Gluten Free Chicken Orzo Casserole

Look at the beautiful colors in this casserole!  Would you believe it’s gluten free?  It absolutely is!  I love that we can enjoy popular orzo dishes like this one, made with gluten free Orzo pasta from DeLallo.

But what I especially love about this recipe is that it uses healthy fresh ingredients, like boneless, skinless chicken thighs, peeled and seeded butternut squash, and bagged baby spinach.  The prep work is a snap!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 5
  • 1 cup uncooked gluten free Orzo pasta, (I used DeLallo)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 5 oz. bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup white wine, divided use
  • 2 cups gluten free chicken broth, divided use
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasoning (I used this one)
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cooking spray
  • fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Preparation:

Cut the butternut squash into small cubes.  Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  Line a baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray.  Spread the squash cubes in an even layer, bake at 425º for 20 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and paprika.

Heat a nonstick skillet with olive oil and add the chicken.  Cook 7 minutes per side, turning once.  Toward the end of cooking add 1/4 cup white wine to the pan and cook several minutes more until mostly evaporated.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.  Set up a pot of salted water for the gluten free orzo and cook according to package directions.

In the skillet, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, the minced garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes.  Cook just until fragrant (30 seconds) then add 1/4 cup of white wine.  Add the baby spinach and simmer until wilted.  (It looks like a lot of spinach, but don’t be afraid to add it all, it will cook down to nothing!)

Add the roasted butternut squash back to the pan.

When cooked, drain and rinse the orzo under warm water to remove some of the starch.  Use a fork to break up the orzo if it seems to be sticking together.  Gradually add it to the skillet with the spinach mixture.  Add a pinch of salt, or to taste.

Stir in 1 cup gluten free chicken broth and 2 tbsp. heavy cream.

Simmer several minutes to reduce the liquid slightly, then transfer the mixture to a casserole dish that has been coated with cooking spray.  Arrange the chicken thighs in the casserole, cover with foil and bake 20 minutes at 350º.

Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Notes ♪♫ Some recipes add the uncooked orzo pasta right into a casserole, but for gluten free pasta I always recommend cooking it separately.  Since some gluten free pasta can be quite gummy, you are able to rinse off some of the starch before adding to your dish.

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Chicken, Sausage and Rice Casserole

Whenever I make this flavorful casserole for a family dinner it gets rave reviews!  Chicken drumsticks and Italian sausage come together with ingredients straight from the pantry, and you can use any veggies you have on hand!  It’s easy and economical too.  You can do most of the prep a day ahead and bake the next day.  And that bacon breadcrumb topping- wow!  It really gives this dish an extra punch of flavor, texture and crunch!

4-6 Servings

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Ingredients:

Preparation:

Brown rice takes about 50 minutes to cook, so start that first.  Simmer 3/4 cup rice in 1-3/4 cups chicken broth and 1/4 tsp. seasoning of choice.

For the topping, coarsely chop the bacon, cook and drain on paper towels, reserving the fat in the pan.

Crumble the bacon, or place in an electric chopper and pulse a few times to make bacon bits.

Add 1/3 cup of gluten free breadcrumbs to the skillet with the bacon fat and stir over low heat.  Add back the crumbled bacon and stir well to combine.  Set aside to cool, then mix with 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping.

I love Aleia’s Gluten Free Breadcrumbs and I use this brand almost exclusively in my recipes.  I promise, your family won’t even know they are gluten free!

In the same skillet, brown the chicken on all sides in a little olive oil.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Place browned chicken in a braising pan or Dutch oven, add ¼ cup white wine and 1/4 cup chicken broth.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate, remove meat from the bones and sprinkle with paprika.  Strain the liquid from the pan and reserve for later.

Slice the sausage and brown in olive oil.  You can use store bought sausage or check out my recipe for homemade sausage patties!  If using purchased sausage, always check labels for gluten containing ingredients.

Pulse the cooked sausage a few times in the chopper and set aside.

Wipe the braising pan or Dutch oven clean.  Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add the veggies.  Season and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add back the sausage and stir well.

Now add the chicken and cooked rice.  Measure the reserved liquid and add enough chicken broth to equal 1-1/2 cups.  Combine with 1/4 cup milk and pour over the chicken and rice mixture.

Tip: Prepare the meal up to this point a day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  

Preheat the oven to 350º.  You can bake the casserole in the same pan, or transfer to a pretty casserole dish for a nicer presentation.  Note, if you made the casserole in the advance, take it out of the refrigerator and leave on the counter for at least 30 minutes (don’t place a refrigerated glass baking dish directly into a hot oven, it may shatter).

Spread the breadcrumb mixture over the casserole and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

The liquid will bubble and thicken to create a nice sauce.  I like to finish it off under the broiler, 3 minutes on low.  Watch that it doesn’t burn!

Let it rest a few minutes to set up, then garnish with fresh herbs (or dried herbs) and bring it right to the table.

Notes ♪♫ Remember, you can substitute any veggies you like in this recipe.  Once I went out on a limb and used eggplant.  Surprise, the reaction ranged from “I loved it” to “I didn’t even know it was in there”! Try broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus or zucchini.  Use what you have on hand, use what you like!

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Gluten Free Seafood Casserole

When you think of a casserole, do you imagine a heavy, calorie laden meal full of butter, cheese and cream of something-or-other?  Not this one!  Enjoy a lightened up, Gluten Free Seafood Casserole with all the flavor you crave and a fraction of the calories.  The rice and orzo combination is reminiscent of the packaged rice pilaf mix, but it’s completely gluten free.

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I made this dish with ingredients from my pantry, so no extra trips to the store.  For the fish, I used this Frozen Seafood Medley from Whole Foods (availability varies, see notes), which made the meal extra easy to prepare.  For the pilaf, I used Delallo Gluten Free Orzo, which I always have on hand for soup, and for the crumb topping I used Schar Gluten Free Entertainment CrackersOld Bay Seasoning is a natural for seafood dishes and it has always been a part of my spice collection.

Ingredients:

Preparation:

I defrosted the fish in a bowl of milk, about 3/4 cup of 1% milk for 1 lb. of fish.  The milk lends a milder taste and texture to many types of seafood, the squid rings especially will benefit from a short soak.  Cover and let the fish defrost at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

To begin preparing the casserole, cook the rice in 1/2 cup chicken broth with seasoning of choice, 15 minutes.  Transfer the cooked rice to a bowl, cover and keep warm.

Next, cook the orzo in 3/4 cup water with seasoning of choice, 10 minutes.  If the pasta water looks gummy, drain and rinse the orzo under warm water before adding it to the rice.

Drain and rinse the seafood under cold water.

Heat 1 tbsp. butter in a braising pan or oven proof skillet.  Add the celery and cook on low heat for 2 minutes.

Add the fish to the pan and season with Old Bay.  Cook for 2 minutes.  The fish does not have to be cooked through at this point, it will finish in the oven.

Add the zucchini slices to the pan, along with the rice and orzo mixture.  Sprinkle more Old Bay, then add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 cup 1% milk.  Stir well to combine.  Pulse gluten free crackers in a processer or electric chopper (or just crumble them with your hands).  Spread the cracker crumbs over the casserole and dot with butter, about 2 tbsp.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 350º.

Garnish with parsley and serve.

Notes ♪♫ I love the flavors in this casserole.  You can change up the seafood to suit your taste.  The seafood medley from Whole Foods was delicious, but you could make your own mixture of shrimp, scallops and squid.  Add more shellfish, or a flaky white fish like cod or flounder.  I had zucchini in the fridge so that is what I used, but you can sub other quick cooking veggies like asparagus or broccoli.  Use your favorites and make it your own!

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Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash

This gluten free and grain free dish is a satisfying alternative to pasta.  Versatile spaghetti squash is baked, shredded, tossed with meat sauce and baked again in its own shell for a tasty finish!  I could not believe how delicious this was, and how good I felt after dinner.  Happy tummy for me, and my husband loved it too!

I used a medium sized spaghetti squash (about 8” long) for the two of us.  To double or triple the recipe, choose squash that are all about the same size so that they finish cooking at the same time.

2 Servings

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Ingredients:

For the Meat Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. Olive oil, divided
  • ½ lb. Lean ground beef
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
  • ¼ cup carrots, grated
  • 1 tsp. Basil
  • ½ tsp. Oregano
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • Ground pepper, a few grinds
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • dash of red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • parsley or chives

Preparation:

Using a sturdy knife, cut the spaghetti squash in half.  Believe it or not this is the most difficult part of the whole recipe!

Scrape out the seeds with a large spoon.  Brush each half with about 1 tbsp. of olive oil, and sprinkle generously with Italian seasoning.

Place the two halves cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour at 400°.

While the squash is baking make the meat sauce.

Heat a deep skillet with one tbsp. olive oil and add the ground beef.  Cook on low heat, turning and breaking up the meat with a meat spatula.

When the beef has browned, stir in the onions, followed by the garlic, carrots and mushrooms.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and fresh ground black pepper.  Continue cooking 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently to help the liquid evaporate.

Next add the tomato sauce, basil, and oregano.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. red wine vinegar.  Simmer on low for about 30 minutes or until the squash is ready.  Stir frequently and watch that it doesn’t burn.

When the squash has baked for 1 hour, remove from the oven.  Use tongs to carefully turn the halves over and let them cool for 10-15 minutes until they are safe to handle.

Use 2 forks to shred and separate the “spaghetti” and transfer it to a bowl.

Toss with half of the meat sauce and spoon the mixture back into the squash shells.

Top with more sauce, grated cheese and herbs.  Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes.

You can finish them off under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the edges.

Serve in the shell with extra sauce on the side.

Notes: ♪♫ Roasting is my favorite way to prepare vegetables and spaghetti squash is no exception.  It does require more time than boiling but so worth it – you will taste the difference!

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Gluten Free Chicken Broccoli Casserole

The thought of preparing gluten free meals from scratch can be overwhelming.  It took a while for me to realize that there were meals I had been making for years that were naturally gluten free.  From there, I started looking at other favorite recipes that only required a swap of one or two ingredients to be gluten free.  My repertoire began to grow and now I have added many of my old favorites back to the dinner rotation.

My Chicken Broccoli Casserole is a good example.  Here’s how to make it!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Rice flour for dusting
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • White wine, divided use
  • ½ large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large broccoli crown, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. basil
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. gluten free penne
  • Cooking spray
  • gluten free seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Set up a pan of salted water for the pasta, and bring to a boil.

Cut the chicken breast into 1-1/2″ chunks.  Dust with rice flour and season with salt and pepper.  Begin browning the chicken in a little olive oil, about 3 minutes per side.  Don’t crowd the pan, use a large skillet or do it in 2 batches.

When the chicken has browned on all sides, add a splash (1/4 cup) of white wine to the pan and toss until the liquid evaporates.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the skillet clean.  Add a little more olive oil and begin browning the onions.

When they have a little color, add the broccoli, garlic and diced tomatoes.  Add another splash of white wine, then season with salt and pepper, basil and Italian seasoning.  Cover and cook 10 minutes, until the broccoli is crisp tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.  Use your favorite (Jovial Brown Rice Penne is one of mine) and be sure to cook for 2 minutes less than the package instructions.  Drain and add to the skillet, along with the reserved chicken.  Toss well.

Mist a casserole dish with cooking spray and transfer contents from the skillet in an even layer.  Drizzle with olive oil, then top it off with breadcrumbs and grated cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.

I like to finish it off under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the topping.  Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

This is a real family favorite.  I hadn’t made it in a very long time, but now with just a couple of adaptations we can all enjoy this comfort food meal again.

Notes ♪♫ Always check prepared ingredients for hidden gluten.  In this recipe, pasta and breadcrumbs must of course be gluten free.  Less obvious but important, use rice flour for coating and thickening, make sure canned tomatoes and seasoning mixes are gluten free.  I always grate my own cheese, but if you are using a pre-grated cheese always check for additives that may contain gluten.

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Gluten Free Eggplant Tortilla Casserole

This easy casserole dish is great for a family dinner.  If you are invited to a party or cookout and need to bring a gluten free dish, this would be a great choice.  Using canned beans and tomatoes makes it easy to put together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced (1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • canola oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
  • 1/2 tsp. Mexican Spice Blend or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyere)
  • 4 gluten free corn tortillas, cut into eighths
  • cooking spray

Preparation:

Peel and dice the eggplant.  Add 3 tbsp. canola oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the eggplant cubes and toss to coat.  Cook the eggplant until it is browned on all sides.  The eggplant absorbs oil like a sponge, so add more if needed.

Season with salt and set aside to cool.

Next, add a little more oil to the skillet and cook the onions until lightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more.

Add the tomatoes with their juice and the drained beans.  Top with chopped cilantro and season to taste with Mexican Spice Blend, I used 1/2 tsp.

Toss well to combine and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

To assemble the casserole, coat a 9″ x 9″ baking dish with cooking spray.  Line the baking dish with half of the tortillas.

Spoon half of the tomato mixture and eggplant cubes over the tortillas and top with 1/4 cup of cheese.

Repeat with another layer of tortillas.

Top with the remaining tomatoes and eggplant and 1/4 cup cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 375º.  After 30 minutes remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

My husband just loved this dish!  It would be a nice accompaniment to a Cinco de Mayo dinner.  You could also serve it as an appetizer with tortilla chips.  This makes quite a few servings, and leftovers can be frozen.

Notes: ♪♫ I used Mission brand Yellow Corn Tortillas in this recipe, they are certified gluten free.  The spice mix is my own, a blend of chipotle chile flakes, oregano, onion granules and cumin.  if you are using a purchased blend, always check for gluten containing ingredients.

 

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