creamy vegetable pasta bake with lots of green veggies

Creamy Vegetable Pasta Bake with lots of green veggies

I so enjoyed the Creamy Vegetable Pasta Bake I made recently, both because it was delicious and because I could pull a serving out of the freezer and have an instant warm meal. When it was gone, I didn’t imagine making it again so soon, but it’s a great way to use 4 cups of milk, zucchini and onion that I picked up without a real plan, and frozen broccoli and spinach for a dose of green veggies.

I followed the same basic recipe from budgetbytes.com, with a few adjustments.

creamy vegetable pasta bake with lots of green veggies hot out of the oven

Process notes

  • used 2 1/2 tsp granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic
  • left out the carrots
  • used 1/2 lb frozen broccoli and 1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
  • used 32 freshly milled soft white wheat flour instead of all purpose flour
  • reduced noodles to 3/4 lb dried elbow pasta
  • sprinkled 6 oz shredded low moisture part skim mozzarella
  • used 9×12 baking dish
  • once it was assembled, I covered it with plastic and refrigerated overnight (I was using the oven for homemade yogurt)
  • the next morning, baked at 375° for about 55 min.

Results

Baking the casserole after letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight worked out just fine. After it cooled, I divided it into smaller containers and popped in the freezer.

The texture is really good, although a tiny bit watery. The amount of creamy sauce is great, and I love having all of the vegetables. The flavor is on the bland side, and definitely needs some salt and pepper. I think it would be improved by using fresh garlic instead of the granulated. And I missed the carrots that were in the last batch.

It’s not an exciting dish, but it’s filling and comforting, and having frozen meals at the ready is always appreciated.

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creamy vegetable pasta bake

Creamy vegetable pasta bake

creamy vegetable pasta bake

Lately I’ve become rather hooked on maximizing grocery store savings. It’s like a game, seeing how I can get the most for my money, and it helps that I focus on stocking my pantry with staples that help me cook from scratch. When the grocery store had 1-lb bags of pasta on sale for $.49 each, I stocked up on a variety of shapes and have been brainstorming all the fun ways I can use them.

BudgetBytes.com has loads of doable, healthy, and frugal recipes (my Mealtime board is now loaded with pins from this site). It was really hard to choose which to make first! I started with one that aligned best with my freezer and pantry items and adapted it with my ingredients.

Recipe

Vegetable Alfredo Pasta Bake from BudgetBytes.com

Process notes

Formula

Vegetables:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 oz frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 12 oz frozen broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 6 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
  • salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c hard white wheat flour
  • 4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 3 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Pasta and topping:

  • 1 lb shell pasta
  • 3 oz shredded gouda

I don’t like adding frozen vegetables to a hot, oily pan because of the sizzle and splatter, so I opted to cook my veggies first in a small Micro-Cooker vegetable steamer that goes in the microwave. Except for the carrots, which I sauteed in the oil.

Results

Oh, yum. This is a great balance of flavor and textures. Not too cheesy, not too saucy, plenty of vegetables. The gouda on top is really special. And after a few years of only eating homemade pasta at home, it’s a treat to have the convenience of dried pasta on hand.

I actually think I could skip adding the cheese to the sauce next time, and just go with the cheese on top. Increasing the spices and seasonings in the sauce would be good, perhaps adding dried minced onion and garlic (or fresh, if I have some).

I love the way this casserole turned out — and perhaps even more I love that there are seven more servings of it in the freezer, ready to be pulled out for an easy meal here and there.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

Italian Veggie Casserole with Beans and Rice

I’ve been in a casserole mood of late. It’s so nice to prepare something once and then enjoy it for several days (especially when I’m keeping busy making things for my shop). There’s a great basic mix and match casserole formula in The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, by Beatrice Ojakangas, that provides guidance with lots of flexibility. I used her formula before with my Whole Wheat Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

My take on Beatrice’s formula wasn’t originally going to have an Italian theme, since it was starting with rice and beans. But after choosing my veggies, sauce, and topping it started to look like a natural fit. All that was needed for seasoning was some oregano.

Everything came together so well, and I love how it turned out. This casserole is hearty and delicious, and leftovers reheat great.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

Italian Veggie Casserole with Beans and Rice

Makes a generous 3-qt casserole (mine filled all the way to the brim of my dish)

Ingredients

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided into 1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp
  • 12 large cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 c cooked navy beans
  • 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Cook brown rice according to directions, adding 1 tbsp of butter to the boiling water.
  2. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion slices. Cook over medium low heat until they start to brown (or you can take them all the way to caramelized). Set aside.
  3. Now that the brown rice and onions are started, it’s a good time to preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a generous-3-qt casserole dish.
  4. Saute mushrooms in 1 1/2 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil over medium heat until moisture cooks off. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Boil a saucepan of enough water to come a couple of inches above the zucchini slices. Add the zucchini and simmer for a few minutes until just tender. Avoid overcooking and turning them to mush. Drain and set aside.
  6. Pulse the tomatoes (with juices) in a blender or food processor until the chunks smooth out. Then pour into a small bowl and stir in the garlic and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. In a large bowl, gently mix the beans, rice, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms. Spread into the prepared dish. Pour tomato sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top and cover.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes with cover on, then remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until browned and heated through.
  9. Remove and let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve.

Spinach, black bean, and yam enchilada casserole

Spinach, Black Bean, and Yam Enchilada Casserole

Recently I made — and fell in love with — Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce. The sauce was so good that I made another double batch of it and added half of it to a simple dish of rice and beans, and saved the other half for…something else.

Today that something else manifested itself in the form of an enchilada casserole loaded with black beans, spinach, onion, cheese, and yam (the orange variety, often called “sweet potato” in the store). I also had some minced cooked carrot that I tossed in, but it didn’t add much to the flavor of the dish, just a few extra vitamins.

Spinach, black bean, and yam enchilada casserole
This casserole is so good I had to force myself to stop half way through eating and snap a few pics

Really, the foundation of this is the sauce and tortillas — the middle could be filled with a big variety of things. Which is one of the things I find so wonderful about casseroles.

This dish was a lot of work, but now I have many delicious meals squirreled away in the refrigerator and freezer.

Spinach, Black Bean, and Yam Enchilada Casserole

Makes 12 portions

Ingredients

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 medium yam, diced into ½-inch pieces
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 tsp olive oil, separated
  • 8 oz white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 large bunch spinach, rinsed with stems removed
  • 2 c cooked black beans, drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ancho chile sauce (see recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Salsa, optional

Ancho Chile Sauce

Adapted from Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

  • 4 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 c water
  • 1 onion, 1/2- to 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 c vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  1. Heat the ancho chiles and 2 c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then drain the chiles, reserving 1 c of the cooking liquid.
  2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat, then add the onion and saute for 1 min. Reduce heat to medium, and add the garlic and salt. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add broth, oregano, and cumin and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  3. After thickened, pour the onion mixture into a blender and add the chiles and the 1 c of reserved liquid. Allow the lid to vent out the steam while mixing, and place a towel over the lid to prevent splatters. Blend until smooth, then stir in the lime juice. Set aside while preparing the rest of the casserole.

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°.
  2. Toss yam pieces with 2 tsp olive oil, chipotle powder, and brown sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Roast for about 15-20 min or until browned and softened.
  3. In a skillet, heat 2 tsp of oil and saute the onion for a few minutes over medium high heat, until browned and softened. Set aside.
  4. Using a thin towel, such as a flour sack towel, squeeze out the chopped mushrooms a portion at a time to reduce the water content in them. Then heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and saute the mushrooms. Set aside.
  5. Wilt the spinach in a heated skillet. Squeeze out the water and set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, stir together the black beans, roasted yam, onion, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic.
  7. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon about ⅓ cup of ancho chile sauce in the bottom, then place 6 tortillas on the bottom in a single layer, with edges overlapping so they fit in the dish. Pour the bean mixture over the tortillas and spread evenly. Top with an even layer of the cheese, then the other 6 tortillas. Pour the sauce over top and spread it out to cover all of the pieces of tortilla so they don’t dry out.
  8. Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, or until edges are darkened and it’s heated through. Serve with salsa.

slice of veggie-packed breakfast casserole

Veggie-packed Breakfast Casserole

My goal with creating this recipe was to have a hearty breakfast that requires no work to prepare in the morning — just a quick reheating in the microwave and it’s ready to go. I wanted it to be an easy, healthy choice for when time is short in the morning before heading out to work.

I started drafting the recipe by listing all of the veggies that I know my husband and I both like and would be especially tasty for a morning meal. And I knew it would include eggs and cheese to tie it all together. I approached it sort of like making a quiche, except with a shredded-potato base instead of a pastry crust.

This recipe is definitely a labor of love! It took a few hours to make, primarily because of all of the prep and pre-cooking of the vegetables. And then I accidentally turned the oven off in the middle of baking it, which stretched the cooking time out considerably.

But the time and energy definitely paid off and now there are 8 big, delicious slices of this casserole (really it’s more like a vegetable torte, with well-defined layers as opposed to stirred-together casserole ingredients), making a whole week of quick and easy breakfasts.

veggie-packed breakfast casserole

 

Veggie-packed Breakfast Casserole

Makes one 9×12-inch dish, cut into 8 generous slices

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, left whole with skins cleaned
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbls oil
  • large pack of white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 4 tbls butter, divided
  • bunch of spinach, cleaned and stemmed
  • 6 oz cheese, shredded
  • 6 large eggs
  • milk (to fill to the 4 ½ cup line when mixed with the eggs)
  • 2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 1 to 1 ½ c bread crumbs (I used crumbs from whole wheat loaves I’d previously made)
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the whole potatoes in a pan of water and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted into them fairly easily. Drain potatoes and place in an ice bath for 15 minutes, then peel the skins off and refrigerate while the rest of the ingredients are prepared.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Rub 3 tbls of the butter in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
  3. Heat 1 tbls of oil in a pan and saute the onion until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add bell pepper and garlic and saute for a few more minutes until the peppers are slightly softened. Set aside.
  4. Pull the stems from the mushrooms. Slice the caps and wring the moisture from them using a thin towel (such as a flour sack dish towel). Finely chop the mushroom stems and wring them out as well. Saute over medium-low heat with 1 tbls of butter until cooked through and the liquid has evaporated (about 15 minutes), seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, stir together the onion and pepper mixture, the mushrooms, and the spinach. The heat from the onions and mushrooms will wilt the spinach.
  6. Shred the potatoes. Set aside.
  7. In large measuring cup, add the eggs and fill up to the 4 ½ c mark with milk. Whisk together until smooth.
  8. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the olive oil.
  9. Assemble casserole: distribute the shredded potatoes in the bottom on top of the butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper; sprinkle ⅓ of the cheese over the potatoes; spread the onion/pepper/mushroom/spinach mixture over the potatoes evenly; pour the egg/milk mixture on top; sprinkle on the remaining cheese; lay the tomato slices on top; sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the tomato slices.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake an additional 15-30 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and the dish is bubbly.
  11. Let rest for a bit, then slice. If storing for eating over several days, it’s easier to get the slices into storage containers once it’s been chilled.