December 23, 2010 at 9:06 a.m.

Last minute meal decisions made easy

Last minute meal decisions made easy
Last minute meal decisions made easy

Are you finished with preparations for you're Christmas celebration? If you are entertaining, and you have your menu planned, I have some recipes that you might try for the vegetable part of your meal. Something a little different than the usual, corn with butter, green bean casserole, etc. I think you will want to try one of these recipes.

Let's start with a "good for us" veggie side dish.

CAULIFLOWER AU GRATIN

1 medium head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 lbs.) broken into florets

2 small garlic cloves, minced (don't be afraid of using that amount of garlic, unless you're allergic to it)

6 T. butter

4 T. flour

1-1/2 c. milk

4 bacon strips, fried crisp, drained on paper towel and crumbled

1/8 t. pepper

Dash cayenne pepper (hot red pepper)

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded Swiss cheese

In a large saucepan, bring cauliflower and 1-inch of water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook 6-7 minutes or until crisp tender. (You may steam if you wish, until crisp tender.) Drain well; set aside. In another saucepan, saute garlic in butter for 1 minute. Over medium heat, stir in flour until blended; gradually add milk.* Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat; gently stir in cauliflower, bacon, pepper and cayenne. Pour into a greased 1-1/2 qt. baking casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and center of casserole is hot.

Makes 5-7 servings.

*As I've said before, I heat the milk until hot, not boiling, and add to flour mixture, cutting down cooking time. Note, when ready to serve, sprinkle a little paprika over the top for a little color. Also, you can double this recipe using a larger casserole dish and a little more baking time.

Another "good for us", colorful veggie side dish.

+++++

FANCY BRUSSELS SPROUTS

1-1/2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed, or 1-18 oz. pkg. frozen sprouts

1 can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, undiluted

1/4 c. milk

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/8 t. pepper

1-8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained, cut in halves

1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted

Cook sprouts in boiling water to barely cover. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine soup, milk, cheese, and pepper; cook and stir until cheese is melted. (I combine these ingredients in a bowl, whisking together and then cook.) Drain sprouts; add water chestnuts and cheese sauce. Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with almonds.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Note, you can keep this on the stove on very, very low heat if you need sometime to do a couple other things. Don't scorch it!

+++++

I'm back to a sweet potato recipe.

NUTTY SWEET

POTATO BAKE

4 eggs

1 c. sugar

1 c. milk

1/4 c. butter, melted

6 c. cubed cooked sweet potatoes or 2-40 oz. cans, cut sweet potatoes (or yams, drained)

Topping:

1 c. flour

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 c. chopped pecans

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, milk and butter. Add sweet potatoes and mix gently. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.

For topping: Combine flour and sugar in a small bowl. Stir in butter and pecans; mix well. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes. Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 16 servings.

Note: This recipe may be cut in half for a smaller group of people.

+++++

This rice casserole is a great accompaniment to roast turkey, chicken or pork.

SAVORY WILD RICE

3 c. hot water

1 c. uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

1 lb. bulk pork sausage (not ground pork)

1 medium onion, diced

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth

1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chickens soup, undiluted

2-4 oz. cans mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained

1-8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained, cut in halves or 2/3 c. slivered almonds

1/2 t. ground sage, or 1 t. rubbed sage

In a large saucepan, combine water and rice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender. Don't over cook. Rice should be tender but the grains should not open, so the gray of the inside doesn't show. (If you've cooked wild rice you will know this). Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, mixing well; add rice. Turn into a 3-qt. baking dish. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Note: If there are leftovers, refrigerate and have it another time. I add another can of cream soup, preferably cream of celery, combined with a cup of milk to make a very tasty cream of rice soup.

I would like to share with you, this prayer we say before eating our dinner.

Precious Lord, Thank you for the food before us, Thank you for family and friends beside us, Thank you for the love between us, and thank you for your presence among us. Amen.

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, happiness now and throughout the New Year.

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