I’m a penny-pincher, DIY mama. One of my favorite places to combine those passions is in the kitchen. To save money, I invent recipes to use up leftovers. I also clean out the fridge before I shop, so I don’t buy things I already have. To DIY, I look for ways to reinvent restaurant tastes I love. Today’s leftover use-up, refrigerator clean-out, restaurant improv is fish tacos casserole.
We love fish tacos and are eating more seafood as a way to live healthier. My husband and I are following the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes seafood and fresh produce. I keep lots of fresh vegetables on hand; to keep them from spoiling, I tweak recipes to add in veggies.
Most of the fish tacos recipes I’ve found have multiple steps and use lots of dishes: I feed six to nine people at a time, so I need one-pot, step-saver recipes. Since I’m cleaning the refrigerator and using up foods as I go, I write my recipes so that they are adaptable. Don’t have something on hand? Don’t make a special trip to the store. That wastes time and gas money. Improvise (I’ll give you tips and substitutions) or omit it. I’ve also included tips for dieters on watching sodium and cholesterol.
* Place frozen, fresh or leftover cooked fish in a 9×13 baking dish. Tilapia, pollock, swai, whitefish, cod, catfish or salmon work best; Walmart has been selling large bags of frozen fish fillets reasonably priced. I used the whole 4-pound bag of frozen tilapia fillets, plus a few individual pieces “swimming” around in the freezer. You don’t have to use this much fish, but know that it does cook down. There is no need to thaw frozen fish ahead of time.
* “Baste” with leftover mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (any variety). Use a rubber spatula to spread evenly (about two teaspoons per fillet). For dieters, use low-fat varieties or substitute with olive oil.
* Drizzle with fresh lime or lemon or use lime or lemon juice (lime tastes the best). Use about one one-half teaspoon per fish fillet. Lime juice makes a great salt substitute and works great for hypertensive diners following the DASH or other low-sodium diet.
* Season with ground cumin, chili powder (skip chili powder for low-sodium dieters and use red or chili pepper), black pepper, garlic and fresh or dried cilantro (great way to use fresh or bottled herbs).
* Use up leftover shredded or sliced cheese by sprinkling over the top. Got a few hunks of cheese laying around? Slice and layer over fish. The tastiest kind is pepper jack. Omit cheese if you are serving diners on a low-sodium or low- cholesterol diet, though.
* Crush leftover fresh or stale tortilla chips. You can also use leftover corn tortilla shells (no need to fry them as they will get nice and tender while baking). Omit or use salt-free chips for low-sodium diners.
* Pour leftover any salsa or pico de gallo over casserole. You can also use up fresh or canned tomatoes chili peppers, green peppers and onions instead of salsa. If you like your tacos with a kick, add fresh or canned jalapenos. Mix and match to use up all leftovers (omit salsa for low-sodium diners).
* Bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees until fish is tender and flaky.
* Garnish with fresh cilantro, shredded carrots, leftover shredded cabbage or broccoli slaw mix. Serve alone or with jasmine rice.
Caution: this dish is so fragrant and delicious that even avowed fish haters will demand seconds.