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

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.

Go With the Flow and Stop Wasting Time

I’ve been growing fresh vegetables in my backyard for years. Now I struggle to get food to grow.

We learn from experience and observation. Life is about change. If we are wise, we will go with the flow and not waste time with something we cannot change. I am applying this philosophy to my backyard vegetable garden.

Observation and Common Sense

One thing I have observed since I began gardening in Florida is that a lot of vegetables simply won’t grow here. Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I grew veggies fine in New Hampshire. I am not an inexperienced gardener, but vegetable gardening in this climate is obviously beyond my grasp.

It’s been two years. That is plenty of time to grow something well. I’ve built up the dirt with compost and fertilizer, watered like mad, and thwarted raccoon attacks on the plants. I’ve picked worms, loved the lady bugs, and sprayed off mites. My little raised bed garden has given me very little to eat in return.

With the exception of about three eggplants (total) and occasional small bell peppers, there is little food coming from the backyard.

Herbs Seem to Flourish

On the other hand, my observation is that many herbs do grow very nicely here. In fact, my parsley, basil, thyme, mint and fennel have lasted a very long time.

Herbs are hardy. When I first began growing parsley I lived in New Hampshire. The green stems would push up through the first snowfall, which amazed me. Deer used to help themselves to the lush green herb.

In Florida I have had the same parsley plants growing in my garden for over two years! Parsley not only survives the cold, it can take the heat and oppressive humidity.

It is depressing to put work into trying to grow decent tomatoes, squash, zucchini and root vegetables, only to watch them rot, wilt or end up too tiny to bother with.

How long do I keep trying, only to watch the plants produce nothing I can eat? I’m about over it.

Changes All Around

My life is always changing, and recently it went through another change. My youngest son has moved out. He’s nearly done with college and does online classes, so he went back to the northeast to live. Good for him. Wish I could afford to do the same.  I did take a trip back to stay for a week, which was so nice.

My youngest son has always been a very picky eater. If I don’t make food he likes, he could literally go all day long without eating. So, I tended to make food he would eat. That type of food was very different from the type of food I eat.  Now that he has moved out, I can concentrate on cooking for me only.

This is a very new idea and it will take a while for my brain to wrap around the concept. I’ve been cooking for my children for over 40 years!  My way of cooking will be changing. Although I am not crazy about spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I am a very good cook. As an “almost vegetarian” meat is not my main focus. I love to cook soups, stews and one pot meals (using my Dutch oven) which are full of fresh vegetables.

Since I can’t grow all the vegetables I’d like to, I will concentrate on growing the herbs. I learned very late in life how much herbs can brighten the flavor of a meal. Now I can’t make anything without using herbs because it’s not worth eating.

Because my herbs will grow year round, I don’t have to spend time drying or freezing them.  Sometimes I even get to collect their seeds.  I still need to find a store that sells good fresh, organic vegetables.  Publix is a good store, but as I have discovered, their produce is not the best.

I also have access to fresh citrus, which I should begin incorporating into my food as well.  Both my lime tree and lemon tree are still growing, but the lime needs re-potting.

So I’m collecting recipes to make for myself and will concentrate more on eating healthy. The weather is much cooler now here in Florida, and I do get outside for walks as much as possible.  My neighborhood is a boring place to walk, and there are no hills to get my heart pumping, but I do what I can.

(They Yacht is not mine. Photo taken at a nearby Marina.)

The Garden in March, One Month Later

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My Garden, March 2nd

Last month I began to plant my little garden in my Florida backyard. Because the raised bed was not filled with dirt, I used black fabric pots.

I began with crops that were more suited to cooler weather, like peas and lettuce.

Well, Skittle the cat decided to sleep in the bed of peas, so now only one stalk is growing as the others were a bit crushed. It was just the right spot for a nap in the sun. No worries Skittle, I’ll eat 2 peas and be happy.

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Skittle in the Peas

I also planted potatoes and they are growing like mad. I followed the directions from a blog I read and began by only filling the bags part way. Then I have added dirt as the tops grew. And boy did they grow! Course I’ll have to wait and see what’s happening down inside the bags, but hopefully I’ll have some little red potatoes to eat one day.

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Growing potatoes

I also just planted cucumber seeds and I see today that they are popping through the soil.  It only took 2 days for that to happen!

My two pepper plants are doing well, and one is blooming like mad.  This may be the year I am able to grow peppers.  They like heat, and yesterday it was 88 degrees, so there ya go.

I have more cardboard to put down in the bottom of the wood enclosure to keep the grass from growing up through.  Newspaper would work for that too.  Eventually I will empty the dirt out of my pots and fill the enclosure.  But first…. I may try to dig up the grass beneath the enclosure.

I always thought I would just set up the wooden bed and fill it with dirt and I’m ready to plant.  Now I have read at EarthEasy that I should dig down a ways to loosen the ground so roots can go down into the dirt beneath the bed.  This makes sense, as some vegetables do have long roots, but I didn’t think they needed that much space.

It got me wondering what the roots of vegetables look like, and which ones need the most depth to grow well.

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Bib lettuce and carrots

The Bib lettuce needed to be thinned and the carrots were planted using paper strips.  I had never used carrot seed tape before, and I bought it by accident.  The old method of mixing seeds with sand when sowing small seeds works fine.  I still had to thin the seedlings, even when I used the tape.

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March Tomatoes!

I can honestly say I have never had tomatoes growing in my yard in March!   In fact compared to gardening in New Hampshire, growth here seems to be accelerated.

Every time I visit the garden section I keep an eye out for hydrangeas.  I haven’t seen any for sale.