Casseroles help plan ahead

Published 7:16 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By Staff
Holidays can sometimes be a busy, stressful time when making every minute count is important.
Although Thanksgiving is still more than a month away, it’s not too soon to begin planning your family meal.
With so many people finding the need to travel for the holiday, preparing a dish to share at the family gathering is sometimes difficult. I’ve considered that this week and have found a few recipes that might just be the ticket for solving some of those problems.
Most casseroles can be made ahead and frozen. These frozen dishes are a blessing to cooks who have 27 other dishes to prepare for the big holiday feast. Freezing casseroles is also a great way to have a dish that can travel well. If you plan on taking a frozen dish, you may want to check with the hostess to make sure it can be baked or warmed when you arrive at your destination.
A couple of things to remember if you plan to freeze casseroles: if it has a cracker topping, wait until the dish is thawed and ready to bake before adding the crumbs and butter; drain vegetables very well; and bring the dish to room temperature before baking.
This first recipe is great for a Thanksgiving dinner. Baking it fresh is best, but it can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.
Corn Casserole
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1 (11 ounce) can white corn, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can French cut green beans, drained
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/4 (16 ounce) package buttery round crackers, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine onion, celery, green pepper, cheese, corn, green beans, soup and sour cream. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole dish. Combine crushed crackers with melted butter and sprinkle on top of vegetables. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Freezing casseroles may be new to some people, but I have a friend who takes a couple of days every summer and prepares enough food to feed an army. She freezes these meals and on busy days pops them into the oven (or she gets her teenaged daughter to do the popping). This idea is great anytime of the year.
For another good frozen casserole dish with a little twist give this next recipe a try.
Squash Casserole
1 1/2 lbs. yellow squash, cooked
1/2 c. finely chopped bell pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 c. grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 c. cooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. pepper
Cook squash until tender in salted water. Drain well. Combine all other ingredients, beat well. Blend with squash. Top with cheese. Bake in greased shallow 2-quart baking dish 30 minutes at 350 degrees uncovered. If frozen, thaw at room temperature before baking.
Pies also freeze well and if completely cooked before freezing, the trip to grandmother’s house may be just enough time for the pie to thaw just in time for dessert. The only thing you need to remember for pumpkin/sweet potato pies is to not overcook. Overcooking this type of pie cracks the filling and causes it to weep. That would make the pie soggy after being thawed. Prebaking the crust before adding the filling is also a good way to prevent a soggy pie.
I plan on sharing more holiday recipes in the weeks to come. You may want to start planning ahead now if you haven’t already. Nov. 26 is just 36 days away.
Until next week, happy cooking!

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