What a month March has been.  I don’t think any of us would want to repeat it!  Life has changed for all of us, and in light of the current situation, I am going to provide recipes that may help with meals during this time.  During a conversation with my daughter-in-law, Heather, she informed me that many of her friends were looking for recipes to help use what foods they have on hand.  She recalled the “Create Your Own Casserole” instructions from several years ago, suggesting that people may like to have that recipe.  I adapted it from one I found in a Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbook.

The sauce ingredient selections for the casseroles include some condensed cream-based soups.  Since those may be hard to obtain, along with the casserole directions, I am also providing my recipe for making a “condensed” cream soup base.  I have used it a lot, and it actually tastes much better than the canned version.  Don’t have evaporated milk?  Or maybe can’t have dairy?  I often use almond milk (unsweetened) to make mine.  It could also be made with whole milk or half-and-half.  If using 2% milk, I suggest substituting 2 tablespoons of melted butter for 2 tablespoons of milk.

These recipes are springboards to help with ideas.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, using ingredients you have on hand.  For instance, drained canned vegetables could be used instead of frozen ones.  Crushed potato or corn chips would make a good topping.  Other types of pasta will work just as well as the suggested ones.  Just remember what some members of your family might not eat before making your selections.

With the main subject out of the way, I do want to say this.  We are beginning a new month, and I pray it is filled with renewed hope.  The Scripture I keep repeating to myself is 2 Timothy 1:7:  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” KJV.  I usually use a more modern translation; however, there is a recent Southern Gospel song that includes the first part of the verse in its lyrics.  It plays through my head over and over, although I can’t remember the artist or even the name of the song.  (I wish I could recall more of the words because, so far, I haven’t been able to find any more information.)  I don’t understand why we are facing such uncertainty; all I know is that I know the One who does.  And I know that I can trust Him to take care of me.

Here are the recipes:

Create a Casserole

Choose ONE Sauce Maker:

1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of celery soup, undiluted

1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 (10-3/4 ounce) can Cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

2 (14-1/2 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

Choose ONE Pasta/Rice:

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 cup uncooked rice

4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles

3 cups uncooked medium shells

Choose ONE Frozen Vegetable:

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 (10-ounce) package frozen cut broccoli

1 (10-ounce) package frozen Italian green beans

1 (10-ounce) package frozen English peas

1 (10-ounce) package frozen sliced yellow squash

1 (10-ounce) package frozen whole kernel corn

Choose ONE Fish/Meat/Poultry:

2 (6-ounce) cans solid white tuna, drained and flaked

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

2 cups chopped cooked turkey

2 cups chopped cooked ham

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Choose ONE or TWO Toppings:

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

Choose One or More Extras (Optional):

1 (3-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained

1/4 cup sliced ripe olives

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies

1 (1-1/4-ounce) envelope taco seasoning mix

Combine 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with Sauce Maker (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).  Stir in Pasta/Rice, Frozen Vegetable, Fish/Meat/Poultry, and if desired, Extras.

Spoon casserole mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-by-2–inch baking dish; sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

Cover and bake casserole at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes; uncover and bake additional 10 minutes.

Here are some ideas suggested by the cookbook:

Chicken Casserole: cream of chicken soup, broccoli, rice, chicken, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Turkey Casserole: Italian-style diced tomatoes, spinach, medium pasta shells, turkey, onion, garlic, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs

Vegetarian Casserole: Italian-style diced tomatoes, yellow squash, rice, olives, 4 portions celery, 4 portions bell pepper, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Ham Casserole: cream of celery soup, Italian green beans, wide egg noodles, ham, garlic, and 2 portions Swiss cheese.

My own creation:

Ground Beef Casserole:  cream of celery soup, 2 cups uncooked gemelli pasta, spinach, onions, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Make-Your-Own Condensed Soup

2 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

Dash cayenne pepper

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk (may use 12 ounces unsweetened almond milk)

1/2 cup chicken broth or stock

1/2 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend (such as Mrs. Dash)

One of these, with its seasonings:

Asparagus: 2 cups; 1 teaspoon lemon juice, dash of nutmeg or mace

Broccoli: 2 cups; 1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme, dash of garlic powder

Cauliflower: 2 cups; 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Mushroom: 1-1/2 cups; dash nutmeg

Chicken: 2 cups; 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Celery: 2 cups; 1/4 teaspoon rubbed thyme

Choose flavor of soup from list; prepare vegetables or chicken (finely chop).

In heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour; stir until browned.

Add salt, pepper, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.  Whisk in milk, broth, and seasoning blend.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.

Add vegetables or chicken, plus suggested seasonings.  Reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are tender; stirring often to keep soup from sticking to pan.  Remove from heat; cool.

Recipe equals 2 cans of condensed soup.  Freeze half, if desired, for later use.