So, the holiday rush is finally over and now it’s back to our ho hum daily lives again. Without all of that extra time on our hands, cooking times can be a little bit more difficult to slide into our daily routines. So what are some ways we can make sure to keep our beloved family time intact without eating out every day? One word, casseroles. These guys can make life so much easier. One dish to scrub and feeds a family of 6 no problem.  So, what does everyone think of when they think about casseroles? Chicken and rice bake or lasagna, right? And while these are pretty delicious, they aren’t the only option either. Also, most people think of heavy, creamy, unhealthy options, which doesn’t have to be the case, either, by any means.

So first we can tackle the unhealthy side of the deliciousness. What are some ways to make casseroles healthier? Well, we can swap some stuff out of course. Like the rice for instance can cause some to worry, why not swap it for quinoa? You get tons of extra protein and FIBER! More fiber equals better health for most people, which means we can always try to throw in some extra high fiber veggies like yummy Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Another way is to take out some of that extra cream and cheese and swap it for something like some plain Greek yogurt, which gives you the same protein, fortified nutrients and creaminess you are looking for.

What are some classic favorites and some new soon-to-be loves of the casserole world? Classics, Sheppard’s pie is probably my favorite of all time. Note: Sheppard’s pie uses lamb, cottage pie uses beef, just FYI. Then we have poppyseed chicken (you will need sides), chicken and rice bake, baked ziti, chicken bacon ranch, taco casserole, or broccoli and cheese. Now what are some new amazing ideas? How about chicken, mushroom, broccoli lasagna? Maybe a little chicken, quinoa, and Brussels sprout bake? Or even a loaded cauliflower pasta?

Casseroles have a stigma of grandma cooking with heavy bloating meals that will knock out even the burliest mountain man for a grandiose two-hour post meal nap. It doesn’t always have to be that way. They can be a cheap, fast, healthy option to feed an entire family with little clean up and preparation. With all of this wrapped up into one, you can have less stress to rush and more time to enjoy a little time with the babies or even curl up with a glass of wine and a good book. 

As always please feel free to contact me and ask about some new recipes or techniques you have been bouncing around in your head.

After graduating from Auburn High School, Lee Eddins went to the Culinary Institute of New Orleans. He has worked for fine dining establishments in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Ukraine.

 

Poppyseed Chicken

 

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or 1 classic rotisserie chicken shredded

3 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 large shallot minced

2 teaspoons dried thyme

5 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cup milk

1 cup chicken broth

8 ounces plain greek yogurt OR sour cream

4 ounces cream cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ tablespoon poppy seeds

2 sleeves Ritz crackers crushed 

4 tablespoons butter, melted

 

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Make sure you have sides on the pan or this will get messy.  

Add garlic and shallot and saute for about 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in flour and thyme quickly. Gradually whisk milk into sauce pan adding about a third of a cup at a time and whisking vigorously to smooth out any lumps. 

Add chicken broth, greek yogurt (or sour cream), cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Add shredded chicken and poppy seeds to sauce mixture and stir. 

Place into a greased 9x9 dish or oval of around the same size. In a medium bowl toss Ritz and melted butter and spread evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Check online for an additional recipe for turkey, mushroom and spinach lasagna.

 

Turkey, mushroom and spinach lasagna

 

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion small diced

3 tablespoons garlic minced

16 oz fresh white mushrooms sliced

1 tablespoon dry italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon red chili flake

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3-4 cups cooked, shredded turkey (or chicken)

1 16 once bag of spinach

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons of corn starch

1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

1 8 oz tub or ricotta cheese

1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute canola oil, onions, garlic and chili until aromatic and beginning to become translucent. Add mushrooms toss a couple of times and spread as evening as possible in the pan, cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock and milk. In a few increments add spinach and let begin to wilt and continue just until all spinach is in. Make a slurry with 2 tablespoons of cool water and cornstarch and add to mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add turkey and turn off heat.

Spray or grease a lasagna pan and place down one layer of noodles. Spoon out a layer of the filling evenly distributing. Try to use about a third of the mixture. Sprinkle with all cheeses, again about a third of each, fresh basil and oregano is also amazing thrown into the layers. Continue this until all filling is used. I prefer for my top layers to be filling and cheese on top with a little more fresh basil right after it comes out of the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.  If it begins to get to dark just cover with aluminum foil and fish baking.

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