My good friend Britt has been steadfast throughout my formative years, always lending a helping hand, warm smile and good ol' Midwestern hospitality. She is a proud Bismarck, North Dakotan of Norwegian descent who relishes in the quirks of her family and regional traditions. So when she decided to make casseroles for her birthday on a Sunday afternoon, in the “church lady basement” style, none of us flinched, and already began to brainstorm what to wear.
The spread was impressive (yes, on a rooftop patio in Santa Monica - not *quite* a North Dakota basement). Britt had been cooking for days; When we arrived, several casseroles housed in jadeite warmed in the oven, the fridge was stocked with jiggling jello molds crusted with pastel colored mini marshmallows, and "Slush" (formal name in the Stabo Scandinavian Imports ND regional cookbook) chilled in the freezer, ready to be served up with a spritz of 7-up. I brought a modest offering of Andrew Murray Sanglier "Pink Wine", but immediately wished I had made my infamous picnic standby Fusilli Pasta Fruit Salad (MmHmm). Two dishes really stuck out to me as the big winners, so thought I'd share them.. In case you might find yourself wondering what the heck to bring to an after-church potluck of your own!!!
Britt did give a disclaimer with these recipes: "I never really measure things... so, measurements are approximate. But...the beauty of casseroles...they need not be an exact science! Just whatever mama's got in the kitchen will work!"Glorified Rice
2 cups precooked white rice (arborio works nicely, but any kind will do)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 can pineapple tidbits
1 sweet apple (Gala or Fuji is quite nice)
1 box lemon jello
Make jello according to box instructions & mix rice into dissolved jello. chill in refrigerator for a few hours until somewhat firm-- 2-4 hours (You can prepare before bed & mix the rest when you wake up). Chop an apple into bite-sized bits. Squeeze lemon onto apple if desired. Mix jello/rice with pineapple tidbits (drain the juice first) & chopped apple. Make whipped cream either by hand (arm workout!) or with a hand blender. It should be a thick & fluffy consistency. Fold whipped cream into mixture until all is light & fluffy. Use enough whipped cream so that the dish looks more white than yellow. Place in serving dish(es) such as a bear head bierstein and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Let the angels sing! Of the casseroles, the vegetarian (though defnitely NOT vegan) option was the clear crowd-pleaser..Tator Tot Hotdish! (Vegetarian style)
1 10 oz bag vegetarian beef crumbles or other similar product
1 can French cut (Fancy!) Green Beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
about 1/3 cup milk
1 small yellow or white onion
1 can mushrooms (optional)
1/2 bag Tator Tots
lots of shredded Cheddar Cheese (maybe 4 handfuls)
oregano if you've got it
Saute onion in butter on medium high heat. Add veggie beef crumbles & saute about 5 minutes. Season with pepper/ oregano. Add cream of mushroom soup & enough milk to moisten the mixture well. Layer mixture into bottom half of casserole dish. Maybe 9-12 inches. Drain the green beans & mushrooms & spread over mixture. Sprinkle cheese over mixture. Add Tator Tots- distributing over entire top of dish. Sprinkle a light layer of cheddar cheese over tator tots. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Start peeking at about 30 minutes to make sure it's not burning. Should brown nicely. Depending on your oven power, you may want to turn on the broiler for the last 5-10 minutes to brown the tator tots until crispy.
Voila! MMMM... Taste that culture! Now clear your plate before goin' to play with those cattails, ya hear!