Kitchen Focus

Casserole recipes can be found everywhere: in the grocery store checkout aisle magazines, on cooking and even non-cooking websites, and on the backs of products ranging from noodles to canned soup to packets of tuna. You can create a casserole out of just about anything, as long as you have a few basic components. The basic components of a successful casserole include a liquid and at least two other ingredients. That's it! You need a liquid to help the flavors of your ingredients mix together, and to serve as a substance that will help your ingredients stick together physically.

A general good rule that makes a tasty casserole is to use at least one meat and one vegetable, however, there are many fine delicious casseroles that contain no meat whatsoever, including our first creative casserole recipe. If your casserole is serving as a side dish, you may not want to include meat.

The ingredients you choose should be sliced, chopped, or cut into small, bite-sized pieces. All you have to do is mix all of your ingredients together and bake! The cooking time will vary depending on what type of ingredients you've included in your casserole. If you've got larger chunks of meat or potatoes, leaning more towards the 45 minute to an hour range is probably best. If you're dealing with tuna and canned vegetables, you can get away with a much shorter cooking time, from 20 to 30 minutes.

Now, of course, it's time to enjoy a couple of recipes. The first is a meatless dish that makes an ideal side dish for pot luck gatherings and the like. Tweak the seasoning options to suit your needs. The second recipe is a creative one featuring sweet potatoes and sausage. Try it as is and you're likely to see it become a new family favorite.

Vegetable Bean Medley

  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, cut in strips
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 - 10 oz. pkg. frozen baby lima beans
  • 1 cup quick cooking barley
  • 2/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 2 T. grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, and green pepper. Cook slowly for 10 minutes. Do not brown.

Stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans, barley, parsley, salt, basil, and black pepper. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 2-to 3 quart casserole with a lid. Add the boiling water. Cover.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1-1/2 hours or until the barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with grated cheese before serving.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours

Sweet Potato Sausage Casserole

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. margarine
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. link sausage
  • 3 T. raisins
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, margarine, and salt. Place the sausage links in the skillet with the water; cover & simmer for 5-8 minutes until cooked.

Drain off the water, then cook slowly, turning often until the sausage is well browned.

Place the mashed sweet potatoes in a 1-1/2 qt. casserole. Arrange the sausages on top. Pour the orange juice over the top of the sausages. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours

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