We love the mighty casserole, lots of eating all in one dish. But alas, I have only had luck with the full-fat variety; baked ziti or lasagna, or using white sauces, cheese or eggs as a binder.
Please - who has some ideas for substantial and low-cal/fat casserole dishes that are sure to please.
I have made casseroles using white sauces made with skim milk or fat free canned condensed milk. I still start with a roux of butter and flour but by not using cream, half n half, or whole milk, you're cutting out a lot of fat. There is really no discernable difference in taste. This is the only way I make my cheese sauces, basic white sauce, pesto cream sauces (except on special occasions).
I have been making pot roast on the stove top for years - but finally bought a casserole dish with a lid and made it in the oven...I have NEVER had such moist or tender meat! My kids had 3 servings each!
What I did was sear the meat on all sides, and put it in my new casserole dish with beef broth, carrots, onions and a little potato and cooked it on low heat for a couple of hours. It was AWESOME!
I got the dish from an online store http://www.potshopofboston.com/cass.htm I only have the 2 quart casserole dish - so I had to cut my meat in half to make it fit - but cut the meat first and sear both pieces on all sides. I'm very happy with that!!!!
I always really hated casseroles growing up (I think I thought they seemed like "poor people' food... and being one myself, I practiced avoidance...).
As an adult, I have learned to love casseroles- especially as they allow me to drastically cut back on our meat consumption- a little goes a long way. Some of my favorites:
Tamale Pie- beans, tomatoes, corn, possibly ground meat, topped with a quick polenta or cornmeal mush-type topping, bake.
Moosewood-style Chiliquile Casserole: crunch up bought or homemade tortilla chips. Spread in dish, layer with leftover chili (especially black bean), cheese, veggies of choice, more chips. You can use baked chips to cut back on the fat. Bake briefly.
Shepherd's pie: I often do this without meat, or with very limited meat- hearty root veggies in a mushroom gravy, topped with garlic mashed potatoes prepped with evaporated milk instead of cream or butter. I top with a little cheese to add to the richness before backing until brown and crusty.
Colcannon- traditional Irish dish of cabbage/kale, mashed potatoes, ham or bacon, onions, chives. Cook, layer as you please.
My favorite: layered bits of leftovers, odds and ends, and whatever was in the fridge. I often save or freeze things that appear not to have a good use, and they later find their way into a casserole, mixed with like items and topped with a quick cornbread, or savory biscuit topping, or mashed potatoes, or whatever's quick and on hand.
Actually, I created a recipe over the phone for dinner last night which my very limited cooking skill DD made and it turned out great. She had defrosted a package of turkey cutlets, similar to veal cutlets or b/s chicken breast cutlets. Usually, I make a casserole with spaghetti sauce & parm cheese, but we were out of sauce.
In large 10 in skillet, saute 1 diced onion & 3 pieces sliced celery in 1/2 stick of butter(could use olive oil or low fat margarine) till soft. In large mixing bowl, add 1/2 large bag of Pep Farm stuffing cubes, softened veggies and 3/4 cup chicken stock. Fresh mushrooms would have been nice but we opened 2 cans, liquid and all (need to go shopping!). Mix as for herb stuffing. In large, well gresed 9X13 casserole, layer cutlets in one row, season to taste (s&p, garlic, tarragon, paprika). Make sauce using 1 can low fat Cream of Mush soup, 1/2 cup low cal sour cream, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup white wine, s&p, stir well. Spread half of sauce over turkey cutlets, layer on stuffing. Bake in 375 oven for 35-40 min till bubbling, taking care to keep stuffing moist (might need a little more stock), and ensuring turkey is cooked through.
If you want a gourmet version, use challah for stuffing and Bechamel or Veloute sauce.
You might consider a polenta casserole somewhat similar to happybelly's post...I've made this one without the heavy cream (I subbed light sour cream mixed with milk) and I subbed in my own roasted poblanos for the canned green chiles...we love this Polenta and Black Bean Casserole: