I love making casseroles during the holidays because they’re something simple in the midst of December madness.
Between baking cookies, shopping, decorating and wrapping presents, there isn’t much time left for extravagant dinners. Unfortunately, lack of time leads to poor nutritional choices, so I want to share a nutritionally balanced casserole recipe that’s so easy you could even pass the chef duties off to the house novice.
In this casserole, I’ve opted to use bison as my lean meat because bison are grass-fed and their meat is very nutrient-dense in proportion to the caloric value.
Another healthy choice is using quinoa elbow noodles instead of regular pasta. Quinoa pasta is higher in protein, fiber, calcium, iron and amino acids than regular pasta, and it’s also lower in sodium.
Finally, although the casserole is topped with cheddar cheese (Cheddar makes everything beddar, right?), the cheesy, creaminess inside comes from a mixture of diced tomatoes (any variety is fine, as long as there is no added salt) and light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese.
The combination of ingredients in this recipe give you the most nutrient-dense bang for your buck, without skimping on flavor. You’ve got your grain, your greens, lean protein and calcium, all in one yummy package.
Broccoli, bison, macaroni casserole
- 12 oz ground bison
- 8 oz frozen or fresh broccoli (pulsed in the food processor)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (drained) (added ingredients like basil, garlic, etc. are fine, but look for cans that read “no salt added”)
- 1/2 tsp season salt (such as Tony Chachere’s)
- 5 wedges of light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese
- 1/2 box of Quinoa elbow noodles
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
Preheat oven to 400F. Boil water for pasta and cook according to box instructions. Spray a skillet with oil and cook bison. Add broccoli, tomatoes, season salt and laughing cow wedges. Cook until wedges are melted and add pasta. Mix well and pour into glass casserole dish. Top with grated cheddar and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook for another 2 minutes. Enjoy!
This recipe combines sweet-heat with some cool lime yogurt and peppery greens. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Although, unlike some parties, this one won’t leave you with a hangover. Low fat, low carb, high fiber, high protein, lots of vitamins and even some calcium means you can feel good enjoying every bite.
Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula
- 1 can pineapple chunks in 100% juice
- 1 can crushed pineapple in 100% juice
- 2 stalks of scallions chopped
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1.5 tsp allspice
- 1/2 de-seeded habanero / 1 de-seeded jalapeno / 1/2 tsp cayenne (choose your heat)
- 4 bone in pork chops
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- 1 can black beans
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
- 1 small container of plain yogurt
- bag/bunch of arugula
What’s great about this meal? Aside from perfectly highlighting the amazing flavors of the season, your body gets tons of fruit, veggies, protein and fiber, it’s really tough to screw up, and the marinade adds enough flavor that you don’t need any sauce (read “added calories”) to enhance the flavor.
The portions below are for a 4 person meal, although the cake should stretch farther . The entire meal takes about 45 mins; 15 to prep, 30 to cook – not counting the time the chicken is marinating.
Recipe #1: Chicken + Marinade
- Gallon-size ziploc
- 4 chicken breasts
- Blood orange juice – about 2 cups/enough to cover chicken when combined with other marinade ingredients
- Juice of one lemon
- Juice of two limes
- 2 tsps Chipotle Tabasco.
Combine liquid ingredients and add to ziploc with chicken breasts. Marinate for at least 1 hour. We also marinated two portabello mushrooms since my sister-in-law is a vegetarian, and they came out yummy, too.
To cook: Preheat grill and cook chicken for about 12-15 minutes (depending on how large your breasts are…hee hee) on each side over medium heat. Let sit for 5 minutes after you take it off the grill.
Recipe #2: Grill Wok Vegetables
- Grill wok
- 2 large red peppers quartered
- 1 pineapple halved and sliced
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 Tbsp EVOO
Toss fruit and vegetables with olive oil and grill at medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently so everything is exposed to the grill flame.
Recipe #3: Tropical Summer Salad
- Head of Romaine Lettuce chopped/torn
- 1/2 English Cucumber chopped
- 1 Mango chopped
- 2 Tbsps EVOO
- 1 Tbsp Honey
- 1 1/2 tsps chili powder
- Juice of 2 limes.
Combine oil, honey, lime juice and chili powder. Toss with lettuce, cucumber and mango, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.
I recommend eating all of your grilled ingredients together (hello, party in your mouth) alongside the salad.
Recipe #4: Spicy Chocolate Cake
- I pkg Gluten-free chocolate cake mix (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2/3 cup of natural, no-sugar added applesauce
- one egg
- 1/4 cup of vanilla soy milk
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp honey
Mix cake mix, applesauce, egg and soy milk and pour into lightly greased brownie/cake pan. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp cayenne and 1/2 tsp chili powder on top, drizzle with 1 Tbsp of honey. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.
*If you can get your hands on a can of pumpkin – not the pie filling kind – you can mix that with the cake mix instead of the applesauce, egg and soy milk. It’s harder to find out of season, but it’s a great way to add fiber and serve up a really moist dessert.