perhaps a basic white sauce with the cheese melted in? I think it would hold the dish together just a *bit* better as well as keep the chicken nice and moist.
Have you ever been inspired by a simple recipe to create a meal more to your taste? Tell us all about it below.
Until then, lovelies….live, cook, travel.
Zesty Chicken Bacon Broccoli Ranch Bake
- 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken, cubed into 1″ cubes
- 12 ozs frozen broccoli florets, thawed and coarsely chopped
- 1 envelope ranch dressing seasoning
- 1/4 of a (12.4 oz) box cheese crackers, crushed
- 1/2 C shredded pepper jack cheese
- 4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thaw broccoli and coarsely chop. Cut chicken into 1″ cubes and toss with ranch seasoning mix. Crush cheese crackers and set aside.
- Add broccoli and bacon to chicken and mix. Turn into greased baking dish and top with shredded cheese.
- Bake 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through, topping with crushed cheese crackers during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.