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Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

One of the easiest ways to use of leftovers is to make a “lasagna.” I use the quotes because the term lasagna is used loosely here. Since coming back from  a recent trip to Florence, Italy I now know what authentic lasagna should taste like…but that is a topic for another post. I am back in the US and using the term “lasagna” to mean basically any baked flat noodle dish with sauce, filling, and cheese all baked together to result in a delicious casserole type meal.

After my New Year’s collard fix, I had leftover greens that were clean, chopped and needed to be used. In my search for how to use up the greens, I came across several lasagna recipes using spinach or swiss chard. So I thought, why not collards? I decided to take a risk and give it a try. It turned out to be a surprisingly tasty lasagna. The collards have a bit more bite than spinach, resulting in a lasagna that has a nice balance of flavor and texture. I added some chopped onion, red bell pepper, and kalmata olives to give the lasagna filling a Mediterranean twist. The end result was a delicious, healthy recipe that is a great way to use up leftover winter greens. The recipe below calls for collard greens in this version, but kale, swiss chard, etc. could be substituted. The key is to blanch the greens  for a few minutes to tenderize the them prior to baking in the lasagna. Oh yes, this is another vegetarian meal option that is hearty and flavorful enough for meat lovers to enjoy too!

Winter Collard Green Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles (no boil are ok, but I prefer regular)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped red bell pepper

garlic (optional)

1/2 cup chopped olives

4 cups fresh collard greens, washed and torn into pieces

one large egg, slightly beaten

salt and pepper

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella (feel free to use more, but I am watching my waistline…this is just enough for the perfect cheesy bite with each serving)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the ready made canned/jarred stuff..but fresh grated)

tomato sauce (I used a homemade version that has garlic, basil, oregano, and dried chili flakes as seasonings that I always have around, but you can just use 1 jar of your favorite store bought brand if you don’t have homemade sauce on hand)

To Make:

If using regular lasagna noodles, place noodles in pan with hot water. Let the noodles sit and soften while you are preparing the filing.

Boiled collard greens in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Remove from water and drain well. Depending on the size of the torn collards, chop into a rough chop and place in a large mixing bowl. Sauté the onions, red bell pepper in olive oil until just softened. If you like extra garlic, add chopped garlic to the onions and peppers and sauté for another minute (the tomato sauce I used had plenty of garlic so I skipped this step). Place sautéed veggies in mixing bowl with collards, add olives and stir to combine. To this mixture add ricotta and egg; salt and pepper to taste–mix together so that all ingredients are distributed evenly for the filling.

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Assemble the lasagna: in a 9×13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover. Top with a layer of 3 noodles, veggie filling, portion of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles, sauce then cheese as the top layers. Add parmesan cheese as extra cheesy topping.

Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges, heated through. You can check the warmth of the lasagna by sticking a knife in the center–checking the warmth of the knife tip to see if the lasagna is fully heated. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a bit then serve and enjoy!

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

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One of my favorite Mexican foods are chicken enchiladas. As I was searching for a good way to make them, I came across several Mexican-style casserole recipes that caught my eye. I was inspired. This is an easy dish that cooks up quickly (especially if you have cooked chicken on your hands) and makes a great weeknight meal. I added one of my favorite Mexican flavors: chipotle. I also added a can of cannellini beans to add some fiber, meaty texture, and fill to the casserole. Another great garnish to have is chopped fresh cilantro and low fat sour cream–add this to the top and you have a complete Mexican meal!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1-2 pounds cooked chicken breasts–shredded

    Perfect recipe to use up any leftover crock-pot cooked chicken breasts

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • approx 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese–I like to buy the Mexican blend already shredded
  • 1/4 cup tub-style light cream cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce (medium or mild depending on your spice preference)
  • approx. 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese (or use Mexican blend from above)
  • tortilla chips, crushed (enough for a light crunch layer on top); I used multi-grain Tostidos.

To make:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in large nonstick pan over medium/med-high heat. Add onions and canned peppers and cook about 2 minutes, then add garlic and parsley and cook about 1 min longer. Add chicken broth, milk, shredded cheese, cream cheese, and enchilada sauce; stir well.  Stir in shredded chicken and beans; cook 2-5  minutes.

Mexican Casserole Sauce

Remove from heat.

Line bottom of a lightly greased (spray oil) 13×9 or similar dimensions casserole dish with corn tortillas. You can keep the tortillas whole, but I like to cut into fourths to make serving the cooked casserole a bit easier. Layer approx 2 cups of the chicken mixture on top. Repeat the tortilla layer then chicken layer about 2 times, ending with the chicken as the last top layer. Top chicken with last 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Bake in oven for approx 30 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.Enjoy 🙂 I topped with my favorite salsa, which adds a little extra kick!

A great pairing is to serve with sliced avocado and tomato salad. This casserole would freeze well (leave off the last cheese and chip layer). Cook all the way through then allow to cool completely before freezing in an air-tight container. Add the chip and cheese layer before re-heating in the oven at 350 until warmed through.

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This recipe is one of my favorite dishes…ever. The original recipe calls for an entire stick of butter and doesn’t include any vegetables, which I just cannot do–so I modified the original to make it somewhat healthier. I must say I prefer the original with loads of butter and sans veggies, but this version comes in a close second.If you want to try the full version: use 1 stick of melted butter in the batter rather than using the chicken broth in it. Also no need for the veggies in the original chicken pie–just serve along with your veggies as a side dish.

Momma’s Chicken Pie

Meat from one cooked chicken pulled and chopped (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup each of frozen corn, peas, green beans

salt & pepper to taste

1 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 stick melted butter (unsalted)

~1 cup chicken broth

1 cup self rising flour

3/4 cup milk

  Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken (and thawed veggies if using) in large ungreased baking dish or casserole dish. Mix veggies and chicken around to distribute evenly in the dish. Slowly pour chicken broth on top of chicken (& veggies) until you can just see it–do not pour so much that the chicken is fully submerged. This provides a little moisture as the pie cooks–if using veggies do not use the full cup of broth because they will add moisture as they cook as well. Spread on cream of mushroom soup on the top, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. In  a separate bowl, mix together self rising flour, butter, and milk (using the lightened up version–add chicken broth until the mixture barely pours, like a thick pancake batter). Pour the batter on top of the soup layer, spread gently if needed to distribute evenly over the top of the chicken pie.

So good....even better the next day reheated!

Cook at 350 for 40-45 minutes–the top crust will be light brown and firm to the touch with the sides gently bubbling with goodness!

Let chicken pie cool for 5-10 minutes; this will allow the soup/broth mixture to thicken a bit. If you can’t wait (like I usually cannot) the first serving will be a bit runny 🙂 but don’t worry, as the chicken pie cools a bit it will thicken up. Enjoy!

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This is a quick, easy recipe for a one dish meal! It is tasty and can be adapted to include you favorite meat, veggie or cheese. I used English peas and white cheddar, but any substitutes you can imagine would work well. The best thing about cooking a casserole is if you combine ingredients you like, bake it together–it comes out perfect every time! Not to mention this recipe is great for budget crunchers–use whatever you have in your fridge or freezer. Adjust the quantities to make more or less, depending on the crowd to feed (casseroles are a very inexact science). Enjoy!

Potato Ham Casserole

Ingredients:

4 cups thawed shredded potatoes (about half of a large bag if using frozen)

2 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp white cheddar, but any semi-hard cheese will do)

1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham (you may substitute cooked ground beef, or cooked diced chicken)

1 1/2 cups English peas (thawed if frozen, or use fresh; canned peas may not hold up in the bake as well but could be an option if that is all you have)

1 small-medium onion, chopped (or half of a larger onion)

1 can cream mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. salt

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional for some heat)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 qt. casserole dish (using butter or Spray oil). In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer mixture to casserole dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until heated through (usually bubbling around the edges). Serve warm. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or additional ground black pepper to taste.

 

 

 

 

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