Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

King Ranch Chicken's origins may be disputed, but no one debates the flavor of this healthy, comforting dish

For 12 long years it was one of my treasured connections to the Lone Star State. During that dozen years of Eastward wandering, Hubby and I were privileged to live in two of the beauty spots of the U.S.--Nashville, TN, and Richmond, VA. We loved soaking up all that was a part of those two interesting cities, but the Green Grass of Home always beckoned. When those longings became palpable, I'd brew me up some King Ranch Chicken.

The origin of King Ranch Chicken is somewhat debatable, but no one disputes that this dish, named for the epic South Texas ranch that covers a gargantuan territory, is Texana at its finest. King Ranch Chicken is a soft, slightly spicy, cheesy mixture of tomatoes, tortillas, chicken, creamy sauce, and green peppers. It's the ultimate comfort food--especially when the comfort needed involves a taste of home.

The recipe I used during the years of our Eastward progression was from a First Place recipe book--First Place being the Christ-centered health program whose materials I was privileged to help launch when I worked in Nashville. This recipe collection was the first I encountered to start subbing healthy ingredients for this casserole that's synonymous with All Things Texan.

My October 2010 issue of Southern Living magazine featured King Ranch Chicken in a collection of simple slow-cooker recipes. I had never seen a slow-cooker adaptation for King Ranch Chicken, so I was eager to try to take it on, especially since it called for a generous portion of my garden-fresh green peppers that I knew would help spice it up.

In the year 2000 a gracious God allowed us to return to Texas for good. I believe I heard the bells of heaven ring out the day our four vanloads of belongings crossed that state line and we were able to settle back among our roots. I no longer need to cook King Ranch Chicken to ground me in Texana, but I still bask in that great flavor. This slow-cooker recipe bubbled in the crockpot overnight and with my garden's own green peppers added was a welcome reward the next morning so I could say "got-it-done" for that day's meal.

King Ranch Chicken

4 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup, low-sodium variety
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, low sodium variety
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
12 9-inch) fajita-sized tortillas
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese (I use cheese from 2-percent milk)

Stir together first 8 ingredients. Tear tortillas into 1-inch pieces; layer one-third of tortilla pieces in a lightly greased 6-quart slow cooker. Top with one-third of the chicken mixture and 2/3 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 hours or until bubbly and edges are golden brown. (I cooked mine overnight on low with no problem.) Uncover and cook on low 30 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

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