The holidays are a time of gathering and celebrating with friends and family, but they can also be fraught with extra demands on your time. The Personal Chef Approach is all about helping you organize your meals in advance, so you can still serve fabulous dinners while saving hours of personal time every week. We are all about taking the  stress out of dinner and entertaining, so our gift to you this holiday season is six great casserole recipes you can make ahead to help keep your holidays stress-free.

Julie Anne and Tatjana Rhodes

Julie Anne and Tatjana Rhodes

These recipes will make feeding a crowd much easier, and most of them will help stretch your dollar. As a full-fledge Personal Chef Approach member you would have access to our automatic recipe scaler, but these recipes can easily be doubled or even tripled to suit your guest list numbers with a little old fashioned arithmetic too. They are also easily transportable and make a great hostess gift when you’re a guest in someone else’s home.

Store your food properly for optimal freshness

Cook once, enjoy homemade meals in minutes all week long

Not entertaining a crowd this season? Package as individual or family size servings for weeknight dinners, and be sure to read the variations to help you customize recipes to your own household taste.

Our weekly menu plans include grocery lists and heat to eat instructions, while the custom menu planning tool auto generates them for you, but I’m deliberately skipping the grocery list this week, because it’s unlikely you’ll be making all six casseroles at once. Simply make a grocery list from the ingredients part of each recipe you plan to make, minus any ingredients you already have on hand, then add any household goods you may need for a quick one-stop grocery store shop.

Hunky Santa

Try somethings new: Tatjana and I said hello to Hunky Santa

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season this year! I hope the Personal Chef Approach will become a staple part of your holiday celebrations and make life easier for you in 2015. What other great new traditions will you be trying this year? Don’t forget to comment below…

If you like what you taste, have a look at all you can expect with membership to the Personal Chef Approach above, and don’t forget to give someone you love the gift of time with PCA Gift Certificates starting at just $12.99.

Gift Certificates for every budget

Gift Certificates for every budget

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MENU: 

Chicken Florentine Casserole

Mama’s Artichoke Lasagna 

Caramelized Pear, Bacon, & Gorgonzola Quiche

Shepherd’s Pie

Macaroni & Cheese with Lump Crab Meat & Truffle Oil

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

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Chicken Florentine

Chicken Florentine Casserole

This fresh twist on an old classic is perfect for a week night dinner, or multiplied to feed a crowd. By nature of being a casserole, it is also easily transportable to any potluck party, and freezes exceptionally well.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached (see   note) and shredded
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms
1 /2 cup dry Sherry
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup panko

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray your casserole dish with olive oil spray to keep ingredients from sticking.

2). Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add mushrooms and thyme. Season to taste, and cook until mushrooms have browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up any brown gooey bits as you stir occasionally. Continue cooking until liquid is reduced by 1/3, about 3-5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.

2). Make béchamel sauce by melting butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to keep any clumps from forming. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10-15 minutes.

3). In a large mixing bowl, stir mushrooms with liquid into the béchamel sauce. Add sour cream, nutmeg, lemon juice, shredded chicken, drained spinach, mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Mix well together, season to taste and pour into prepared casserole dish.

4). In a small bowl, mix together the panko and remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole and spray with olive oil spray to help brown and crisp in the oven. At this point cool (with plastic wrap over the top and edges loose so heat can escape without a skin forming), cover, label, and store until ready to serve.

5). If serving right away, bake in 350°F. preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly throughout and topping is golden brown and crisp.

Serving Suggestions:  Serve with any steamed or roasted vegetable of your choice, or crisp green salad.

Note: To poach chicken breasts, place breasts in a snug, but even layer in the bottom of a large sauté pan. Cover with chicken broth, Sherry or a combination of the two (you can also use water, but this will impart less flavor). Add a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Turn heat off, but let the breasts sit in the hot liquid for another 15-20 minutes.

Variations: Feel free to adapt this recipe to your taste by using different herbs and spices, different cheeses, or leftover turkey from Thanksgiving instead of chicken. This could even be served as a hors d’oeuvres baked in mini quiche shells.

 

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Mama's Artichoke Lasagna

Mama’s Artichoke Lasagna

My mother has been making this for dinner parties ever since I can remember, and it never fails to get rave reviews. It is so simple to double or triple the recipe for larger crowds, yet tastes surprisingly sophisticated for the ease of throwing it all together.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cans artichoke heart, drained and halved
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 package no-cook lasagna

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Make béchamel sauce by melting butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to keep any clumps from forming. Season to taste, and continue stirring until the sauce thickens and coats the spoon, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Grease an 8″x8″ lasagna pan bottom and sides with butter. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom, spread with half the artichokes, sprinkle with 1/3 of both cheeses, and cover with 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Repeat with another layer. Repeat, ending with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. The pan should be about ¾ full.

4). At this point cool (with plastic wrap over the top and edges loose so heat can escape without a skin forming), cover, label, and store until ready to serve. If serving right away, bake the lasagna until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to turn golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.

Serving Suggestions:  Mixed green salad and garlic bread.

Variations: Try making this with spinach and/or mushrooms, or add some cooked ground turkey for a different twist.

 

PCA logo menu plans Caramelized Pear, Bacon, & Gorgonzola Quiche

Caramelized Pear, Bacon, & Gorgonzola Quiche

This fabulous quiche can be made as an hors d’oeuvres in mini quiche shells, or make several large ones easily at once for a crowd. This works equally well for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and of course you can do many variations of the theme.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

1 9″ refrigerated pie crust
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1/4 red onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Bosc pears (ripe but not mushy), peeled, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon chives (or any herb of your choice), chopped
5 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unroll the pie dough, and press gently into a pie dish. Using a fork, pierce at regular intervals around the sides and bottom of the dough. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until beginning to go golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

2). Cook bacon and onion in a large sauté pan over medium heat until bacon is crispy brown and onions have softened.

3). Add the butter to melt. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, and cook stirring frequently, until gooey.

4). Add the pears, stir well to coat, and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes.

5). Meanwhile, beat eggs, cream, milk, and chives; set aside.

6). Spread 1/2 of the bacon and pear mixture evenly over the cooled piecrust. Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of the Gorgonzola, then the rest of the bacon and pear mixture. Pour in the egg mixture until it comes to 1/4 inch from the top of the piecrust, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

7). Place the pie dish on a sheet pan, and bake in the middle of the oven until beginning to go golden and set around the edges, but center should still be slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and cool the pie pan on a wire rack. Once the quiche has cooled, cover with cling film, and refrigerate.

Serving Suggestions: I like to keep this light and simple with a fresh tossed green salad, with maybe a few candied pecans to compliment the pears, and contrast the sharp flavor of the cheese.

Variations: Substitute 2 ounces of ham, smoked turkey, or pancetta for the bacon, make it more savory by substituting 4 ounces steamed asparagus for the pears, and/or try using brie in place of the Gorgonzola – or go wild with your own combinations.  You can also easily make several different quiches at the same time (i.e. one as above, one with my substitutions, and one with yours for a crowd), and bake all three at once.

 

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Jewel Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

In America we tend to confuse shepherd’s pie (evidently Keith Richard’s favorite dinner judging by all the photos flying around Facebook for his birthday) with cottage pie. The easy way to remember which is which is to think about the title – shepherds tend to sheep, so shepherd’s pie is the one with lamb, and cottage pie is made with beef. Use this same recipe to make a cottage pie by simply substituting beef for the lamb.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound minced lamb
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 free-range egg yolk
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened and onion is transparent, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lamb, bay leaf, thyme, diced tomatoes, and salt and pepper, stirring well, breaking up the lamb with the back of the spoon, until browned all over, 5-8 minutes.

3. Add flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce, and peas. Deglaze pan by scraping up the gooey bits on the bottom, and stirring constantly until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove bay leaf and pour into a casserole dish.

4. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft when pierced with a fork, 10-12 minutes, drain. Add milk, butter, egg yolk, and salt and pepper to taste, and mash until smooth. Spread potatoes over meat mixture in casserole dish and mark with spatula. Sprinkle with cheese and herbs if desired.

5. At this point cool (with plastic wrap over the top and edges loose so heat can escape without a skin forming), cover, label, and store until ready to serve, or if you plan to serve right away place in 400° F. preheated oven and bake until hot and bubbling, and the potatoes are turning golden brown around the edges.

Serving Suggestions: This is really a one dish meal in itself, but you could add more vegetables on the side or a green salad if you desire.

Variation: Most of my clients refuse to eat red meat, so I do a great ground turkey rendition of this English classic by substituting ground turkey as the meat, and chicken broth instead of beef. This is also delicious with mashed sweet potato in place of the mashed white potatoes, or you could do a garlic, Parmesan, or chipotle mashed potato topping. I’ve also made this with vegan meat substitute or cannellini beans, vegetable broth, and vegan cheese for vegan clients.

 

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Mac 'N Cheese

Macaroni & Cheese with Lump Crab Meat & Truffle Oil

Adding the lump crabmeat turns this classic side dish into a hearty, elegant meal while the white truffle oil adds an intense aroma that screams decadence. One whiff, and your guests will be digging in for seconds, thirds and more. You could also use lobster or chopped shrimp instead of crab, and for the vegetarian crowd you just omit the seafood.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray
8 ounces elbow macaroni or farfalle
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces of Fontina cheese, grated
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 pinch cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon white truffle oil, plus more to taste
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
1/4 cup panko

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray your casserole dish with olive oil spray to keep ingredients from sticking.

2). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.

3). Heat heavy cream and milk in a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles begin to form along sides, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

4). Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour, whisk to prevent lumps, and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Reduce heat to low, and add the Fontina, cheddar, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, one at a time, whisking until all have been incorporated. Turn heat off. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, salt, pepper, crabmeat and white truffle oil to taste. Add drained pasta and stir to coat. Pour into the prepared casserole dish.

5). In a small bowl, mix together the panko and remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole and spray with olive oil spray to help brown and crisp in the oven. At this point cool (with plastic wrap over the top and edges loose so heat can escape without a skin forming), cover, label, and store until ready to serve. If eating right away, bake in the preheated 350 F. oven for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and topping is golden brown.

Serving Suggestions: An array of steamed vegetables, or mixed green salad.

PCA logo menu plansBaked Eggplant Parmesan with Sauteed Broccolini

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

This is a mega-winning recipe with members, clients, and my own family so it is bound to be a favorite crowd pleaser, as well. You will never miss the eggplant being pan fried with this crunchy panko crust, so you’re saving yourself quite a few calories! Make it in an extra large lasagna pan, or in several separate ones.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Eggplant

1 large eggplant
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
olive oil spray

Sauce

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons of dry red wine, optional
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups mozzarella, shredded

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil spray

2). Mix bread crumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Mix eggs and milk in a small bowl.

3). Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices across. Dip each slice into egg mixture, then breadcrumb mixture to coat evenly all over. Place on sprayed pan, and repeat until all pieces are coated, and placed in a single layer on the pan (you might need to use two pans). Spray topside of eggplant with olive oil spray and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown, turning once.

4). While eggplant is baking, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then minced garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and wine, simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs. Season to taste.

5). Spray a casserole dish with olive oil spray, then add one layer of eggplant, 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1 cup of mozzarella sprinkled on top, and spoon half of the sauce over. Then repeat with a second layer of eggplant, pour the rest of the sauce over, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and mozzarella.

6). May be cooled, covered, and refrigerated or frozen at this point. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and cheese begins to brown.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with spaghetti (or low carb option of spaghetti squash), and a green vegetable of your choice.

PCA logo menu plansStep 6 Eat - heat to eatHeat to Eat Instructions:

Remove food from freezer and place in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to serving unless you plan to eat the food immediately after defrosting, in which case you may defrost in the microwave on the defrost setting, before heating. If food is not completely thawed prior to heating or finalizing the cooking process, or if you choose to heat food directly from the freezer, you will need to increase the cooking time given here. Under no circumstances allow food to defrost at room temperature. All instructions are given for thawed food unless otherwise noted.

Chicken Florentine Casserole: Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly throughout and topping is golden brown and crisp. You can also heat any leftover portions in individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

Mama’s Artichoke Lasagna: Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake the lasagna until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to turn golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. You can also heat any leftover portions in individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Caramelized Pear, Bacon, & Gorgonzola Quiche: Quiche can be served cold, at room temperature, or preheat oven to 350 ° F. Heat quiche for 10-15 minutes, or until just heated through and crust has crisped back up. You can also heat individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

Shepherd’s Pie: Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake until hot and bubbling and the potatoes are going golden brown around the edges. You can also heat any leftover portions in individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

Macaroni & Cheese with Lump Crab Meat & Truffle Oil: Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and topping is golden brown. You can also heat any leftover portions in individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan: Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and cheese begins to brown. You can also heat any leftover portions in individual servings placed on a microwave proof plate, and heated in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

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