Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Ideas for the Masses

At some point during every holiday season, it's inevitable that you are stumped on what to give to a group of people. A child's multiple school teachers, the staff at the doggie day care, neighbors on your block or coworkers. For me, it's always our building staff. We live in an amazing high rise that is what it is because of the people who staff it. The team does so many things for us throughout the year, and while I wish that I could financially thank each and every person on the team, from the multiple doormen to the concierge personnel, we aren't at that point in our lives to be able to do that. That doesn't mean we can't give back, though, and show a little holiday love.

For the past few years, we have put together a big gift basket for the staff to enjoy, no matter what hour or shift they might be on duty. Store-bought pretzels, popcorn, crackers and chips rounded out a basket of homemade sweets, packaged all up with a pretty bow on top. We heard from the team multiple times how much they always enjoy the snacks (especially the overnight guys!).

This year, I was pulling together group gift ideas for both the building and my new team at work, and decided that in lieu of the snack attack, I would make a big meal for everyone in both groups to enjoy. I chose a casserole favorite of mine that I first posted about here way back in '09. Since then, I have tweaked the recipe and have learned that it is a super easy recipe to double, triple or more. The team at work could have theirs with an easy Mexi-salad, while we delivered the other one to the condo staff with a few bags of tortilla chips and salsa. Whether they snack on it for brunch, lunch, dinner or "fourth meal," I hope that they enjoy it :)

Here is my amended recipe. After making it again for this holiday round, I have amended it one last time, adding in some additional enchilada sauce to the top to help keep things moist -- this is especially clutch if you are making the recipe in bulk, since each dish will need to be reheated.

I think and hope that you will agree, this is a great weeknight comfort (light!) food that doesn't take long to make! Nom Nom Nom and Ho Ho Ho!!

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Amended from Cooking Light, November 2008
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided 
  • 1/3 cup skim milk 
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn 
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 (10-ounce) cans red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso), your choice of spice level (Medium is great)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream 
  • Taco sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine 1/2 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until set.

Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour one can of enchilada sauce over top. Mix chicken with second can of sauce, and pour mixture over cornbread layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream and taco sauce, if desired.

Tips from Katherine: If making in large scale, it's easiest to shred the chicken in a food processor. Also, if you are making this to take over for a new mom, you may want to drop down the spice factor by reducing the chiles and red pepper and choosing Mild flavor sauce. Or do what I did and accidentally make it with Medium sauce, and cause slight nursing trauma for that mom's new baby. Whoops ;)