Delivering dinner at the end of 2023 to friends who’ve helped me with various needs throughout the year proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Upon asking about the favorite foods of the male in the equation, I was told, “No chicken.” OK, there went my idea for chicken spaghetti. Also on the list was “anything with tomatoes” (scratch spaghetti, lasagna and other Italian dishes). But it was the last directive that really got me: “No casseroles.” It hit me that casseroles get no respect and that’s just not right.
After all, what would Thanksgiving dinner be without a classic green bean casserole, sprinkled liberally with crispy French-fried onions? And who doesn’t love the classic baked chicken and rice dish doused liberally with not one, but two “cream of” soups?
If you grew up in the 1970’s, 80’s or even the 60’s as this picky eater friend did, you undoubtedly had at least one Pyrex dish of some type of casserole placed on the dinner table each week. Maybe my friend got sick of them as a child, thus his aversion to the “one dish includes all” meals. As for me, I still have fond members of casseroles filled with ground beef, noodles and tomatoes and and my absolute favorite to this day, fried pork chops and brown rice casserole.
Tuna casserole aside, what’s not to like about this familiar dish that has provided so much comfort and security over the years?
To quell any lingering bad memories of casserole-centric meals, I’ve tweaked the ingredients and changed the names to protect the innocent of these three dishes. It’s unlikely my friend will recognize them as anything but delicious meals that bear no resemblance to the ones that scarred him for life.
By the way, he and his wife seemed to enjoy the basic roast, potatoes, carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy dinner I delivered, but who knows, I might spring a pseudo-casserole on him in 2024.
Cheeseburger & Fries in a Pyrex Dish
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
10-3/4 ounce can golden mushroom soup
10-3/4 ounce can Cheddar cheese soup
20-ounce package frozen crinkle-cut French fries
Pickles, chopped tomatoes and ketchup for toppings (optional)
Combine ground beef and soup. Spread in a greased 13” x 9” inch baking pan. Arrange French fries on top. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until fries are golden brown. Top with pickles, vegetables, ketchup if desired.
Shoepeg Corn and Green Bean Bake
2 (7 ounce) cans shoepeg corn, drained
14-1/2 ounce can green beans, drained
10-3/4 ounce can cream of celery soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed round buttery crackers (about 15)
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
Stir together corn, beans, soup, sour cream and cheese; spread in a greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with cracker crumbs; drizzle with melted butter. Baked, uncovered, at 350 degrees for one hour or until golden.
Sausage and Wild Rice Combo
1 pound pork sausage, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 (4.5 ounce) package chicken noodle soup mix
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium high heat, combine the sausage, onion, celery and green bell pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat.
Stir the dry rice in with the sausage and vegetables, then add the water and the soup mix. Transfer this mixture to a lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish and top with the almonds. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.