Monday, May 17, 2010

Cheese and Chicken Shells

Tonight I served the first meal from my chicken processing session last week. It really was a beautiful thing. Monday's are always busy here. I drop off my daughter at school, head to my parenting group, pick up my daughter, feed everyone lunch, try to catch up on laundry and cleaning needs that have accumulated over the weekend while my toddler naps, and have dinner on the table by 5:00 before my daughter's 5:50 dance class. In addition, I needed to run to the grocery and my oldest had a friend over today so I needed a few breaks from the routine to deal with "5 year old girl drama". When I returned home from the grocery this afternoon, I pulled out the Chicken and Cheese Shells casserole from the freezer to thaw. No chopping or cooking or 4:15 I popped this into the oven, then changed everyone into dance class clothes and answered emails while it baked. At 5:00 pm we had a delicious, homemade meal on the table that everyone (except for my daughter's friend...she wasn't a fan) devoured. Awesome! Not only were these cheesy shells yummy, they're healthy too! Low in fat, full of protein and calcium, AND there are vitamins in there too...since there's finely grated carrot in the filling.

Here's how I made this casserole. First, I combined cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, an egg, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Note: you're supposed to stir in a cup of shredded chicken too. I forgot.

You can boil the shells until "just cooked" while you make the filling. I made mine the day before, so I just pulled them out of the fridge.

Now stuff the shells with the cottage cheese mixture and place in a baking dish. As I was stuffing my shells, I realized that there really wasn't enough filling for all of the shells. I was a little disappointed. I decided to tear up the extra shells and tuck them in around the stuffed shells. I figured that the pasta would still get eaten when smothered in cheese sauce and baked. I was right.

After I finished stuffing the shells, I turned to make the sauce. Then it hit me. That chicken that I'd cooked and shredded the day before...I was supposed to put that into the filling. No wonder that there wasn't enough filling for all of the shells. Duh.

I totally wasn't going to un-stuff the shells, stir chicken into the filling, and re-stuff them, so I just sprinkled the chicken over the top of the stuffed shells. This worked just fine. : )

Then I began making the sauce. No need to make a fattening roux (although I'm a big fan of a rich, fattening roux), Just stir 1 and 3/4 cups of skim milk into 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

Add a cup (4 oz.) of Swiss cheese. If you can find the shredded stuff, great. If not, just use slices like I did.

Cook and stir until the cheese melts, then add a dash of nutmeg. I also added some salt too. This makes for a really nice, lower-fat sauce.

Pour the sauce over the shells.

Smooth it out so that the shells are covered. I sprinkled mine with a little pepper.

Now cover, label and freeze until you're ready to bake. OR... bake it right away at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Mine was not fully thawed when I put it into the oven. I baked it covered for 30 minutes, but when I checked it at the end of this time, the center was still cold. I un-covered the dish, turned up the heat to 425 degrees (for the sake of time) and baked it for another 15 minutes. It was perfectly golden brown and bubbly around the edges when I pulled it from the oven.

This is totally comfort food! Mmmm.

Cheese and Chicken Shells adapted from Frozen Assets: Lite and Easy

Makes: 6 servings

12 jumbo pasta shells
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese
1 cup cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/2 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup carrot, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 3/4 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup (4 oz.) reduced fat Swiss cheese, grated or thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Advance prep:

Cook chicken. Shred for a total of 1 cup. Cook macaroni shells according to package directions. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Grate mozzarella and Swiss cheeses if needed. Grate carrots.


In a mixing bowl, combine beaten egg, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon into cooked pasta shells. Place into a freezer safe casserole pan. In a medium sauce pan (or skillet) combine milk and cornstarch; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add Swiss cheese, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Stir until cheese is melted. Spoon sauce evenly over the shells. Cover with foil, label, and freeze.

To serve:

Thaw. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly around the edges. Sprinkle with a small amount of nutmeg.

Per Serving: 341 calories, 4.5 g fat, 21.7 g protein, 52.0 g carbohydrates, 51 mg cholesterol

Note: I used low fat cottage cheese instead of fat free and "regular" mozzarella and Swiss cheeses.

To print or download this recipe please click here.


Julie said...

I'm definitely bookmarking this one Krista. I love that it's got carrots hidden in there too. Sprinkling the chicken on top is exactly what I would have done at that point too!

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Isn't it great having that done ahead like that? But good lord. I'm exhausted from your Monday activities and that's just one day!! With all that going on, I honestly don't know how you are blogging too. Whew. I need to go lay down LOL!!!

Kim said...

Sounds like you had a super busy Monday! Great idea to put the chicken on top of the shells. These chicken and cheese shells look delicious and I know that my family would love them.

Do you find it hard to have other people's children over for dinner? I always have issues with it. My daughter had a slumber party Saturday night and I couldn't get 4 girls to agree on anything. Some of them don't even like spaghetti or macaroni and cheese. The next morning, they couldn't agree on breakfast. None of them liked pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc. It drives me crazy!

Megan said...

Healthy and delicious? I'm all over this one!

teresa said...

i would love to do more freezer meals. especially this time of year, it's so busy!

this looks delicious!

Holly said...

I'll be making this for sure for after baby comes!! Looks really yummy:)

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