I go back and forth with Josh almost every week about how he needs to contribute to the meal plan, and every week he claims he has no idea what kinds of foods can be made vegetarian. Let’s ignore the fact that there’s a meat substitute for almost literally every kind of meat in the world and focus on the fact that he has eaten a predominately vegetarian diet for years.
Let me also point out that vegetarian versions of his favorite childhood meals, like the fajita tater tot casserole, are my more popular recipes. Clearly, there’s a lot of people who want to eat what Josh eats and that group of people includes me. Though he likes all the vegetarian meals I make, he definitely prefers when they have more familiar proteins (even if they’re fake versions of those proteins). Lucky for Josh, after my sponsored post for BeyondMeat a few months ago (Taco Pinwheels), I was gifted a fat stack of coupons for free faux beef and chicken, which meant he got to eat “meatier” foods for a few months.
I took inspiration one of his favorite foods (Ranch dressing), two of my favorite foods (noodles and cheese!), and the fake chicken in my freezer to make this casserole. I didn’t even bother writing down the ingredients the first time I made it: I was literally just throwing delicious things into a pan. Needless to say, this dish was a winner and I had to make it again, ASAP. This is hearty enough to feed 6 – 8 people, so between making it a couple of times I’ve been able to have leftovers for lunch and freeze another portion for a later dinner. This casserole reheats well and is sure to please even the pickiest of meat eaters. If you’re of the chicken-eating variety, you could even sub in pre-cooked chicken (or wait to add the chicken until last so you can divide this between meat eaters and non meat eaters). It’s a winner all around.
15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes or regular diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried chives
1½ c low fat or fat free cottage cheese (small curd)
½ c Greek yogurt (I used fat free)
4 oz smoked Gruyere or mozzarella (shred)
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, divided (shred)
2 large carrots, chopped (about 1 c)
1 c chopped broccoli
10 oz whole wheat pasta or GF pasta
¼ c Ranch dressing (your favorite brand or homemade)
Red pepper flakes, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp bacon bits, optional (many are accidentally vegetarian)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spritz a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.
Saute the onion and garlic in a nonstick pan over medium heat, spritzing with nonstick spray or adding a little water as necessary to prevent sticking.
Add the chicken, tomatoes, parsley, dill, and chives and simmer 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the cottage cheese, yogurt, smoked cheese, and 2 oz of the cheddar. Reduce he at to low and cook until excess liquid has evaporated. Careful not to boil or the dairy will get a strange texture.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cook time add the broccoli and carrots. Strain and return to pot.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and veggies. Stir until well mixed, adding the Ranch dressing. Taste, adding salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. (I like a few shakes of red pepper for a little spice, leave out or add to individual portions when serving if you need to be careful about spice).
Transfer to prepared casserole dish, sprinkling with reserved cheddar and bacon bits, if desired.
Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melty.
I used BeyondMeat Chicken, but any faux chicken will work. Feel free to sub in pre-cooked chicken if you’re not vegetarian. If you aren’t a fan of faux meats, a can of rinsed black beans would work great, too.