Tag Archives: casserole

Sunday Squash Casserole, everybody loves this one!


Y’all ever been in the South on a Sunday?  Anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line?  Because Sunday in the South means church, church clothes, (NO tank tops, flip-flops or shorts!), and relaxing with family over dish after well prepared dish of southern classics.  When I was in school in Macon I was stunned by the array of vegetable dishes offered in friends homes not to mention the platters of fried chicken, smothered chicken, baked ham, roasted turkey or tenderloin of beef.  Remember, Mama couldn’t and didn’t cook so in our house, growing up, Sundays meant a gorgeous table laid with glistening silver and china, beautifully arranged flowers and burnt food.  Yep.  Mama would serve food that was completely black and burned on one side.  She’d just plate that zucchini, chicken, dolphin, anything charcoal side down and keep on keepin’ on.  As a result, my time spent in girlfriends houses was filled with awe and wonder.  Not because they had beautifully appointed homes.  Heck, no.  I had that! It was that I was continually astonished at the culinary epiphanies that hit me round every corner.  Strawberry jam, BUTTER, fried chicken, iced tea…grilled cheese sandwiches.  And Sundays in a Southern home meant side boards groaning under the weight of every vegetable imaginable, at least six or seven, and that didn’t include the biscuits and desserts.  Most Sunday dinners included squash casserole and I soon learned there are good ones and there are bad ones, however, that is completely subjective.  Some featured thick rounds of squash glistening with butter, the seeds leering back at me as if to remind me of Mama’s blackened attempts of zucchini and summer squash.  Ugh.  Her squash was the definition of gross.  I must tell you, though, there is another method of preparing squash casserole which requires you to process the cooked squash mixture and the outcome is pure magic.  Smooth but still with texture this summer squash casserole doesn’t even taste like a vegetable.  Yes, the squash is sweet but the addition of onions and pepper-jack cheese gives it a savory, piquant twist you will positively love.  It’s the only way I’ll eat summer squash.  My hope is the next time you put out a big, Southern-style spread replete with English peas, black-eyed peas with snaps, collard greens with pot likker, candied sweet potatoes, tomato aspic, stewed okra and tomatoes, sweet and sour red cabbage and fresh shelled lady peas you’ll consider serving this glorious summer squash casserole.


Summer Squash Casserole

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 1/2 pounds yellow squash, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup plain Greek yoghurt, or any plain, thick yoghurt
  • 8 ounces pepper-jack cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion.  Cook until clear but not browned.
  3. Add the chopped squash and gently stir to coat with the oil and onions.  Adjust the heat if needed so as to cook the squash but not to brown.  Stir occasionally  for the squash to cook evenly and for the juices to evaporate or cook off.  You don’t want any liquid as that will cause the casserole to be watery.  Cooking the squash may take as long as 15 minutes.  That’s fine.  Get rid of the water.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool 10-15 minutes.
  5. While the squash is cooling mix the Panko with the teaspoon of olive oil and toss well that all the crumbs are covered.  Set aside.
  6. Transfer the squash to a food processor or blender and pulse until there are no lumps or large pieces of squash.  Return squash to pan.
  7. To the squash add the yoghurt and cheese and mix thoroughly by hand.  Taste for salt and pepper.
  8. Add the eggs and wine and stir well.
  9. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 X 13 pan.  Scatter Panko crumbs evenly over top.
  10. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.




Comfort Food…Chicken, Sausage and Collard Pilau

I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep when my body rebelled and I awoke at 4:00 Sunday morning.  I lay in bed wondering what the day would bring…would I go to church or work out?  Would it be a sunny day or a rainy day?  I watched the silent paddles of the ceiling fan slowly rotate in giant sweeps, appreciating  the cool, early morning darkness.  When early morning sleep eludes me, I typically reach for my cell phone and peruse my favorite news outlets, NYT, BBC and CNN.  This Sunday was no different until I glanced at all the screaming banners across the face of the phone.  Now we know all the horrific details of the Orlando shootings.  And my heart aches for all the friends and families of those whose lives were so brutally ended.  As I write this I can’t get past the thought that those kids, and they were kids, weren’t hurting anyone.  And now their loved ones are suffering indescribably and they weren’t hurting anyone either.  Life for them, those left behind, will never, EVER be the same.  When I want to give comfort or take away someones pain and helplessly can’t, I turn to food.  Many an almost-strangers door I’ve knocked on with a pan of hot, buttermilk biscuit, a gentle and calming pound cake or a warm, reassuring casserole in hand.  Whether my offering is for a close friend or neighbor or someone I’ve never met, food is always my contribution…my way of wrapping my arms around someone I may or may not know.  So this is what I wish I could take to all those in pain.  I’m not foolish enough to think it would ease their agony but it is all I have to give.  That and my sincere and earnest prayers.



This recipe is incredibly forgiving.  If you’re a little low on ingredients it rolls with it.  Really the only part that can’t be played with is the broth/rice ratio.  Feel free to add more or less of the vegetables or any combination you prefer.  The final baking in the oven ensures the rice will be beautifully cooked.  There’s enough for your family and another family.  It always seems to be what a loved one with a cold wants.  If you plan to take it to another household don’t bake it just include the baking instructions.  That way it can be frozen and pulled out to bake when needed.  It really should be served soon after baking.

Macaroni and Cheese

Remember that delicious feeling of wonderment when you went waaaay under water in a swimming pool as a child?  I think it starts at 4 or 5 years old and it’s pure magic.  The water would always be crystal clear, reflecting the sunlight on the sides and bottom of the pool in dancing, shimmering fragments.  It was the color of a perfect aquamarine, almost completely silent, all sounds muted and softened by the silky mantle of water.  And it was so pretty, all blue and white.  I believe I was five and Cynthia seven the first time our parents took us to the Bahamas.  I don’t recall anything about the flight but I remember that hotel as if it was yesterday.  It was the height of beauty and elegance.  The epitome of luxury for the two little girls!  There was an exhibit all through the hotel of the crown jewels, Grand Bahama and the rest of the islands in the Bahamian chain being part of Great Britain’s territories.   I remember standing in front of case after case thinking, “I want that.”  And, “I want THAT.”  5-year-old girls will kill for large jewels, or at least that one would.  Upon our arrival, I had found while exploring the vast domain of our room, a white, plastic pen with a wide gold band around the middle and a huge, white feather on the end that would sway back and forth when you wrote.  I immediately claimed it for my own.  I don’t know what Cynthia got, maybe stationary, but that pen was MINE.   And I carried it everywhere, knowing that everyone who saw me with it was able to discern, “Why, she’s not a mere 5-year-old.  She’s a glamorous, mysterious woman.”  The hotel had open, breezy walkways with huge potted palms and exotic flower arrangements everywhere.  And the pool.  Oh, my goodness!  It was one of those free-form configurations that curved and meandered around palms, hibiscus and alamandas.  Every corner of the property had immense bursts of hot pink, fire-engine red and sunset purple Bougainvillea.  The pool was something from a tropical fairytale for us.  And right smack dab in the middle of that pool was a bar.  A BAR.  For 1960 that was pretty crazy stuff.  You could swim right up to it and get a drink.  Grownups would get their cocktails and lucky children would get Coca-Cola.  The two little girls didn’t get anything because we were allowed nothing other than water or milk.  I spent all my days there in that pool, swimming around the bar like a bee over honey.  Early on, I had spied that section of the bar that housed the olives, lemon, lime and orange sections, cocktail onions, and nirvana…maraschino cherries.  My grandmother in Puerto Rico would, every blue moon, make us cherry milkshakes with vanilla ice cream and syrup from the maraschino cherries.   With a real milkshake machine.  Anyway, round and round that bar I swam until finally the bartender asked, “Hi!  Would you like a cherry?”  Would I? Yes, please!  Shyness cast aside, I asked for more until the bartender said, “Listen, just take what you want.  Help yourself.”  Clearly, he had no children.  Well, I helped myself.  And when the garnish container was empty, he’d just fill it right back up with the gallon jug of cherries stashed under the bar.   I ate those cherries until I got that ookie feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  Like there’s a red-hot runaway freight train about to fly out of your bottom.  There were lots of frantic calls to Mama, so incredibly gorgeous in her black maillot.  Of course, she took care of everything, in her loving, graceful way and never made mention of it again.  Dinners were in the formal dining room and Cynthia and I were served macaroni and cheese, or macaroni pie as it was called in the islands, a new treat never before tasted by us.  I don’t remember anything else of that vacation except the flight back to Fort Lauderdale.   For all my parents eccentricities and unconventionality, they were rather formal.  When Cynthia and I were in public we were seen and not heard, we were not the center of attention.  We had flown often to Puerto Rico so were accustomed to flying.  The two little girls sat side by side on the flight, nicely dressed and quiet.  Until the older one started messing with the younger one.  She just wouldn’t leave me alone.  I recall hissing as quietly as possible, “Stop it.  Stop it.  Leave me alone.”  But nooooo.  I remember, in slow motion and with narrowed eyes, holding up my  plumed pen, and with clenched teeth, striking Cynthia in the upper, fleshy part of her arm.  I can still hear that faint “pop!” when the ball point punctured her flesh and the indentation the pen made before it entered.  Yes.  I had stabbed my sister.  Well.  You have never seen such drama, from both of us, as the realization sank in for her, that she could get me in major trouble and score big points with Mama and Daddy.  I understood I had broken the rules of public behavior and chances were… well,  things didn’t look too good for me.  Mama and Daddy were shocked by the scandal we had caused and were none too happy.   But they knew how to punish me.  Oh, yes, they knew the way of correction and discipline all too well.  They broke my heart, that’s what they did.  I remember sobbing uncontrollably, I was heartbroken.  Heartbroken.  Daddy, gently but firmly, asked, “Where’s the pen?  Give it to me, please.”  And I never saw that exquisite pen again.  NEVER.  So, I guess the moral of the story is, if you need to stab your sister then use a pointy stick, a Bic pen, scissors, garden shears, anything but your newly found precious treasure!



This is an updated version of what Cynthia and I dined on for dinner during our vacation.  I scattered Panko on top, unheard of, and used whole grain pasta, also inconceivable for those times.  I like a deep, rich mac and cheese, strong with flavor and character.  If there are no children involved I’m quite liberal with the cayenne.  If you’re not a lover of heat, add the pepper slowly, tasting the sauce as you add and stir.  You can always add more if you like but if you add too much your dish may be compromised.  Thankfully, if it’s James or my nieces, I need not worry.  They love it anyway I prepare it.  I know some people are turned off by the addition of the tomatoes baked on top, but I say they add color, obviously flavor, and most importantly, the acid they bring cuts the richness of the cheese and bechamel ever so nicely.  With or without, it’s a great dish!


Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni or other shape of choice
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 stick of butter, divided, 6 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard, I like Colman’s
  • 1 lb. sharp or extra sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1-6 oz. container shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 6 or 7 ripe, plum tomatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. To a large pot of boiling water add the salt and then macaroni.  Cook according to the instructions on the box and drain well.  Return drained macaroni to pot and stir in the vegetable oil making sure to incorporate well.
  3. In a pot or the microwave, heat the milk but not to boiling.
  4. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour, stirring continuously with whisk.  Continue whisking and slowly add hot milk and whisk until smooth and creamy.
  5. Remove from heat and add all cheese, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk well, again, until smooth.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Add salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Add cooked macaroni, stir and pour into a 3-quart baking dish.  You probably don’t need to spray with nonstick spray, but I always do because I hate that ugly, baked on residue that can build up.
  8. Slice tomatoes and arrange on top.  Tomatoes shrink as they bake so feel free to overlap if you’re a tomato lover.
  9. Melt the remaining butter and mix with the Panko breadcrumbs.  Scatter Panko over tomatoes.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden on top.
  11. Let cool for 15 minutes or so before serving otherwise it will run all over your guest’s plates.  And it’s hot, hot as molten lava, so serve little ones and keep an eye out so they don’t get burned.


Manestra, Greek Meat and Pasta Casserole

In Greece there is a dish called Manestra which is somewhere between a stew and a soup.  It started as a vegetarian dish when meat was scarce or too expensive.  Here in the States, it’s been tweaked a bit as meat has been added to season the pot.  Usually it is leftover roasted meat which has been added. Roasted lamb, beef or pork typically are used but I’ve even bought ground sirloin or ground lamb.  And the vegetables, which make up the bulk of the meal, are varied. I use any combination of chopped carrots, mushrooms, zucchini or spinach.  Just about anything in your refrigerator can be used. I try to have at least a 60/40 ratio of vegetables to meat.  And, since pasta is added, it feeds legions.  It’s so good the next day and a great winter dish.  Feta is generally used to finish off the dish but when I’m caught without, parmesan works really well.


  • Servings: 6-8 hearty servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, button, baby bella or any assortment cleaned and sliced
  • 5 or 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and chopped into “nickels”
  • 3-4 medium zucchini, washed and grated, using big holes in box grater
  • any other vegetable you’d like to add
  • 2-28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, juices included
  • 1-6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 3-4 cups roasted lamb or meat of choice, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo pasta, that’s about half a bag or box
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta, to taste
  1. In a dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion.  Cook until clear, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add mushrooms, again stirring often.
  3. When mushrooms begin to release their juices add garlic, rosemary and parsley.
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes and add zucchini and any other vegetable you wish to use, still stirring.
  5. Add whole tomatoes and juices, breaking up tomatoes with the back of your spoon.
  6. Add tomato paste, mixing well to incorporate.
  7. Add meat and stir.
  8. Taste mixture and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Cover and drop temperature to simmer.
  10. Cook pasta according to directions and please, PLEASE salt your water well!!
  11. When pasta is tender drain and mix with meat mixture.
  12. Serve in individual bowls with crumbled feta scattered on top.