Q: I would like some casserole recipes that I can make and freeze. My aunt and uncle are elderly and do not do a good job of eating balanced, complete meals. I don't know which foods take well to freezing, but I know they would be excited to try any recipes that include pasta. My aunt and uncle aren't disabled and could complete some of the finishing steps of the recipes. I would prefer to give them casseroles that basically just need to be cooked. They both enjoy watching your show. Thank you.
- Gail B.
A: I'm sure this is a common issue with older relatives - in fact, I worry about making sure my own parents have wholesome, nutritious meals. That being said, I will say this about your aunt and uncle: they have excellent taste in cooking shows!
I'm sure this is a common issue with older relatives - in fact, I worry about making sure my own parents have wholesome, nutritious meals. That being said, I will say this about your aunt and uncle: they have excellent taste in cooking shows!
The good news is that you can successfully freeze almost all casseroles, as long as you remember a few of tips:
_ Freeze in small portions (which you would be doing anyway for two people). Not only does the food cool down faster before freezing, it also thaws faster and doesn't need to cook as long.
_ If your aunt and uncle are going to use the microwave, either for thawing or cooking, make sure to use "microwave-safe" plastic wrap.
_ To make sure you have an edible casserole when you pull it out of the freezer, you must wrap it extremely well. Freezer burn and dehydration only happen because food items haven't been wrapped air tight.
_ Make sure you label and date the casserole before freezing it. Have you ever found a container in your freezer and wondered a) what the heck is this? and b) when the heck did it get in here? And that's when you cook and store them in your own kitchen.
Since your aunt and uncle aren't making the casseroles, they surely won't remember what they are without labels. I would suggest eating frozen prepared foods within six months.
_ Go light on the seasoning. Pepper, garlic, celery, green peppers, and some herbs tend to become stronger when frozen and can even become bitter. It's wiser to let your aunt and uncle add additional seasonings before serving.
_ There is no rule of thumb about how long frozen casseroles will take to cook. (The cooking directions for the recipes I've included are for freshly prepared or thawed casseroles.)
If a casserole is going directly from the freezer into the oven, plan on doubling the cooking time, give or take 25 percent. For instance, if a recipe calls for 30 minutes of cooking time but the casserole is frozen, plan to bake for an hour.
Check it after 45 minutes and be prepared for it to take up to an hour and 15 minutes.
Gail, you sound like the niece that all of us want to have. My last suggestion is, when making any casserole for your aunt and uncle, double the recipe. Freeze half for them, and then I . . . uh, I mean your family . . . can have a great dinner, too. *
TURKEY & BROCCOLI CASSEROLE
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2½ cups milk
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained (about 1½ cups)
2 cups cubed, cooked turkey
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup dry bread crumbs, tossed
with 1 tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add flour, green onion, salt, pepper, mustard, sage and thyme; stir until well blended.
Gradually stir in milk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Stir in broccoli, macaroni, turkey and cheese. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle buttered bread crumbs on top and bake casserole for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves 6.