Invisible Chef Saves the Day- Mama Siena’s Tex Mex Chicken Hotdish and other Delights

This is a guest post from my good friend and author Ginnie Bivona who lives in Texas. She had been my editor and great inspiration for many years.. Down in Texas they call them casseroles, but we know of course the real name for this type of dish is Hotdish!  Enjoy


Lucky you. You just drew the black bean and now you’ve got to cook dinner for the entire family for somebody’s birthday or anniversary or whatever other reason… doesn’t matter. You are it.

It all started many thousands of years ago when Og and Ogette’s kids all grew up and moved into their own caves. Ogette got a little pensive, being alone and all, so Og had this great idea…”Let’s invite all the kids over for Mastodon Stew. That’ll be fun!”

And thus the tradition of the family gathering was written in stone, and has been so ever since. Now the plates are on your table.

Now listen to your chef…I am speaking from years of experience here…you don’t want to even think of planning a meal that requires even one second of last minute preparation. That’s why casseroles were invented in the first place. About all you want to do once the guests are due to arrive (even if you know your sister will be late…she always is) is to pour the dressing on the salad already prepared and sitting coolly in the fridge.

I just recently discovered this yummy casserole, and have already served it several times. Versions of it have been around forever. It’s delicious, easy to prepare, and can easily be made ready the night before. If you make it ahead, store it in a big bowl, and pat it out in the serving pan when it’s time to pop it in the oven.

Serve with a wild field greens salad tossed with pecan halves, green grapes halves and dressed with Marie’s No Fat Raspberry Salad Dressing. (No, they do not know I am saying that…I just happen to really like it!) Add fat slices of crusty hot bread and you are done!



Mama’s Tex-Mex Chicken Casserole


Casserole Ingredients:

4 cups Pepperidge Farm country style bread dressing (cubes, not crumbs)

2 cups diced cooked chicken

(cook chicken tenders or breasts in canned lo-fat chicken stock)

1 can (4.5 oz) diced mild green chilies, well drained

¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¾ cup diced red pepper

½ cup diced green onion

1 can Green Giant extra sweet corn, well drained



1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon Mama Siena’s Seasoned Salt (see recipe below)



1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


Mix casserole ingredients in a large bowl. It’s easiest if you use your hands. What the heck, if Julia Child can do it, so can you. Mix sauce ingredients and blend well into casserole mixture. Spread in a large casserole, cover with foil and bake in a 350° oven until bubbly in the middle…remove from the oven and top with the cheese, bake a few more minutes until the cheese is nicely melted. Serves 8 generously. Leftovers freeze well.

If you want your casserole to taste like my casserole do not go messing around with changing the ingredients. You hear me?


Mama Siena’s Seasoned Salt


1 – 8 oz. jar of Cavenders All Purpose Greek Seasoning

4 tablespoons chili powder

2 heaping teaspoons ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons ground oregano

4 teaspoons garlic powder

4 teaspoons paprika

Cayenne to taste

Mix all ingredients in a ziplock baggie. There…yer done. Put it in your biggest salt shaker, because you are going to use it on everything in sight. Potatoes, every way, scrambled eggs, veggies, meats, everything you would use salt on, use Mama Siena’s instead. Well, maybe not Ice Cream. But everything else.

Before you get started though, let me start with my favorite lecture. Always use fresh spices…I know, I know….you hate to waste the old stuff that has been on your shelf for years…but in cooking the old adage of “waste not” has new meaning. It’s waste not, taste not. You just cannot get good flavor out of old and flavorless spices. So go ahead, pitch ‘em and start fresh. You’ll be glad you did.


Here’s another great recipe for Mama Siena’s Seasoned Salt


Mama’s Deee-licious Party Pecans


1 pound (4 cups) pecan halves

6 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons Mama Siena’s Seasoned Salt


Toss the pecans with the melted butter, mix the seasoned salt with the brown sugar (smashing out all the lumps) and toss the buttered pecans until well coated. Pre-heat the oven to 350° and spread the pecans out on a foil covered cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbly and melted. Watch carefully, these can burn in a second. When they are done turn out on wax paper to cool and get crispy.

Whoo…these are soooo good! You are supposed to store ‘em in an airtight container, but I have never had them last long enough to do that. Put them in that salad you are going to serve, or just in a small dish and watch them disappear.


What good is a family party without a great dessert. And what dessert is better than good old Lemon Bars? I’ll tell you what…Three Fruit Bars! Even your persnickety old Aunt that never likes anything will like these! Make plenty…they will go fast!


Three Fruit Bars



1 ½ cups flour

½ cup confectioners sugar

¾ cup (1 & ½ sticks) butter


Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9X13 buttered pan with foil and butter the foil. In a medium bowl combine flour and sugar, and cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle mixture into pan and spread evenly. Pat firmly into pan to form a crust. Bake 20 to 22 minutes until lightly browned.


Three Fruit Topping:

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt


Squeeze two tablespoons of juice from each fruit, and grate 1/ teaspoon peel from each. In a large bowl beat eggs with an electric mixer until thick and lemon colored. About 2 minutes. Blend in remaining ingredients on low speed. Pour the mixture over the hot baked crust and bake until the filling is set, or pale golden around the edges. Sprinkle confectioners sugar lightly over filling while still warm. To serve place on a lace paper doily covered plate and top each piece with a small strawberry cut in three or four slices up to the stem and fanned out. This makes about 3 dozen squares.

You’ll blow their sox off. Trust me.

Want more great recipes?

Order Ginnie’s book online-

Got your copy of the hilarious Dirty Dining, A Cookbook & More for Lovers yet? Well, you need to! Great recipes & torrid romance, it’s Fifty Shades of Grey in your very own kitchen. Just don’t mention it to your mother. Unless you think she’d like a copy too.  E-book and in print: Amazon:

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