Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole

17 Apr
Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole

Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole

Strange ingredients? Please hear me out. This is NOT weird at all and received multiple thumbs up from the family. Gosh, even the leftovers were awesome. There is something about the down-home creamy corn base from the polenta and slightly sweet taste from the squashes and then the spinach and chicken that just made this an incredibly surprising meal! My eyes gone wide, you know what I mean? WOW! (This actually doesn’t even need the chicken and could be vegetarian, but the meat was already defrosted.)

I had the defrosted chicken breast and a fresh bag of spinach, and set my sights on something new for the combination. I have made my Balsamic Chicken and Spinach more times than I can count the past few years. Somehow I came across some vegetarian polenta and spinach casserole recipes, and tasked myself with coming up with a recipe my family would actually eat.

I found a great recipe with fresh spinach and mushrooms but it used pre-made polenta cakes. Another recipe I found had a creamy homemade polenta base with zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Well, the daughter doesn’t “do” mushrooms, I only had fresh spinach and dried polenta grain on hand, so decided to mix up the two recipes and came up with my own original. You will NOT be disappointed. (Aside note: I was following the vegetarian version recipes and totally spaced on browning the chicken until assembly. Yikes! So please, follow my instructions below instead of doing what I did. Or, omit chicken altogether. It all worked out, we only ate 10 minutes later than the original plan.)

Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
Ground black pepper, and salt or Mrs. Dash, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup dried polenta (course cornmeal)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onion
1 small zucchini, sliced and quartered (about 1 cup)
1 small yellow squash, sliced and quartered (about 1 cup)
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic and basil (if yours are plain diced, add dried or fresh herbs to taste)
1 8 to 10-ounce bag fresh spinach
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded fresh Mozarrella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season to taste with ground black pepper and salt or Mrs. Dash. Heat a skillet with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and brown the chicken about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.

Cooking the Creamy Polenta

Cooking the Creamy Polenta

Heat 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium sauce pot to boil. Stir together the milk and polenta to make a slurry, then add to the boiling water. Bring up to a simmer then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. (If you want you could brown the chicken now in this step. I just didn’t want you to forget!)

Creamy Polenta Poured into Pan

Creamy Polenta Poured into Pan

When the polenta is done, pour it into an oil-sprayed 13 x 9 or so sized casserole dish and set aside.

Chopped Onion, Zucchini, and Squash

Chopped Onion, Zucchini, and Squash

Meanwhile, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, and squash and sauté until the onions are softened.

Vegetable Mixture Simmering

Vegetable Mixture Simmering

Add the tomatoes (and spices if tomatoes aren’t pre-seasoned). Bring up to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the browned chicken and mix to combine. Now, by handfuls, tear up the spinach and add to the mixture and stir in until all is added and wilted.

Spinach Wilting into Vegetables

Spinach Wilting into Vegetables ~ WAIT ~ You don’t see that forgotten chicken in the background you had to cook first, right??

Meanwhile (again), preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the vegetable mixture is done, spread it evenly on top of the polenta in the casserole dish. Top with a combination of shredded Mozarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole Ready to Bake

Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole Ready to Bake

Bake for about 25 minutes until it is heated through and bubbly and the cheese has melted. Turn the heat up to broil and broil for 5 minutes. Take out of oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on plates or in bowls. Nothing else is needed, as this is an entire meal! If this weren’t so fugly coming out of the casserole dish, I’d call it guest-worthy (taste-wise)!

p.s. (My sister arrived today from Texas for 10 days, so I might not get a post out for awhile. Enjoy browsing my archives if you want if you are a newcomer!)

Casserole Half-Eaten

Casserole Half-Eaten~ YEP! Three of us pretty much wiped out half of a lasagna pan of this in one sitting!

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

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14 Responses to “Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole”

  1. Gerlinde April 17, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    I love polenta and your recipe looks very good. Thanks for posting and have fun with your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. teagan geneviene April 18, 2015 at 3:02 am #

    Kathryn, i thought this sounded delicious the moment I read the title… and then the pictures… yum! But i did chuckle at “a recipe my family would actually eat…” It seems that’s always the greater challenge.
    Huge hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tinywhitecottage April 18, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    I started laughing when I read ” If this weren’t so fugly coming out of the casserole dish, I’d call it guest-worthy”! This sounds so delicious Kathryn! I love how you came up with the whole idea. You are an amazing cook who really make comprises for your family. I love that. We love polenta and what a great way to incorporate three dishes into a one dish meal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • anotherfoodieblogger April 18, 2015 at 9:01 am #

      Oh Seana, you made me chuckle right back at you! It is not a very photogenic casserole except when it’s all together in the casserole dish. Thank you so much for your comments! 🙂

      Like

  4. Michelle Williams April 18, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    I love polenta and this recipe looks outstanding. I am always looking for new recipes and this one is a keeper. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anotherfoodieblogger April 18, 2015 at 9:02 am #

      MIchelle, you are so very welcome. This was a surprising “find” for me. The flavors are outstanding. Thank you for such a wonderful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. StefanGourmet April 19, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    Nice casserole! I’m not a big fan of soft polenta and may leave out that instead of the chicken 😉 Or I may grill the polenta separately and serve it on the side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anotherfoodieblogger April 20, 2015 at 9:08 am #

      Thank you Stefan, having it on the side would definitely work. And omitting the chicken would be perfectly acceptable, as I didn’t think it needed it in the first place!

      Like

  6. tableofcolors April 19, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    I’m a newbie when it comes to using polenta…thanks for the new idea, it looks delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karen April 21, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    Love the color of this dish, it has to taste great. It would be something that my friends would love for a casual evening meal before we play cards.

    Liked by 1 person

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