At the most basic level, a casserole is food items put into a baking dish and baked until done. It can be layered, or all the foods might be mixed together, a few ingredients or many. The foods, when baked together, make a delicious meal to be served any time. Most casseroles can even be frozen before baking, to have on a busy weeknight. These creations are easy to make.
Some items, like most meats and pasta (if you use pasta), should be cooked before baking. Others, like peas, don’t have to be. Leftovers are great in casseroles, and help to cut costs on food.
When I make a shepherd’s pie I first cook and mash the potatoes and brown the ground beef. I don’t pre-cook the other ingredients.
My shepherd’s pies usually include these types of ingredients:
Liquid: Just a little in the bottom of the casserole dish. Water, stock, and broth each work. Usually just a few tablespoons, sometimes a little more.
Meat: To cover the bottom of the baking dish. A thin or slightly thick layer, depending on what I have on hand. Ground beef, or chopped beef, pork, venison, chicken, or turkey. Other meats could be used as well. When using leftovers from the freezer, there may be a combination of meats I will use.
Vegetables: Peas, carrots, broccoli, tomato, etc. Use one or more. Thicker vegetables may need cooking first. This second layer is spread over the ground beef.
Toppings: I used to always use white potato, but I have changed it up a bit. Now I will use squash or sweet potato if I have them on hand. Then I’ll sprinkle fresh herbs such as parsley and/or rosemary over the top of the casserole.
Bake your casserole at about 350* for 20 minutes or until warmed through.
I’m trying to stay away from grains, though I am sure many of you will use them. Doing so can be a money saver. Just be sure that there are plenty of vegetables and some protein to go along with it, and I’d use a healthy fat to brown the meat in.
If I wanted, I could slice the potatoes or squash and not mash them, them layer over the pie. Or mix all the other ingredients with sliced potato before cooking. I’m also considering finding a Paleo “cornbread” recipe to make a sort of taco or chili casserole, using the bread as a topping. Paleo breads are not made from grains, so it would work for me.
What is your favorite casserole? I’m always open to new ideas, as I’m sure everyone else her is.
- Grow some of your own produce and herbs to save money on these types of recipes.
- To be extra frugal, save leftovers from meals in the freezer. Saving a tablespoon or a quarter cup of foods over the course of a week or month might net you an almost free meal.