Beat the stress of the season with casseroles

All-in-one dinners are a simple way to provide a warm, healthy meal while juggling schedules

With the start of autumn and school activities in full swing — not to mention the upcoming holiday season — it’s time to think of a way to reduce stress while providing hot, healthy meals for the family. 

Casseroles are a simple way to do just that. They’re easy to put together, and can often be made a few days in advance and then baked, making them ideal for a season when everything seems to be happening at once. 

Typically made with a cooked meat, vegetables and a starch, such as potatoes or pasta, bound with sauce or soup and topped with crumbs or cheese, casseroles take little time to whip up and warm not just the body but the soul with their tantalizing aroma. 

You can easily vary the flavor by changing one or two ingredients. Instead of beef, use chicken. If you have broccoli but not carrots, use the broccoli. Vary the starch between pasta, rice and potatoes. 

If you want to make your casserole healthier, use a seasoned white sauce or low-fat cream soup to help bind the ingredients. 

To promote even cooking, cut the ingredients to about the same size. 

To add flavor and seal in juices, brown the meat or chicken. Make sure to coat the meat in flour just before cooking. If you coat it too early, the moisture in the meat can absorb the flour, spoiling the texture of the casserole. 

Add the vegetables, liquids and herbs after the meat is browned. 

Most casseroles are baked in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes. Many casseroles are covered initially, then uncovered for the last 20 minutes or so to create a crusty, browned top layer. 

If you’re making one casserole, think about making a second and freezing it for a later date. Just make sure to use it within a month or two. 

Casseroles can be frozen cooked or uncooked in their baking dish. You can line the baking dish with foil, leaving enough foil hanging over the edges to cover and wrap the casserole. 

Place the casserole ingredients in the dish and freeze it. Once frozen, use the foil to lift the casserole out of the dish. Cover the casserole with the overhanging foil, then place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag and seal. When you want to bake it, place the casserole in its original dish and allow to thaw in the refrigerator or bake it frozen, doubling the amount of time in the oven. 

Following are casserole recipes from


Loaded Baked Potato Chicken Casserole

6 cups russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces bacon

1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons melted butter

2 teaspoons paprika

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup green onion, green and white parts, sliced thin

For garnish:

Sour cream

Sliced green onion

Place potatoes in a 9-by-13-inch pan that’s coated with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir butter, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper until combined. Pour over potatoes and toss until potatoes are evenly coated. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until fork-tender.

Cut bacon into one-inch pieces, then fry in large skillet over medium heat for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked. Drain on paper towel-lined plate. 

Drain all but one tablespoon bacon grease from skillet and cook chicken pieces in pan over medium heat about eight minutes, until fully cooked.

Remove potatoes from oven and turn off oven. Sprinkle one cup cheese evenly over potatoes, then layer chicken, bacon and green onions on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and return to oven for three to five minutes, until the cheese melts. Serve with sour cream and green onion.


Teriyaki Chicken Casserole

3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

12 ounces stir-fry vegetables

3 cups cooked brown or white rice

Combine soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, brown sugar, ginger and garlic in a small saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove lid and cook for one minute.

Stir together cornstarch and two tablespoons water in a separate dish until smooth. Add to boiling sauce and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, then remove from heat.

Place chicken breasts in a 9-by-13-inch pan that’s coated with nonstick cooking spray. Pour one cup sauce over the chicken, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and shred chicken in the dish using two forks.

Steam or cook the vegetables according to package directions. Add cooked vegetables and cooked rice to the casserole dish. Add most of the remaining sauce, reserving a bit to drizzle over the top when serving. Toss everything in the casserole dish until combined. Bake another 15 minutes.

Let casserole stand five minutes before serving, drizzling each serving with remaining sauce. 

To freeze, prepare casserole up until baking point. Do not bake. Cover pan tightly with foil and place in freezer for as long as two months. To heat, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake as directed.


Chicken Divan Casserole

2 cans cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken or turkey

2 cups chopped broccoli, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers, breadcrumbs or Panko

1 tablespoon melted butter

In a medium bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, white wine, lemon juice, curry powder, tarragon, onion powder, paprika and black pepper. Add chicken, broccoli and 1/2 cup cheese and stir well. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch pan that’s coated with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs, remaining cheese and melted butter. Sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes.

If desired, serve with rice or egg noodles.


Million Dollar Chicken Casserole

4-1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup cottage cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dried onion powder

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

5 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine chicken, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, garlic powder, onion powder and cream of chicken soup. Spread in a nine-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine crushed crackers and butter, then sprinkle over chicken mixture. Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.


Apple Butternut Squash Casserole

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, divided

3 cups butternut squash, cubed

2 medium firm apples, cubed

1 small red onion, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Sea salt 

Black pepper

6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine butternut squash, apples, red onion, two tablespoons melted coconut oil, sage and thyme in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, then toss to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch pan that’s coated with one tablespoon melted coconut oil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, just until the squash is fork tender.

Fry bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is cooked through and crispy. Transfer bacon to a small mixing bowl lined with paper towels, blot remaining grease on top and set aside to cool for five to 10 minutes.

Discard the paper towels, then add the remaining coconut oil, chopped pecans, honey, cinnamon and ground cloves to the bacon. Season with salt and black pepper and toss to combine.

Top squash with bacon-pecan mixture, then return to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned. Cool five minutes before serving. 


Dump and Bake Shrimp and Rice Casserole

1 10.5-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup, not diluted

1/2 small green bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped onion

2 cups cooked rice

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 pound raw, peeled and deveined shrimp

1/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, stir together condensed soup, bell pepper, onion, rice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pepper and shrimp. Transfer to a 1-1/2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, melted butter, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over top of the casserole. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven about 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking about 10 minutes, until shrimp are pink and breadcrumbs are golden brown.


Blueberry French Toast Casserole

12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup fresh blueberries

12 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon butter

Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then arrange half the bread cubes in the dish. Top with cream cheese cubes, then sprinkle with one cup blueberries and top with remaining bread cubes.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk, vanilla extract and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes, Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. 

Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, then, stirring constantly, cook three to four minutes. Mix in remaining blueberries, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until blueberries burst. Stir in butter and pour over the baked French toast.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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