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Why Casseroles?

November 5, 2019

Why Casseroles?

 

Why Casseroles? Casseroles Q&A & Recipes

Fall & winter call for hot food… am I right?!

A one-pot casserole is an easy comfort food that 100% CAN be healthy and put together in a pinch.

First though! Let’s answer all of your Qs (thank you for submitting them!)

Casseroles Q&A

What IS a casserole? What makes something a casserole?

Guess. What. There are no rules!! I know you probably think (as I used to) that a casserole involved a mushy, cakey type dish – but NOT true! A casserole is any food that is cooked and served in the same dish – typically protein, different veggies, or almost anything else you can think of. And yes, they’re typically cooked in a dish with a taller height (versus a sheet pan). This isn’t like baking where the exact quantities of ingredients matter – phew!

Do you need to cook what’s inside before baking it?

Typically, yes. But you don’t have to cook your food all the way through. 

How can you make sure the texture is right – so they don’t get too mushy or dry? 

This problem is solved when we solved when we answered #1! Yes – many old-timey casseroles were cakey or dry or mushy, but they 100% do NOT have to be. I’ll show you new & improved casseroles soon. But here are two tips that are always important – 1) try to cook with fresh veg (vs. frozen), or else you’ll likely get extra liquid at the bottom of your pan (yuk), and 2) if you are cooking anything from frozen (e.g. frozen shrimp or zoodles), drain out any excess liquid before you add the ingredients to your casserole.  

How long do casseroles stay good in the fridge? How do you reheat them? 

3 days! When reheating, only reheat the portion you’re eating at that meal (versus the entire casserole). As always – use your instant read thermometer to make sure your leftovers get to a safe temp (165 degrees F)!

  • Microwave: loosely cover the casserole with a paper towel and heat for 90 seconds

  • Oven: let the casserole sit at room temp while your oven is preheating (or else casserole dishes can crack if shocked by the extreme temperature differences). Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. To prevent moisture loss, cover the casserole dish with tinfoil or its lid.

How long can you freeze them? How do you cook them from frozen? 

3 to 4 months! Cut the casserole into portions & place into glass containers with airtight lids. Leave a ½ inch of room between the food and the lid so that the food can expand but you don’t get freezer burn. Pro-tip: Use masking tape or some freezer labels to label your leftovers. Defrost by either placing your casserole in the fridge for one day or defrost your portion in the microwave (my go-to!).

What exact dish do I need? Do I also need a lid? 

Get an *at least* 2 or 3 quart casserole dish. Here are my faves. What I’ve found is that you can go by servings, where 1 quart = 1 serving. So if you get a 2 quart dish, that’s 2 servings. My recipes are for 2-3 servings! And YES you can absolutely just double/ triple the ingredients to make more servings!

Do they cover as a whole meal or do you need sides? What sides pair well? 

My recipes DO cover an entire meal. If you want an extra side (the portions are BIG but only 300-400 calories) just add some extra veg on the side – a salad, stir-fried veg, whatever you like!

How can you make one with (SERIOUSLY) limited prep and time? 

Typically you want to cook your veggies & protein before adding them to the casserole dish (at least partially). To shorten the total time you’re cooking, you can absolutely buy pre-cut up veggies (like cauliflower rice) and pre-cooked protein like chicken strips. I’m not above it!!

Are they expensive? How can I make them cheap / budget-friendly?

Eggs + peppers + cheese for 3 morning is no more than $5. I’m always money conscious and won’t ever suggest someone buy expensive or fancy ingredients! If you personally want to use organic etc. versions of items, you absolutely can – these often are more expensive. 

Can you use leftovers you already have to make a casserole?

YES! How fun (slash useful slash economical) is this?! First of all #DINNERHACK if you have any protein & veggies leftover – like from a stir fry – just add ricotta cheese and bake it at 400 for 30 minutes. The end (WHAT?!). 

Are casseroles healthy? Can they be eaten for weight loss (or weight maintenance)? 

YES! Well the casseroles I make at least 🙂 My casseroles (that I’ll share with you asap) are packed with veggies, protein, and filling fats and (the majority) are between 300-400 calories per serving. And the servings are HUGE! 

What is a portion (or serving)? 

This of course depends on the casserole! The casserole recipes in my cookbook eBook use #thatformula with 2 cups of veggies – it ends up being a LOT of food!

How can I make casseroles fit my preferences? Vegan, Vegetarian, Plant-based, Low Carb, Keto, low FODMAP, Dairy-free, Specific food likes/ dislikes? 

You can always switch out a food within the same food group. Here are the lists! Protein, fat, veggies. One note: Casseroles typically need some kind of liquid – which if often a creamy sauce or crushed tomatoes. If you don’t like tomatoes, there’s not really a good substitute, so you may be out of luck on those recipes. If you’re not eating dairy – new brands are always making dairy-free products (think Kite Hill’s dairy-free ricotta cheese), so not to fear! 

What are the nutrition facts? Calories? Carbs?

I include the calories and grams of carbs of each recipe in my cookbook – but you can always track the recipes with the specific ingredients you have (so you can be extra accurate) with an app like LoseIt! 

What are some healthy substitutions for traditional casserole ingredients (e.g. Cream, Creamy canned soup)? 

I do use some creamy ingredients – but in small quantities. The majority of recipes are between 300-400 calories per serving – and the servings are HUGE! 

How often can you eat them? Is it bad to eat them everyday? 

As often as you like – SERIOUSLY! In my cookbook eBook I’m also giving you 2 weeks of meal plans with casseroles!!

OK! So now that we’ve answered every single question you could ever want to know about casseroles…😂 let’s move onto the next topic!

II. How to Make an EASY, Healthy Casserole

Have you heard of my “formula” for lunches & dinners that one of my lovely followers coined #thatformula? p.s. I love you & I’m sorry I forget who you were who came up with that hashtag!

Here it is in a nutshell (these are per person)

  • 2 cups of veggies (here’s a list of veggies)

  • 100-200 calories of fats (here’s a list of fats)

  • 4-5 oz of protein (here’s a list of proteins)

For casseroles, you do need something liquidy (again, I’m using the word “need” here – but there are no rules! You can do whatever you want!!)

“Liquids” for casseroles can include foods like: canned crushed tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, ricotta cheese, that type of thing! So choose either your veg, fat or protein to be a liquid-type of food when making a casserole. Only choose ONE liquidy type of food here so that your casserole doesn’t get too watery!

Most casseroles bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes

III. Casseroles Created by YOU!

I asked for some of you to try out my recipes and Recipe Builders – and here’s what you gave me! 🤩 You ladies are THE BEST!

Nicole’s Veggie Packed Breakfast Casserole

3 servings; use a 3 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

  • PROTEIN: 6 eggs

  • FATS: 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  • VEG: 6 cups of frozen broccoli and cauliflower

  • Spices (use dashes): onion powder, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

  2. Cook 6 cups of frozen broccoli and cauliflower in the microwave, then drain out any excess liquid; or stir fry fresh broccoli and cauliflower

  3. Whisk eggs in a bowl with onion powder, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt. Add in 1 cup cheese to the bowl & mix

  4. Spray casserole dish with an oil spray

  5. Pour mixture into casserole dish; top with the rest of the cheese

  6. Bake for 25 min

“I loved this idea as a way to eat more veggies in the morning! Thanks for the customizable inspiration!”

Tara’s Eggs & Bacon Casserole

3 servings; use a 3 quart casserole dish

Recipe below makes 4 servings but my husband and I each ate 2 lol. But calorie wise, it was only 530 for 2 servings. 

Ingredients:

  • PROTEIN: 6 eggs

  • FATS: 4 slices of cooked bacon; 1 1/2 slices cheddar cheese

  • VEG: 1 yellow onion; 6 cups of spinach

  • Seasonings (use dashes): salt, pepper, garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Fry bacon on stovetop, add in diced onions at the end & cook for ~5 minutes. Cut bacon into small pieces.

  3. Whisk eggs & seasonings in a bowl, add in bacon and onions (don’t add in any of the grease)

  4. Spray casserole dish with an oil spray

  5. Pour mixture into casserole dish; cut cheeses into small squares & add to top of casserole

  6. Bake for 25 min

“Love the casserole guides. My husband LOVED it! So easy and super delicious!!”

Bella’s Pumpkin Casserole

2 servings; use a 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

  • PROTEIN: 8 oz cooked chicken

  • FATS: 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

  • VEG: 1.5 cups carrot “noodles”; 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

  • Spices (use dashes): cinnamon, salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Stir fry carrot noodles if cooking from frozen; drain away any excess liquid

  3. Add to the pan cream cheese, pumpkin puree, crushed tomatoes (drained) whipped cream cheese, spices, and chicken. Heat & stir

  4. Spray a casserole dish with an oil spray

  5. Transfer pan’s contents to casserole dish

  6. Bake for 25 minutes

“I was unsure about this one but it was SO GOOD. The diced tomatoes were key because it added such an amazing fresh and light flavor to the heavier sauce.”

Aubra’s Breakfast Casserole

2 servings; use a 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

  • PROTEIN: 4 eggs 

  • FATS: 2 oz turkey pepperoni (pre-cooked); 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • VEG: 2 bell peppers, 2 cups grape tomatoes

  • Spices: 1/2 poblano pepper, pepper, basil, Trader Joe’s 21 salute seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Sauté the bell peppers (chopped), poblano pepper (chopped), and baby tomatoes with an oil spray

  3. Chop turkey pepperoni slices into quarters

  4. While vegetables cook, whisk eggs in a bowl

  5. Add veggies, 1/2 the cheese, seasonings, and pepperoni to the bowl

  6. Spray casserole dish with an oil spray

  7. Transfer bowl contents to casserole dish & top with the rest of the cheese

  8. Bake for 20 minutes

“By the way, I reheated a serving this morning in the microwave and it’s still delicious. It also got a stamp of approval from my husband who usually never eats breakfast!”

IMPORTANT: My Casseroles Cookbook eBook has LAUNCHED!!

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