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Fresh Food Recipe Makeover: Cheesy Potato Casserole

March 6, 2012

Today’s fresh recipe makeover was submitted by a dear friend of mine and I could not have been more excited to take on the challenge.  The original recipe was actually a slightly healthier version (if you can imagine) of a classic potato casserole I have made numerous times, so I was especially looking forward to creating a fresher, and potentially healthier, take.  The original casserole has cream of chicken soup and sour cream base, so I knew I would need to create a similar creamy texture without the sodium packed punch of canned soup.  I remembered recipes I had used in the past that involved butternut squash or carrot purees as a creamy base for mac and cheese, and I thought it was worth a shot to try using the vegetables in a similar way for this recipe.  The end result is a creamy textured casserole without the processed soup AND packed with the added nutrients of butternut squash.  Talk about a win/win…

Additional steps created for this recipe

1. Peel, chop, and cook butternut squash.

2. Prepare butternut squash puree.

Recipe Results

Cons: A substantial amount of time is added to the preparation of this recipe compared to the original.  Cooking the squash and preparing the purees results in approximately 45 additional minutes of preparation (this includes hands off cooking time for the squash).  I chose to double the puree recipe while I was at it to make a casserole for my friend, but you could easily do the same and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers for next time.

Pros: 30% reduction in calories, 65% reduction in total fat, 56% reduction in saturated fat, and 12% reduction in sodium.  Plus, the added vitamins and nutrients found in butternut squash.


Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
Yields: 8 Servings

3 cups Butternut squash (peeled & cubed, about 1 pound)
1 1/4 cups Organic low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Fat-free milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup Fat-free Greek yogurt
1 cup Sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 16-ounce package Frozen hash browns
2 Green onions (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Olive oil
1/2 cup Whole-wheat bread crumbs

1. Combine butternut squash, broth, and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes, or until squash is fork tender.
2. Preheat oven to 375F.
3. Combine cooked squash mixture, salt, pepper, and yogurt in blender with cap insert removed (to vent steam) and a towel covering the opening (to catch splatters).  Blend until smooth.
4. Transfer pureed squash mixture to medium bowl and add cheese. Add hash browns. Combine until well mixed.
5. Place potato mixture in an even layer in a 9 x 13 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with green onions.
6. Heat olive oil over medium in a small saute pan. Add bread crumbs and toss until well coated. Sprinkle evenly over potato mixture.
7. Cook in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Kate’s Thoughts

It took me a couple of tries to get this recipe to where I wanted it, but I must admit I am pleased with the outcome.  The butternut squash puree creates a sweeter flavor than the cream of chicken soup, but it is by no means off-putting.  You will  not take a bite of this casserole and think you are eating the original, you will however think you are eating something incredibly delicious.

I recommend using organic low-sodium chicken broth because it has notably less sodium than even traditional low-sodium varieties.  I also chose to create my own bread crumbs by pulsing a few slices of whole wheat bread in my food processor.  It is a great solution for those end pieces that no one seems to want to eat!  Non-fat plain Greek yogurt also makes the perfect substitute for sour cream.

If you are feeling in the complete home-made spirit, making your own hash browns is also possible.  Peel the potatoes, slice them into 1/2-inch wide pieces, and grate using a hand grater or grating attachment of a food processor.  Be sure this is the last step of your prep, as potatoes will quickly brown if left to oxidize.  You can place them in water to slow down the oxidation process.  You will need to adjust the cooking time to 50-60 minutes to ensure the potatoes are sufficiently cooked.


Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole (AKA Lion House Funeral Potatoes)
Yields: 8 Servings

1 16-ounce package Frozen hash browns
3 tablespoons Margarine
1 can (12 oz) Cream of chicken soup
1 Cup Sour cream
1 Cup Milk
3 tablespoons Green onion (finely chopped)
3/4 Cup Sharp Cheddar cheese (shredded)
2 tablespoons Margarine (melted)
3/4 Cup Corn Flakes (crumbled)

1. Put hash browns into casserole dish.
2. Combine margarine, soup, sour cream, milk, green onions and cheese. Warm in a sauce pan and spread over potatoes.
3. Combine melted margarine and corn flakes. Sprinkle on top.
4. Bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees.


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