February 24, 2014

With a little help from the grocery store, you can transform boring chicken into a dinner your family will love. Not only is store-bought rotisserie chicken juicy and delicious, it's also healthful and budget-friendly.

The next time you're in a hurry to get dinner on the table, take a shortcut to the grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken and save yourself some time. One rotisserie chicken means an endless array of mealtime ideas and dinner in a flash.

Chicken Cacciatore

There's nothing like the classic flavor of chicken cacciatore. This cozy dish typically simmers all day in a Dutch oven, but by substituting rotisserie chicken for a whole chicken, it can be served any day of the week. Carla Fitzgerald Williams devoted an entire cookbook to using rotisserie chickens to simplify her cooking.

Spice Blend:

2 tablespoons dried Italian herb seasoning, crumbled between the fingers

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

1 large green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 (8 oz) package sliced mushrooms (about 2½ cups)

1 tablespoon jarred minced garlic

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes in puree

1/2 cup fat-free less-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 bay leaves

1 rotisserie chicken, cut into serving pieces

12 oz spaghetti, cooked according to package directions and kept warm

Make the spice blend: Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the sauce: Lightly coat a Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Add the oil and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is clear and the pepper is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic spice blend, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the tomatoes, broth, wine, and bay leaves. Stir well and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add the chicken, turn the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the mixture thickens and is heated through, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the bay leaves. Spoon the sauce over the spaghetti, place the chicken pieces on top, and serve immediately.

BBQ Chicken Tacos

Tacos are easy to make and fun to eat. Put a spin on tacos by swapping ground beef for chicken and barbecue sauce and lime juice for salsa.

2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken meat

1/3 cup barbecue sauce

1½ cups fresh corn kernels (1/2 cup per ear) *frozen corn can also be used

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

3 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

In large bowl, stir together chicken, barbecue sauce, corn, tomatoes, and lime juice.

Just before serving tacos, place stack of tortillas between paper towels on microwave-safe plate; heat in microwave on High 10 to 15 seconds to warm.

To serve, divide lettuce and chicken mixture among tortillas; fold over to eat out of hand. Serve each with a dollop of sour cream.

Broccoli and Rice Casserole

Cooking Light has a way to lighten up a dinnertime favorite. Broccoli and rice casserole can be served as the main dish with the addition of chicken.

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

1 cup water

1 (3½ oz) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice

3 cups small broccoli florets

cooking spray

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/4 cup (2 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

2 oz light processed cheese, cubed

2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup (1 oz) grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine milk and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add rice; cook 10 minutes. Remove rice; keep warm. Return milk mixture to a simmer. Add broccoli; cook 5 minutes. Drain; discard milk mixture.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add cream cheese and processed cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in rice, broccoli, chicken, salt, and black pepper. Spoon 1 cup rice mixture into each of 4 (10 oz) ramekins coated with cooking spray (or spread layer into greased casserole dish and increase baking time accordingly, 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

Spinach and Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll-ups

Lasagna roll-ups are an impressive dinner to serve. See if your family or guests can detect the secret ingredient (a pinch of nutmeg) in the filling.

Give yourself a break by using rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken yourself.

8 lasagna noodles, cooked, tossed with 2 tablespoons oil, to prevent sticking

3 tablespoons butter or 3 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach (cooked according to package directions then hand-squeezed dry)

2 cups cooked chicken, finely chopped

3 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon seasoning salt (or to taste, or use 1/2 teaspoon white salt)

1 small egg, slightly beaten

1 pinch nutmeg (use very small pinch!)

black pepper (to taste)

2½ cups prepared Alfredo sauce

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11x7-inch or a 13x9-inch baking dish.

In a skillet melt butter over medium heat; add in the onions and saute stirring with wooden spoon for about 8 minutes or until lightly golden brown (adding in the garlic the last 2 minutes of cooking). Add in drained spinach and saute for 2 minutes more mixing with a wooden spoon; transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add in the cooked chicken, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, seasoned salt, egg and pinch nutmeg; mix with wooden spoon until well-combined, then season with black pepper to taste. Place the cooked noodles on a wax-paper-lined flat surface. Evenly divide the ricotta mixture into eight scoops onto a plate. Spread about half of the Alfredo sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread one scoop onto one cooked lasagna noodle, then spread out with a spoon to cover the noodle completely. Roll up starting at the short end. Place seam side down on top of the sauce. Repeat same method with remaining seven noodles. Sprinkle about 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or to taste) on top of the noodles, then drizzle the remaining Alfredo sauce on top. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.