Remember all those casseroles your grandmother used to whip up in her sun-filled kitchen? She was on to something with those one-dish sides and meals. You can be, too.
Most casseroles include a starch (potatoes, pasta, or rice) as a base, veggies, meat, and some cheese. It all depends on what’s on hand or what you prefer.
Here’s a basic casserole that my family enjoys once every couple of weeks. While I have had to put a strong low-carb rule in place, you may not have to.
2 cups dry rice, cooked
12 oz concentrated cream of something soup (potato, chicken, mushroom, etc.)
1/2 cup fluid (milk, heavy cream, chicken broth, etc.)
1/4 cup hard cheese, fine grated (Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, etc.)
15 oz can of beans or peas, well drained
Other veggies as desired, pre-cooked and diced (potato, carrot, green beans, etc)
8 oz meat, diced or broken
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
4 oz shredded cheese, any firm type (cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Gouda, etc)
In a large bowl, place rice, soup, fluid, veggies, spices, and hard cheese. Fold together gently so as not to break up the veggies.
I will also fold in the meat at this time. You may choose to layer it in the baking dish.
Place the contents of the bowl into a baking dish, spreading it evenly. If you are layering the meat in, put it between two layers of the rice mixture so it doesn’t dry out during baking.
Sprinkle a couple of ounces of shredded cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Everything in the dish is precooked, but you want it to heat throughout.
Remove dish from the oven and uncover. sprinkle on remaining grated cheese. Allow to sit for five minutes or so while the cheese melts and the dish comes to a reasonable serving temperature.
When emplating, feel free to toss on strips of fresh basil, more cheese, chopped parsley or whatever topping you desire. A dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream is also tasty.
Leftovers can and do add a lot of variation to this meal. A teaspoon of sour cream left from taco night? Throw it in! Some shredded mozzarella left from pizza night? Stir that into the mix to create a gooier texture. Black olives? Mushrooms? Broccoli crowns? The more the merrier!
Want an Italian flavor? Use Italian spices, Italian sausage and or pepperoni with a mix of mozzarella and provolone shredded on top. A white or navy bean works well for the added texture. Serve with garlic bread or bread sticks.
Tex-mex more to your liking? Add chili powder and onions, black beans and use Monterrey Jack or pepper-jack cheeses. Top with sliced jalapeno or salsa.
Cajun Crazy? Try andouille or boudan, Ementhaler, and Cajun seasonings (We like Tony Cha’s) with diced bell pepper and onion.
The ham and cheese option is also nice. Use cheddar, leftover ham, and black-eyed peas for a southern variation.
In short, this dish can be customized pretty much any way that pleases your palate. It’s also hearty enough to put leftovers into microwavable containers for tomorrow’s lunch, or for a side dish later in the week. Just heat and serve.
— Ann Cathey