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Monday, January 3, 2011

The skinny on casseroles

Here's the thing, in the depths of winter (and winter in NC is pretty depthy to me) I want comfort food. Casseroles, stews, soups, roasts, baked goods, basically anything that warms the soul and the house makes me happy. Casseroles are not the most elegant or sophisticated of dishes but they are tasty and filling and just the very definition of home-cooking. I mean when is the last time you saw any type of casserole on a restaurant menu?

Today's casserole takes the very last bits of the New Year's day feast and transforms them into a bubbly, cheesey delicious main dish. Serve with a side of steamed veggies or salad depending on your climate and enjoy.

Ham and Rice Casserole

Chopped ham
3 cups of cooked white rice (can be leftovers from NY dinner)
1 cup (or more) of shredded cheese (I like a 4 cheese blend)
1 can of cream of something soup (or make a white sauce) (Or more than one can if you like a moister casserole.)
Panko, cracker or bread crumbs for the top
Melted butter

Mix cooked rice and chopped ham, cheese, and soup and place in a buttered 9 x 13 pan (or smaller if you aren't cooking for a crowd. You can cut this recipe in half and make it in an 8 x8 pan.) Cover with bread crumbs of choice and pour some melted butter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees (170 C?) covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Take off foil and brown for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

If you do not eat ham or meat simply replace the ham with broccoli florets or chopped spears and follow the recipe as indicated. You can also make this with cooked brown rice and it is even better. I can't tell you how many times I have intended to make my MIL's famous broccoli and chicken casserole and FORGOTTEN TO PUT IN THE CHICKEN. This has happened so often as a matter of fact that it is known in my house as "Chicken Surprise-- Surprise! There's no chicken in it!"

I will serve these tonight with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower which I am fortunate that my kids love. My sister-in-law's kids won't eat them plain, but they do like them with cheese sauce. Another friend's kids won't eat them cooked but will eat them raw with ranch dressing. My sister's kids won't eat them AT ALL but clamor for more of my Mom's spaghetti sauce which is packed with (you guessed it) broccoli, carrots, onion, and celery. My Mom was the Sneaky Chef way back in the 70's.

**UPDATE** The casserole dish I was using was SO BIG that I added the frozen vegetables right into the casserole. I did take the extra step of cutting them up a bit into smaller, uniform pieces and they cooked beautifully right in one dish. Even the strenuous anti-vegetable crowd at the table couldn't resist them. Score!

Hope your dinner is really good tonight and that you have one of those good parenting days that don't make you fantasize about a long restful stay at the local hospital!

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