I always loved casserole dishes as a make and take dish for busy days with work and after school schedules. This time of the year with sports tryouts, practices, and school events the casserole keeps everyone happy.
Five basic ingredients make up this dish: a protein, a starch, a vegetable, a sauce (or other binding ingredient), and cheese. One of the other benefits of this dish is cost-effective in more ways than one. Ingredients such as pasta, rice, flour, canned or frozen vegetables, canned soup, beans, and a choice of meat, cheese, fish, or vegetarian options are relatively inexpensive. As well, usually a good deal of leftovers for the next day.
A little back story on these amazing meals ... casserole is a French word that means “large, deep pan or bowl used for cooking a variety of dishes in the oven.” A casserole can have layers or any evenly distributed combinations. Casseroles are a one-pot meal that involves combining the ingredients in an oven-safe dish and baked. These ingredients include vegetables, a protein, and a starchy binder.
Recipes for casseroles started appearing in American cookbooks in the late 19th century, but the dish really grew in popularity during the Depression and World Wars I and II. American-style casserole cooking reached its peak of popularity in the 1950s when food companies, whose marketing research allowed them to estimate the kitchen skills of their customers, promoted their products by offering recipes with simple instructions. As the ’50s went on and into the 1960s, in smaller home kitchens, the availability of lightweight oven-proof cookware and the greater availability of canned foods (ie., Campbell Soup Company’s Creamed soup line) made the casserole a simple, easy and cheap way to use leftover foods to feed the whole family. Vegetables and starches helped to pad a meal so that a small portion of meat could become a more filling dish during times of hardship. Most of the dishes today are breakfast or lunch as they are easy to throw together and then just heat up when needed.
Enjoy today’s recipes — make a double batch and freeze one for another day!
4 strips of bacon or about 3 oz., 1/2 yellow onion chopped, 2 cloves garlic chopped, 1 lb. ground sirloin, 1 10.75 oz can cream of mushroom soup, 3/4 c. milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 3 c. baby spinach roughly chopped, 1 c. frozen corn, 8 oz. shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese, 1 32 oz. bag of tater tots, 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, chopped chives or scallions, for garnish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tater tots from the freezer to let them thaw slightly while you prepare the filling. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown and extra crispy, 6-8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and leave the grease in the skillet. Set all of the bacon aside for topping later. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the ground beef and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
Cook the meat until no pink pieces remain, 6-8 minutes. Drain off excess fat or liquid if you like. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the soup, milk, salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and mix until smooth. Fold in the spinach to wilt slightly, then the corn. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the top of the casserole. Place the tater tots on top in a single layer, arranging them in concentric circles (or just toss them on and push them very close together.) Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and the additional 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Bake 30-35 minutes until the tater tots are golden. Remove from the oven and crumble the cooked bacon over top. Let rest for five minutes. Top with chopped chives or scallions and serve.
CINNAMON ROLL BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
1 tablespoon salted butter, for the baking dish, 3 tubes refrigerated cinnamon roll dough (with frosting), 4 large eggs, 1/2 c. half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar, 1/3 c. pecans, chopped, 1/3 c. sour cream. Preheat the oven to 350˚. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cut each round of cinnamon roll dough into four pieces. Reserve the frosting packets. Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon roll dough and toss lightly to coat. Pour into the baking dish. Mix the brown sugar and pecans in a small bowl. Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the contents of the frosting packets and the sour cream in a medium bowl until smooth. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes, then drizzle with the frosting.
SAUSAGE & EGG
Butter or nonstick spray, 1 lb. of your favorite breakfast sausage such as Jimmy Dean, 4 scallions, chopped white and green parts divided, 1 red bell pepper chopped, 10 eggs, 1 1/4 c. heavy cream, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons hot sauce, optional, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese divided (8 oz. package), 10 oz. package of frozen, shredded hash browns thawed. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch (or other 3-quart) baking dish with butter or nonstick spray. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and break up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook the meat until no pink pieces remain, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and white and light green parts of the scallions and cook for 3 more minutes. Transfer to a plate to let cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, mustard, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, and about one-half of the remaining green parts of the scallions in a large bowl (save the rest to sprinkle on top of the casserole once baked).
Gently fold 1 1/2 cups of cheese, the hash browns and the sausage mixture into the egg mixture. Transfer all to the baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 min. Remove the foil and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and finish baking until the center of the casserole is set (not jiggly) and the top is slightly golden, 10 to 15 more minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, top with the remaining green parts of the scallions, then serve.
EVERYTHING BAGEL CASSEROLE
8 strips of bacon, 1/2 chopped red onion, 6 everything bagels unsliced, 9 large eggs, 2 1/2 c. half and half, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese, 1/4 c. chopped parsley, butter or nonstick spray, 1 block of cream cheese, fresh dill, for serving. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon strips and cook until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and leave the grease in the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Meanwhile, cut the bagels into chunks, about 1-inch wide. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, kosher salt, black and cayenne pepper, parmesan cheese and parsley. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick spray. Place half of the bagel pieces into the dish. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle half of it over the bagels.
Pour half of the egg mixture all over. Place all the cooked onions evenly over top. Slice the block of cream cheese into 12 pieces and place the slices evenly over top of the bagel mixture. Repeat with a second layer of bagels, bacon, and egg mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown, the center is hot, and the egg mixture is set. Let cool for 15 minutes, then top with fresh dill. Serve immediately.
1 large head broccoli, 1 head cauliflower, 6 tablespoon butter, 1/2 whole medium onion, diced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 c. flour, 2 1/2 c. low sodium chicken broth, 4 oz. weight cream cheese, room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt, more to taste, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese, more to taste, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/3 c. seasoned breadcrumbs.
Break the broccoli and cauliflower into small florets, cutting off the thick stalks as you go. Steam them for 3 to 4 minutes until the broccoli is bright green, then remove them from the heat. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the top, whisk to combine, and cook for another 45 seconds. Pour in broth, whisking constantly, then cook until the sauce thickens. Reduce the heat to low and add the softened cream cheese, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and paprika. Stir to combine until the sauce is nice and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, making sure it’s nice and flavorful! Keep warm.
In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and melted butter. Set aside.
Layer half the broccoli and cauliflower in a small casserole dish. Pour on half the cream sauce, then sprinkle on half the cheese. Sprinkle a little paprika on the cheese, then repeat with another layer of broccoli, sauce, and cheese. End with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve warm.
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