Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Balsamic Roasted Garlic Veggies

“I don’t like asparagus. I don’t like broccoli. I don’t like onions. I don’t like garlic. I don’t like vegetables. Well, I do like corn … and potatoes. I like potatoes.”

This was my husband when we first got married.

I don’t remember cooking much in our first year of marriage. In fact, I have no idea what we ate. I hardly have a single memory in that tiny galley kitchen. Between Jared’s aversion to all things that made food delicious to me and the hideous marbled yellow laminate counter tops with cracks on the corners, I must have felt less than inspired.

When we moved to a new town house with a bright white kitchen near Galveston, I suddenly found myself looking for excuses to be in the kitchen. I started shopping at Farmer’s Markets and reading food blogs and became determined to get Jared to love veggies. Little by little, I found ways to prepare certain vegetables in a way he would eat them. He’ll eat onions if they are caramelized or chopped fine and sauteed in a dish. He’ll eat his peas in a split pea soup. And I can get him to eat almost anything wrapped in a tortilla and dipped in salsa. Thank goodness, because in a crazy turn of events, before we moved out of that town home a year later, we had become full on vegans.

The preparation that finally got Jared raving and begging for veggies was roasting them. If it’s coated with a little evoo and seasoning and crisped up to perfection (to him that includes a few burnt bits on the pan), he’s a happy husband and a happy veggie eater!

This method works wonderfully with asparagus, any root vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower, onions, even chickpeas. Try it with a vegetable you think you don’t like and see if it changes your thoughts on it.

Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Garlic

Roasted vegetables are easy enough to serve up on a weeknight and beautiful enough to serve to guests for a celebration dinner.

Balsamic Roasted Garlic Veggies


(Note: The vegetable  list is just a guideline. Use whatever you have in your refrigerator or is on sale at the market. The seasoning ingredients listed are for about 4 cups of vegetables.)

Potatoes, chopped (small, soft-skinned work great, but Idaho & sweet potatoes are wonderful too)

Carrots, chopped

Onions, quartered (leave one end in tact so they don’t get burnt)

Peppers (bell peppers, sweet tri colored peppers, poblanos) (seeded & quartered)

Broccoli (cut into “trees”)

Cauliflower  (cut into “trees”)

Zucchini (chopped into large chunks or long ribbons)

Squash (chopped into large chunks or long ribbons)

2 T (maybe more) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T. Balsamic Vinegar

2 t. Salt

2 t. Pepper

1 T. Italian Seasoning Blend

A full head of garlic


Preheat oven to 400. Spray large cookie sheet with nonstick spray.

Put all the veggies except the garlic in a large mixing bowl, and drizzle 2 tbs of olive oil over the veggies. Toss until all of the veggies are lightly coated, adding more olive oil if needed. Don’t drench them or you’re veggies won’t get crisp. (The amount of olive oil varies because some veggies soak up more, like cauliflower, and others hardly absorb any, like peppers.)

Add balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, and toss again. Pour veggies onto the cookie sheet and spread around. If they are piled on top of each other, use a second pan.

Take the garlic, remove the lose skin, and chop the top of the head off the garlic so the inside of each clove is exposed. Place the bulb on a piece of foil and drizzle the top of the bulb with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the clove. Add the foil wrapped garlic onto the pan of veggies (sitting upright). Check this tutorial out if you need a visual.

Bake the veggies and garlic for approximately 40 minutes. The potatoes and carrots take the longest to cook, so cook until they are soft in the middle and crispy on the outside.

Remove the garlic from the foil and allow to cool for a few minutes. Carefully either squeeze the garlic out (like toothpaste), or use a fork to remove each clove. Toss in with the roasted veggies. The garlic is delicious and really elevates roasted veggies! Your friends will most definitely track you down for the recipe. Trust me.

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Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

When my kids were little, I remember going bathing suit shopping with three small children in tow. (The last child, number 4, had yet to be born.)  Like most women, I’d rather pour lemon juice on a paper cut than shop for a bathing suit, especially after having incubated, grown and given birth to multiple children.  The only thing that could make this task even more painful was to try to get it done with three bored and antsy preschoolers in tow.

After what must have seemed an eternity to my eldest son, he said, “Mom, just buy one of those zucchini bathing suits and let’s get out of this Lady Store!”

Little did this child know that due to his weighing in at 9 lb 2 oz,  leaving stretch marks from my neck to the my knees, his mother’s days of wearing “zucchinis”  (bikinis) were forever behind me.

However, I am quite fond of cooking with zucchini, and this casserole below is one of my favorite ways to use up the abundance of zucchini squash that seem to overflow everyone’s backyard garden all summer long.

I created and made this casserole last week, and it seemed to get even better the next couple of days, as I enjoyed for a vegetarian lunch or a side dish with dinner.  It’s a little trouble to make, but it makes a bunch and keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days.  Just cut a slice, nuke and enjoy! (Would be a great take-to-work lunch.)   It also makes a gorgeous colorful side dish to go with a simple meat like baked chicken, fish, or hamburger patty for the omnivores in your family, while making a satisfying meal for any vegetarians among you. With a few tweaks, this can easily be made into a vegan-friendly dish as well.


Vegan version below.

Add cooked seasoned ground hamburger, turkey, chicken, or Italian sausage for an all-in-one main dish casserole.

Using same technique experiment with a variety of veggies and cheeses.  Try using Alfredo sauce in place of marinara.

Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole


Becky’s Layered Italian Veggie Casserole

Serves 10 to

Olive oil to coat large skillet (1 to 3 Tablespoons)

1 eggplant, peeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

2 smallish or 1 large potato, unpeeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

1/3 c. water

3to 4 zucchini squash, sliced ¼ inch

3 to 4 yellow squash

6 slices Swiss cheese (or mozzarella or any white cheese that melts; almond or soy cheese for vegans)

4 cups marinara sauce, your favorite brand, your favorite homemade recipe or my quick blender marina sauce below * (Try to choose or cook a marinara that is a little on the thick side.)

½ c. to 2/3 c. grated Parmesan, Asiago or other firm Italian cheese (Vegans, click on this link for a recipe for fake vegan parm)

1 ½ c. crushed buttery whole wheat crackers like Ritz or Town House brands (vegans use vegan-friendly crackers of your choice)

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter or Earth Balance for Vegans

1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper


In large skillet, pour a couple of tablespoons of  olive oil around skillet then sauté eggplant slices until partially cooked,  Using tongs,  place eggplant in a layer in bottom of big rectangle 11 by 13 inch baking dish.  Next,  partially cook potato in same skillet, adding 1/3 cup water.  Then add this layer on top of the eggplant.  Salt and pepper the eggplant-potato layer to taste.  Pour two cups marinara sauce on top of potato and eggplant.

First layer of eggplant an potatoes with first layer of sauce being ladled on

Lay Swiss cheese or other white cheese on top of this layer.   Next (using same skillet),  lightly sauté zucchini and yellow squash together, adding more oil if needed. Put this layer on top of Swiss cheese. Lightly salt and pepper the squash.  Pour two more cups of marina on top of squash.

Second layer of squash and marinara

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or vegan substitute)  Melt butter with olive oil in skillet, add crushed crackers, and stir until evenly coated.  Pour buttered crackers atop casserole. Sprinkle with 1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning.

Topped with cheese and buttered crackers, ready for oven

Bake at 350 until cheese is hot and melted and crackers are golden brown about 20 to 30 minutes.

Piping hot Italian Vegie Layered Casserole just out of oven

A slice of Italian veggie heaven...

* Becky’s Quick Blender Marinara

1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil

1 small 4 oz. can tomato paste

1 c. water

1 t. salt

1 t. Italian seasoning

½ onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 t. brown sugar

(optional: fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup red wine)

Put all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, or until as chunky as you like it.  Makes about 4 cups marina, perfect for this recipe.

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