Tips for making your own casserole
Cheryl Walker

Everyone wants some easy ideas for mealtime and casseroles are an easy answer. Many times we think we need to follow a recipe, but you can make up your own recipes with a few basic guidelines.

The Nebraska Extension Service developed a guide for making casseroles from things in your pantry and refrigerator. Here is their guide to help you make easy, quick meals for your family.

It is a great way to use small amounts of leftovers and can combine them to create your own casserole and turn leftovers into favorite family foods.



General directions: Select food(s) from each category or use your own favorites. Combine in a buttered 2- to 2 1/2-quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or microwave using 50 percent power for about 15 to 30 minutes, rotating or stirring as necessary. Heat until steaming hot (165 F) throughout.

Starch (select one): 2 cups uncooked pasta (macaroni, penne, spiral, bow tie), cooked; 1 cup uncooked long-grain white or brown rice, cooked; 4 cups uncooked noodles, cooked.

Protein (select one): 2 cups cooked ground beef; 2 cups cooked and diced chicken, turkey, ham, beef or pork; 2 cups chopped hard-cooked egg; 2 (6 to 8-oz.) cans fish or seafood, flaked; 2 cups cooked or canned dry beans (kidney, etc).

Vegetable (select one): 1 (10-oz.) pkg. thawed and drained frozen spinach, broccoli, green beans, green peas; 1 (16-oz.) can green beans, peas, carrots, corn, drained; 2 cups sliced fresh zucchini.

Sauce (select one): 2 cups white sauce or 1 can saucetype soup (mushroom, celery, cheese, tomato, etc.) mixed with milk to make 2 cups; 1 (16-oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice.

Flavor (select one or more): 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup sliced black olives, 1-2 teaspoons mixed dried leaf herbs (basil, thyme, marjoram, tarragon), salt and pepper to taste.

Topping (select one or more): 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese; 1/4 cup shredded Swiss, Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese; 1/4 cup buttered bread crumbs; 1/4 to 1/2 cup canned fried onion rings.

If desired after cooking until 165 F , place topping on casserole and return casserole with topping(s), uncovered, to oven for about 10 minutes or to microwave for about 2 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

ADD THE RAINBOW—Add a rainbow of color to your diet when you are thinking about vegetable and fruit selection. You need a variety of nutrients from these groups, so eating a variety of colors will provide needed nutrients. Think of your vegetables and fruits in the following color groups: purple/blue; red; orange/yellow; white/tan; green. Each color group provides special nutrients that are needed by your body.

Blue/purple—May help promote: memory functions, lower risk of some cancers, urinary tract health, healthy aging.

Red—May help promote: urinary tract health, memory function, lower risk of some cancers, heart health.

Yellow/orange—May help promote: vision health, heart health, immune system resistance, lower risk of some cancers.

White/tan—May help promote: heart health, healthy cholesterol levels, lower risk of some cancers.

Green—May help promote: vision health, lower risk of some cancers, maintain strong bones and teeth.

The major nutrients that vegetables and fruits provide in the diet include:

• Fiber, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

• Potassium, which helps promote healthy blood pressure and plays an important role in muscle contraction.

• Foliate, which helps in the formation of red blood cells and is especially important during pregnancy. Foliate also plays an important role in cell growth and can also prevent anemia.

• Vitamins A, C, and E, which help in the growth and repair of body tissues and helps maintain healthy eyes and skin.

When adding fruits and vegetables to your diet remember that half of your plate at each meal should be vegetables and fruits. Make sure that your vegetables part is a little more than your fruit part.

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2014-03-20 digital edition

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