How to Make Fabulous Meals Using a Formula, Not a Recipe

By Mary Hunt

May 7, 2020 4 min read

Ever feel like a kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry and freezer, mix it with leftovers in the fridge, and make something delicious without a recipe and without running to the market? That's called cooking with a formula — not a recipe.

Well, grab your whisk, and shout for joy! Thanks to this foolproof five-step formula, you can create fabulous, original and nutritious casseroles designed by YOU, using the items you have on hand.

Step 1: Combine 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper with one item from Group A, which is coming up below (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).

Step 2: Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D and E (again, no sour cream or milk when using tomatoes).

Step 3: Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.

Step 4: Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F.

Step 5: Cover, and bake the casserole at 350 F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover, and bake 10 additional minutes. Servings: About 6.

Group A:

1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

1 can cream of celery soup, undiluted

1 can cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

2 cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted

Don't care for canned soups? Make it yourself! Simply go online and search "how to make homemade cream of anything soup," and you'll find many recipes to choose from.

Group B:

2 cans solid white tuna, drained and flaked

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

2 cups cooked ham, chopped

2 cups cooked turkey, chopped

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Group C:

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 cup uncooked rice

4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles

3 cups uncooked medium pasta shells

Group D:

1 package chopped spinach, thawed

1 package frozen, cut broccoli

1 package frozen Italian green beans

1 package frozen peas

1 package frozen sliced yellow squash

1 package frozen, whole-kernel corn

Note: packages should be about 10 ounces.

Group E:

1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained

1/4 cup ripe olives, sliced

1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small can chopped green chiles

1 packet taco seasoning mix

Group F:

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs


Chicken Bake: Cream of chicken soup, broccoli, rice, chicken, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.

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

Turkey Bake: 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, four portions (1 cup) celery, four portions (ditto) bell pepper, garlic, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.

Now it's your turn!

Would you like more information? Go to for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Photo credit: RitaE at Pixabay

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