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PUBLISHED: 4:16 PM on Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Using the staple of one-dish meals

Casseroles and other one-dish meals are popular around the world. In Hungary, Goulash is a common meal, enchiladas are popular in the Southwest United States and mousakka is a classic Greek dish. Casseroles and other one-dish meals are a staple dinner for many of us. They are easy to prepare, affordable and an excellent way to stretch food dollars or use leftovers. Keeping the ingredients for a casserole on hand will ensure that your family has a hearty dinner when food resources may otherwise be low.

To make a casserole it is best to follow a formula, rather than a recipe. You will need:

One-part cooked protein, two-parts cooked starch and two-parts cooked vegetables. You will also need, sauce, seasonings and possibly a crunchy topping. To prepare a tasty casserole consider choosing something from each column of the following table.

Makes 6 servings

1. Preheat oven to 350 °F

2. Grease 9 x 13 baking dish

3. Layer cooked protein, starch and vegetables

4. Mix seasonings with sauce

5. Pour sauce over top of mixture

6. Sprinkle on topping

7. Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbling

Canned cream soups are a popular casserole sauce. Unfortunately they are often high in fat and sodium. A healthy, cost-effective alternative is to make your own using a dry Cream Soup Mix. A can of soup costs about $.75 while the equivalent of the reconstituted mix costs a mere $.20.

Making your own mix allows you to control the ingredients and reduce sodium and fat content. The reconstituted mix contains only 1 gram of fat and 168 mg of sodium. In comparison a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup contains 6 grams of fat and 900 mg of sodium.

The following recipe makes the equivalent of nine 10.5 ounce cans of condensed cream soup. Consider keeping this mix prepared and on hand so that you will have casserole ingredients available when your food budget is low.

Cream Soup Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup instant reduced sodium chicken bouillon granules or crushed cubes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

To reconstitute as substitute for one can of condensed cream soup:

Stir together 1/3 cup dry mix and 1 1/4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened, approximately 2 minutes.

Variations:

Cream of Broccoli Soup: Add 1/2 cup cooked chopped broccoli to prepared soup.

Cream of Chicken Soup: Add 1/2 cup cooked chopped chicken to prepared soup.

Cream of Mushroom Soup: Sauté 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms and add to prepared soup.

Keeping canned or frozen casserole ingredients as well as dry Cream Soup Mix available will allow you to prepare an easy meal any night of the week. Whatever you have leftover or in your pantry, a delicious and healthy casserole will please the whole family at dinnertime and also help extend your food budget.

Helen Idzorek is the Nutrition Educator for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau District.


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