Make more out of your favorite casseroles

Crazy for Casseroles

by Leanne Ely, C.N.C

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OK, truth be told, I'm not really that crazy for the traditional casseroles. Most of them are full of salt, fat, the wrong kinds of carbs, and lots of cheese. They almost always look the same no matter what you've thrown in there and they taste about the same as well. There is hope! Casseroles don't have to be cheesy, crumbly, high calorie carb busters. They can have lots of different flavors, textures, and colors. Here's some tips to making more out of your favorite casserole dishes.

Add Veggies - Broccoli, green beans, peas, shredded cabbage, and carrots are a good start, but how about adding tomatoes or red peppers for color, purple cabbage for fun, or why not toss in some bright chunks of squash? Garlic and onions add great flavor to almost any dish.

Add Meat - Sure you can always use the typical stand-by like tuna or hamburger. However, a salmon casserole can ramp up the omega 3s in your dish. Or how about using chicken to help lower the fat content? By precooking your meat, you can cut down the oven time needed to bake your casseroles as well.

Filler Up - And now we come to the fillers. Things like breadcrumbs, noodles, rice, potatoes, and cream of yuck soups are what most folks use, and while some of these are ok, I'd skip the canned soup for sure. Instead, get that creamy texture by using plain yogurt mixed with some low fat mayo or sour cream.

Spice It Up - When it comes to seasoning your casseroles, the sky's the limit! Some of my favorites include garlic, curry, Herbs de Province, lemon pepper, thyme, sage, rosemary, sage, and of course freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Go wild here. Season to taste and don't be afraid to experiment.

One of the best things about casseroles is that they can be assembled ahead of time and cooked later. I've always got at least a few stocked in my freezer for those busy nights or times I need to take dinner to a friend in need.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • No time for meal planning? Subscribe to Saving Dinner Premium Menu Mailer, your weekly road map to making daily family dinners a reality.
  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

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