January 2012 Southern Living Cover

My daughter is home from college for the holidays and I for one am thrilled. She has always been a big help around the house, but then I need it when she is home, as she is also a mess! One thing is certain, she has my genes, and loves to cook and eat! She saw the cover of January’s Southern Living Magazine on the coffee table, King Ranch Chicken, and announced right away that we must make the cover dish. Yesterday, while she was out running errands, I surprised her by doing so.  I did make a few healthier adaptations to the recipe, as I try to cook with fresh ingredients as much as possible. The recipe calls for Velveeta and a can of cream of chicken soup, neither one of those ingredients are something I normally buy or cook with.  I substituted Philadelphia Neufchatel Cream Cheese, and a can of Healthy Request Cream of Chicken soup. I also used San Marzano canned tomatoes and green chili’s which I diced.

King Ranch Chicken for Caroline

The result was a macaroni dish that was extremely creamy, cheesy, and was crowd pleaser with the young adults that dropped by for dinner. It was not as spicy as I expected, probably due to all the cheese, sour cream, and condensed soup. I used four chicken breasts, so it was a substantial dish.  It was easy to put together, and was baked and served in a cast iron skillet. I am a sucker for cast iron, especially Lodge brand, so if you are in the market, check them out here. This dish is not for the faint of heart, so I suggest a brisk walk after dinner! I also paired it with a fresh arugula salad tossed with toasted pine nuts, picked by my friends at Dragonfly Farms. You can find their wonderful produce selections at The Seaside Farmers Market, in Seaside on Saturday’s 9am-12pm, and they will be open tomorrow for Christmas Eve. You can also contact the owners Charles Bush and Shueh-Mei Pong directly at the information below. Merry Christmas Y’all!

Address: 1600 County Hwy 192
Defuniak Springs, FL 32433
Call ahead: 850-259-3739 (cell)
850-859-2854 (farm)
Email: dragonfly1600@embarqmail.com

The Recipe:

King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Southern Living January 2012 Issue

Serves 6


  • 16 oz. pkg pasta cooked al dente (I used macaroni)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10 oz. ) can diced tomatoes and green chiles. You can use Rotel, I had a can of green chilis and a can of San Marzano tomatoes which I diced.
  • 1 (8 oz.) Velveeta, cubed, I used Philadelphia brand Neufatchel Cream Cheese
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken, or four chicken breasts
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup, I used Healthy Request
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion and bell pepper, and saute 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and cubed Velveeta (or Cream Cheese); cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Stir in chicken, next four ingredients, and hot cooked pasta until blended.  Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 11 x 7 inch baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
King Ranch Chicken with Dragonfly Farms Arugula

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