The new theme at our house is freezer cooking. If I'm cooking anything, you bet that I'm going to double the batch and put one in the freezer! Even better for the summer months is to freeze a meal in a microwavable container ... Dinner in 10 minutes and no turning on the oven!
This recipe tastes like the spinach and artichoke dip you love, minus a lot of fat thanks to low-fat yogurt and low-fat cream cheese. And yes, kids will like it! My two year-old actually threw a tantrum when I wouldn't give her anymore spinach-coated pieces of pasta to eat (I made her wait until dinnertime at the table!)
The recipe below makes a truckload - If you want to make just one 9x13 casserole, just cut the recipe in half. But the amount below makes two 9x9 casseroles, and it freezes great! I acutally spread it across three casserole dishes since I have a small family - just two adults and a toddler.
If you want to cut the fat EVEN more, leave out the mayo (add a little extra milk or even extra tomatoes); or make a vegetarian version, just leave out the chicken.
~A. Snyder, A La Carte Staff
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"Spinach Artichoke Dip" Casserole
1 lb penne or bowtie whole wheat pasta
2 cans quartered or chopped artichoke hearts, drained well
1 can diced tomatoes
Optional: 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
Extra Parmesan for topping
2 10-oz packs of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1 8 oz pack of Neufchatel or low-fat cream cheese (softened)
1 small container low or fat free PLAIN yogurt
1/2 c. Mayo
3 T Olive Oil
3 T parmesan cheese
1/2 c. milk
1 t dried oregano
1 t garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
Cook pasta to just al dente following package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients, saving the spinach for last. Gently stir in thawed and drained spinach.
Now, if you're making the mega batch, you may want to combine all ingredients in a very large stock pot. However, I used the following combination method:
Since I was spreading this out over three casseroles, I first dumped my drained, cooked pasta into three dishes (one to cook that night, and two to freeze!)
I stirred together the sauce and remaining ingredients, and put 1/3 of the mixture into each dish. Then I just mixed them together in the dish. You could put all the ingredients in a giant bowl or stock pot first, then into your casseroles -- but I am extremely clumsy and tend to work better with small amounts.
Top with parmesan. If you're trying to diet, just put a little or skip it.
Cover one with foil and plop in the freezer. Thaw before cooking.
I baked this at 350 for about 20-ish minutes, just until there was some bubbling on the sides and some of the penne was crunchy on the tips.
Serve with a salad and a glass of chianti!
Are you a freezer cook? Send us your hints and recipes for freezer cooking to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comments below!