Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Baked cheesy mushroom tomato chicken

I know it's been quite a while since I shared a casserole recipe with you guys, but I promise this one is worth the wait.  Here's hoping you're more patient than me, though I won't judge harshly if you're not :)

If there's one surefire way to tell that fall is just around the corner, just take a look at food blogs and Pinterest.  Everything pumpkin and casseroles for miles.  And, you know what?  It couldn't have happened a moment sooner.

Our kitchen happens to be tucked away in the back of our apartment and doesn't have the best air flow, so I've spent the summer shying away from the oven when possible, whipping up quick stove-top and no-cook dinners. 

That being said, when a certain someone decides that she wants cupcakes, she's going to bake cupcakes, hot weather be damned!  Even if it means chugging ice water, occasionally splashing some on her face, and insisting to her husband that there is no way the A/C is really on.

While cupcakes only require a hot oven for 20 minutes or so, casseroles tend to take a bit longer, so they've been off the table (pun not initially intended but see what I did there?) for a few months.  Every so often I'll get an idea for or spot a stick-to-your-ribs recipe and get soveryexcited! only to file it away for cooler times.  Why is that when you know you can't have something you want it even more?  The worst, I tell you.  The worst!

Mother Nature must've felt particularly sympathetic to my cause because she decided to take a literal chill pill last week.  I wasted no time and fired up the oven and made the perfect casserole to transition from summer to fall: baked cheesy mushroom tomato chicken!

Juicy chicken breasts that have been marinating in balsamic vinegar, garlic and herbs are topped with mushrooms, sliced Roma tomatoes, lots of freshly grated mozzarella cheese, and baked until you can't possibly wait any longer to dig in.

I'd been looking forward to this dish for what seems like forever, and it still managed to make me do that eyes-closed-at-first-bite-because-it's-so-good thing.  The sweet balsamic vinegar, tender chicken, and mushrooms that are the ultimate flavor sponges.  And the cheese, good gracious.  I may or may not have tried to scoop up more than my share of the cheesy tomato-mushroom topping.  Would've gotta away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that husband of mine.

This is a fantastic dinner to savor the last gifts of summer gardens and usher in the cooler (and drier - hallelujah!) air of autumn.  You know, something to hold you over until the pumpkin bender begins.

One year ago: Garlic roasted cabbage
Two years ago: Apple & raisin scones
Three years ago: My favorite lasagna
Four years ago: Slow cooker beef roast with mushrooms & potatoes

Cheesy Mushroom Tomato Chicken
(adapted slightly from Brown Eyed Baker's recipe)

10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skineless chicken breasts
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil, to garnish
Toast or crusty bread, for serving

In a large glass 2-cup measure, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Divide between two large resealable plastic bags; add mushrooms to one and chicken breasts to the other.  Carefully seal bags, toss to coat and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray.  In one layer, arrange chicken breasts in dish and top with drained mushrooms, discarding both marinades.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and sprinkle cheese on top.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil, if desired, and serve with garlic bread or crusty bread.  Enjoy!

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