Tater Tot Hotdish

Anyone who has attended a luncheon after a funeral  in Minnesota or North Dakota knows that the chances of sampling a hotdish or two is highly likely.

In fact, it’s not unusual for hotdish — or casserole in you’re from elsewhere — to be the main course at most church functions at which food is served. I thought about this the other day after reading a Facebook post from a friend, Kathleen Shea Aregood.

Kathleen, who a few years ago moved to North Dakota from the Philadelphia area with her husband, Rich, is a  journalist who now does staff developmen consulting work in areas of writing, reporting, story development and news judgment.

When she was consulting at the Herald, we often talked about recipes, so it wasn’t unusual to see a post about food. This post, however, caught my eye, since she was disclosing to her Nodak friends that her hotdish for a church annual did not contain condensed soup. (I think it contained a homemade sherry mushroom cream sauce.)

Well, I probably would have thought it interesting anyway, since hotdish is a favorite of mine. But I bet there are quite a few area residents who would find it hard to fathom a hotdish without some sort of canned soup.

I haven’t gotten around to asking Kathleen for her recipe, but here’s one for a tater tot hotdish that many readers probably have sampled at a church function or at home.

And yes, it does contain a can of condensed soup, cream of mushroom to be exact.

Tater Tot Hotdish
1 pound ground beef
1 1-pound package tater tots
2 10-ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup (or 3 cans if you want it extra creamy)
1 or 2 14-ounce cans vegetables (whole-kernel corn, green beans, etc.)
Onion and garlic powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.
Spread the beef in the bottom of a 2- to 2½-quart baking dish.
Drain the liquid off the vegetables and spread them over the meat.
Using a rubber spatula, spread the cans of soup over the top of the vegetables and meat. Use the soup as is, straight from the can. Do not mix it with anything.
Arrange a layer of tater tots over the top of that.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 659 calories, 57 perce t of calories from fat, 42.2 grams fat (13.7 grams saturated), 77.1 milligrams  cholesterol, 1,624.1 milligrams sodium, 43.6 grams carbohydrates, 5.1 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugars, 26.5 grams protein.

Broccoli-Tuna Casserole

There is something to be said for recipes that contain five or fewer ingredients. For one thing, they’re usually supereasy. Another is that they’re perfect when you are in a hurry.

And, of course, the fewer the ingredients the better chance that you will have everything you need on hand.

In these times, when both parents often have day jobs and dinner can be a rush job, the following recipe — which I fixed the other night and was extremely happy with — is both quick and easy as well as tasty.

Broccoli-Tuna Casserole
2½ cups penne pasta (can substitute elbow macaroni)
1 5-ounce can tuna, flaked, in water
2 cups broccoli, chopped
¼ cup cream cheese
1 10½-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
Boil water and cook pasta. When pasta is almost done, add in broccoli and cook until both are soft. Drain.
Put back into pot, add in tuna, soup, and cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is melted, on medium heat.
Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 408.5 calories, 11.7 grams fat (4.3 grams saturated), 25.6 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams sugars, 598 milligrams sodium, 57.6 grams carbohydrates, 3.2 grams dietary fiber, 17.8 grams protein.

Hot Seafood Casserole

It’s not always easy to come up with a dinner plan, especially if you’re the one who does the majority of your family’s cooking. One way to overcome this dilemma is to browse your recipe collection for ideas.

That’s exactly what I did today. And what I came up with was a recipe for a hot seafood casserole. I don’t know who cut it out of a Relish (http://relish.com) magazine, but regardless, it’s what we’re having for supper tonight.

What sold me on the recipe was that it was described as a shrimp and crab casserole mixed with buttery cracker crumbs.

I love casseroles, and the idea of combining shrimp and crab along with some green pepper, onion, celery, mayonnaise and a little Worcestershire sauce really was appealing.

Hot Seafood Casserole
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 6-ounce can crabmeat, flaked
1 pound shrimp, cleaned, cooked, cut in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise (see note)
1 cup buttered Ritz-style cracker crumbs (see note)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine green pepper, onion, celery, crabmeat, shrimp,salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl. Mix Gently. Spoon into an 8-inch-square baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4 to6.
Tip: This dish is is also good with 1/4 cup cooking sherry added to the seafood mixture before baking.
Note: Substitute low-fat mayonnaise and crackers to reduce calories if desired.

Ham and Cheese Casserole

Ham and cheese is a classic combo, no matter if the two are combined in a sandwich, an omelet or a salad. And you can add casserole to that list.

A ham and cheese casserole spells comfort to a lot of people. It’s a couple of notches above your plain old mac ‘n’ cheese.

Here’s an easy and delicious ham and cheese casserole. It would be a particularly good way to use up some of that leftover holiday ham.

Ham and Cheese Casserole
16 ounces cooked macaroni
12 ounces lean ham, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup Velveeta cheese, cut in chunks
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon seasoning salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup bread crumbs
Spray 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs. Spoon into baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and browning.
Yield: Serves 6.

Sausage And Potato Casserole

Struggling to come up with original ideas for supper isn’t new. Cooks for years have been dealing with this dilemma. But there are those who look at this as a challenge. And if you have a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Those who don’t fall into this category, though, needn’t worry. With unending resources available on the Internet, a tasty supper is just keystrokes away.

I sometimes find myself looking for something new to fix for dinner. It’s those times I go to the Web or one of my dozens of cookbooks in search of inspiration. Often what I come up with is a combination of two or more recipes, and with my cooking experience over the years, the result generally is more than acceptable.

Here is a recipe that I fixed the other night. It’s the combination of a recipe I  found on the Internet and a little imagination. The result was delicious. And the nicest thing about it was I had all the ingredients on hand.

Sausage And Potato Casserole
1 pound sausage, cut in ½-inch slices (see note)
5 medium new potatoes (sliced thin)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 can mushroom soup
¾ cup milk
½ cup sour cream
Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste
Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2-quart (11-by-7-inch) baking dish.
Cut up the kielbasa, potatoes and onion. In your baking dish, lay down your potatoes in a row and then your kielbasa and onions. Mix together in a small bowl the mushroom soup, milk, sour cream, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Pour this mixture over the potatoes and kielbasa. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and then top with cheese and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes. Just make sure your potatoes are fork tender.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Kielbasa or your favorite sausage will work in this recipe.

Chipotle Corn Casserole with Tofu and Soymilk

Just about every family that celebrates holidays such as Thanksgiving have their favorite recipes they prepare year to year. But  that doesn’t stop cooks from looking for new entrees to serve families and guests.

Here’s a recipe for a chipotle corn casserole from the Soyfoods Council that is sure to pique some interest. And it’s perfect for those who like their food a little spicy.

Chipotle Corn Casserole with Tofu and Soymilk
1 cup soft, silken tofu
1 tablespoon plus  teaspoon canned chipotle peppers, diced
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
1 16-ounce bag frozen sweet corn, thawed
½ cup plain soymilk
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 8.5-ounce box corn muffin mix
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9-by-13-inch pan.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the peppers, creamed corn, sweet corn, soy milk, silken tofu, melted butter, egg substitute and sugar. Stir until well mixed. Add the muffin mix; stir until combined. Pour into greased pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 50 minutes or until knife, inserted in the middle of casserole, comes out clean. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 12.

Pheasant Barley Soup

Hunting season is in full swing, and nothing tastes better than freshly harvested game. And just back from a successful four-day pheasant hunting trip to western North Dakota, I had my eyes set on some homemade soup.

So, after the final cleanup on a dozen pheasants and the freezing of the legs, thighs and breasts in vacuum-sealed bags, I started the process of making some pheasant barley soup.

First, I used the backbones and necks to make a broth for a pheasant barley soup. Next, I took the meat off the bones, placed them back in the pot and added the remaining ingredients, all of which we had on hand, including carrots, onions, tomatoes and cabbage from our garden.

The result was nothing short of mouth-watering. A slice or two of Cheddar cheese with a couple of homemade biscuits completed the meal.

Pheasant Barley Soup
2 cups pheasant, cut up (see note)
1 onion diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced thinly
½ cup pearled barley
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup chopped cabbage
12 cups water
1 cup peas (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook raw pheasant in water for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat for 1 to 2 hours.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.
Note: I used a dozen backbones and necks from recently harvested pheasants.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Casseroles — or hotdishes as they are called in this part of the country — are one of the most economical and easiest things to fix, which makes them perfect fare for busy people. And there is no better use of leftovers than in a casserole or hotdish.

A case in point is the following recipe for a chicken chow mein casserole. I used leftover chicken from our supper the night before in the recipe. I had all of the other ingredients on hand, so putting it together was a snap. The only alteration I made was to add some leftover gravy (less than a cup).

The casserole reminded me of my childhood, when hotdishes were a mainstay in our family, and a chicken chow mein one was among them. It wasn’t unusual for us to have a hotdish twice a week for supper. And at our school hot lunch, hotdish was featured at least one a week.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
1 12-ounce can chow mein noodles (the crunchy kind)
2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
3 pounds cooked chicken, cut up
2 10¾-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees degrees.
In the bottom of 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, put a layer of chow mein noodles followed by chicken and vegetables. Top with remaining noodles.
Mix soup with 1 can of water. Spoon soup mixture over vegetables.
Drizzle soy sauce over all.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Perfect Apple Pie

Home-grown apples are abounding just about everywhere you look these days. If you don’t have an apple tree in your backyard, your neighbor probably does. If not,  you know someone who has one — or two —or three.

What are you going to do with the apples on your tree or the ones your neighbor has given you?

If you decide on make an apple pie, you’re not alone. A recent survey from AmazonLocal.com found that apple pie was considered the “Most All-American Food,” with 28 percent of the vote. Apple pie beat out hamburgers (25 percent), hot dogs (20 percent) and barbeque (17 percent).

Here’s an apple pie recipe, courtesy of Pillsbury, which I hope Therese might try with some apples from one of three trees my neighbor and friend, Henry Tweten, has in his backyard.

Perfect Apple Pie
1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box (0r your own)
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom.
In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving.
Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 230 calories, 6 grams fat (2 1/2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium, 43 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams dietary fiber, 27 grams sugar, 1 gram protein.

Easy Chicken Noodle Casserole

Leftovers are the bane of a lot of cooks, but they shouldn’t be. Some pretty awesome – and easy – dinners can be made from leftovers. Often left forgotten in the refrigerator, they can be transformed into something pretty tasty – with minimal effort – the next day.

Chicken is one of those foods that lends itselt to leftovers. For example, you make things such as quesadilllas, wraps, salads and pot pies with leftover chicken.

My favorite is a casserole, one that you can make on the stovetop, just like the following, which we had for supper the other night.

Easy Chicken Noodle Casserole
3 cups cooked chicken, cut up
1 pint sliced carrots with juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 small onion, diced
1 cup leftover chicken gravy
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces egg noodles
Saute onion in olive oil while cooking pasta according to package instructions. Add chicken, vegetables and gravy. Cook for 10 minutes. If you need to thicken, mix some cornstarch with water and add to pan.
Once mixtures thickens, serve over cooked pasta.
Note: You also could use other vegetables such as corn.