Fall weather makes you think casseroles. I like casseroles to be a little unique and not weighed down with heavy cream sauces. I also like to take advantage of some of the fall vegetables and use them in my preparation. Making a meat stuffing that can work for both recipes saves a bit of time. These dishes can be done ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking. They also hold up well in the freezer. So plan ahead.
All Purpose Meat Stuffing for Vegetables
1 lb organic lean ground beef
1 lb organic lean ground pork
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Mexican flavoring, recipe below
Italian flavoring, recipe below
In a large skillet over medium heat, the heat oil. Add the beef and pork. Cook until brown.
Drain the meat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper to the skillet; season with salt.
Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the meat and mix well. Place half of the stuffing in another bowl.
Mexican Zucchini Casserole
I saw a video on Facebook from Delish that made zucchini enchiladas and decided to create my own, easy version with more vegetables and a homemade red enchilada sauce.
Half of the meat stuffing recipe from above
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups red enchilada sauce, recipe below
2 cups Shredded Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese blend, divided
2 large, long zucchini, halved lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil a 7×11 inch baking dish
For the Mexican stuffing:
Add the cumin and chili powder to the meat and stir until combined. Stir until incorporated. Set aside.
For the casserole:
On a cutting board, with a sharp knife cut thin lengthwise slices of zucchini.
Place a layer of zucchini slices in the bottom of the dish, about 5 slices per layer, overlapping the slices slightly.
Spoon half of the meat mixture over the zucchini slices. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the first layer, then sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.
Repeat with another layer of zucchini and beef mixture.
Spoon remaining enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until bubbly and hot.
Serve with sour cream for a garnish.
Red Enchilada Sauce For Mexican Zucchini Casserole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon minced dried onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 whole dried chipotle chile peppers
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan with a lid. Stir well.
Bring to a low boil, lower the heat to a simmer and place the lid slightly ajar on the pot.
Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally until reduced and thickened. Remove the dried chipotle peppers and bay leaf.
Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the sauce is a little bitter, add just a touch more sweetener. It will help balance the flavors.
Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
Half the meat stuffing from the recipe above
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, recipe below
1 large cabbage
For the stuffing:
Add the egg, Italian seasoning and cheeses to the meat mixture. Add 1 cup marinara sauce and stir well. Set aside.
For the cabbage:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer leaves and remove the cabbage core.
Carefully peel off 8 large leaves.
Blanch the cabbage leaves for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (a few at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels, so that they dry and cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and coat a deep casserole dish with cooking spray.
Make the cabbage rolls:
Lay cabbage leaves on the counter. Place a golf ball-sized round of meat mixture on each leaf.
Fold in the sides of the cabbage rolls and wrap cabbage leaf around the filling. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture.
Place the cabbage rolls in the prepared dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the cabbage. Cover the dish.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for 5 minutes and serve.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup minced onion
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 – 26 oz containers chopped tomatoes without salt or sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion. Cook over low until tender.
Add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with the lid ajar.
Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about two hours until thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste.