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Better-than-boxed stovetop casseroles

By Hilary Meyer, September 7, 2010 - 11:20am

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While I was in college (long before my desire to cook anything healthy materialized), I subsisted mostly on food out of a box or a can. I was a junk-food junkie.

Related Link: Healthy Recipes to Satisfy Your Junk-Food Cravings

I cringe now just thinking about it, but I have to say, I miss the convenience of opening up a box, using one pan on the stove and having dinner ready fast. Not to mention the fact that dinner in a box or can is about as cheap as it gets.

Related Link: Quick Weeknight Dinners for $3 or Less

Well, I think I’ve found a happy medium. We’ve developed a few recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen that have all the perks of a boxed dinner (fast, cooked in one pot and satisfying), except these recipes are actually good for you. And they don’t have any of those mysterious, unpronounceable ingredients that are commonly lurking in boxed dinners.

Here are my favorite better-than-boxed recipes:

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
Known as Tuna-Pea Wiggle to some, the family-friendly tuna noodle casserole tends to be made with canned soup and whole milk, which means high fat and sodium. We remedy this by making our own creamy mushroom sauce with nonfat milk thickened with a bit of flour. Look for whole-wheat egg noodles—they have more fiber than regular egg noodles (but this dish will work well and taste great with either).

Related: Easy, Healthy Casserole Recipes

No-Bake Macaroni & Cheese
Not only is this ultra-creamy version of mac-and-cheese nearly as fast as the boxed variety, but your family will be able to pronounce every ingredient. If they aren't broccoli fans, substitute a frozen vegetable of your choice.

Related: Another great Homemade Mac & Cheese and More Healthy Creamy Pasta Recipes

Hamburger Buddy
Kids can be a boxed dinner’s biggest fans. But very finely chopping onion, mushrooms and carrots in the food processor is not only fast—it makes the vegetables hard for picky eaters to detect. They also form the base for the sauce of this ground beef skillet supper. Make it a meal: Serve with a green salad.

Related: Classic Lasagna and 9 more Comfort Foods to Put Back in Your Diet

BBQ Baked Beans & Sausage
You’ll never open up another can of baked beans again when you realize how easy it is to make them yourself. Here we turn baked beans into an easy main dish by adding chicken sausage and collard greens. Serve with: Coleslaw and cornbread.

What favorite boxed dinners would you like a healthier recipe for? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Hilary Meyer, Food Blog, Dinner, Family meals, Recipe Makeover

Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Hilary asks: What favorite boxed dinners would you like a healthier recipe for?

Tell us what you think:

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