To your health: Save money by keeping up with your kitchen

By Leia Kedem

Though the economy is recovering from rock bottom, times are still tough for many.

When it comes to food, it can seem like every trip to the grocery drains more hard-earned dollars from your pocket. But we all have to eat, right?

It might help to start thinking like a business owner. In the restaurant industry, every effort is made to eke out a profit. One way is by making the most of proteins obtained at special prices. Say there is a special sale price per pound on chicken breasts. The manager decides to order a large amount, then makes the most of it by incorporating the chicken into lots of dishes.

That chicken might also show up as a daily special; restaurants are adept at repurposing leftovers. For example, extra chicken breast pieces originally prepared for a stir-fry dish may be used in chicken salad sandwiches or a soup du jour.

Believe it or not, another potential contributor to profits is food safety. An outbreak of foodborne illness traced back to a given restaurant could be devastating, so maintaining proper sanitation is crucial. At home, you might not lose customers, but practicing food safety may save you the medical expenses of a trip to the doctor or even the hospital.

Running a home kitchen is not unlike running a business. From taking advantage of sales at the supermarket to using up what you've got in your pantry, a little creativity can go a long way toward your bottom line.

There are too many basic principles to write in this space, so I will be offering a Keep Up With Your Kitchen program series to help you learn the basics of running your kitchen safely, healthfully and affordably. There will be three sessions offered at each of our offices in Champaign, Danville and Onarga.

In Kitchen Safety Check-Up, you'll get up-to-date on the latest food safety recommendations and see if you're doing everything you can to keep you and your family safe from food poisoning.

In Cooking From Your Cabinet, you'll learn how to stock a healthy pantry, combine fresh ingredients with what you've got on hand and how to repurpose leftovers.

Finally, just in time for colder temperatures, I'll show you how to make healthy, inexpensive, tasty meals with little effort and cost in Maximizing Your Slow-Cooker.

For more information on times and dates, check out http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv or call 333-7672.

These programs are free, so you've got nothing to lose.

In the meantime, try this slow-cooker recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole. The ingredients are cheap, you'll save on energy and you'll keep your kitchen cool if we have an Indian summer.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

1 large onion, chopped

1 (32-oz.) can green chile enchilada sauce

1 dozen soft corn tortillas, each

cut into four strips

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces

3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Sour cream (optional)

Saut onion in skillet until softened; set aside.

Spray bottom and side of slow cooker with oil. Pour about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the slow cooker; tilt to spread it around.

In layers, add one-fourth of the tortilla strips, one-fourth of the remaining sauce, one-third of the sauted onion, one-third of the chicken and one-quarter of the cheese. Repeat layers two more times, ending with the cheese.

Finish the casserole with the remaining tortilla strips, sauce and cheese.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4-5 hours.

To serve, use a long-handled spoon to reach down through all of the layers for each serving. Optional: Add a dollop of sour cream on top.

This serves eight.

Leia Kedem is a nutrition and wellness educator with the University of Illinois Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. Contact her at 333-7672 or at lweston2@illinois.edu.

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