'Tis the Season…For a Meatless Casserole?
by Donna Ames RN
Zing! Program Coordinator
Pen Bay Healthcare
Are you looking for some alternatives to all the turkey and ham that you’ve eaten this holiday season? Maybe going meatless, at least one day a week, sounds like a good idea. Why not make it one of your New Year's resolutions?
Casseroles have been around in some form for quite some time. The following recipes are casseroles (from the French word for saucepan), which describes both the vessel that the dish is cooked and served in, as well as the food itself.
During the 1950’s in the U.S., the casserole became very popular as a “one dish” meal. This may have been due to the appearance of new forms of lightweight metal and glassware in the market. However, somewhere along the line, casseroles developed a bad rap, especially in “foody” circles. Could it have been because of all those casseroles that were made with canned, condensed soup as their base?
The first recipe is a healthier version of the traditional Mac and Cheese that uses squash and whole wheat pasta.The second recipe is a version of Shepherd’s Pie made with lentils and veggies instead of the traditional lamb or ground beef.
These low fat, high fiber recipes are guaranteed to please, both at home and at your next pot luck supper!
Baked Shells with Winter Squash (serves 6)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 pound small whole wheat pasta shells
1 package (12 ounces) frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 slices crusty baguette, cut into ¼ inch cubes (or 1½ cups pre-made bread crumbs)
1) Preheat oven to 400F.
2) Spray 9x13” baking dish with cooking spray. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions with salt and pepper. Cover; cook until the onions are soft and release their liquid, about 15 minutes. Uncover; raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the onions are browned, 20-25 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp of the rosemary.
3) Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than the package instructions suggest. Drain, reserving 1 ½ cups of the cooking water. Return pasta to the pot.
4) Stir squash and reserved pasta water into the onions; simmer for 2 minutes. Toss the squash mixture and ½ cup of the parmesan with the pasta. Transfer to the prepared dish.
5) Combine the bread cubes with the remaining parmesan, rosemary and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Top the pasta with the bread cubes; bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
Serve with a side of crispy steamed broccoli and a salad!
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (serves approx. 6-8)
2 lbs Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1 whole clove garlic
1 cup (1/2 lb) dry brown lentils
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
¾ cup carrots, diced
¾ cup celery, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups frozen or canned corn (can use 1 cup peas and 1 cup corn if you like)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped and divided
2 tbsp. soy sauce
¾ tsp. dried oregano
½ cup lowfat milk
3 tbsp. Earth Balance margarine
½-3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1) Preheat oven to 375. Place the peeled potatoes in a pot along with one whole peeled garlic clove. Cover potatoes with plenty of water.
2) Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then reduce heat and simmer potatoes until fork tender, about 25-30 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, rinse and sort the lentils. Pour lentils into a pot along with a bayleaf. Cover with 2 cups water and bring to a boil.
4) Reduce heat to a simmer and let the lentils cook for 15-20 minutes till just tender (keep a close watch on them and don’t overcook or they will become soft/mushy. Remove from heat as soon as they’re cooked and drain any excess water.
5) As potatoes and lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes till softened.
6) Add the celery and carrots and sauté for additional 5-6 minutes.
7) Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are soft.
8) Add the crushed garlic, chopped parsley, soy sauce and oregano to the mixture.
9) Stir in the drained lentils. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
10) If using frozen corn, defrost and drain. If using canned corn, drain and rinse.
11) Drain the cooked potatoes, reserve the garlic. Mash the potatoes and softened garlic clove with milk and margarine till smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
12) Spray bottom of 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
13) Layer mixture in this order: Spread lentil mixture on the bottom. Add the corn for 2nd layer. Top with the potatoes as the third layer. Use a fork to add texture to the top of the potatoes for browning. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese (if desired).
14) Bake for 30 minutes till the tops of the potatoes turn golden brown. Sprinkle remaining 1 tbsp of parsley on top of pie to garnish.
Winter solstice is just around the corner! Have fun creating and enjoying these tasty, low-fat, health promoting casseroles. Find more great recipes to try on Meatless Monday or any day at www.meatlessmonday.com!
Donna Ames, RN, coordinates Zing! — a program of Pen Bay Healthcare and its community partners designed to encourage children to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits. Online: pbmc.org/zing.