Once-a-Month Cooking Prep: “Cream of” Casseroles

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Quick Freezer Cooking

Making simple homemade cream of chicken (or “whatever”) soup in bulk can make a week of super frugal, super nourishing meals, plus some for the freezer.

Some people love “Once a Month Cooking” where they make 30 meals in a day or two and rest on their laurels for the next 28. That gets a little overly stressful for me, so I’ve found I’d rather cook a double batch of a meal on a normal night, eat one and freeze the other, or do some big prep that will last over multiple meals (I call it “connected meal planning”), like quadruple homemade cream of chicken soup for casseroles or a big batch of beans for soup, tacos, and a side dish.

These three casserole recipes, along with the “cream of X” soup recipe, have been reverse engineered for Real Food, which is the theme for the week.  :)

All the casseroles reheat great and freeze acceptably if you are careful to keep it all moist and airtight.

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How does Katie freeze make-ahead meals? I have enough glass dishes with lids that I can make many things right in various casserole dishes, albeit weird sizes.  I freeze soups and sauces in glass jars, or even in plastic bags.  For some reason I’m not scared of plastic bags, no. 4 plastic, no BPA.  I would not heat food in them, though.  I do still use Gladware for freezing some things…you do what you can!  [See the full details on how I think about freezer cooking and store meals.]  I keep a lot of ingredients to make prep quicker in my freezer, too, like onions, peppers and more.  What can you freeze?

Katie’s Real Food Cream of {X} Soup

This recipe is originally from the 30-Day Gourmet Freezer Cooking book, modified slightly for real food.  It makes the equivalent of 4 cans of soup, so I always plan enough casseroles to use it up within a week.  It freezes well inside a casserole but can separate if you freeze it alone, according to the authors.  I’ve never tried it by itself because of that, but I have seen other bloggers who make ahead cream of soups and freeze them.  Attempt at your food’s own risk!  UPDATE: More than a few folks say they freeze the cream of soup just fine, so I’m going to go for it next time!


3/4 cup butter
3/4 c. whole wheat flour (can add more if you like a really thick base)
4 cups milk
2 cups homemade chicken stock (preferably condensed for added flavor)
Optional:  Chopped onions


Melt butter over low heat.  If using onions for extra flavor, saute in butter until limp.  Add flour and whisk together until smooth.  Cook 1 minute.  Do not let it brown!  Gradually add milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat when sauce has thickened.  This may take up to 15-20 minutes.


  • Cream of celery: Sautee a stalk or two of chopped celery with the butter before adding flour.
  • Cream of mushroom: Sautee chopped fresh mushrooms in butter.
  • Cream of broccoli: Add chopped steamed broccoli to the soup after it thickens.
  • Cheesy sauce: Add shredded cheese (sharp cheddar gives the most flavor) after removing from heat.  Stir to melt.
  • If you want to make a big batch of soup and have different flavors, you can always saute mushrooms or celery separately and simply add to the finished soup, one can-equivalent at a time.

I’ll make a batch this week – the chicken stock is already thawed – and use it for the following casseroles within 5-7 days:

Learn how to make a basic roux and a great cream of potato soup.

Honey Dijon Chicken Casserole (Katie’s print version first, original version with changes below)

Honey Dijon Chicken Casserole
Recipe type: Dinner
  • 3 c. homemade cream of chicken soup
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ c. plain homemade yogurt+ 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbs. lemon juice + ½ tsp. garlic powder OR ¾ c. homemade mayo
  • ½ c. milk
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 2+ Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 4 c. cooked chicken
  • 6 thinly sliced or shredded potatoes, skins on or off
  • 3 sliced carrots
  • 1 chopped onion, optional
  • Shredded cheddar and Parmesan cheese, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients.
  2. Stir in the chicken, potatoes and carrots.
  3. Put in a greased 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Cover and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  5. Uncover, add shredded cheddar and Parmesan cheese (because everything’s better with cheese!)
  6. Bake 15-30 minutes longer until potatoes are done.
  7. Serves: 8
  8. (Works great cut in half!)
Thanks to one of my faithful readers who recommended flipping a cookie sheet over as a lid, I now have a safe cookware substitution for an aluminum foil "lid" as well!

To Freeze: Bake all the way or within 15 minutes of “done” but don’t add the cheese. Freeze in casserole dish, well wrapped. Thaw completely (or add to the cooking time) and heat through until bubbly, probably about 30 minutes at 350F. Add cheeses as instructed for the last 10-15 minutes.

Honey Dijon Chicken Casserole

The original recipe is from a Quick Cooking magazine from 2000.  Original ingredient is in italics, my substitutions in bold.


2 cans cream of chicken soup –>3 c. homemade + 1 1/2 tsp. salt + 1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup mayo –>3/4 c. plain homemade yogurt + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbs lemon juice + 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
homemade mayo
1/2 cup milk
3 T. honey
2+ Tbs. Dijon mustard
4 c. cooked chicken
1 pkg. 26 oz. frozen shredded hashbrowns –> 6 thinly sliced or shredded potatoes, skins on or off
3 sliced carrots
(I added) 1 chopped onion


In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients.  Stir in the chicken, potatoes and carrots.  Put in a greased 9×13 baking dish.  Cover and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Uncover, add shredded cheddar and Parmesan cheese (because everything’s better with cheese!  I added that!) and bake 15-30 minutes longer until potatoes are done.  Serves: 8  (Works great cut in half!)

Total cost: under $5 (depends a lot on your chicken cost)

This was one of those meals that I couldn’t figure out how to avoid the aluminum foil when I had to cover my 9×13 pan.  Thanks to one of my faithful readers who recommended flipping a cookie sheet over, I now have a safe cookware substitution as well!

To Freeze: Bake all the way or within 15 minutes of “done” but don’t add the cheese. Freeze in casserole dish, well wrapped. Thaw completely or add to the cooking time to heat through until bubbly, probably about 30 minutes at 350F. Add cheeses as instructed for the last 10-15 minutes.

Campbell’s {Katie’s} Easy Chicken and Biscuits


1 can cream of celery soup—>1 1/2 cups homemade cream of chicken base with sauteed celery to taste (~1/4-1/2 cup)
1 can cream of potato soup—>1 1/2 cups leftover homemade   cream of potato (or if I don’t make that soup the same week, I’d use a chopped leftover baked potato and more cream of chicken w/marjoram added)
1 cup milk (might be less, depending on how thick/thin your homemade condensed soup turned out!)
1/4 + tsp. dried thyme
1/4 + tsp. black pepper
4 cups cooked cut-up vegetables (if I’m smart, I steam extras the day before!  Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots are perfect.  I could also use my freezer veggie extras bag.)
2 cups cooked chicken
1 pkg. refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10)—> Homemade biscuit dough (use your favorite recipe, or mine, which is adapted for real food already!)


Mix everything but the biscuits in a 3-qt shallow baking dish.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture and add dollops of biscuit dough liberally over the top.  Bake 15 minutes more or until biscuits are golden.  Serves at least 6.

To Freeze: Freeze the casserole “guts” (cream soups, veggies, seasonings all mixed up) and the biscuit dough separately. You could freeze the casserole in a dish or just in a plastic bag. Thaw both parts completely and then bake as directed above, adding the biscuit dough partway through baking. I don’t recommend freezing this one assembled because the biscuits would burn.

Total cost:  under $5

IMG_6086This is a photo of the biscuit casserole, just about done.  It was taken almost a year ago before I understood anything about food photography! :)

Potato Beef Casserole

Potato Beef Casserole
This original recipe is also from a Quick Cooking magazine from the year 2000 – that would be the first year I had a kitchen. ;)
Recipe type: Main Dish
  • 1 lb. ground beef (less is fine if you’re going frugal)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 Tbs. celery leaves
  • 1½ cups homemade cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup milk (less if homemade soup is runny)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Optional: sliced fresh mushrooms
  1. Cook beef, onion, celery and leaves over medium heat until meat is cooked and veggies tender.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in soup, milk, W. sauce and pepper.
  3. Place half the potatoes in a greased 2-quart baking dish (8x8 inch works great).
  4. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt.
  5. Top with half of beef mixture.
  6. Repeat layers.
  7. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 70 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Total cost: $4-5, even with grassfed beef!

To Freeze: Freeze entire casserole after it has cooked so that potatoes are softened.


Cooking Frozen Casseroles

You don’t have to thaw these casseroles completely to cook them. Certainly you may, and then just follow to baking instructions on the recipe (perhaps adding 5-10 minutes if the dish is coming cold from the refrigerator).

You CAN go right from the freezer to the oven, as long as your dish can handle it. I recommend putting the casserole in a unheated oven and allowing it to be in there while the oven preheats, just to reduce the shock of going from frozen to 350F.  You need to add from 1/2 to double the cooking time (i.e. for a 30 minute bake time, cook 45-60 minutes). You’ll know the casserole is done when it’s bubbling on the edges, and typically the center has caught up by then. Enjoy!

Final Notes

Many say that white potatoes aren’t good for you, either.  I’m willing to bet that both of my potato-based casseroles here would be great with cooked brown rice, too.  I just love potatoes, so I’m not giving them up yet!

Sometimes I use the cream of chicken recipe from Tammy’s Recipes as well.  It’s very tasty!  I also have a few more casserole dishes, a creamy chicken enchiladas and a chicken tetrazzini, both only made better with the inclusion of homemade real food.

UPDATE:  I did it!  In one hour, I had all three done and ready to go, minus the biscuits which I will make Friday.  Woo hoo!  My only dishes were a cutting board, knife, pot, whisk, ladle, food processor, and big bowl.  I was finished with them before the honey dijon casserole was on the table, and HALF that recipe made enough that I froze an entire meal’s worth of leftovers!  That’s one big recipe; use at your own risk.  I need to plan a 3-in-1 meal day more often.  I’m so looking forward to the next couple days… :)

Be sure to see my guide to Reverse Engineering Recipes for Real Food Quality for more tips on keeping packaged food out of your kitchen!

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56 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    This method certainly does work, and with very flavorful results! I must confess that in my postpartum laziness, I’ve been using the dreaded canned “cream of” soups lately (cooking is pretty tough with a 12 month old and a 2 month old!), but am anxious to get back to preparing my own. Thanks for the post, Katie!
    .-= alexis´s last blog ..Super-Simple Salad Dressings =-.

  2. says

    i just noticed that i (rcwant2be) am half way down the list of your popular searches. Interesting.

    I’ll be trying the original honey dijon chicken casserole…perhaps in my crockpot w/ frozen chicken. Too bad crock pots didn’t have “ultra low” for those of us who are gone for 11 hours a day.

    • Anne says

      Don’t they have crock pots now with timers to set for the designated time, and then they default to a warm setting? I was recently looking for a simple crockpot and I think I saw them like that. Because that wasn’t what I wanted, I didn’t pay that much attention to them.

  3. Cindy B says

    Your potato casserole is quite similar to one my mother used to make, and one I’ve often made for ‘brunch’ sort of event. Instead of ground beef, use sausage (country type sausage – brown it like you would ground beef), omit the celery & W. sauce (keep the cream of mushroom soup, milk, salt & pepper, & onions), and top with shredded cheese. YUM!

  4. Sarah W says

    I am with you about doing certain things in large batches as opposed to the once-a-month thing. I’ve never attempted it, but now that I make most things from scratch, I keep my pantry a/o freezer stocked with ingredients I prepared, and then I need less prep time when it comes down to actually putting the meal together. Many of these ideas came from you and it helps to have ingredients ready, especially when I “back-slide” on meal planning!

    If I’m making anything I know is freezeable, I almost always make two (or more!) Chili, quiche, pot pie… etc!

  5. says

    I have a question-I have been freezing my homemade chicken nuggets after cooking them (in bulk) but when I reheat in the oven they are very dry-any suggestions? I have been trying to freeze extra meals, soups, etc any time for those days when nothing is going right! It is so nice to pull “real food” out of the freezer!
    .-= Morgan Conner´s last blog ..Upcoming Appointments =-.

    • Katie says

      I’m terrible at noticing when things are dry. My comments aren’t going to be too helpful – just make sure they’re only just barely done the first time ’round – but maybe someone else will see this and help you better! :) Katie

  6. says

    Thankyou so much for sharing what you have found! I haven’t made alot of my casseroles for the very reason of all the canned process stuff that it asks for. Looking forward to trying your cream of recipes! Yay!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Perspective. =-.

  7. says

    Great ideas! My mom froze a bunch of meals for us when I was expecting my first child. She froze everything in the same 8″x8″ pan, popped them out once frozen and slipped the meal-sized-ice cubes in labeled zip top freezer bags. I could just slip the meal right back into the 8″x8″ pan to defrost in the fridge and bake in the oven. It was fantastic for a new mom, and I’ve use her method several times since!

    She lays a long piece of aluminum foil under the food to act as a sling to lift up the frozen meals. I have had a harder time with that, and I use a silicone pan for freezing now – easy to remove!

  8. cindy says

    Lent is coming soon. Any recipe for a cream of tomato soup like the kind in a can? I have several yummy recipes for this type of soup.

      • Cindy says

        Oops,, my bad. I meant to say that I would like to find a recipe for tomato soup like campbells. I could spend a week on your blog and still not read everything. I missed that post about the tomato soup. It was done I think while I was in my really acute phase of mono. But thanks for pointing it out to me.

        May I post this recipe for a great Lenten one dish meal? Quick, easy, and cheap. And yummy!

        Tomato basil soup casserole
        2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni cooked until just starting to soften.. maybe 5 minutes; 1 cup celery chopped; 1 onion chopped; 1 tsp basil; 1 TB butter; 2 cups shredded cheddar; 1 “can” tomato soup thinned with 1 can milk (here is where the homemade soup comes in). Melt the butter in a skillet and add vegs. Saute until limp. Stir in tomato soup and basil. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Stir in cheese and stir until melted. Place pasta in a casserole dish and pour soup cheese mixture over it. Bake @ 350 45 minutes or until pasta is tender.

        This is a meal in itself but I usually make it with salmon patties.

        • Shauna says

          I actually make a homemade cream of tomato soup from canned tomato sauce with milk, but I don’t put any sugar in it. And it’s different every time, lol! But mostly I put in garlic, Frank’s hot sauce, salt, chili powder… and whatever else comes to mind. Give it a try, hope this helps!

  9. Martine says


    Can I realise Katie’s Real Food Cream of {X} Soup without wheat flour or exchange it for another ingredient?


    • Katie says

      Yes! Arrowroot starch (use about half of what is called for with the flour) and corn starch both work. I hadn’t tried arrowroot when I wrote this post, but since experimenting with gluten free, I have, with success. Enjoy! 😉 Katie

  10. says

    Hi Katie,

    My question is about reheating chicken stock in things, how many times can you do it? Correct me if I’ve got this wrong, but you made homemade chicken stock, then made it into soup, then used the soup in a casserole (dijon chicken), then reheated left overs? I love to make homemade chicken stock and then tend to make it straight into soup so that’s all one heating. I’d love to use it in another dish, but I’m always making big dinners and have been worried about being able to reheat the left overs, as I thought you can only reheat chicken once. Is it different with stock?Sorry if that is a rather convoluted question, can you help me out here?!



    • Katie says

      Well, I’m no member of the FDA, and maybe there are some recommendations for reheating that I don’t know about…but you’re right on the # of times I’ve used that broth! I think as long as you don’t leave it at bacteria-growing temperatures, it should be fine. Good luck! :) Katie

  11. Bethany says

    I love the Honey Dijon dish – and yes, it makes a lot! But I missed the freezing instructions – does these bake from frozen, or do they need to be thawed first?

    Thanks! Absolutely LOVE your site!

    • Katie says

      Good call! i updated the post with this answer:
      “You don’t have to thaw these casseroles completely to cook them. Certainly you may, and then just follow to baking instructions on the recipe (perhaps adding 5-10 minutes if the dish is coming cold from the refrigerator).

      You CAN go right from the freezer to the oven, as long as your dish can handle it. I recommend putting the casserole in a unheated oven and allowing it to be in there while the oven preheats, just to reduce the shock of going from frozen to 350F. You need to add from 1/2 to double the cooking time (i.e. for a 30 minute bake time, cook 45-60 minutes). You’ll know the casserole is done when it’s bubbling on the edges, and typically the center has caught up by then. Enjoy!”
      :) Katie

  12. Shauna says

    I have a question… just how healthy is celery? I mean, I know it’s not bad for you of course, but how many nutrients are there really in celery. Lots of your recipes call for it, and I just hate it! lol If it’s really nutrient dense, I’ll suck it up, but is it ok to just skip it? *Please mom, don’t make me eat my veggies* lol, just kidding, I do love other veggies, just not this one!

    • Katie says

      I’ve never really seen celery on any super foods lists; they’re usually just for flavor. You have *my* permission to skip them! 😉 Katie

  13. Melisaa says

    Hi, have you heard of anyone making the condensed soup with soy or almond milk instead? I would think it would work.. If so, that would be awesome! There are a lot of recipes I’d like to make, but my dairy intolerant boyfriend couldn’t (probably) stomach them.

    • Katie says

      I haven’t, but I don’t see why not! There’s no special property of milk at work in the recipe. Go for it! 😉 Katie

  14. meg says

    thak you for all of your wonderful recipes and posts! it has made my many late nights with my newborn MUCH more bearable 😉

    just wondering if you’ve ever had trouble with cream of x soup thickening? i followed the recipe to a “t” and its still not thickened (over an hr later). thought you might have some wisdom for me. blessings! :)

    • Katie says

      Seems like I always have trouble at some point with anything that could give me trouble, so I know I’ve run into this. At that point, I would have added some more flour mixed well with a bit of milk and pushed the process along quite a bit. Hope your dinner still turned out okay! Glad to have someone else up with a newborn hanging out at Kitchen Stewardship… 😉 Katie

  15. Keala says

    OMG! This is how you make it?! That was SO easy and WHY didn’t I think to make this by scratch before. I stumbled across this recipe and I am SO glad I did. Cream soups can be spendy. I have eliminated a lot of processed foods from my diet, but I for some reason had never looked at the ing on the can. Campbells c of mushroom has tons of ing of oils/starches and…MSG! I can’t believe i didn’t notice that before. Boy did I feel stupid. Luckily I don’t cook with it often, but now that I can make it on my own I will. And just in time for soup season. Thank you SO SO much. It is so delicious and it only added a few steps to my dinner routine and now I’ll make some ahead of time and try freezing. Thank you! What a blessing!

  16. Ronnie says

    I don’t understand why you don’t use more veggies in your “cream of” base. The ratio seems off. 3/4 cup butter and flour with just a stalk or two of celery?

    If celery is a flavor you find overpowering, use a cup or more of diced carrots, parsnips, leeks or a combination. Gently saute the veggies in the butter before you add the flour. More nutritional bang for the bite and more flavor too.

    • Katie says

      I guess I’m just going for the “base” here – a cream sauce – and then most of my recipes for it use lots of veggies. The faster, the better for this baby, since it’s just a part of a meal and not even the end game. 😉 But more veggies certainly wouldn’t hurt anything, good point! Katie

  17. says

    But caffeine price ranges increasing along with our own hectic life … When you need equipment fix solutions on your icebox … Kitchen appliances fix : coming from faucets to be able to bass speaker actually zero …

  18. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for this site and all that you do. I want to make the chicken and biscuit dinner for a friend to freeze (well and one for us as well :-)) but I am unsure about when to freeze. Do I cook it first so the biscuits are done or do I put raw biscuits in the freezer? Sorry new to this so I need a bit of clarification. Thank you.

  19. says

    What a good question! Thank you – I went back and updated the post with freezing instructions for all 3 casseroles. Mix up the casserole and freeze the biscuit dough separately, then make sure to bake the casserole first, add THAWED dough, and bake that last 15 minutes until the biscuits are done.

    :) Katie

  20. Brandy says

    I have a question about this recipe: Can you give an estimate as to how much this recipe yields? I am doing Weight Watchers and would love to use this instead of canned soups, but I need to have some type of number of servings in order to calculate points. Any measurement guesstimate is fine :) Thank you!

    • says

      Pardon the delay – which recipe do you mean? You can take the pan size for the 3 casseroles and use your current WW point recipes to make a really good guess – I’d guess that an 8×8 pan makes 6 servings?

      For the basic white sauce/”cream of” soup recipe, it makes about 7 cups, which is just over 4 cans (1.5 c. per can). Hope that helps!
      :) Katie

      PS – for future reference, I think it’s this site where you can just copy in a recipe and it spits out nutritional info: http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php

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