Christmas is, of course, a time filled with family, traditions, and food. Both sides of my family was all about big gatherings and huge meals. For my mom’s side of the family, this has always included my grandma Clara Lou (Peters) Stewart’s famous Buckeye Candy. While I’ve tweaked her recipe to be less … how do I say this … teeth decaying & sugary, her tradition is still passed down each year and everyone looks forward to candy making time at our house.
There is also another piece of the Stewarts floating around that I decided to incorporate into a Christmas Eve tradition – their Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole. It’s really one of the simplest (and cheapest) recipes I know of, if not the most unique. I don’t know where they found the recipe, or if they created it on their own, but it was one of my personal favorites and on the few rare occasions I went down to eat at their house by myself, this is what I requested. We lost grandpa Stewart on December 23, 2006, and his mom, Rose May (Jones) Stewart Hochmuth, on December 29, 1999, so the holiday season is a tad bittersweet. Today though, I felt connected to them again. The same flavors, the same smells drifting in from the kitchen…
I don’t really know what it is about this casserole. Perhaps it’s that we all grew up with Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, so it’s especially familiar and takes us back to the flavors of our childhood. Or maybe it’s the salty, crunchy topping juxtaposed against the soft noodle insides. It’s simple, it’s homey and warming though… everything a casserole should be. When my husband went away to basic training, this is the dish he missed most of all and wrote me letters about – yes, letters, plural. It was the one thing that I made sure to have ready when he came home. Yesterday when I mixed this up, he was there standing over my shoulder, all antsy-pants about having to wait for it to set and absorb the flavors overnight. So yesterday, we went to see Star Wars and then came home to have this casserole. Between two of us, it was gone in ten minutes flat – no lie.
From my family to yours, here’s the recipe…..
Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole
via Archie & Clara Lou Stewart
2 cans of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup
1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken
5 pieces of bread, crusts removed and cut into small cubes
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed and divided
1 cup of shredded, cooked chicken (optional)
pats of butter
salt/pepper, to taste
In a bowl, stir together gently the soups. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add half the sleeve of crushed crackers and the small diced bread cubes. Add chicken if using. Stir again gently and place into a greased loaf pan. Spread the remaining crushed crackers on top and then add a few pats of butter on top of the crackers. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and the crackers/bread to soak up the soup.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Can be served over mashed potatoes if desired for a fuller meal.