Monday, December 7, 2009

The Queen of Casseroles

I am not ashamed.  I am the Queen of Casseroles.  And if that sounds not cool enough or not upscale enough, now you know who I am.  First child of a midwestern child of the depression.  I am also an organized person and a person with a job.  It is my mission to serve a hot dinner every night to anyone who is around at dinner time.  Not always an easy task. To do this smoothly, you need a plan. 

Every week, I make a menu plan for the next week, what I plan to serve for lunch and dinner.  Now I rarely do exactly what I plan, but it gets me a starting point.  I usually plan for leftovers, so I don't cook a full meal each night.  I make a shopping list from my plan and shop once per week.  Every morning, as I get my bowl of cereal, or left over popovers or muffins from the night before, or fruit and yogurt, I decide what's for dinner that night.  Sometimes, I am heating left overs from a previous night or remodeling left over ingredient into something new.  But when I am cooking that night, I set out the recipe on my counter.  I feel more organized and prepared when I walk in the door when I know my plan and it is sitting in front of me. 

Tonight, it is Ham and Tater Casserole.

Start with 6 cups of tater tots.  Yep, right out of the freezer.  And yes, I know this isn't a completely natural product and doesn't fit perfectly into my value system, but you have a bag in your freezer.  You know you do. 

Next, 2 large heads of broccoli, cut into 1/4 inch florets.  My husband likes broccoli, so I use it a lot.

2 cups of ham is next.  This can be left over from a previous meal.  Or, you can buy a ham cutlet at the meat counter.  When small hams are on sale around the holiday, I often buy one and serve it for a weekend meal when the kids will be around, then cut it into several  portions, put them in freezer bags and freeze them for this and other meals.  More to come using ham.

Next the sauce.  1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup.  I get the low fat low sodium kind when it is on sale and keep several cans in my pantry for various meals.  I have no delusions that this is a low fat or sodium meal.  Rather, I prefer to add the fat and sodium from other sources.  For example, mayonnaise.  1/2 cup for this sauce.    This is best quality mayo, not salad dressing.  I buy 1 or 2 every time they come on sale and keep 1 in the fridge and 1 in the pantry.  Mayonnaise is not expensive when purchased on sale and it adds lots of flavor.  3/4 cup milk and wisk it all together.  Pour over the other ingredients.  Turn with a large spoon to combine.  Spray a large casserole dish and turn it all into the dish. 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Take it out and add 1 cup of medium or sharp shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake an additional 20 minutes.  This makes 6 - 8 servings.  It can be packed into individual servings and reheated in a microwave for lunch.  Or divide the casserole into two smaller dishes.  Cover and seal one for the freezer.  Cook only one of the dishes, the other next week.  Food everyone likes.  A little salad, a litlle garlic bread.   Ice cream or fruit for dinner.  Time to knit and watch the news.

Remember to be happy.  

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