Thursday, October 1, 2009

From the Freezer, Straight to the Oven Kind of Meal!

Who doesn't love casseroles? More specifically, who doesn't love a casserole topped with mashed potatoes and cheese? I know I sure do! This is super simple to make; if you'd like you can put it into the oven straight away, or freeze it after it cools and leave it for a busier day during the week. If that's what you plan on doing, just wait for all of your ingredients to cool, place in an 8x8 casserole dish (or any oven safe dish it will fit into) and freeze for later. The cook time in the oven will be longer if you freeze it first, but I think it's much easier to leave something cooking in the oven and get on with your life rather than try to multitask boiling water, laundry, chopping veggies, kids homework (if you have children), sauteing veggies, hungry pets, and a hungry husband! Phew! Sounds like a lot to me, which is why meals like these can be perfect for those busy nights, they'll also save you a phone call to your local pizza or burger joint.

Sausage & Veggie Casserole
  • grapeseed oil
  • 1 package of veggie sausages (I use Trader Joe's brand, you can use whatever meat you'd like, they're my favorite)
  • salt + pepper
  • rosemary
  • white pepper
  • thyme
  • 6 tablespoons smart balance margarine (divided)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery peeled, chopped
  • broccoli
  • peas
  • 5 medium size red potatoes, with skin on
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated (or finely minced) divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock

To begin add your potatoes to a pot of water and season with salt, let your potatoes boil while you're preparing the rest of the meal (if you plan on freezing the casserole, skip all the steps with the potatoes). Next, heat your skillet over medium-high heat and coat with your grapeseed oil or EVOO, whichever you'd like. Add your veggie sausage, chopped into bite size pieces, and brown all sides (this doesn't take long, considering it's already cooked). Once sausage has browned, set aside. In the same skillet add your onion, carrot, celery and additional veggies, 2 cloves grated garlic, and 3 tablespoons of butter, and cook until tender (about 5-6 minutes). Sprinkle in your flour and cook until golden brown (about 1 minute). Add your vegetable stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until gravy has thickened (3-4 minutes) then return your sausage to the skillet, mix to combine and season with salt and pepper. Transfer everything to a casserole dish (or whatever you have that would work with this). Sprinkle with white pepper, rosemary, and thyme.

Drain water from your potatoes, once you can poke them with a fork, then mash together with remaining butter, a splash of vegetable stock, salt and pepper, 1 grated clove of garlic, and rosemary. Spread the mashed potatoes directly on top of your casserole, and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes (or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly). Let cool, and enjoy! If you've chosen to freeze it, leave off the potatoes. Cook casserole at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Top with mashed potatoes, or cheese, or whatever else you'd like and bake an additional 25-30 minutes (or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly).

This might look similar to a Shepard's Pie, and that's probably what most of you think of because of the potatoes, it's very different though. Traditional Shepard's Pie has lamb and that, along with the veggies, have been minced very fine. Also, the potatoes have Parmesan cheese in them, which allows them to brown up nicely. My casserole has big chunks of veggies and sausage, and cheddar cheese on top of the taters. So although the potatoes make it look similar to a Shepard's Pie, it's completely different & much healthier!

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