Putting Veggies First

Putting Veggies First

Practically every study about vegetables touts their power in preventing chronic illnesses, fighting cancer and helping with weight loss. Vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are important sources of nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid and vitamins A and C.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate food guide (which replaced the well-known food pyramid in 2011) recommends that people fill half their plate with fruit and vegetables. That means that adult women should eat about 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables per day,
depending on age, and adult men should eat 2½ to 3 cups. Many of us fall short of that recommendation.

A tasty way to get in your veggies is to make this comfort-laden, creamy chicken casserole. Instead of using shredded potatoes as a base, this healthy casserole features shredded zucchini and summer squash. With a variety of fresh vegetables and creamy non-fat Greek yogurt, you’ll also get a forkful of deliciousness.

Healthy Comfort Food Casserole

Makes 8 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, visible fat removed

2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

olive oil spray

½ pound sweet yellow onions (about 2 medium), finely diced

10 ounces mushrooms, sliced

½ pound zucchini (about 3 medium), shredded in food processor

½ pound yellow squash (about 3 medium), shredded in food processor

2 cups salsa

1 cup nonfat (0% fat) Greek yogurt

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Pound chicken breasts until they are ½-inch thick. Season with 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, if using.

3. Spray a large nonstick or cast iron skillet with olive oil spray and heat for 1 to 2 minutes over high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook about 5 to 6 minutes per side until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from heat, let cool and dice.

4. Spray same skillet with olive oil, heat for 1 minute over medium heat and add onions. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If you need to, add a little more olive oil spray. Add shredded zucchini and yellow squash and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salsa and let reduce, about 5 minutes.

5. Strain vegetable and salsa mixture through a fine mesh strainer and pour into a large bowl. Stir in diced chicken, Greek yogurt, ¼ cup cheddar cheese, cilantro, remaining 1 teaspoon cumin and remaining 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Pour mixture into an 8-cup casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.

6. Place dish in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Originally Published in the Fall 2017/Winter 2018 issue