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Combat the cold with a warm, comforting casserole

Combat the cold with a warm, comforting casserole

This classic comfort food evokes feelings of nostalgia and offers versatility in ingredients for different occasions. Going to a party? Bring a casserole. A friend just had a baby? Make her a casserole. Have leftover green beans or chicken? Toss them in a casserole for a quick dinner.

Casseroles have been around for centuries but reached their popularity in America during the 1950s and ‘60s. The availability of lightweight, ovenproof cookware, canned foods and condensed soup made the casserole a convenient, quick and inexpensive staple to feed families.

Elaborate and complex, or simple and straightforward, many modern renditions of the casserole eliminate the canned soup and add new ingredients.

Brunch Beef Strata

1½ pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon pepper, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 cups milk
5 large eggs
nonstick cooking spray
8 cups ¾-inch crustless bread cubes
2 cups shredded asiago or fontina cheese
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh basil, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 350°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and cook 8-10 minutes, breaking into ¾” crumbles, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove beef from skillet and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Drain drippings from the skillet.

In the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add mushrooms and onion and cook 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Return beef to skillet. Add thyme, and cook 3-5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk milk, eggs and remaining salt and pepper until blended.

Spray a 2½- to 3-quart shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer half of the bread, ½ cup of the cheese and half of the beef mixture in the dish. Pour half of the egg mixture on top. Layer remaining bread cubes, ½ cup of cheese and beef and egg mixtures on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Press any dry bread cubes into the egg mixture. 

Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes. Top with tomatoes and basil, as desired.

Source: National Beef Council

Easy Cheesy Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

2 cups white rice
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
salt and pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 top loin pork chops
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, optional


Heat oven to 375°. Oil a 2-quart casserole dish, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, vegetables, cheddar, ricotta or cottage cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to the casserole dish, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top, and set aside. 

In a large skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork chops, and cook until browned on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Arrange the pork chops, browned side up, on top of the rice mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the rice mixture is hot and the pork chops are cooked to 145°. Let sit at room temperature for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Source: National Pork Board

Zucchini Casserole

1 large onion
2-4 small zucchini squash
1 large ripe tomato
8-ounce package sliced or grated mozzarella cheese
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oven to 350°. 

Peel onion and wash the vegetables. Slice the onion, squash and tomatoes. Spray a 9-by-13 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In the baking dish, alternate layers of zucchini, onion and tomato, adding salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese and bacon, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Source: Adapted from Stacey Bradshaw, Greensville County, in Bring it to the Table, the Surprising Southeast Virginia Farm Bureau Women