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Homemaker's Column - Plug-in ingredients and make a casserole


Leftovers can be just leftovers, or you can jazz things up and turn them into something your family may start wanting more often. The idea is to plug ingredients into a casserole formula. You mix and match according to what you have in the refrigerator or on the pantry shelf, then bake and serve. Each version of the mix-and-match casserole contains one starch, one protein, one vegetable, one sauce, several choices of flavorings, and a topping.

For the starch, you could choose, for example, two cups of uncooked pasta. Use whatever your family prefers – macaroni, penne, spiral, bow tie, or even spaghetti. You might also select a cup of long-grain white or brown rice or four cups of noodles. Whatever ingredient you select should be cooked before you add it to the casserole. For the protein, you may like to add two cups of cooked ground beef or a similar amount of cooked and diced chicken, turkey, ham, beef, or pork. The choice could also be two cups of chopped hard-cooked egg. How about two 6-8 oz cans of fish or seafood, flaked? To go vegetarian, try two cups of cooked or canned beans. For the vegetable, any one of the following would do- one 10-oz. package of thawed and drained frozen spinach, broccoli, green beans, or green peas. You could also use one 16-oz. can of green beans, peas, carrots, or corn, drained. Two cups of sliced fresh zucchini would appeal to some tastebuds. For the sauce, here are some suggestions: two cups of white sauce; one can of sauce-type soup such as mushroom, celery, cheese, or tomato, mixed with milk to make two cups, or one 16-oz. can of diced tomatoes with juice.

To add flavoring, you can add as many of the following as you like:

1/2 cup of chopped celery

1/4 cup of chopped onion

1/4 cup of sliced black olives

1-2 teaspoons of mixed dried leaf herbs such as basil, thyme, marjoram, or tarragon

salt and pepper to taste

Put your ingredients into a buttered casserole (two and a half quarts), cover it, and bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes to an hour. You may also cook it in the microwave using 50 percent power for about 15 to 30 minutes. Heat until steaming hot (165 F) throughout. Once it’s heated thoroughly, you may add a topping. Select one or more of the following: two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese; a quarter cup of shredded Swiss, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack cheese; a quarter cup of buttered breadcrumbs; a quarter to a half cup of canned fried onion rings. Return the casserole with topping to the oven for about 10 minutes or to the microwave for about two minutes.

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