December 31, 2003 at 1:27 p.m.

Oven meals to warm you up!

Oven meals to warm you up!
Oven meals to warm you up!

When the weather is cold and crisp, I lean towards making oven meals and this is what it’s about today. Those good old-fashioned oven-baked casseroles are just right for the cold winter evenings ahead. Creamy casseroles can be prepared in 10 or 15 minutes, put into the oven to bake for about an hour and in that time you can help the kids with their homework, send an e-mail to friends or just sit down and relax a bit. For working parents, this is the way to go, or if you’re a person who is out and about, you can put the dish together before you run errands and have a good meal on the table in no time. So, today let’s do some casserole recipes.

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The kids will like this if they like pizza––and what kid doesn’t!

SPAGHETTI PIZZA

CASSEROLE

8 oz. thin spaghetti or vermicelli cooked according to package directions, drained

1/2 c. milk

1 egg, beaten

1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage or lean ground beef

1/2 c. chopped green pepper

1/2 c. chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or 3/4 t. garlic powder

1-15 oz. can pizza sauce

1 t. Italian seasoning

1-4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (optional)

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

In a bowl, beat together milk and egg; add cooked spaghetti; toss to coat. Spread evenly on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan.

In a skillet, over medium heat, brown sausage; pour off fat. Add green pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Add pizza sauce and seasoning; simmer 10 minutes. Spoon over spaghetti. Top with mushrooms, then cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.

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This recipe tastes a bit like a full-bodied chili dish.

BEEF AND RICE CASSEROLE

1 T. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1-1/2 lbs ground beef

1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1-15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 c. regular rice (not instant)

salt and pepper to taste

3 slices American cheese, halved

Melt shortening in large skillet; saute onion and pepper over medium heat 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add beef, saute, stirring until browned. Stir in tomatoes, beans and rice. Season with salt and pepper. (I add a little garlic powder, too.)

Turn into greased 3-qt. casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, covered. Remove cover and top with cheese slices. Bake 8-10 minutes longer. Serves 6-8.

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This is a delicious potato/ground beef casserole that you might try.

HAMBURGER VEGGIE CASSEROLE

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef

3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1-1/2 c. frozen peas

1-4 oz. can mushrooms, drained (optional)

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 c. sour cream

In a large skillet, brown ground beef, drain. Turn into the bottom of an ungreased 3 qt. casserole. Layer potatoes, onions and peas over top. Sprinkle mushrooms over this. Combine soup and sour cream in a bowl, mixing well. Spread over casserole, sealing to edges. Bake at 375 degrees one hour. Serves 6.

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While the oven is going, mix up these brownies for a quick dessert.

MILK CHOCOLATE

BROWNIES

1-1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. baking cocoa

1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. butter or margarine (not spread)

2 c. sugar

4 eggs

2 t. vanilla

1 c. flaked coconut

1/2 c. chocolate chips

1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Melt butter in a 2 qt. saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; add 2 c. sugar, beat well with a spoon. Mix in eggs and vanilla; blend well. Stir dry ingredients into mixture, mixing thoroughly. Stir in coconut.

Spread mixture into a greased 9x13 baking pan. Combine chips and nuts; sprinkle over top of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool on rack. Makes about 24 large bars.

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I hope your holiday celebrations were happy ones and that you have good memories of the past year. I wish you peace, love and happiness with family and friends

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