RICHMOND — EKU Dietetic Intern and Madison County Cooperative Extension FCS Intern
Last article, we wrote about making soup out of leftover ingredients you have around the house. With this winter giving us one more round of snow early in the month, a hot bowl of soup turned out to be a good way to stay warm while staying home.
This time, we visit the same topic, but with another hearty dish: the casserole. The benefits to knowing what is in your cabinets and fridge remain the same – the positive effect it has on being clean and organized, saving money by limiting the chance of buying something you already have, and using food instead of throwing it away due to expiration.
However, with winter still lingering and the possible threat of severe spring weather only a few weeks away, perhaps the biggest, and not yet mentioned, advantage of knowing what you have in your cabinets is safety.
Storms of all kinds often lead us to staying in the house, and thus not being able to run out and grab some lunch or dinner. By going through your refrigerator and pantry and knowing you have options to put together a quick soup or casserole, there is one less stresser on you and your family during what can already be a scary time. Storm or sunshine, it is always a good idea to shop your refrigerator first.
Casserole dishes are similar to soups in that they can combine several types of foods into one dish, saving you some time and money. By taking foods you have left over, such as meat, vegetables and noodles, you have the opportunity to be creative again and make one dish with several different items.
This is a great benefit of casseroles, because not only do you get to experiment with different flavors, but you are adding many different kinds of nutrients into one meal. Using whole grain noodles, for example, increases the amount of fiber and adds to your total whole grain intake for the day.
They are a perfect opportunity to add a variety of vegetables, giving more color and thus, more vitamins and minerals. Just as with soups, if you have leftover meat available, or pinto or black beans, add those in to provide protein and flavor.
The casserole is typically thought of as comfort food, so it is something that should be kept in mind to make when the cold temperatures won’t go away or stormy weather keeps us all inside. The rules for shopping remain the same; use leftovers, canned or frozen vegetables, fresh vegetables and ingredients about to go bad, and other foods you need an excuse to use.
The actual ingredients remain up to you; so have fun, save some money, and wow friends and family with a new dish to call your own.
When beginning to select ingredients, keep three letters in mind: S, P and V. S stands for starch, meaning select one type of pasta, rice or noodle for your dish. P is your choice of protein. This can be lean ground beef, seafood, chopped boiled egg, diced chicken or turkey, or your favorite type of bean.
Finally, V means vegetable. Select any of your choice, and combine with the starch and protein. If you wish to use a sauce, choose low-sodium cream of chicken or mushroom, one can of diced tomatoes, or one bottle of prepared sauce you may have in your pantry. Use seasonings of your choice throughout the dish, or add onion, celery or green pepper if you have them left over.
When finishing your casserole, select a topping of your choice, such as a cup of shredded cheese, bread crumbs,or your favorite nut. Place all ingredients except your topping in a dish and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to one hour covered; remove and add topping, then cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
(SPV method adapted from UK Extension Mix It Up 1-2-3: Time Saving Kitchen Tips for People on the Go)
Those are a few tips to get your casserole started; remember, include whatever ingredients you choose, have fun and most of all, enjoy.
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