Whole Story

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Get Your Casserole On

As a working single parent, between her duties shuffling us to choir, football, basketball and more, my mom was one busy lady. That’s why casseroles were her quick and easy go-to meal. In fact, the smell of her macaroni and cheese casserole still reminds me of being a kid.

Today, as a busy single woman myself, even though I don’t have kids, I still cook casseroles as a major time saver, just like my mom. And when it’s dinner party time, I count on these big-batch dishes to help me feed dozens. No matter what stage of life you’re enjoying, here’s how casseroles can cut the time you spend in the kitchen during the week.

Single and want more time to mingle? During the week, I use casseroles as a grab-and-go lunch or dinner option. Once my casserole has cooled (depending on the dish, I sometimes let it harden in the fridge first), I divide it into single-serving squares and freeze them individually in freezer-safe containers. In the morning, I grab a portion from the fridge, toss it into my lunch bag and let it thaw during the day. I heat up my leftovers for a quick, yummy lunch.

Got a family of four or more? Sundays were our family’s “big batch cooking day.” We’d pile into the kitchen, cook two or three different casseroles for the week and freeze them. The next morning, my mom would put a casserole in the fridge to defrost. When she got home from work, she’d grab the casserole from the fridge and warm it in the oven. In less than half an hour, it was dinnertime.

Cooking for a crowd? My friends and co-workers jokingly call me Casserole Kim. For just about every office party, dinner party or potluck, I show up with a delicious casserole or two. When I’m cooking for a big group, doubling recipes makes things even easier. Plus, I let someone else do the prep work by grabbing frozen or fresh pre-chopped veggies, jarred sauces and shredded cheese. And, so that I only buy what I need, I head to the bulk aisle and meat departments for exact portions of pastas, grains and meats.

Casserole Dinner Solutions

Here are a few super simple ideas to get you started:

  • Winter Squash Lasagna (a favorite of mine): add layers of pureed, roasted butternut or acorn squash to your favorite lasagna recipe for added veggies and creaminess. Don't have a favorite lasagna recipe? Start with one of ours.
  • Sausage and Peppers Baked Ziti: add browned Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and chard to a mix of saucy ziti and stir in a blend of ricotta cheese and parmesan
  • Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie: top a mixture of vegetables and ground lamb or beef with a layer of smooth sweet potatoes, like in this recipe for Harvest Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

Or warm your oven with some of these:

Savory Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Casserole

What’s your favorite casserole? Do share!

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17 comments

Comments

Shree says …

I too am a single mom and pressed for time ... these quick simple recipes are great idea and very nutritous. Thx.

Jenn says …

I love to make Tofu / Noodle Casserole: Take a nest of noodles, cook them as directed. Then fry up some tofu and add veggies (peppers, onions, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms), cook with Olive Oil. Then poor noodles and tofu/veg mixture into a 9x13 baking dish. Pour one box of Pacific Organic Broccoli or Mushroom soup over, crumble ontop some crackers, then back at 350 for approx 20 min.....SUPER GOOD and VEGAN.

Nancy Lewis says …

My 19 year old son looked at me last week and said "You don't cook anymore." The guilt of working so many hours and pretty much seven days a week came to the front of my brain. Thanks for the recipes-We work so darned hard to do all things, and to be all things, we can't go hunting for new. Your bringing it to us is a fabulous service. Thanks...from my family...-Nancy

CindyLou says …

When my girls were younger, Spinach, Rice and Cheese was a great casserole that got them to love spinach and could be finished in the microwave was perfect.

Denise Schreiner says …

I would very much like the recipe for Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie that you mention in the text. There is no link and there were 'No results found' when I did a search in recipes. Thanks!

rr says …

link won't open, but the recipes sound great! could you make the links work?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RR - We are in the process of updating the links for the Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie but the other options listed are more 'ideas'. Let us know if the links for the photo recipes are not working! Thanks!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DENISE - We have updated the link above for your cooking enjoyment. Let us know how it turns out!

Lois Williams says …

Don't forget the convenience of the slow-cooker! Some of my family's favorite casseroles come from my Crock Pot (I have four...in different sizes!), and many standards can be converted to slow-cooker recipes.

Susan says …

I'd love to see more casserole recipes that don't call for cheese, as no one in my family enjoys it. So we need something else to hold the casserole together.

Anne Arcara says …

Do you have any casserole recipes that are gluten free? All of these have some kind of flour or pasta in them except maybe the wild rice-turkey one that I did not find appealing. As I must now eat entirely gluten free and so do many others, it would be great to see some gluten free ones. Thank you!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANNE - We definitely have some yummy Gluten Free recipes! Keep in mind that you can substitue GF pasta or GF flour with any of the recipes above. I have a few here that use potatoes, rice or GF cornbread that should be scrumptious! Baked Mashed Potato Casserole (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1313); Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1229); and Easy Tamale Casserole (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2138). Let us know how they all work out!

Kerry Solberg says …

These look great. Do you have any gluten and dairy free casserole ideas.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KERRY - Please see my comment above for direct links to Gluten Free casserole options! Enjoy!

nik says …

Curried Bean Casseroles are my favorite...love the hot spicy multilayered textures on a chilly evening. Cheers!

Erika Kerekes says …

I make a Mexican "chilaquile" casserole for breakfast with crushed tortilla chips, cheese, beans, leftover cooked meat and canned enchilada sauce. It's one of my kids' favorites. Here's my recipe: http://www.inerikaskitchen.com/2010/01/mexican-chilaquiles-breakfast-casserole.html

John says …

We love the Green bean casserole and have it only 2 to 3 times a year now that our family has grown. It was one of the ways we introduced green beans to our daughter who now prepares a casserole to her 2 boys who clean the plate every time. But to get them to eat the beans plain? Just is not going to happen... Now we have taken our family recipes and put them on the web for our daughter to enjoy and feed her growing family. Hope you do too.. Take a peek here and Enjoy! http://www.Easy-Everyday-Cooking-Recipes.net