A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Universal Casserole Recipe

In The Tightwad Gazette III, Amy Dacycyzyn gives a universal casserole recipe, sent in by one of her readers.

Universal Casserole Recipe
1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1-2 cups starchy ingredient
1.5 cups binder
.25 cup "goodies"

She suggested mostly meats for the main ingredient (tuna, chicken, turkey, ham, seafood), but you could also use vegetarian options: kidney beans, tofu, even veggie dogs. Her suggestions for a second ingredient were celery, mushrooms, peas, & chopped hard boiled eggs, but this could really be anything. Starchy ingredients could be potatoes, noodles or rice. Suggested binders are soup or sour cream. Mix your ingredients, place the mixture in a casserole dish and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes.

My favorite variation on this is what I call Quasi Jambalaya Casserole (emphasis on the quasi). The main ingredient is a combination of shrimp/chicken/sausage, the second ingredient is a combo of diced tomatoes/celery. My starchy ingredient, rice. I usually use a combo of tomato sauce and sour cream as the binder. I season it with cayenne, paprika, thyme, oregano, some onion powder, and a pinch of ground bay leaves. For the topping, I'll make a small batch of biscuit dough or cornbread batter and spoon it over the top.

It's fairly easy to take this universal recipe and use up your leftovers or random packages of food given to you by sympathetic parents/teachers/neighbors. Heck sometimes you just have random food sitting around - a casserole is a great way to make sure those foods don't go to waste.

Knowing how to make a casserole might not make you hip (in fact, it might be one of those things that officially qualifies you as an adult on some level), but it'll definitely use up the last chicken breast and the last bit of that package of frozen cauliflower you'd completely forgotten about until it resurfaced on top of the ice cream. It's a perfect cheap meal for weeks when the bills swing your bank account just a little too close to zero for comfort.

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