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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Casseroles To The Rescue!

By Sherrie Norris

In response to last week’s column about the busy spring season coming up — and the fast-food drive through becoming a nightly event for families rushing to and from ball practices, games and other events that take away quality meal time — I received pleas to incorporate casseroles as a great alternative. I appreciate the suggestions from these mothers who look outside the box, literally, or in this case, the bag, for opportunities to add quality time to the most hectic of school nights.

Casseroles might take some extra time and attention on a free  Saturday morning or afternoon for assembly, and in many cases, straight into the freezer, after which they can be taken out, thawed in the fridge during the day, and popped into the oven when everyone gets home, showers, and has a little time to sit down to a home-cooked meal. Toss in a healthy green salad and you’ve got your meal.

By dictionary standards, a casserole is a “cooked dish, a stew or other moist food dish, cooked slowly at a low heat in a covered pot or dish.” Nowhere did I find my personal definition of a conglomeration of any meat and vegetables you wish to mix together that wasn’t eaten during last week’s meals, with croutons as a binder and cheese to cover up what’s really inside.” 

A casserole could actually be a good thing, and it usually is, anyway you look at it.  Regardless of what Webster says, a casserole works with whatever we want to put in it . ..and it’s a perfect comfort food to end a busy day. Plus, many kids will eat meat and veggies that are hidden behind the cheese that they might not normally eat separately. Well, maybe. 

Quick and Easy Chicken Casserole Recipe

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

2 Tbsp. chopped pimiento

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup toasted almonds (slivered)

½ cup mayonnaise

Mix and spoon into casserole dish. Top with:1 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese and ½ cup crushed Ritz crackers mixed with 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine. Bake at 350 until crumbs are golden, about 25 minutes.

Chili, Chips and Cheese Casserole 

3 cups corn chips 

1 large onion, chopped 

2 ½ cups prepared chili (canned or homemade) 

1 cup grated cheese of choice 

Place half the corn chips in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with all the chopped onions and half the cheese. Top with all the chili, then the remaining corn chips and cheese.Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Doubles easily for larger casserole.

Easy Greek Chicken Casserole 

1 ½ tsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast, chopped 

1 zucchini, chopped 

1 large can of tomatoes, with juice 

1 tsp. dried oregano 

2 bay leaves 

1 tsp. kosher salt 

¼ tsp. black pepper 

2 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled 

Preheat oven to 400°F. 
Heat oil in a large frying pan. Saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat until onion is golden brown. Add chicken, stir and cook until nearly done. Add zucchini and cook for additional 10 minutes or until tender but not real soft. Pour juice from canned tomatoes into pot. Break up and add tomatoes to pot. Stir in oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Top with cheese and place uncovered in oven for 15 minutes. 

Simple Beef and Cabbage Casserole

 2 lbs. ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce

Approx. 3 pounds chopped cabbage

1 cup uncooked white rice

1 tsp. salt

2 (14 oz.) cans beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, brown beef in oil over medium high heat until redness is gone. Drain off fat. In a large mixing bowl combine the onion, tomato sauce, cabbage, rice and salt. Add meat and mix all together. Pour mixture into a 9×13- inch baking dish. Pour broth over meat mixture and bake covered for 1 hour. Stir, replace cover and bake for another 30 minutes.