tasty, freezable cassersoles -- please help if you can
I belong to a group that prepares and freezes casseroles for members of our church when anyone has a need. We're meeting at the end of this month to present new ideas, new recipes for our group to prepare. We've been asked to bring our "easiest, freezable, nutritious-but-tasty" casserole recipes. I'm single, and hardly ever prepare casseroles anymore, though I love many of them. Would you please share your best recipes that fit the criteria I've been given? I'll be grateful, as I know the families who receive them will be. Thank you.
Spanakopita! I freeze it uncooked, some people freeze it already cooked, but either way it's a good option to have in your arsenal, since it's vegetarian and filling. It's easy if you have someone comfortable working with filo to show you how to do it, but once you get the hang of filo it's easy, and since it's just layered, if the filo acts up you just smash it together with olive oil/butter.
I usually use the original Moosewood recipe, which is very heavy, because I tend to be making it for special occasions or potlucks, where everyone's just going to have a little, but the newer, lighter one is probably better for your purposes. Google "Moosewood spanakopita" and it's all over the internet. If the recipe has eggs, it's the old, super-rich one, if it doesn't, it's the new, lighter one. Either way, use frozen spinach, thawed and drained, rather than fresh -- tastes just as good in this particular application, much less work.
Another idea -- it's not a casserole, but what about making a big tray of burritos? Add vegetables to the protein in the filling (I'm a vegetarian, so that's always beans, but obviously you could use meat) to make it more of a complete food. Then people can reheat in varying quantities, too. I don't have a recipe for these, since I tend to use whatever vegetables I feel like eating plus a few cans of black beans, but there are lots of recipes out there.
i tossed a lot of leftover fresh spinnach in a lasgna and it made it watery. you need to cook spinach and maybe squeeze out water before using.
if you have a cheap milk source riccota is easy to make.
bread is a useful side, it can disapear quickly. you need to organize an assembly line making batches to produce very much. no knead high hydration recipes save a lot of work. bread may be more a labor of love than practical when you can get a giant bag of rolls from costco for $3-4.
A lot of great ideas here! I've absolutely nothing food-wise to contribute, but just wanted to say how valuable of a service this is to others, and how much it's appreciated by the recipients, at least it was by my family.
When my grandmother died some years ago, members of her church began arriving at the front door within hours with trays of food to sustain us through the next few days. I don't know how they found out about her passing so quickly, or how food was prepared and delivered with such lightening speed. No one was intrusive, we just got knocks at the door from folks we'd never met before offering their condolences along with their part of the meals, then let us be. It's a gesture I'll always remember.
I know you're looking for casserole recipes, but just wanted to note something. One of the things that we received was three medium-sized trays of mixed salad, enough so that we could use one each night and toss it with dressing right in the tray. In the middle of a Fresno summer, it was really nice to have dinner start with a refreshing cold salad.
My grandmother was Adventist, so everything we received was vegetarian. For extra protein, they'd put toppings like garbanzo beans, etc. into sandwich bags to add to the salads, and we mixed those in while tossing the salad with the dressing. We could tell a lot of thought and care had been put into these meals.
Please pass on my thanks to the group you work with for all the time, love, money and effort that's put into providing these gifts. Pleasant memories from the kindness of others during an otherwise sad period isn't something you can go out and buy.
You know what I'll never forget? Going to my big sisters funeral in the small West Texas town of Plainview. During the procession, people walking down the street would stop what they were doing and take their hat off until we passed. We had to take the funeral procession to another town. On the other side of the median going the other direction on a 4 lane hiway, a trucker stopped his truck, got out and took off his hat until the procession passed!!!! He didn't know any of us or my sister. It was just the thing to do in rural Texas even in 1998.
re: Hank Hanover
a community thing. around here most motorcyclists wave in passing. on lopez island people are known to wave at each other while driving.
one thing i don't like to freeze is chunk potatoes, like for a stew. the texture gets funny, kind of grainy. mashed potatoes like for a shepherds pie should be ok, though i can't remember actually freezing that.
re: Hank Hanover
Beautiful remembrance, Hank. It's an incredible feeling, isn't it, riding in "the family car" and seeing those expressions of respect and honor from strangers? Must say, though, I've never experienced what you did, with the man on the other side of the highway. They "grow 'em different" in West Texas, don't they? Which is good.
Your story made me realize that I haven't seen (or been in) a funeral procession in some time. Or maybe it's just that I'm not out and about mid-day as much. The last one, however, drivers were still pulling over and stopping their cars while the procession passed. In Fort Worth, at least.
Great to hear from you, Hank. Thanks.
We had some quick and easy ones in our house growing up. These are not the healthiest dishes... I rarely if ever cook with Campbell's Soup anymore... but they are wonderful tasting. This first one is easy and freezes beautifully. I've never had anyone do anything but rave and ask for more.
1 onion, chopped
1 pd. ground beef
1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 14 oz. can of enchilada sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Brown the onion, chilies and beef until the beef is cooked and onions are tender. Season with salt, pepper and a healthy dose of cumin.
- Add the soups and enchilada sauce. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes.
- In deep casserole dish, put a generous layer of doritos. Then ladle over the doritos a layer of the meat sauce. Then spread a layer of sour cream (it will mix in to a degree, don’t worry). Then sprinkle a generous layer of cheese.
- Repeat the layers, topping with lots of cheese.
- Bake for 30 min. with lots of cheese on top.
I like to serve it with flour tortillas and Taco Salad on the side.
This recipe doubles easily and freezes easily. When I make it, I usually make two and freeze one. It is great for something like the Super Bowl as you can prepare it in the morning or even the day before and it is ready to go when you need to put it in the oven.
re: Tom P
Thanks so much, Tom. I wish I had a taste right now!
What a treat it is to go back to, to honor, really, those favorite tastes we experienced while we were young. Not, perhaps, the most healthy dishes. But those dishes which are comforting, and which, in some basic way, particularly when we might be grieving, feed our souls.
You've gotten some really good replies. I would add a couple of ideas that freeze well, though not complete casseroles--chicken cordon bleu, calzone, sausage/peppers/onions for simple sandwiches, turkey slices in gravy, vegetable pot stickers, butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sauce. And soup! Don't forget soup--can make them nutritious one-pot meals (I'm thinking broccoli cheese, chicken vegetable [I wouldn't freeze the noodles though], winter squash, tomato)--and if you add some freezer biscuits or freezer rolls then that's a meal. Thanks for your good work for others!
Thanks to everyone! I prefer to say that I "followed" CH, rather than say I "lurked", for several years. I learned during those years what a generous, giving group of peoplet you are. That has been confirmed by your overwhelming responses to my request. I'm so grateful to you all. More important than that is how the recipients of these gifts will feel, knowing that people all over the country (the world?) cared about them..
On Friday night, when I go to our meeting, I'll tell them how generously you've responded. I've not been able to participate in the group until now. What a gift you all are -- and will be -- to so many people. Thank you. Grace and peace.
I made up this recipe many years ago, and I've changed it over the years. I've taken or sent it to many homes under many circumstances. You don't have to use this rice mix. I've always made it with dried herbs. Nowadays I'd oil the chicken pieces with olive oil, rather than spray.
2 thighs = 1 serving.
Chicken over Rice
1 ½ c. Basmati/wild rice mix
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried thyme
2 t. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic chopped
Spike seasoning or other seasoned salt
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ c. sliced fresh mushrooms
8-10 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
3 c. low salt, fat tree chicken broth
Main Dishes - Poultry 4-5 servings, 2 thighs each
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Mix the rice mix and the garlic, herbs and seasonings (rice through Spike seasoning.) Place mixture in 9” x 12” baking pan.
3. Layer chopped onion on top of the rice mixture; then layer the mushrooms on top of the onion.
4. Pull skin off the thighs, and trim off fat. Lay thighs in rows in the pan, atop the rice and vegetables. Spray thighs lightly with Cooking Spray (to keep them from drying out as they bake), and sprinkle with Spike and salt and pepper.
5. Place pan on rack of oven. Pour broth into pan. If there is not enough room for all the broth, reserve some, and add more after ½ hour of baking.
6. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Rice should have absorbed the liquid, & chicken should be cooked to done.
Lasagna, chicken pot pie, and enchilada bake all come to mind. Here is a recipe for a veggie enchilada casserole that freezes very well and is very customizable: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/stacked-roasted-vegetable-enchiladas/#more-11755
Also anything with some kind of pasta would freeze well. Simple mac&cheese (or dress it up by adding broccoli, chicken, bacon, etc.), baked ziti with cheese and meat sauce, how about this chicken spaghetti bake? http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...
My mom used to make a "must-goes" casserole using leftovers in the fridge. It usually consisted of some kind of meat + veggies, mixed together with a "cream of" soup (cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, etc.) and some shredded cheese. Dump it in a 9x13" baking dish and top with 1 box of Stovetop Stuffing, prepared per the package instructions. Bake until heated through and set. Sorry I don't have a more accurate recipe...if you weren't using leftovers, I would go with a couple chicken breasts (cooked and diced), a bag of frozen mixed veggies, a couple cans of cream of chicken soup, a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and a box of chicken stuffing.
Minnesota Tater Tot hot dish
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can chicken gumbo soup
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup with1/3 less salt
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can chicken rice soup with 1/3 less salt
1 teaspoon browning and seasoning sauce
1 (2 pound) package frozen tater tots
Brown beef and onion in skillet, crumbling meat while cooking; drain. Spread meat on bottom of 9x13" baking pan. Spread vegetables over meat. Heat soups and browning sauce to boiling, pour over vegetable layer. Cover with tater tots. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven until bubbly in center (60-70 minutes).
Amount: 8 servings
You're right, berkleybabe. On most of these occasions, food doesn't really mean a lot, except, perhaps, that people care. On the other hand, there are joyous times, like a newborn. I wish there more of those.
Good to know that pasta freezes well. It's probably common knowledge, but in all these (many!) years, I've never frozen pasta. Never too old, right?
Thanks for the good suggestions.
Hanks Rice Casserole and Variations
1.5 lbs ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tbls tomato paste
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbls flour
1 tbl vegetable oil
1.5 cups long grain white rice, cooked
1 can tomato soup
1 tsp paprika
1 tbl minced garlic
1 tsp brown sugar (optional if it is getting to acidic for you)
½ cup beef broth
Brown the ground beef in a med high skillet. Lower the temperature a little, add some salt and pepper and sweat the onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, paprika and tomato paste and stir it to thoroughly incorporate the tomato paste. Taste it now and see if it is too acidic. If it is add the sugar.
Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture and mix it in for about 2 minutes. Add the beef broth. Stir until it thickens.
Spread the meat mixture over the bottom of a 9 x 13 pyrex baking pan. Spread the rice over the meat. Completely cover the meat. Poke several holes through the rice with the handle of a spoon.
Mix the tomato soup and a half a can of water. Spread this mixture over the rice with a spatula. You may not need all of it. No need to make it soupy. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve.
Italian – use 1 lb ground chuck and ½ lb Italian sausage. Use pasta sauce instead of the tomato soup. Use Italian spices instead of or in addition to the thyme.
Mexican – Use 1 lb ground chuck and 1/2 lb chorizo. Use chopped bell pepper instead of the celery and carrots. Add a can of rotelle spiced tomatoes instead of the broth. Add a tbl of chile powder instead of the paprika and more to the tomato soup. You can even add cheese on top.
Cajun – Use 1 lb ground chuck and ½ lb andouille sausage. Use chopped bell pepper instead of the celery and carrots. Add a can of rotelle spiced tomatoes instead of the broth. Add a tbl of chile powder instead of the paprika and more to the tomato soup. Like it spicy? Add a little cayenne.
As always with a casserole, don’t be afraid to change things. That’s what casseroles are for. You could add frozen peas. You could use mashed potatoes instead of rice. You could use noodles and mix it all together. You could use chicken or sliced beef. There are no limits.
re: Hank Hanover
Tcamp and Hank -- thank you both so much. Tcamp, I know I don't think enough about taking special dietary needs into consideration, Thanks for that reminder. Hank, I've followed you for years and am honored you'd respond. Thanks so much for the variations.
Would love to hear from anyone else who'd like to help. Thank you all.
Somebody follows me? Shucks, I'm just an old geezer trying to put dinner on the table.
There are a lot of casseroles out there, especially if you can use yellow cheese. Unfortunately, my broker, E.F. Mama (you have heard of E.F. Mama - when she talks you listen?) doesn't eat yellow cheese so I have learned to live without it.
re: Hank Hanover
Following you -- could sound dangerously like stalking, couldn't it? Please reassure E.F. Mama that isn't the case! Just love reading your posts. Something about "an old geezer" who loves food and has a great sense of humor....
We "do" yellow cheese. Yes!
Although I didn't emphasize it in my post, I think "freezable" is a key. We prepare several casseroles, then freeze until the need arises (unfortunately, too often), Then prepare and freeze another several. Obviously, some things freeze more successfully than others, so that is definitely a big consideration. I've never been a big freeze-ahead person, so my knowledge about that is limited.
And "tasty", of course!
Thanks for all the great responses so far, Would love to receive additional ideas from anyone who'd care to share.
I guess I am surprised to hear that not only someone reads my comments, they respect what I have to say.
I sometimes think I am the only sane voice in a sea of people that only eat the left breast of an organically grown free range chicken that only eats organic worms out of my personal compost heap with a side of curried chickpea stew with eggplant and hummus.
Wow! I really appreciate the kind words, folks. I try to provide a voice for the common everyday cook. The kind I suspect is lurking and not wanting to post.
There are a lot of seriously gourmet cooks on chowhound. They can intimidate a lot of home cooks. Extreme cooking is fine but most of us are just trying to make ends meet and put food on the table. The people that come here are just trying to learn something.
This isn't exactly a classic casserole but could easily be frozen for a needy congregant. It is from a long-out-of-print diabetic cookbook but I've used it many many times for church and other suppers. Low carb and very yummy.
Tofu Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms and Artichokes
• Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil
• 1 lb. extra firm tofu
• ¾ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
• 2 cups sliced mushrooms
• 1 cup broth
• 2 T. cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup water
• 2 T. plain nonfat yogurt
• 1 T. dry sherry
• ½ t. salt
• Coarsely ground pepper to taste
• 1 t. dried tarragon (or 1 T. fresh)
• 1 t. garlic powder
• 1 c. halved fresh or thawed frozen artichoke hearts (or artichoke quarters)
• Dash of paprika
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 2- or 3-quart casserole dish with the cooking spray (or oil) and set aside.
Drain the block of tofu and press between several thicknesses of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Cut tofu into ½ inch slices. You should have about 1 2/3 cups. Heat medium skillet, lightly coat with oil or cooking spray, brown pieces of tofu until they are golden, drain and set aside.
Heat the same skillet again and lightly brown chicken on both sides, drain, pull or cut into smaller pieces, and set aside.
Heat skillet again, add mushroom slices, and brown. Remove skillet from heat and hold on the side.
Heat broth in saucepan and add dissolved cornstarch. Add the yogurt, sherry, salt, pepper, tarragon, and garlic. Cook on low heat until the sauce is warmed through and immediately turn it into the skillet with the mushrooms. Over a low heat, mix the ingredients thoroughly.
In the prepared casserole, layer the tofu, chicken, and the artichokes, repeating layers until all ingredients are gone. Pour the sauce and the mushrooms on top. Sprinkle paprika over and bake for about 40 minutes until browned. Serve.
Makes 6 servings of 1 cup each.