What’s a Make Your Own Casserole and why do you need to know how? Well, over the past couple of months being stuck in the house, as the only parent while my husband who has made meals for over a decade works double shifts with the USPS, I’ve learned about “go-to” meals. You know, the ones you have in your back pocket and can pull together on a moment’s notice with what you know you have already? That’s what a MYO Casserole is for me. And Fried Rice, that’s coming next week.
Over the 3 months of quarantine we’ve made this recipe each week. It’s become so second-nature I even taught the kids how to do it, so they could pull it together for me in a pinch.
I love that you can have a complete meal in ONE pot. It comes together quickly with about 10-15 min of hands-on time, and then bake it off for another 15 – just enough time to scream “time for dinner” a dozen times and ensure people have washed hands and set the table.
Your veggie, protein and optional starch of choice are all up to you. The thing I love, however, is that we’ve got a VERY veggie-packed nutrient dense meal here, yet it blends so seamlessly with delicious gooey rice and cheese (or whatever alternative you use). We actually tested a dairy-free version to make sure it worked. Matt said he actually preferred it. So, when I say you have unlimited options – I mean it.
What’s you’ll need:
- Some veggies, preferably aromatics to start off and something green and bulky inside
- A protein, it can be previously cooked (like rotisserie chicken) or not (like ground beef) just follow the instructions accordingly
- Topping, such as cheese or pork cracklin crumble or nuts
- Liquids, such as broth (I recommend always having some boxed or frozen on hand), tomato sauce, milk/milk alternatives
- Flavor, both the spices of your preference, and
- OPTIONAL: we recommend Nutritional Yeast, the only thing you may be unfamiliar with
- A starch, we use polished and soaked white rice but leftover pasta, mashed potatoes, or even cauli-rice works
Get creative with your combinations:
- Canned tuna can work well with peas and pasta for a tuna-noodle casserole (try Ranch seasoning).
- Beef and mushroom has a completely different Stroganoff-like flavor profile.
- Leftover rotisserie chicken can be used with canned tomatoes and garnished with avocado and lime juice for a Mexi-Cali inspiration.
- One of our favorites was Fauxmato Marinara (or tomato sauce) as the liquid with Cabbage and Beef, like a Halupki!
- Our favorite is pictured: beef, mushroom, broccoli, and garlic.
The possibilities are endless!
What is nutritional yeast?
This adds the flavor of cheesiness with umami flavor that is dairy-free (but even when we add dairy we still include this for the flavor). Not familiar with this popular cheese-substitute? High quality brands are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and even contain zinc, magnesium, manganese, and copper. But really, it’s cheese-like flavor that we like. Look for a brand that is started off of beets, instead of wheat. This is the one we use. And if you want to learn more, check out this NPR article about the history of yeast – fascinating!
Once you have it on hand, what to do with it? Try these other recipes:
- Veggie-Loaded Broccoli “Cheese” Soup
- Twice Baked Mac & Cheese
- Ultimate Paleo Nachos
- Jalapeno Poppers
- Pizza Kale Chips
- Dairy-Free Cultured Cream Cheese
- Broccoli Chicken Ranch Potatoes
- and, we use it in the Cashew Cheese Sauce for the Leftover Casserole in our cookbook, Real Life Paleo, which would be excellent in this recipe too!
The key to building upon the flavor is layering in that seasoning with each phase - don't add it all at the beginning or end.
I'd also recommend doubling this recipe if you have a 6qt casserole dish or larger that can be put into the oven to bake. It makes excellent leftovers for any meal of the day!
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder
- 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1-2 tablespoon favorite spice blend
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 tablespoons oil or fat
- 4-5 cups of veggie(s) of choice, chopped to uniform sizes (more dense veggies cut into smaller chunks than more porous ones)
- 1 lb protein of choice
- 3 cups starch, we recommend cooked (in broth) soaked polished white rice (or prepared pasta, mashed potatoes, cauli-rice)
- 1-1 1/2 cup bone broth or stock
- 1/2 cup half-n-half, coconut milk, sour cream, or heavy cream
- optional: 1 C grated cheese
- 1 1/2-2 cups cheese blend or pork cracklin' crumble or toasted and chopped nuts (mixed with Parmesan is fantastic) for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine salt, garlic powder, nutritional yeast and spice blend together in a separate bowl.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onions and 1/4 of seasonings, stir, and saute until almost translucent.
- Add vegetables, protein, and another 1/4 of seasoning and cook until meat is cooked almost all the way through (it will go into the oven to finish off a bit) and vegetables are completely softened. If your meat is already cooked, add it in at the end of cooking the vegetables.
- Stir in starch, 1/4 of seasonings, and broth; cook about 5 minutes until simmering. Pour in the broth 1/2 cup at a time and see how it the veggies and starch drink it up. If using vegetables that release a lot of water (like mushrooms) or more dry rice or pasta it will change how much liquid is needed. You want a "loose" mixture - easy to stir but not soupy. Add 1/4 of seasonings and stir.
- Turn off the heat, add dairy and last quarter of seasonings. This is for taste, so if you like a more creamy casserole, add more and include the additional cup of grated cheese into the casserole. This works best with half-n-half, but we've tried all the types listed. Just don't use vanilla-flavored almond milk (lesson learned the hard way)! Stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Add topping on top and bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
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