My "Bless Your Heart" Dish - Chicken Spectacular

“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness
and little things in between.”
~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

If you got a chance to listen to Jeanne Robertson's funny tale about her 7-Up Pound Cake, you heard her say that this cake is her traditional dish to carry to those in need. Most ladies down South have a particular "cradle-to-the-grave/bless your heart" dish that we take to our neighbors, friends, and relations to help them to celebrate the birth of a new baby, to recover from an illness, or to comfort them at times of loss.

When you go into a home to deliver your food offering, you can almost always tell what other neighbors and friends have been there before you, just by glancing at the dining room table. It will be laden with familiar bowls and casserole dishes, filled with each community member's specialty.

If you are new in town, be sure to come up with your own unique dish to carry on such occasions. There are two things a newbie must establish from the "get-go" in order to successfully acclimate into any given Southern town's society: which church pew can safely be set on without uprooting another family, who's had a claim staked on that seat since before the 1950's, and what dish isn't already being cooked and delivered to the needy on a regular basis.

Here's mine. Over the past few months, I've literally carried this dish to those joyously celebrating the arrival a brand new baby, to those recovering from surgery, and to family members grieving the loss of a dear loved one. I try to keep the ingredients on hand for at least two of these casseroles at all times. Because I keep chicken cooked and in the freezer, I can have this dish put together and ready to deliver in about an hour, including cooking time. Add a simple green salad and loaf of garlic bread for a complete meal!

Most folks really seem to like this casserole, and I am almost always asked for the recipe. There is one exception, a sweet little friend named Levi. I shared this recipe with his mother. The rest of Levi's family love this dish. Levi hates it! He's even given the dish my name! When he comes to the table and sees this casserole, he groans loudly and says, "Oh, no! It's Chicken Connie Casserole!!"

I have tried to redeem myself in his eyes by sending his mom other recipes I think he will like much better, but I am still afraid that I will forever be associated with a yucky chicken and green bean casserole in Levi's mind!

Chicken Spectacular

This casserole is hearty and very versitle, too. I've listed options below.

3 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 package Uncle Ben's Wild and White Rice, cooked according to package directions (Make rice extra savory by substituting chicken broth for the water)
1 can cream soup (can be chicken, mushroom, celery or onion)
1 med. size jar sliced pimiento(optional - adds pretty color especially at Christmas)
1 can French-style green beans, drained(optional - if your kids hate green beans!)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 - 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together then pour into a 3-quart baking dish that's been coated with cooking spray.

Bake about 25 to 30 minutes. Spread grated cheese over top, and return to oven long enough to melt cheese.


You can also make this using 1 pound of browned sausage instead of chicken. When I use sausage, I leave out the green beans.

For a great side dish, just leave out the meat!

One if the best thing about this casserole is that it is so easy to double the recipe. In the same amount of time it takes to make one, you can make two! When I make this for a friend, we almost always have it for our supper, too. This frees me up to deliver the dish and visit for a few minutes. Our supper is already done and waiting when I get home!

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