Super Easy, One Pan, Keto Dinner of Ground Beef and Veggies

To cook this super easy, one pan, Keto dinner all you need is three ingredients. Buy some lean ground beef (1 pound), a can of organic, low sodium, diced tomatoes, two medium size zucchinis, and some chopped onion, which is optional.

one pan Keto dinner
Quick Keto Dinner

Order of Preparation

Brown the ground beef in a large frying pan. While the meat is cooking, dice a zucchini into pieces. The easiest way to do this is to cut off the ends and cut the zucchini in half. Stand each half and make cross-cuts all the way down so the piece is in quarters. Lay it down on a cutting board and slice.

Open a can of diced tomatoes. Chop some onion if you want. I did to add flavor.

When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside. I put it into a bowl I would be using to eat from to save dishes.

Add a pat of butter and heat the frying pan to cook the zucchini. Stir and cook, with the onions, until it is mostly tender. Dump in the can of tomatoes and add the cooked ground beef. Simmer for a few minutes to heat the tomatoes and blend the flavors.

This delicious and quick meal is now ready to eat! Add salt and pepper as you like.

Any vegetable you like would work in this dish. Some options would be broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, and peppers. To stretch it, for those who eat carbs, eat it with rice or pasta. Crusty bread would be good too.

See more of the meals I like to make.

My Favorite Low Carb Vegetable Casserole Recipes

I am not a big follower of recipes, but online recipes can give me ideas. Now that I don’t eat pasta, my favorite low-carb, vegetable casserole recipes are Keto and (mostly) kidney friendly.

Before I continue, I am not a medical professional nor am I a dietician. Do not consider this post as a recommendation for any type of diet. Do your own research or ask a medical professional if you have PKD or CKD. I’m still learning how to eat.

Eggplant casserole ready to bake
Small casserole with eggplant layered meal – ready to bake.

Pinterest and Keto diet sites are loaded with food ideas, but many include tons of cheese and too much salt. My advice is to cut down on the cheese and salt that seems to be the basics of many Keto foods, and concentrate on eating more vegetables.

Most Diets Have Nothing Against Vegetables, But…

Usually you are perfectly safe when eating organic, fresh or frozen vegetables. However, some vegetables can be high in carbohydrates (anti-Keto) and high in potassium and phosphorus (anti-kidney).

Balancing a low-carb diet with safe foods for those of us with kidney disease can be tricky, but not impossible. We have to be careful of dairy also, so a little cheese on top of the casserole is better than layering it throughout.

Tomatoes are not kidney friendly due to their high potassium levels, but adding small amounts of sauce with the vegetables, or a few slices of tomato within the layering will add great flavor. Remember, this is a dish that should feed 4-6 people. So, how much tomato (or cheese) would you be eating per serving?

Sliced veggie casserole is Keto food
A simple casserole that is Keto friendly

The basics to creating a simple vegetable casserole is to slice, layer and bake. That’s it, and you can choose what vegetables to use.

I enjoy making my own tomato sauce using herbs from my garden, but organic, store bought (low sodium) is fine too. Just don’t go overboard if you have kidney problems.

Favorite Vegetables to Use in One Dish Meals

My favorite casserole uses eggplant, but I can’t always find decent eggplant at the store. My second favorite vegetables are zucchini and summer squash. It’s always best to buy what is in season because it will be the freshest. Spicy and yummy peppers can add great flavor.

I‘ve included some potassium info for those who need to watch it.

  • Eggplant, peeled or not *I slice it and sprinkle with salt, which is suppose to help with bitterness. The salt is rinsed away! Read here on How to Salt Eggplant.
  • Summer squash: Zucchini and /or yellow
  • Peppers add great flavor. Red bell pepper (251 mg.potassium) / Poblano pepper (410 mg. potassium)
  • Broccoli (288 mg. potassium, 1 cup chopped)
  • Cauliflower – I prefer a white sauce with this.
  • Sliced tomatoes (go easy if you have CKD / PKD) *High in Potassium
  • Sliced onion
  • Mushrooms (cook first)
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach *High in Potassium
  • Herbs, either dried or freshly chopped, add flavor and nutrients

Usually I choose whatever vegetable I have, or use a combination of two. I’m cooking for myself only, so my casseroles need to be smallish. One eggplant will usually fill my baking dish!

Keto casserole with eggplant and tomato sauce
Eggplant casserole

Make some tomato sauce or use from a jar.

Shred some of your favorite cheese.

Once the vegetables are sliced (which I do by hand) I begin to layer.

Make the Casserole

Think as if you were making lasagna.

  • Grease a baking dish – I use Ghee (Ghee is just clarified butter.)
  • Begin layering with one layer of veggies, a little tomato sauce, meat (if you are using it) and some cheese – or cut down and sprinkle cheese on top only.
  • Keep going until the dish is nearly full – it will bubble over if too full!
  • Pour the rest of tomato sauce over, if any is left, and sprinkle with cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 until the vegetables are soft – around 30-40 minutes.

This type of casserole can contain pre-cooked meat if you want. I’ve made meatballs and sliced them up for one of the layers. Usually I avoid adding meat because too much red meat / protein is not good for kidneys. I prefer an all-vegetable casserole.

Layering the meatballs and zucchini
Layering the meatballs and zucchini

Simple and Healthy Eating

My goal was to help my readers see that recipes are not needed when it comes to baking healthy casseroles loaded with vegetables. And who needs pasta?

Honestly…. I have to eat! It does feel overwhelming while I try to do Keto and keep my kidneys going. I cannot cut every food out of my diet…!

Variety is best, and being aware of personal body needs and limitations should be the guide to creating awesome, guilt-free, vegetable casseroles.

For more Kidney health information read: Top 15 Healthy Foods For People With Kidney Disease. And this page is a good one: 17 Foods to Avoid if You Have Bad Kidneys.

Let’s Eat!

Meatball and zucchini casserole is Keto meal
Keto casserole

Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry

This delicious and healthy meal is very simple to make. Chopping and preparing takes the longest. Break the tough ends of the asparagus, and break stalks into bite-size pieces. Wash and slice mushrooms. Slice peppers and onions. I cut my shrimp into small pieces.

Cooked a box of brown mushrooms first, in a cast iron. (I used my favorite cast iron with the high sides). Remove and set aside. Cook broken up asparagus in ghee for a few minutes, until it’s still crunchy.

Remove asparagus and add sliced red pepper, onion, and after a minute or so, chopped (bite size) shrimp. Cook a couple minutes until shrimp is turning pink.

Add all ingredients back into the pot, heat off, and stir in Tamari. Stir well and remove to a dish. Serve with something else like spaghetti squash or noodles, or eat plain. It’s really good!

stir fry in cast iron
Stir in the Tamari last, and it’s done!

I never, well almost never, add salt while cooking. The Tamari is a form of soy sauce, and I buy low sodium. That adds the salt at at the end. The vegetables in my meal are crunchy, and I cook them separately so none will be mushy.

Use any vegetables on hand. When I go shopping I buy whatever looks freshest and good, then I decide what to do with it all. This recipe would work with chicken, or beef as well.

Any leftover veggies in the kitchen, that are going out of date, can be used to make broth. Add chicken bones, or beef if you have it, or simply make a vegetable broth. Freeze the broth to use in chili, soup or other dishes.

Shrimp cooks very quickly and can get tough if you over-cook it. We caught this shrimp ourselves and froze it. Since we’ve had it a while, I know we need to use it up.

Ratatouille Recipe

This is my (easier and quicker) version of the original online Ratatouille recipe found at Tasty. I made a few changes.

Although it seems like you will be slicing and layering forever, this recipe does not take many vegetables at all so slicing was minimal. I used 2 very small summer squash, 1.5 small zucchini, 2 medium size tomatoes, and half (or less) of a large eggplant. I thought about digging out my mandarin slicer, but I really didn’t need it.

Most cooks used a large pan of some sort to create this dish. I decided to use three small round pans (about 6 inches across) because I am the only one who will eat it and I can freeze one of the servings.

What is Ratatouille?

The word “ratatouille” brings to mind that Disney cartoon about the mouse in the French kitchen helping a new young chef learn to cook. The dish for which the movie is named, is made of vegetables, usually the type that are harvested at around the same time in summer. This could mean all sorts of vegetables were used, and way back when, they probably used whatever was in abundance in the backyard garden.

I don’t know about the old original ratatouille recipes, but these days you see the dish as sliced and layered colorful vegetables. Because of this, all the various veggie flavors mingle while they bake. I was very happy with the outcome and ate it with some leftover noodles.

Ratatouille recipe
I sprinkled spices on before covering and baking

My own homemade sauce is my favorite, but this time I used store bought, low sodium, organic spaghetti sauce to save time. One medium size jar worked well to divide up between three small pans. I did sprinkle a little sugar on top of the sauce because the store bought sauce was not sweet enough for my taste.

I oiled the pans, then divided the sauce into each of the three pans. The sliced vegetables were layered on a plate (a few at a time) and then plunked into the pan. Once the pans were full, I tucked the remaining slices into the center and to fill in around the edge.

Vegetables to Use

The eggplant I bought was huge, so I cut each slice into fourths for layering. First I salted the slices and let them sit in my colander for about 20 minutes. This gets the bitterness out. Rinse the salt off before using. A Japanese eggplant, which is long and skinny, would probably work better.

I used 2 small yellow squash and only 1 and 1/2 zucchini. Since I only had small tomatoes, but not Roma, I cut the slices (from 2 small tomatoes) in half. The large eggplant slices I cut into fourths but only used about half the large eggplant.

Other vegetables that would work are thinly sliced bell pepper and onion.

Topping the Veggies

The original recipe I found said to add the herbs and oil after baking, but I sprinkled herbs over my slices before I covered them with foil to bake. It didn’t make sense to me to add all that nice flavor later on. Once the food was baked, I added nothing except a tiny bit of salt (because I add no salt when baking).

My Baking Time Was Reduced For the Smaller Size Pans

I used three small, round baking pans and baked them at 375 for 30 minutes, not 40. (They are covered with foil for the first baking sequence.) Once they were uncovered I baked them for an additional 10-15, which is less time than the 20 minutes suggested. My pans were small, so that makes sense. Just watch your baking time if you use smaller dishes.

Ratatouille recipe
Ready to cover and bake.

If you have a garden and can grow all these vegetables, your meal will be super cheap, and fresher than most. No wonder peasants were known for creating this dish! I wonder if they waited all year looking forward to tasting the first Ratatouille of summer?

I’ve seen some Ratatouille recipes baked in cast iron, but with the acidic tomatoes and sauce, I would use something other than cast iron. This recipe would work nicely in a pretty covered casserole dish. Or individual serving dishes / small cake pans like I used.

What to Serve With Your Ratatouille

Ideas for serving and eating the finished vegetable dish.

  • Serve over rice or noodles as a vegetarian dish.
  • Cook ground beef to combine with the tomato sauce to use as the base.
  • Make garlic bread (softened butter, minced garlic, parmesan cheese mixed and spread on bread and broiled to golden brown). Bread and ratatouille would make a perfect meal!
  • Serve Ratatouille as a side dish to any type of meat / fish, or in addition to a salad or other vegetable.
  • It’s awesome with macaroni and cheese! I liked it so much that the second time I made this recipe I put mac and cheese in the bottom of the pans, then the sauce, and vegetable layer.
Baked ratatouille is ready to eat
Bon Appetit

Ever since I found Ingrid’s Produce just down the street I have been a veggie cooking fool. Over the weekend I made a scrumptious tomato soup with fresh ingredients.