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Chicken Florentine Casserole is a quick solution for a weeknight meal. / Photo by Anne Braly

There's just something so comforting and easy about a dish that's almost a one-pot meal, so I'm always on the lookout for one that sounds good and has ingredients that I can usually find in my pantry. It's particularly good when you're in a last-minute rush since this one can be put together to feed the family in no time if you have leftover chicken on hand.

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Anne Braly

The recipe appeared in my inbox from Taste of Home and immediately caught my eye because it uses leftover chicken, frozen creamed spinach and pasta — all those things that make a good, easy casserole.

I also read the reviews and most were very positive, but there was one that read: "You couldn't call it cooking if it has canned soup in it." I beg to differ with this reviewer because, in my opinion, if you go to the trouble to cook a chicken, boil pasta, mix everything together and bake it, that is cooking. Granted, it may not be gourmet fare, but if you've gone to the trouble to bake a dish and bring your family together at the dinner table, that's cooking.

So if you're looking for something easy, filling and delicious to cook — yes, cook — for dinner tonight and have the time to boil a chicken or maybe have some leftover chicken, this casserole fits the bill. To make matters easier, grab a rotisserie chicken on your way home, pluck off the meat and start cooking. The recipe makes plenty, so you'll have enough for leftovers to take to the office or pack in your child's lunchbox with some fresh fruit the next day.

 

Chicken Florentine Casserole

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1 package (10 ounces) frozen creamed spinach, thawed

3/4-1 cup mayonnaise (see note)

1/4 cup loosely packed minced fresh basil

1 (4.5-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained (optional)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine chicken, soup, cheese, spinach, mayonnaise, basil, mushrooms, garlic powder, thyme and pepper.

Drain macaroni; gently stir into chicken mixture. Transfer to an ungreased 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Toss bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and bread crumbs are crispy and golden brown.

Note: Start out using 1/2 cup mayonnaise. If mixture seems a little dry, add more as needed.

Serving suggestion: Crispy garlic bread and a fruit salad are all you need to complete a deliciously simple midweek home-cooked meal.

 

CONGRATS IN ORDER

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro, located at Dancing Bear Resort in Townsend, Tennessee, has just been named one of the Top 25 Most Romantic Restaurants in the Country by TripAdvisor and has also received mention in several categories of OpenTable's 2019 Diners' Choice Awards recognizing the best restaurants in Knoxville and East Tennessee.

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro is owned by Mark Oldham, a graduate of McCallie School, and his wife, Sharon Oldham. The couple previously owned the StoneFort Inn — now Dwell Hotel — and Terra Mae Appalachian Bistro — now Matilda Midnight — in downtown Chattanooga. Shelley Cooper is the executive chef at Dancing Bear, and she was also the chef at Terra Mae for several years before following the Oldhams to the Smoky Mountains. The restaurant operates on the grounds of the Dancing Bear Lodge, which offers hotel-like amenities in accommodations that include rustic cabins and modern villas.

I've been to Dancing Bear Lodge and dined at Appalachian Bistro and wholeheartedly agree with every award the restaurant has been given. If you dined at Terra Mae in the past and have been wondering where you can once again experience Cooper's culinary creativity, make reservations for dinner and enjoy a getaway to this resort located at the gateway to the Smokies. It's at 7140 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend, just a few miles from the entrance to Cade's Cove. For reservations, call 865-336-2138 or visit dancingbearlodge.com and make reservations for dinner and/or an overnight stay.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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