The winter is a great time for making casseroles. It’s cold enough that you don’t mind heating up the oven, and the food is tasty and comforting. I don’t understand why some people loathe casseroles. Maybe they have only tried ones that aren’t very good. If you are a casserole hater, I’d honestly like to hear from you. What is it you dislike?
Casseroles have several benefits. Besides being good food as I mentioned above, casseroles are very economical. Inexpensive ingredients can be used as well as leftovers. Casseroles are also an easy way to feed a group of people. One casserole that does not have a bad reputation is lasagna. It feeds a lot of people, they love it, and you can prepare it ahead of time. Casseroles are flexible. That’s the focus of this post. You can almost always put together a casserole with food you have on hand, even when you think you absolutely have nothing to eat.
There are six possible parts to a casserole. That seems like a lot, but remember I said possible. Only three parts are necessary. You need a sauce, and you need at least two of these three categories: protein, starch, vegetables. Unless I’m eating something like beef stew or a soup, I don’t like all three in one casserole. The exception would be using vegetables such as onions or peppers as flavoring. In that case they are counted as seasoning/flavoring and not vegetables. I like starch and vegetable casseroles (like rice and broccoli), starch and meat casseroles (such as a sausage noodle casserole), and meat and vegetable casseroles (like chicken and broccoli). I just don’t like all three together. You might be different, however, which is why you should create YOUR OWN casseroles!
Here are the six categories and some ideas to get you started. I will use amounts just to give you an idea of how much, but the amount can be varied according to taste and what you have on hand. These amounts would be used to make a casserole that fills a 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish. If using a protein, starch, and vegetable, cut amounts to about 1 1/2 c. each. These ingredients should all be cooked before going into the casserole.
- 1 lb. ground beef, turkey, chicken, bulk sausage
- 2 c. chopped beef, turkey, chicken, ham, hot dogs
- 2 c. chopped hard boiled eggs
- 12 – 16 oz. canned seafood such as tuna or salmon
- 16 oz. beans such as pinto, kidney, navy, etc.
- 2 c. grated cheese
- 12 – 16 oz. dry pasta (cooked and gluten-free of course)
- 1 c. dry rice (cooked)
- 3 c. cooked potatoes, diced (mashed potatoes can work, but not as well)
- 3 c. frozen hash browns (might require longer cooking time)
- 1 pkg. polenta, chopped or sliced
- 2 c. fresh or frozen broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, green beans, etc. (lightly cooked)
- 1 c. peas
- 16 oz. canned green beans, corn, peas (drained)
Sauce – While cream soup (cream of chicken soup) is the most commonly used sauce in casseroles, there are many other options. Some of these do not sound appetizing by themselves, but think combinations. Total volume should be about 2 cups, but can be much less if using something like salad dressing.
- Gluten-free cream soup such as chicken or mushroom thinned with milk
- sour cream
- plain yogurt
- ranch dressing
- Italian dressing
- Alfredo sauce
- Pasta sauce
- Tomato sauce
- sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, etc.
- salt & pepper
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- anything in your spice cabinet
Topping – Use enough to cover the top of the casserole. Should be added during the last 10 minutes of baking
- shredded cheese
- gluten-free bread crumbs mixed with a little melted butter or olive oil
- crushed potato chips or tortilla chips
- slivered almonds
- gluten-free cracker crumbs
- tater tots – these should be put on at the beginning and might require a longer cooking time
Ingredients can be layered or mixed together (except the topping) and put into a greased casserole dish. If layering, put the sauce on top of any protein, starch or vegetables. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Now get creative and have some fun, and let me know how it goes. You might not be thrilled about everything you try, but you also might come up with a family favorite. If you’re using ingredients you like, it will be hard to go wrong. It might be fun to pick one night a week when you will try putting together a new casserole. I might try that myself!