How Casseroles Have Saved My Life

Layered Gluten Free Italian CasseroleA month has not gone by in my 25 years of marriage that I have not made at least one casserole for dinner.  Odds are, over the years, it’s closer to one or two per week, but I like to exaggerate on the safe side!  The magic thing about the word casserole is that it can be interpreted so many ways and you can serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner!Typically, casseroles have three main components: a sauce, a main ingredient and a topping.   For a long time, I relied on cream soups for my sauces.  However, not that I am gluten free, I don’t even buy them.  That’s where Country Crock comes in.  I can melt some in a pan and add some rice flour and milk.  Voila!  In a matter of five minutes, I have a homemade sauce to which I can add any herbs and spices or cheese.   Other sauces that find their way into my casseroles are spaghetti sauce and salsa.  Cheddar Broccoli Casserole from Country CrockMain casserole ingredients are usually protein: meat, eggs or beans.  However vegetable casseroles make lovely sides.  Beyond the traditional green bean casserole, there are delightful ones made from carrots, yellow squash, lima beans, broccoli, potatoes and even sweet onions.  Again, Country Crock is useful for softening up vegetables before combining them into the casserole.Easy Breakfast Casserole from Country CrockFinally, the topping.  Cheese is the easiest thing to throw on top of a dish to finish it.  Taking the time to toss crispy some bread crumbs (gluten free in my case) in some Country Crock or crumbling up chips (potato or corn) also makes a nice flavor addition.  Sprinkling something green on top, like parsley or chervil gives a little color to what sometimes is a see of tan, brown or yellow.  If I have learned anything in five years of blogging, presentation is everything!Mexican Beef and Corn Casserole from Country CrockOne of my favorite things about casseroles is how very forgiving they are.  If you are following a recipe that calls for pasta, but all you have is rice or potatoes or another grain,  use those instead.  If you don’t have fresh potatoes, tater tots or French fries work just as well.  If you don’t have ground beef, you can use cubed beef, chicken, turkey, pork and sometimes ham or sausage or even bacon.   You can open up your produce bin and substitute or add according to what you have.  Even leftover cooked vegetables can get a new lease on life in a casserole.  Please be aware, however, that strong flavors and colors, like broccoli or beets or Brussels sprouts should be used with care.

Finally, you can switch the identity of a casserole by changing the flavors and spices you use.  A spoonful of taco, fajita or spaghetti seasoning will take you to Mexico or Italy.  Some soy sauce and ginger will detour into the Orient.  Add some hot sauce and blue cheese and you are on your way to Buffalo.  Pick your favorite destination, add the flavors of that region and Poof!  you have yourself a brand new casserole made by you.

Country Crock wants to see what you can do.  They are calling all Shedd Spread “Country Crock Stars” to submit a photo of you with your favorite casserole and 100 word or less telling them how you demonstrate your creativity and resourcefulness.   Go HERE to enter on their Facebook page.

I can’t let a post on casseroles end without a recipe for one.  Here is one I whipped up while writing this post.  It’s everything a casserole should be.  The main ingredient is Italian sausage with gluten free pasta.  There are two sauces: a gluten free white sauce and a spaghetti sauce.  The topping includes two kinds of cheese and the pretty green flakes of parsley.Gluten Free Layered Italian Casserole

Gluten Free Italian Sausage Layered Casserole
  • 16 oz pkg gluten free fuselli pasta
  • 1 lb bulk sweet or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 Tbsp Country Crock spread, divided
  • ⅓ cup white rice flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp + 2 tsp dried parsley
  • dash hot sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 oz Provolone cheese slices
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Brown sausage with 1 Tbsp Country Crock, onion and garlic, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.
  3. Melt remaining Country crock in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Add white rice flour, stirring to form a thick paste.
  5. Add milk, oregano, basil, 1 tsp parsley, hot sauce, salt and pepper stirring constantly until thick.
  6. In a 9X13 casserole dish, layer 1 cup spaghetti sauce followed by cooked, drained pasta, then sausage with onions and garlic.
  7. On top of this, spoon white sauce and followed by the remaining spaghetti sauce.
  8. Cover the spaghetti sauce with slices of Provolone cheese.
  9. Finish it all by sprinkling with Parmesan cheese and remaining 2 tsp parsley.
  10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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