Friday, December 2, 2016

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake

A couple of months ago I started stocking my freezer with things I could pull out for easy meals. When you’re following a low sodium diet, finding quick meals can be a challenge. Grabbing something from the grocery deli is out. Same with picking up a pizza. What’s the answer? Having a well stocked freezer and pantry.

I’ve always frozen dishes that made a lot of servings  ‒ like soups, stews, pulled pork, etc. And I’d freeze leftovers from 9 x 13 casseroles. But all the casserole freezing was after-the-fact. It only happened when I realized we weren’t eating something fast enough, and I didn’t want it to go bad.

This time around, I wanted to try out some casserole recipes specifically for freezing. So I went searching online and discovered Pioneer Woman’s Sour Cream Noodle Bake. It immediately caught my interest because it uses cottage cheese, and I often have a tub of NSA cottage cheese in my fridge. Same with sour cream. So I gave the recipe a whirl and modified it for low sodium. Instead of using a 9 x 13 pan, I made two 8 x 8 casseroles. One for immediate consumption and one for freezing.

Freshly Baked 8 x 8 Pan
I used disposable foil casserole pans, following the general directions for assembling the casserole, but dividing everything to accommodate two pans. We got 4 servings from each 8 x 8 casserole. Last week (2 months later) we finally got around to eating the frozen casserole, and it was just as tasty as the freshly made one. So this recipe was a winner. The only changes I made were to use all low sodium/NSA products, add some extra seasoning, and save the grated cheese for the top. Also, I used 1 cup grated cheese for each casserole.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

1¼ lbs ground beef, chicken, turkey, or pork
One 15-oz can NSA tomato sauce (or two 8-oz cans)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried savory (or favorite dried herb/NSA herb blend)
1 - 2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz egg noodles (I used bow ties)
½ cup sour cream
1¼ cups NSA cottage cheese
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup sliced green onions (or less to taste)
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (I used ½ cup cheddar and ½ cup Swiss; I also sprinkled 1 cup cheese on each 8 x 8 casserole)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brown the ground meat in a large skillet. Drain the fat, and then add the NSA tomato sauce, black pepper, low sodium Worcestershire sauce, dried savory, and minced garlic. Stir, and then simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cook the egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream and NSA cottage cheese. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Add the sour cream mixture and green onions to the noodles and stir.

To assemble, add half of the noodles to a baking dish. Top with half the meat mixture, and then sprinkle on half the grated cheese (I saved all the cheese for the topping). Repeat with noodles, meat and then a final layer of cheese. Bake until all the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. (I sprinkled all the grated cheese on top.) Do not over-bake.

To freeze: Assemble the Sour Cream Noodle Bake in a disposable aluminum oven-proof pan and seal the top of the container with the lid or heavy foil. Seal the edges to prevent freezer burn and place in the freezer. (I also covered the casserole with a couple layers of plastic wrap.)

To cook from frozen: Place directly in a 375-degree F oven and bake, covered, for 35 - 45 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until cheese has melted and casserole is heated through, about 10 - 15 minutes more.

Note: Because I was using foil pans, I baked the casseroles on cookie sheets to provide stability.

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