Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tastes Like Thanksgiving Casserole

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – November 30, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Taste of Home, November 2007.

I found this recipe and filed it in the “to make” pile.  You know, when I have left over turkey (most likely from a holiday).  One day, after being tired of having to play every meal, I told my husband to go through the pile and pick out something to eat.  I wasn’t very nice about it.  He selects this.  *sigh…

Now one of the main issues with this dish is where you’re going to get the turkey.  Of course, you’re not going to cook a whole turkey, although I guess that is an option.  The other obvious choice is to make a turkey breast, but that is not the best option either.  They are large and kind of expensive to buy and make for a casserole.  After rooting around the poultry section, I found some turkey tenderloins.  I bought two and decided to go with it.

My finished product:
© You Want Me to Cook?

Picture published with recipe:
© Taste of Home

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I used more cheese than I was supposed to.  I guess I can’t really hide it since mine looks so cheesy.  So I guess I won’t be too angry that they clearly put peas in their casserole.  If those aren’t peas, their stuffing looks a little green.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – If you don’t have leftover turkey, potatoes and stuffing, you’re going to have to make them (don’t worry, it’s in the recipe).  The first time I made it, I started from scratch, including the turkey.  Those tasks generate several pots, pans and mess (starchy potatoes seem to coat my kitchen).  Although the rest of the recipe is fairly self-contained, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a mess.

Start-to-Finish Time: WELL OVER TWO HOURS – this can be a little deceptive.  If you have leftovers, (turkey, potatoes and stuffing) you should be able to finish this in an hour.  If you do not, you’re going to have to cook everything from scratch and making the turkey alone, even a tenderloin, is going to take at least an hour.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – Most of this comes from prepping the ingredients for the potatoes and stuffing.  If you have leftovers, you’re still going to have to cube the turkey, so you won’t be prep-free.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – I have to be honest, I really thought about this rating a lot.  I impressed myself because, essentially, I made a little mini-Thanksgiving meal – not a small feat.  That being said, making mashed potatoes, stuffing and a turkey tenderloin wasn’t difficult.  Now, if I was cleaning and stuffing a turkey, I may disagree with the previous statement, but I didn’t have to do that.  Everything I did, even if it was labor-intensive, was straightforward and dare I say “easy”.

OverallSORRY HONEY, NO LEFTOVERS – Every time we go to my in-laws for a holiday dinner and she makes turkey, my husband’s eyes light up with the anticipation of making this dish.  I haven’t told him that I can drive to our local Boston Market and get turkey there.  I don’t think I will either.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Nutritional Information
None given

I’m going to assume that by “prep” time they meant everything up to and including throwing the casserole in the oven.  I can guarantee you, that would NEVER happen.  Getting the potatoes to boil is going to take you at least 15 minutes and then 20 minutes to cook.  I had to make the turkey too, which took me an hour, so assuming I was able to magically assemble the casserole in 0 minutes, I have the recipe clocking in at around an hour and a half.

Of course, each time I’ve made it since then, I’ve had leftover chicken, stuffing and turkey.  Then it took me around an hour total.

You will definitely be able to get 8 servings out of this dish.  You can probably stretch it a little farther by making a salad, some mixed vegetables and serving it with dinner rolls.  That’s usually how we eat it.

There is no nutritional information available for this recipe, but I’m sure it isn’t on the healthy-side of things.  Potatoes are full of carbs, which convert to sugar.  You’ve got stuffing which are essentially seasoned bread cubes.  Then we turn up the sodium with canned soup and fat with cream cheese, sour cream and cheese.  Some ways to make things healthier:
  • Use wheat stuffing or the new lower-sodium stuffing
  • Select reduced fat or reduced sodium soup
  • Use low-fat or no-fat sour cream, cream cheese & cheddar cheese
I did a couple of these, but not all.

Changes denoted by red text

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1¼ cups chopped celery
¾ cup chopped onion
½ cup butter, cubed
6 cups unseasoned stuffing cubes
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth

4 cups cubed cooked turkey
2 cans (10¾ ounces each) condensed reduced fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup low fat sour cream, divided
4 ounces no fat cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
Cooking spray

Ingredient Notes:
  • To get 5-6 cups of mashed potatoes, you’ll need around 2-3 pounds of potatoes.  The best potatoes to mash are the russet or Yukon gold potato.
  • You won’t need to buy any potatoes if you have leftovers.  You can “jazz” leftovers up as directed in the recipe.

  • You’ll need about 2 stalks of celery, or if you’re like me who buys pre-cut celery, 8-10 pre-cut pieces.
  • If you have leftover stuffing, you won’t need to purchase any celery.

  • To get ¾ cup of chopped onion, you’ll need approximately 1 medium or 2 small onions.
  • If you have leftover stuffing, you won’t need to purchase (or chop) any onion.

Stuffing cubes
  • The six cups of stuffing cubes are about what is in 1 box/bag.  Make sure you stick with poultry (chicken or turkey) mixes.
  • To help save on sodium or calorie levels, Stove Top now makes reduced sodium and whole wheat blends.
  • If using pre-made stuffing won’t need following: celery, onion, butter, stuffing cubes, poultry seasoning, sage or chicken broth

Chicken Broth – if you use fat-free chicken broth with reduced sodium, you’re going to completely cut out the fat and cholesterol and reduce the sodium by a third.  Of course, if you use certified organic chicken broth, the sodium content will be reduced even farther.

  • The first time I made this dish, I had to cook turkey.  I purchased Jennie-O savory roast turkey breast tenderloin.  It had to cook in a 350°F oven for 50 minutes (to 165°F by meat thermometer) and then let it stand for 10 minutes.  If you have to cook turkey, make sure you figure it into your total cook time.
  • If you are buying a turkey tenderloin, stick to lemon-garlic or savory roast flavors.  Do not buy anything that would conflict with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, since it will all be piled into one casserole dish.
  • The second time I made this dish, I got leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.  I stuck with white meat, since that is my favorite, but you can also do a blend of white and dark meat if you want.

Cream of Chicken Soup
  • If you choose a 98% Fat Free version of the condensed soup, you’re going to save almost half the calories, have only a quarter of the fat, half the cholesterol and almost half the sodium.  Campbell’s has a Healthy Request soup that, although has slightly more calories than the fat-free version, has even less sodium and no cholesterol.
  • One of the last times I made this dish, in a pharmaceutically-induced haze (it is a legal prescription, people) I accidentally purchased Cream of Mushroom.  It tasted just fine.  Dare I say I enjoyed it more since I have a love affair with the mushroom?  What I’m saying is that if you have Cream of Mushroom in your pantry, feel free to use it.

Reduced Fat Sour Cream – I tend to purchase Daisy brand Sour cream because it is less expensive than most and it has a reduced-fat version.  The reduced-fat sour cream has a third less calories, fat and cholesterol.  However, after doing a little research, Breakstones has a Fat Free Sour Cream that has HALF the calories, a teeny-weeny amount of fat (so much for “fat free”) and less than a quarter of the cholesterol.  I may begin investing in Breakstones from here on out.

Fat-Free Cream Cheese – although I’m not a big fan of fat-free cream cheese on my bagel, I actually find it okay to use in dishes.  Using the fat-free version will save you almost half the calories and half the fat and cholesterol.

Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese
  • There are several types of cheddar cheese.  I went with a mild, finely-shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese.
  • You’ll save almost a quarter of the calories and a third of the fat and cholesterol by using a reduced fat cheese instead of the regular.  Sargento also has a reduced sodium cheese, if that is your main concern.

Cooking Spray – you have to lightly grease your baking dish and I found the easiest option was cooking spray.  That’s why I added it to the ingredient listing – to make sure you have it on hand.

Equipment Needed:
Vegetable peeler
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Dutch oven
Large skillet
Large spoon
(3) Large bowls
Spoon - mixing
13x9x2" Baking dish
Potato Masher
Hand mixer
If you are cooking your own turkey: Small roasting pan

Equipment Notes:
(2) Large Bowls
  • One of the bowls needs to be large enough to mash potatoes, which means it has to be deep.  Mashing “squishes” up the sides of the bowl and you don’t want to be scraping the potatoes off the counter.
  • One of the bowls needs to be large enough to accommodate six cups of stuffing.  You need to stir it too, so if it is mounding over the top, you’re going to end up with a mess.

13x9x2 Baking Dish – the recipe calls for a baking dish, which means it needs to be oven-safe and made out of glass or ceramic.  Since there are no ingredients that can react with metal, you can use a metal pan if you don’t have a glass dish.  You may want to raise the temperature by about 25°F to make sure it heats through in the 30 minutes.

(1)  If you need to make the turkey, begin cooking it first before prepping any ingredients or assembling any equipment.

If you are using left over mashed potatoes, you can skip the next step.

Assemble the equipment to start the potatoes (large pot, cutting board, sharp knife and vegetable peeler) and then peel and chop the potatoes.

(2)  Place potatoes in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

If you are using left over stuffing, you can skip this step and steps four and five.  Jump right to Step 6.

(3)  In a large skillet, sauté celery and onion in butter until tender. Remove from the heat.

(4)  In a large bowl, combine the stuffing cubes, poultry seasoning and sage.

(5)  Stir in broth and celery mixture.

(6)  Transfer stuffing mixture to a greased 13x9" baking dish.

If you’re using leftover stuffing, you don’t have to worry about heating it first.  I actually used my hands and pressed the cold stuffing into the bottom of the dish.

(7)  In another large bowl, combine the turkey, soup, garlic powder and ¼ cup sour cream; spoon over stuffing mixture.

(8)  Drain potatoes; mash in a large bowl.

If you’re using left over mashed potatoes, you don’t need to do this step.  However, you may want to heat up the leftovers and transfer them to a large bowl, prior to moving to the next step

(9)  Beat in the cream cheese, pepper, salt and remaining sour cream with a hand mixer; spread over turkey mixture.

(10)  Sprinkle with cheese.

(11)  Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

This dish is a great way to use up the leftover turkey and “all the fixins” from Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  We look forward to it after every turkey-centric holiday.  Some things I may try:
  • After writing up this post, I’ve been thinking about making it again.  I may run to the local Boston Market and buy some turkey and mashed potatoes.  This will cut the work of this dish almost in half.
  • I’m definitely going to try the Whole Wheat stuffing, if I don’t already have leftovers to use.
  • I probably will invest in the Breakstone’s Fat-Free Sour Cream since every little bit I can help with reducing the fat and cholesterol of this recipe is going to help.
  • I may buy the Healthy Choice version of the condensed soup.  Yes, it is slightly higher in calories, but the reduction of sodium is well worth it.

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