The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
The casseroles that my Mom and Grandmothers made for family events send me down a nostalgic trail of fond food memories. No family gathering was complete without certain very important casseroles - especially Leggett Corn. In Central Illinois, main dish casseroles were often layer after layer of meat, potatoes, onions, corn, and canned soup. For fancy presentation, the entire thing would be liberally topped with cheese or a crunchy topping like saltine crackers. The most important events required a touch of paprika to decorate the top. Unfortunately, most of the casseroles that live on in my memories are very calorie dense and don't fit well into my eating plan. I didn't have to ditch the old cherished recipes though, just tweak them a bit.
To bring your casserole into alignment with health and weight goals, all you really have to do is make a few recipe swaps. First, add extra veggies. Second, avoid canned soup if you need to keep the dish low in sodium. Make your own thickened low salt cream of mushroom soup and keep some in the freezer ready to go. Or try simply combining sauteed mushrooms, a little veggie stock or water, and this dry mix. The mix sits handy and at the ready in your pantry ready to make "cream" of anything for your next casserole. Finally, reduce the amount of cheese. If cheese is both mixed in and on top, try putting just a light sprinkle on top so the flavor stands out and skip the cheese that hides within.
What is it that makes one dish a casserole and another a stew or braise? If you scout about on the internet, most cooks agree that a casserole is a recipe that is poured into a large deep dish, baked in the oven, and served at the table in the cookery vessel. I’m still rather at a loss. Does this mean my oven baked beef stew is a casserole? I have never called that a casserole. If I cook it on the stove is it a casserole? What about my New England Baked Beans? That doesn’t have the feel of a casserole either but it fits the traditional description. Maybe a casserole is not a certain type of food, but instead it is an intention. Casual, unpretentious food, often one pot meals, usually oven baked, and served family style in the cookery vessel works as a definition for me.
My friend Carolyn says that casserole recipes are simple. Just buy things you love to eat, put them in a pot with a lid, and bake. While some of us can do just that with success, the rest of us need a starting point and I hope you find a tasty new place to begin in the recipes below.
I love this casserole of roasted Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions in place of the standard green bean casserole. It’s not the same dish at all, but it’s equally as memorable.
Vegetarian Times' wonderful recipe for the casserole Butternut Squash and Duxellles uses an ingredient that may be new to you. Duxelles is a French paste made of mushrooms and shallots.
Meganr’s Black Bean Casserole is jam packed with flavor, and one of my favorite unusual vegetables!
Meat and Vegetable Casseroles
Enchilada Pie can be made in a number of ways to please your family and the way you eat. I’ve included a few suggestions in the recipe so you can alter the ingredients if you are a vegetarian or need lower calorie recipes.
For a more traditional American Mid-West side dish casserole, try Leggett Corn. It's a casserole tradition that has been a family gathering staple for my father’s corn farmer family for well over a hundred years.
I found this excellent Chicken Casserole right here at Calorie Count!
If speed is the name of the game, try this more traditional Tuna Casserole, also from Calorie Count’s Recipe Search Bar.
Casseroles can be easy or as complex as you like. Many direct you to mix the ingredients in a bowl and pour that into the pot. Layering is my favorite way to make a casserole. I can saute or brown ingredients before adding them one at a time to the cooking dish, thus skipping the dirtying of a mixing bowl entirely!
What is the casserole that most stirs memories of your childhood? What is your current favorite casserole? How would you tweak the casserole your Mom made? Is it a casserole if it is cooked on the stove and not in the oven? If you have a great casserole recipe, be sure to share it with everyone below. If you would like your recipe to be considered for the CC Palate, pm it to me here.