Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Casseroles: Good for Thin Pockets

Dinners: Mid-March

A difficult month, it has been. Loss of work and health worries got in the way of posting, though I did come across some soothing recipes that provided many meals and were not expensive or very labor-intensive.

I’m still not very skilled at putting together soups and casseroles of my own invention, so I relied on a cookbook filled with them. “The Big Book of Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More” offers a lot of options that don’t require a ton of preparation.

The first recipe was a take on regular minestrone called the Mediterranean minestrone casserole. Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 3 medium sliced carrots
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (substituted parsley, basil, oregano)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 package frozen cut green beans
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
I cooked all ingredients - except green beans, macaroni, and cheese - in the slow cooker on the low setting for 8 hours, then stirred in green beans and macaroni and turned to high heat for 20 minutes. I used the cheese to sprinkle over the individual bowl of minestrone.

It was definitely more of a casserole than a soup, despite my addition of extra water to lighten it up. But it was a fairly light, healthy meal, with plenty of leftovers for the entire week. Keeping the cheese for individual bowls kept it fresh each time I heated up another bowl.

The second meal that looked quite appealing was a chicken artichoke casserole. It started with these ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 package thawed artichoke hearts
  • 10 ounces of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ cups Romano cheese croutons
I cooked the chicken and transferred to a mixing bowl. I then browned the artichoke hearts in the same pan, along with the bell pepper and green onions until all started to soften. I mixed those in the bowl with all other ingredients, then put it all into a baking dish. I topped it with whole croutons (instead of crushed, as recommended), and cooked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This was a phenomenal casserole. The flavors worked so well with the artichokes and chicken. When I make this again, I will likely include less Alfredo sauce and mayonnaise, only adding until it lightly coats the other ingredients, as these measurements caused it to be too creamy. It was still very good, but a few adjustments will make it an even healthier meal. My advice is to eyeball the liquid ingredients after everything else is mixed together.

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