It’s the holiday season. Usually this means holiday gatherings and covered dish dinners, but in 2020 … not so much. Yet I am always gathering ideas and recipes for easy, make-ahead mealsfor a crowd or a few.
Today I made one I call Philly-Cheese Casserole. You can modify this versatile dish in many ways to suit your tastes. Just follow the basics: Layer potatoes, ground meat, aromatic vegetables, and top with cheese. Bake covered at 350°F for 70-75 minutes.
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4”
1 pound ground Chuck*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pepper, thinly sliced
1 large can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Optional: parsley for garnish
*Don’t go too lean on the ground meat. The fat contentworks to flavor the casserole. There is no added fat or liquid in this dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a casserole dishlayer potato slices on the bottom. Salt and pepper.
Add the ground Chuck. Salt and pepper.
Layer peppers and onions atop the meat. Salt and pepper.
Spread the canned diced tomatoes.
Top casserole with the shredded cheese.
Cover and bake for 75 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Remove casserole from oven, uncover, and allow it to cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Casseroles like this one canbe made ahead a day or even frozen. Just give an extra 5 minutes baking time.
I try to cook with fresh ingredients. Usually. But sometimes–you know those times when you’ve been working and suddenly you’re faced with a hungry family without a dinner plan–you’re tempted to order pizza. Again. Been there, my friend. So without apology, I present the emergency one-dish meal using (gasp!) canned condensed cream of whatever soup.
All you need in addition to the soup is pasta or rice, some leftover (or canned) meat and/or vegetables, and cheese. There are endless combinations, and any combo produces a reasonably healthy meal in a short time. If you make it in one pot, cleanup isn’t overwhelming, either. One-pot meals are a great use-up of leftovers, too, like that one serving of green beans or that half cup of corn kernels you just couldn’t bear to put down the disposal.
I use a pressure cooker, but I’ve also made this dish in an electric skillet. Whatever works best for you.
Here’s an example, but feel free to substitute ingredients you have available.
Chicken and Mushroom Pasta
2 cups cooked chicken
1 10½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
10 oz. chicken broth or water
1 cup dried cavatappi or similar size pasta
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh asparagus, sliced in 2″ pieces
½ cup mushrooms
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
(optional) fresh basil, chopped
Layer the cooked chicken in the bottom of the pot of a pressure cooker. Spread pasta on top the chicken.
Pour the soup and broth or water over so that all pasta is submerged in liquid. Scatter the minced garlic on top.
Close lid, bring to pressure, and cook 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat (or hit Cancel on electric models) and release pressure. Carefully open lid and stir in the vegetables.
Cover and let the vegetables cook in the residual heat. There’s no need to return to heat.
After about 10 minutes, open and sprinkle cheeses over the top. Cover for another 3-5 minutes or until cheeses have melted.
My healthy version of King Ranch Chicken posted three years ago is still my favorite, but I wondered if I could make it “hasty” without sacrificing the “tasty” part of the meal.
I consulted my good friend Betty (as in Betty Crocker) and her version takes shortcuts I decided to try. The biggest difference in my version and hers is my casserole soaks in the refrigerator for several hours before baking. Mine also has more ingredients. So if you’d like to make this casserole for your next covered dish dinner and you’re short on time, try Betty Crocker’s version. It’s tasty enough for my family, and a bit less work for me, although I still have to have my fresh cilantro garnish at the end. 😉