Side Orders: You can make avocados an entree when you stuff them with chicken and cream cheese

Avocados stuffed with a cream cheese and chicken mixture, then topped with shredded cheddar and baked make a quick and delicious entree.
Avocados stuffed with a cream cheese and chicken mixture, then topped with shredded cheddar and baked make a quick and delicious entree.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's ever considered an avocado as anything more than a topping for a sandwich, burger or salad, and, of course, mashed up for guacamole. But have you ever considered serving an avocado as an entree?

Not too long ago, I found myself with some leftover rotisserie chicken, cream cheese about to go out of date and a windowsill lined with several avocados almost past their prime. After pondering a solution for a while, I gave up, grabbed my smartphone and began exploring. It didn't take long to find a slew of recipes using avocado as an ingredient, but most involved a trip to the grocery store, something I was trying to avoid.

photo Anne Braly

Chicken-stuffed avocados was the answer, using every ingredient I was trying to use up - chicken, cream cheese and avocados. The recipes I found called for mozzarella or parmesan cheese, but I also had some extra-sharp cheddar I'd shredded a week before. It needed using, too. So this dinner, which, by the way, was excellent, ended up employing all my leftovers.

The concept is simple: Cut an avocado in half, remove the seed and a little of the flesh to make an indention large enough to hold the stuffing, then pile on the chicken mixture, top with cheese and bake. The entire process, from inception to plate, takes no more than 20 minutes. And though any type of cheese will work, I would suggest a good sharp cheddar. It makes these avocados all the more flavorful.

Even my husband, who is normally not a fan of mixtures, raved about these into the following day.

Cheesy Chicken-Stuffed Avocados

4 medium-large avocados, halved and pitted, at room temperature

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 good pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheddar, or more to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out some of the flesh in the center of each avocado; place into mixing bowl. Add chicken, cream cheese, tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne, mixing well to combine. Scoop spoonfuls of chicken mixture into the wells of each avocado; top each with generous amount of cheddar cheese. Place avocado halves, face up, in muffin cups to stabilize, if needed. Bake avocados until cheese is melted and avocado is heated through, 8 to 10 minutes.

My wine pick

From time to time, I write about new wines on the market, and not too long ago, that prompted a reader to ask me what was my favorite wine. Easy: Robert Mondavi rum-barrel-aged merlot. For the past decade or so, I've had nothing but cabernet. That was, until I was looking for a good wine at Lakeside Liquors and was told to try the rum-barrel-aged merlot from Mondavi. At around $12 per bottle, I figured I could risk it. Now I buy nothing else. It's a light, extremely smooth wine that pairs well with so many good cheeses, fruits and most meats. Aging the wine in rum barrels produces a hint of rum flavor that doesn't overpower. You'll find this wine at most liquor stores, and I've found it at Food City too, but about $1.50 higher in price.

Easter prep

If you'd like some new ideas for your Easter table, join chef Jasa Joseph in Dalton, Georgia, next week for a cooking class. In "New Life for an Easter Dinner," scheduled 6-8 p.m. Monday, April 15, she will demonstrate how to make an appetizer, entree and dessert, with each course being a fresh take on traditional recipes. Cost is $50, which includes all materials and food. Class size is limited to 12 participants, ages 18 and older. To register, email or call 706-217-6677.

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