Miss A Columnist

Emma Mincks is a free spirit in her 20's with feminist leanings and a love of all things foodie. She graduated with a BA in English from Gonzaga University in 2008, where she studied abroad in London, and eventually made her way back to the Pacific Northwest after graduating with her MA in Literature from the University of New Mexico in 2011. She is excited to work as a freelance writer, editor, and tutor in Seattle, and is beginning a career with words. You can check out her local literary musings at the blog lookingforpemberley.com. If you have a Seattle charity or cultural event, restaurant, boutique, spa, or salon you would like covered on Miss A, please contact Emma at emma.mincks@gmail.com.

Light And Healthy Summer Casseroles

If you want to bring something unique, healthy, and filling to your next summer event, then I have a great idea for you. Casseroles are often considered to be a winter dish, but you when you make this light summer casserole, you will please everyone at your next potluck or barbeque. Although many people are tempted to eat less during the summer months, the heat and drinks at summer parties make it more important to eat something substantial.

Photo Credit: Eating Well

For example, you can try using fresh summer veggies in the Zucchini and Tomato Gratin from Eating Well, which is not only nutritious and healthy, but helps you get rid of surplus vegetables that tend to grow fast during the summer months.

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs, (see Tip), divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini, (about 1 3/4 pounds total), sliced on the bias about 1/4 inch thick
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or similar gratin dish) with cooking spray.
  2. Place garlic, basil and thyme on your chopping board; mince well. Spread half the breadcrumbs evenly in the prepared baking dish. Strew onion over the breadcrumbs. Distribute half the diced tomato over the onion, then sprinkle with half the garlic-herb mixture. Sprinkle with vinegar and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a third of the zucchini; you want it to sauté, not stew, so don’t crowd it. Sauté, turning the pieces once, until golden and not quite tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. When the slices are done, use a fork to transfer them to the gratin, overlapping the slices. Cook the remaining zucchini in two batches, each time using 2 teaspoons oil. Strew the remaining tomatoes and garlic-herb mixture over the zucchini. Season with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and a grinding of pepper. Toss the remaining 1 cup breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle over the gratin.
  4. Bake the gratin until bubbly hot, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmesan.

In addition, Eating Well features another healthy summer dish that cuts out the extra sodium and calories from cream of mushroom soup while still keeping their Chicken, Mushroom, and Wild Rice Casserole delicious and flavorful.

Photo Credit: Eating Well

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, chopped and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup dry sherry (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preparation
  1. Combine water and rice in a small heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, place chicken in a large skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board and let cool.
  3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released and has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes. Add sherry, increase heat to high and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Add milk; bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Stir in Parmesan, sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  5. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Spread the rice in an even layer in the prepared baking dish. Top with the chicken, then green beans. Pour the sauce over the top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with almonds.
  6. Bake the casserole until it is bubbling and the almonds are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

The key to light casseroles is to stay away from heavy cream and high fat soup mixes. This casserole is suitable for vegetarians and can also be adapted for meat lovers by adding chicken or salmon. It can be a great side dish for your next garden party or summer meal, but you can also take it with you easily and share it with friends and family.

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