Chicken and “Rice” Casserole

Hi.

Missed you.

As in I am currently crying I have missed you so.

It’s been a summer. Nothing bad just… Hectic and life and Little and you know.

I didn’t forget about you. Not once. Not one single day. But there reached a point where I hadn’t reached out in a while and then I was embarrassed and scared.

Chicken and "rice" casserole

And you know how sometimes when you are apart people change? Yeah that happened. So I worried you wouldn’t like me anymore. I still want to bake and cook for you all day long but somewhere mid July I went grain free.

Yes yes yes I know it is a bit crazy. Or a lot bit crazy. Can we still be friends? There will be lots of yumminess still I promise. Some of the things I have learned to make are out of this world good. You know me. I don’t settle for subpar food and just because it doesn’t have grains doesn’t mean I will all of sudden start putting up with awfully dry muffins or crappy crackers. No way.

This is for legit gonna blow your mind grain free deliciousness.

Chicken and "rice" casserole

Can we still be friends? Make a cup of coffee and catch up? I promise if you want to come along on this new grain free ride (even just as an occasional experiment) I will hold your hand the whole way. If you aren’t up for this I get it too. Come over anyways. The cookies are still delicious.

So this dinner is from one of my new favorite cookbooks Against All Grain. The author is not only talented but also stunning. I have been gifted both of her cookbooks and they are stanbys for me. So far only one recipe has been subpar. The rest have all been keepers.

Chicken and "rice" casserole

This is one of the keepers. Some wise soul at some point discovered that grated cauliflower was a great substitute for rice. It is awesome. This recipe even just cooks it with the rest of the veggies so there is no extra step to make rice. Even if I was eating grains again I would put this on the menu rotation because it is a mess of veggies with cashew cream (yeah I have ventured there too… it is worth it) and chicken. Ridiculously healthy.

Total legit comfort food. No compromises. Just deliciousness that happens to be grain free.

Can we do this? I say this to you as much as me. Opening up the blog again is vulnerable and and and…. I don’t even have words. Just stay with me. Love me as I am- broken, crazy, busy, and now grain free.

We can do this.

Chicken and "rice" casserole

One year ago today: Tomato Bread Bake

Two years ago today: Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili

Chicken and Rice Casserole (serves 6+)
From Against All Grain Meals Made Simple

Sauce:
1 cup cashews soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
Juice from 1/2 small lemon

Casserole:
3 tbs olive oil
5 cloves garlic minced
2 shallots minced
3 cup grated cauliflower (box grater works AWESOME)
10 ounces chopped zucchini
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Optional: 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Sauce:
Drain the cashews and place in blender (or a bowl if using an immersion blender like me)with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Blend till smooth. Set aside

Casserole:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook till just starting to soften. Add the cauliflower, zucchini, and salt. Continue cooking till crisp tender (about 10-12 minutes). Add the chicken and remove from the heat. Stir in the sauce thinning with water if necessary. Transfer to a 3 quart baking dish and top with the cheese if you so choose. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10. Serve straight away.

Chicken and "rice" casserole

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Gratin

Spaghetti squash and I have not been on the best of terms. Mostly I want to to like it. Mostly it disappoints me. Alot. Like the bad boyfriend you just KNOW is going to change but no… nope… same story.

I was bemoaning this to my brother in law as I was roasting the squash for this recipe and he agreed. In fact unprompted he mentioned that for him it seems like you can never get it quite cooked enough and is crunchy. E.X.A.C.T.L.Y. my issue. Does this happen to anyone else?

However, kale. Kale let me count the ways I love you. I love it in my juice, in a pot pie, sauteed with simply with olive oil and garlic then piled high with homemade mac and cheese. Kale was our bumper crop this past year in our garden. In fact it is still growing. After a week of snow and countless frosts the hardly buggers are still hanging on. Yum.

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Gratin

So why did I tackle a new recipe with spaghetti squash when I don’t like it? I was given two huge spaghetti squash and I hate wasting food. When I stumbled on this recipe I though it might, just might, be ok.

It is more than ok. It is lets make this twice in one week good. It is a we fought over leftovers good. Sure you could serve this as a side dish to chicken or steak but it also makes a lovely stand alone vegetarian dinner.

The other winning fact is this recipe is so forgiving. The second time I made it I eyeballed everything. I just threw things in bowls, sautéed estimations in a pan, and threw it in these cute individual dishes. It tasted just as good as the first time when I payed more attention to measurements.

Bravely I made this into two 8×8 pans and gave one to a mama friend of mine who recently started a new job. I hate gifting recipes I haven’t tested but thankfully they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Cooking the squash twice (one roasted in the shell and again in the pan) helps it not be as crunch. It actually tastes done. And the kale. The kale makes up for everything.

I will be making this again soon. My son wont eat it but my husband and I devour it. I made both recipes with just one of the two enourmous squash I had. Yeah you read that right. Twelve servings from one squash. That was one big squash.

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Gratin

One year ago today: Black Bean and Brown Rice Burgers and Stuffed Peppers

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Gratin (serves 6-8)
Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 large onion, diced small
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5-6 cups chopped kale leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or sliced green onion
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese plus about 1/4 cup more for topping the gratin
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded mozarella

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prick the spaghetti squash all over with a fork. Place the whole, uncut squash on a baking tray and place in the oven. Bake for an hour or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut open, remove seeds with a spoon, then using a fork pull the strands of spaghetti squash out and into a bowl. Set aside (this can be done a day ahead).

Heat 1 tablesppon olive oil in heavy frying pan, add chopped onions, rosemary, and black pepper, and saute until onion is softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more, then add chopped kale all at once. Cook kale about 1-2 minutes, turning a few times. until it’s wilted to about half the size it was. (The kale shouldn’t be completely cooked, since it will cook more in the gratin.) Salt well. Turn off heat.

Using a large fork, gently mix the chopped chives or green onion and shredded spaghetti squash into the onion/chard mixture. Combine the sour cream, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, and beaten egg in a seperate bowl and salt well. Mix into the chard/spaghetti squash mixture. Then put the combined ingredients into the gratin dish, and press down so it’s evenly distributed in the dish. Sprinkle top with about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese and with the mozarella cheese.

Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and cheese is browned on top. Serve hot.

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Gratin

On Delivering Dinner

Hopefully we have been friends for a bit. If not no worries. I’m always happy to make new friends.

If we have been friends for a awhile one thing you will know about me is my reaction to pretty much any major life event is to throw food at it. Not literally but figuratively. You moved? Had a death in your family? New baby? Generally speaking an awful week? Birthday? Anniversary? I’m there with food in hand.

On delivering dinner

Over the years I feel I have become a bit of an expert on what to take to people. There are a few things I try to take into consideration:

1. I never make anything for a someone I wouldn’t feed my family. Good food but also good for you (well besides the cookies maybe). This means whole grains, locally sourced meats, as much organic produce as I can afford, little or no refined oils

2. Aim to include veggies. So often I feel when people drop off dinner the dishes are rich and calorie laden. I always pick main dishes that are chocked full of veggies.

3. Include something for breakfast. Ages ago I read a post about delivering dinner to a new mom and it suggested to take breakfast foods along with the dinner. I tend to make something like muffins or scones for an easy next day breakfast.

4. If you can just bring along some plain fresh fruit- apples, watermelon, grapes, strawberries. you know- whatever is in season. When we are in the midst of a life changing event I don’t think we tend to eat well. Wash and cut up the fruit for easy, mindless snacking.

5. Always ALWAYS ask about allergies, aversions, preferences before deciding on your menu. I don’t like blue cheese but you wouldn’t know that unless you asked. Or know me well.

6. Don’t break the bank. The reason I have such a deep repertoire of recipes is I cook and deliver based on what is in season, on sale, or on hand. Most meals I deliver cost me less than $10 to make. The entire meal- fruit, breakfast, and entree.

7. Only deliver on dishes and in tupperware you don’t want or need back. The last thing these people need is to keep track of your stuff. Make sure they know they don’t need to wash or return anything.

Do you ever make and deliver food to friends and family? This little blog has a long list of recipes that are perfect for delivery. Here is a list of my favorites:

Casseroles:

Black bean and spinach enchiladas

Black bean and spinach enchiladas– Healthy and hearty. I actually delivered this to a new mama yesterday.

lighter tuna noodle casserole

Tuna noodle casserole– First reference #5 above. Not everyone loves tuna casserole BUT if they do this lighter version is packed full of veggies and is sure to please!

chicken or turkey biscuit pot pie

Chicken or turkey biscuit pot pie– A twist on pot pie that is a bit quicker to prepare. Still a showstopper and again loaded with veg.

Baked penne bolognese

Baked penne with bolognese– This dish packs a veggie punch without you realizing it. Plus there isn’t anything out there as hearty or heartwarming as homemade pasta sauce.

Baked mac and cheese

Baked mac and cheese– This recipe offers two ways to make it- both with veggies! And who doesn’t love homemade mac and cheese? Fascists that’s who.

Easy to reheat dinner:

Easy veggie curry

Easy veggie curry– Perfect vegan or vegetarian dish. Make brown rice for an extra hearty fiber punch.

Lentils, sausage and swiss chard

Lentils, sausage and swiss chard– Yes this sounds a bit unusual but make it and I promise the recipient will be impressed. This basic dish has so much flavor.

Soups:

Broccoli cheese soup

Broccoli cheese soup– Loads of veggies in this lighter version of an all around classic. Be sure to include bread for dipping!

Beef barley stew

Beef barley stew– Veggies, meat, barley. Yum. Stick to your ribs soul food.

Saffron chicken veggie soup

Saffron chicken veggie soup– Did you know saffron is a mood booster? Ideal dish if someone if having a particularly hard time.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup– One of our standby faves for weeknight dinner. Simple mild soup made with nourishing chicken or veggie broth. A must make for anyone recovering from illness.

Sweet potato quinoa chili

Sweet potato quinoa chili– Another great recipe for the vegetarian or vegan. Be sure to make cornbread (suggested recipe below).

Breakfasts:

Banana bread

Banana bread– Does this really need an explanation? A classic favorite.

Cranberry orange muffins

Cranberry orange muffins– Perfect around the holiday season or if you have frozen cranberries lurking in your freezer.

Homemade granola

Homemade granola version one or version two– Cereal lovingly made by someone else is always a welcome treat.

blueberry-muffins

Blueberry muffins– I make this recipe so often I have it memorized. First time I made them was to deliver to a friend at the hospital right after she had her baby.

Sides (to go with soups or casseroles!):

Brown butter rosemary cornbread

Brown butter rosemary cornbread– I think this would go great with the sweet potato quinoa chili. Just sayin.

Artisan bread

Artisan bread– This bread is no effort at all on your part and is a stunner. Sure beats spending $5 on a loaf at the store.

Cheddar scallion drop biscuits

Cheddar scallion drop biscuits– Ridiculously cheesy and flavorful biscuits. Goes great with the saffron veggies soup.

 

I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration. What are your favorite recipes to deliver?

 

 

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Growing up as an missionary’s kid (MK) we spent a lot of time eating at other people’s houses. We also spent lots of time eating at church potlucks. Particularly when we were stateside. Sure we had potlucks at our church in Spain, but that was amazing traditional Spanish food. When we were traveling and visiting friends and churches I could always count on at least one good casserole. I love casseroles.

Best part about casseroles? They have to bake. While they bake I can get the dinner making mess cleaned up. Then, when it comes time to sit down for dinner, the kitchen is spotless. Absolutely one of my favorite things in the world- eating dinner with a clean kitchen.

Lighter. healthier tuna noodle casserole. No canned soup!

Casseroles are something it seems Americans do really well. Recipes such as turkey tetrazzini, baked mac and cheese, baked penned bolognese, and of course tuna noodle casserole. The basic casserole formula is simple- pasta, cream of some sort, token bit of veggie, something to make the top extra good. Am I missing anything?

Most casseroles seem to call for a can of some sort of cream soup for the cream bit. This is a problem for me as MSG and I aren’t friends. Plus I like cooking with real food as much as possible. Sure you can get all natural condensed soups at places like Trader Joe’s, but why pay for it when you can make it!

As is often the case Martha Stewart came to my rescue with a wonderful recipe. The cream soup is replaced with stock and a simple roux. We have home canned tuna on hand so ours was extra tasty. The only peas I had in the house have been used as an ice pack more times than I can count so I used frozen green beans I put up from my garden last summer. Also I subbed in whole wheat pasta because that’s how we roll around here.

Lighter. healthier tuna noodle casserole. No canned soup!

Please don’t burn me at the stake or call sacrilege for modifying a traditional recipe so much. I love a good traditional casserole as much as the next but this was honestly better. It was fresh and light. I ate a whole bowl full and didn’t get the “ugh just ate too much” feeling.

And my favorite thing in the world (other than eat dinner with a clean kitchen)? It made these sweet four dishes for dinner and an 8 x 8- which is in the freezer for another day!

Lighter. healthier tuna noodle casserole. No canned soup!

Tuna Noodle Casserole (easily would feed 8)
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound whole elbow macaroni
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cans (6 ounces each) solid light tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions (it will be undercooked). Drain. In a small bowl, toss together panko, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil. In the pasta pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add flour and whisk to coat onion with flour. Slowly whisk in broth, then milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in pasta, tuna, and green beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer tuna mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or dishes of your choice) and top with panko mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Lighter. healthier tuna noodle casserole. No canned soup!