Casseroles Are Cool Again! (Plus, Mexican Shepherd's Pie Recipe!) (2024)

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Casseroles Are Cool Again! (Plus, Mexican Shepherd's Pie Recipe!) (1)

by Jennifer Pantin

September 15, 2014


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Casseroles Are Cool Again! (Plus, Mexican Shepherd's Pie Recipe!) (2)

When I think of the word “casserole,” the first thing that comes to mind is tuna. Then potato chips. Then 1984. I’ll admit it, I’ve been guilty of thinking of casseroles as dated and boring, and they certainly weren’t something that immediately came to mind when planning dinner. But the truth is, I couldn’t be more wrong. Casseroles are totally cool!

Why are casseroles so great? Let’s start with the obvious. Your whole meal is ready in one big baking dish. That means: faster prep, faster cook time, less clean up, and (more than likely) some leftovers, too. Still don’t think casseroles sound appetizing? Then think again—about coming home tired from work, running after the kids, and consider how amazing it would be to have a little extra time to relax.

Here are 5 helpful tips to make sure your casseroles—or one-dish dinner variations, like cassoulet and shepherd’s pie—turn out perfectly every time.

1. Towel-dry the veggies! Meat is usually placed at the bottom of a casserole, and that’s where you want your moisture to accumulate—to keep your meat moist and tender while cooking. Where you don’t want lots of water is in your veggie layers—wet veggies will make other ingredients soggy. Pat them dry with a paper towel or cloth before adding them to the next layer.

2. Use undercooked pasta or potatoes Making a dish with either of these ingredients? Don’t fully cook them beforehand—they will soften up more when you place your casserole in the oven. Under-cooking potatoes saves on time, and using firm pasta prevents noodles from turning into a soggy mess.

3. Line your pan with foil Planning to freeze that casserole? Line the dish or pan with foil before assembling. Then, pop the entire thing in the freezer (yes, the pan too!). Once fully frozen, remove the pan, and now have a frozen casserole that takes up less space—ready to pop back into the pan or dish when it’s time to defrost and cook!

4. Defrost before heating “It freezes beautifully!” Have you ever heard that expression? Well it’s true—and it’s one of the benefits of making a casserole. Just be sure to give your frozen casserole ample time to defrost before baking. Trying to cook it frozen for longer, or at a higher temperature, can lead to soggy ingredients, cold spots, and other casserole mishaps.

5. Label it! Making multiple casseroles can make planning weeknight dinners in advance a breeze! And it’s an especially useful trick for big families. Just don’t forget to label what it is, and when you froze it for easy organization and cooking.

I’ve been experimenting with different casseroles lately. With time at a premium, I love something that I can pull from the freezer in the morning, defrost in the fridge during the day, and cook in 30 minutes when I get home. And I love having plenty of leftovers for lunch at work and dinner later in the week! One of my favorites is this Mexican Shepherd’s Pie. If you read my blog you know I love avocados and southwestern dishes—and this is one of my favorites. It’s packed with protein and fiber, and perfect for Meatless Monday!

Mexican Shepherd’s Pie


1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Water
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Salt
1 cup Mushrooms, chopped
1 cup Tomatoes, chopped
2 cups Corn, whole kernels (canned works!)
3 cups Black Beans, cooked
4 tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 Lime, juiced
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 Avocados
1 ½ pounds Sweet Potatoes
½ cup Soy Milk


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place quinoa, water, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a pot, and bring to a boil. Allow liquid to boil for 5 minutes, then cover pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and simmer for another 5 minutes on low heat.

In a small bowl, mix avocado, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until soft and blended.

Spread quinoa mixture into the bottom of casserole dish. Then add a layer of beans, followed by the avocado mixture, and then the corn.

Poke fork holes in sweet potatoes and place in microwave. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes on high. Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl with cinnamon and soy milk, and then spread over corn in casserole dish.

Bake the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes; serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 8 | Serving Size: about 2 cups

Per serving:Calories: 374; Total Fat: 8 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 431 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 58 g; Dietary Fiber: 13 g; Sugars: 10 g; Protein: 13 g

Nutrition Bonus:Potassium: 1216 mg; Vitamin A: 334%; Vitamin C: 46%; Calcium: 10%; Iron: 29%

What are your favorite casseroles? Share in the comments below!

Tagsblack beanscasserolefrozen foodsMeal PlanningmeatlessMexicanquinoa

About the Author

Casseroles Are Cool Again! (Plus, Mexican Shepherd's Pie Recipe!) (3)

Jennifer Pantin

Writer, lawyer, and healthy-eating proponent, Jennifer Pantin loves experimenting with new, healthy recipes in her Brooklyn kitchen. Her blog,Lorimer Street Kitchen, is where she shares this passion for food and the belief that healthy recipes can be good for you and delicious, too. Connect with Jennifer and Lorimer Street Kitchen onFacebook,Twitter, andGoogle+.


Casseroles Are Cool Again! (Plus, Mexican Shepherd's Pie Recipe!) (2024)


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