Recipes Archives - YMCA of Southwestern Indiana

Low Carb Casseroles That Are Perfect Right Now

Casseroles are satisfying any time of year, but especially when it’s cold outside. Not only is there something comforting about coming home to a hot, one-dish meal, but the convenience of being able to prep a casserole ahead of time and then just stick it in the oven is huge.

A lot of traditional casseroles tend to be high in unhealthy carbs and fat while lacking in nutrients, but making a few simple ingredient changes can create a healthy one-dish dinner. Check out these three tricks below — along with three of my favorite recipes — that not only cut the bad carbs but also boost vegetable intake, increase fiber and other nutrients, and minimize saturated fat and sodium.

Trick #1:  Think Vegetables First

One of the easiest ways to lower carbs and boost nutrients is swap a starch like white pasta or rice for a vegetable. Using cooked spaghetti squash strands or spiralizing or shaving thin strips of vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato or beets offers a shape similar to spaghetti and a sturdy base for sauce, protein or cheese. In place of white rice, consider using cauliflower “rice” or crumbles in the casserole itself or to serve the casserole over.

Not sure how veggie noodles will go over at your house? Check out this recipe:

Zucchini Pizza Bake Casserole Recipe

Using fresh zucchini spirals and jarred marinara sauce make this pizza-like casserole a breeze to prepare. Choose a marinara sauce that contains 6 grams of sugar or less per serving or contains “no added sugars.” Spiralized zucchini is available in the produce sections of most groceries, but you can also purchase whole zucchini to spiralize or shave at home. Serves 6.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4½   cups zucchini spirals (about 1 lb. zucchini)
  • ⅛    tsp. salt
  • 1       garlic clove, minced
  • ½      lb. lean ground beef (10% fat) or Italian turkey sausage
  • 1½   cups tomato-basil marinara sauce
  • 1       (14.5 oz.) can no-salt-added petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • ¼      tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2       tsp. olive oil
  • 1       small onion, sliced
  • 1       green bell pepper, cored and sliced
  • 2       cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1½   ounces uncured turkey pepperoni, halved
  • 1½   cups shredded part-skim mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
  • ¼      cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Spread zucchini spirals over a clean kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt; let sit 30 minutes. Squeeze towel to remove excess moisture from zucchini.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ground beef; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain; return to skillet. Add marinara sauce, drained tomatoes, zucchini spirals, and pepper. Simmer 3 minutes or until warm throughout. Spoon mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  4. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; saute 4 minutes or until beginning to turn tender. Add mushrooms, stirring to combine, and cook 2 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from skillet. Using slotted spoon, top zucchini mixture with sauteed vegetables and pepperoni.   Sprinkle with cheeses.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown on edges. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

NUTRITION FACTS

Calories 261; total fat 13g (saturated fat 6g); cholesterol 51mg; sodium 583mg; total carbs 17g (dietary fiber 4g, total sugars 10g, added sugars 1g); protein 21g

*Zucchini spirals can be purchased at most groceries in packages ranging from 14 to 15 oz. These typically have 4 to 5 cups of spirals. To make your own spirals, purchase 1 to 1 ¼ lb.  whole zucchini. Trim and then spiralize or use a vegetable peeler to create thin strips.

Zucchini has such a mild flavor and texture so similar to cooked spaghetti. The casserole also allows for customization based on your favorite pizza toppings.

Trick #2: Be Smart About Carbs

Carbohydrates aren’t bad; the body needs some each day to function. But there are two keys for healthy eating. One is not overdoing unhealthy carbs — something that’s hard to do, thanks to the abundance of snack foods and added sugars around us each day. The second key is opting for good-quality carb foods that are composed of fiber and complex carbs, such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Lower-quality carbohydrate foods like regular pasta and white bread often lack fiber and nutrients and provide only refined carbs like starch and added sugars due to milling and processing. These carbs tend to trigger spikes in blood glucose, as well as unhealthy insulin responses by the body, which can lead to cravings and hunger later in the day.

Have a Taco night with this popular casserole recipe:

Cheesy Taco Casserole Recipe

A lot of recipes for Southwestern-inspired casseroles are heavy in unhealthy carbs like tortilla chips and white rice, as well as high-fat cheese and sour cream. But in this version, whole-grain corn tortillas take the place of chips or white flour tortillas. This swap provides more fiber, fewer calories and carbs, and less saturated fat and sodium. Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS 

  • 6  corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • ⅛   tsp. salt
  • 1¼  lbs. lean ground beef (90/10)
  • 1  large onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 2½   Tbsp. lower-sodium taco seasoning
  • 1  (14.5-oz.) can no-salt-added black beans, drained
  • 1   (14.5-oz.) can fire-roasted finely diced tomatoes
  • ½   cup fresh refrigerated salsa
  • 1   Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1½ cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • ¼  cup chopped green onions
  • 4   cups chopped romaine lettuce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut tortillas into ½ to 1-inch squares.  Cover a sheet pan with foil; place cut tortillas on lined pan. Coat tortilla pieces with cooking spray; sprinkle with ⅛ tsp. salt, tossing to coat all pieces. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, stirring tortilla pieces every 3 to 4 minutes. (Tip: Watch pieces on edge to prevent excess browning.) Let cool.
  3. Heat nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion. Cook, stirring to crumble beef, 7 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess liquid; return meat mixture to skillet. Add taco seasoning, stirring well. Add beans, tomatoes, salsa and lime juice. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until warm throughout and slightly thickened.
  4. Sprinkle half of toasted tortilla pieces in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with half of beef mixture, ¼ cup cheese, and remaining tortilla pieces. Add remaining beef mixture and sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until warm throughout and cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with green onions. Let stand 5 minutes. Then cut into 8 pieces or spoon each serving over ½ cup chopped romaine lettuce.

NUTRITION FACTS

Calories 322; total fat 14g (saturated fat 6g); cholesterol 66mg; sodium 472 mg; total carbs 23g (dietary fiber 5g, total sugars 6g, added sugars 0g); protein 24g.

A lot of recipes for Southwestern-inspired casseroles are heavy in unhealthy carbs like tortilla chips and white rice, as well as high-fat cheese and sour cream. But in this version, whole-grain corn tortillas take the place of chips or white flour tortillas. This swap provides more fiber, fewer calories and carbs, and less saturated fat and sodium. Adding canned black beans and tomatoes to taco-seasoned meat creates a nutrient-dense filling. Top with a little cheese, and serve over a crisp bed of lettuce.

Trick #3: Reduce, Don’t Eliminate

Low-carb doesn’t mean no carbs. In fact, a favorite trick is to simply halve or slightly reduce the starchy component, whether that’s potatoes, pasta, grains, or beans. Add extra vegetables to make up for some of the missing carbs so that serving sizes are still ample. Many times, you won’t even notice the change.

Breakfast casseroles make a hearty meal any time of the day, but many rely on hash browns or bread cubes to bulk up the egg mixture. Check out this breakfast casserole recipe:

Roasted Sweet Potato & Sausage Breakfast Casserole Recipe

Breakfast casseroles make a hearty meal any time of the day, but many rely on hash browns or bread cubes to bulk up the egg mixture. In Roasted Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast Casserole, white potatoes are swapped for more nutrient-dense sweet potatoes. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes and ensures that they’re tender. Adding a vegetable like spinach means fewer unhealthy carbs and gets in some leafy greens. Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1       (1-lb.) sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 3 to 3½ cups)
  • 2       tsp. olive oil
  • ½      tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • ¼      tsp. garlic powder
  • 8       oz. mild Italian turkey bulk sausage
  • 1       onion, diced
  • 4       cups coarsely torn baby spinach
  • 9       large eggs
  • ¼      cup 1% or low-fat milk
  • ½    cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ⅓    cup grated Parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil; lightly coat foil with cooking spray.
  2. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, ¼ tsp. salt and garlic powder. Arrange over prepared baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring halfway during cooking. When potatoes are done, reduce oven to 375 degrees.
  3. While potatoes bake, place a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sausage, stirring to crumble, cooking 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove sausage from skillet to drain, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion to pan drippings. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until tender. Add spinach, cooking 1 minute or just until wilted.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt in a large bowl, whisking to combine. Add drained sausage, sweet potatoes, onions and spinach, and half of each cheese, stirring gently to combine. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in middle.

NUTRITION FACTS

Calories 232; total fat 13g (saturated fat 5g); cholesterol 240mg; sodium 536mg; total carbs 12g (dietary fiber 2g, total sugars 3g, added sugars 0g); protein 16g.

In this recipe, white potatoes are swapped for more nutrient-dense sweet potatoes. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes and ensures that they’re tender. Adding a  vegetable like spinach means fewer unhealthy carbs and gets in some leafy greens.

Overall, these three simple tricks lower unhealthy carbs and fat and increase vegetables to make your favorite comfort-food casseroles healthier. Better still, your family and friends may not even notice the small changes — and if they do, it’s probably because they like the new version better!

Source: Carolyn Williams, Rally Health. January 15, 2019