Casseroles: Make Today, Bake Today . . . Or Later

by in Robin's Healthy Take, November 1, 2011
pesto lasagna
Pesto-Stuffed Lasagne

I wrote a make-ahead casserole post last year and you guys adored it. I’m happy to report, I’m doing it again! Make-ahead meals (especially baked casseroles) are terrific because you can completely assemble them in advance and bake them just before serving. They’re the ultimate comfort food as they come bubbling hot and delicious straight from the oven to the table to the delight of family and friends. I particularly like casseroles this time of year because I’m really busy (with school stuff, work, the impending holidays) and, when you create a ready-to-bake casserole in advance, it becomes a true kitchen buddy and life-saver at the end of a long day (when, I’ll be honest, I just want a cocktail and a good meal). I hope these three casseroles help you sail through the next week with ease!

Pesto Stuffed Lasagne

No-boil lasagna noodles shave at least 20 minutes off your prep time because you don’t have to wait for water to boil or pasta to cook. Plus, they soak up the pesto flavor as they bake in the oven.

Serves 8

15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup prepared pesto sauce, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
8-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles (12 pieces)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine ricotta, 1/2 cup of the pesto and egg.  Mix well and set aside.

Spread 1/4 cup of the remaining pesto all over the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Top with 3 lasagna noodles (the noodles don’t need to touch each other or the sides of the pan because they expand when baked). Top noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture and spread mixture out evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat these steps 2 more times (3 noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella). End with the last three noodles on top. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of pesto and mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

 
baked chicken casserole
Baked Chicken and Green Pea Casserole with Herbed Cheese and Parmesan

I used Boursin cheese in my dish but you can use your favorite herbed soft cheese or herbed goat cheese.

Serves 4

Cooking spray
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup light sour cream
5.2 ounces herbed soft cheese (such as Boursin)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray.

Combine chicken, rice, peas, sour cream and herbed cheese in a large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer chicken mixture to prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese all over top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and top is golden brown.

beef enchilada casserole
Smothered Beef Enchiladas

Use your favorite fresh or bottled salsa or pico de gallo.

Serves 4

Cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups salsa, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium/soft taco size whole wheat tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese or a combination of Monterrey Jack and cheddar

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Add beef and cook 3-5 minutes, until cooked through, breaking up the meat as is cooks. Add 1/2 cup of the salsa, chili powder and cumin and cook 1 minute to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Arrange tortillas on a flat surface. Spoon beef mixture on the center of each tortilla and roll up. Arrange tortillas in the bottom of prepared pan. Top with remaining 1 cup of salsa. Top with the cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese melts.

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Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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