Scalloped Vegetables

The Covered Dish

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Everyone has a time in their lives where they feel they have been grinning from ear to ear. Well, my husband, Ervin, and I have been for the past few days. On May 1st our son, Phillip, graduated cum laude from Missouri Technical School in Linn, Missouri. He has a 2 year degree in business administration. Back in February he applied for a job, with the college as a full time recruiter. The day before graduation, after multiple interviews, he was offered the position. With this fabulous opportunity he will continue his studies seeking a four year degree between Missouri Tech and Central Methodist. So he is both a student and faculty member. Are we a bit proud? YES!! I also think we are excited about the direction his life is headed.

Because of the timing of our road trip I didn’t get to stop at a couple of my favorite shopping spots on the way to Linn. Now you’re wondering where, ok, I’ll give. I stop at Miller’s just outside Buffalo, MO. It has a Tunas address, but closer to Buffalo. This time of year their spring flowers are beautiful. They also carry Mennonite Cheese (Wisconsin cheese), spices, flours, etc. Great fun stop. At the Lake of the Ozarks I stop at ‘Evergreen’ for my decorating supplies. It’s a great shop open 9 months out of the year. Since Phillip will be up North a while longer maybe I’ll finally get ice cream from the Dairy in Jefferson City!

With all these new beginnings and springtime how about a focus on fresh vegetables this week. One of the things I dislike about sautéed and steamed vegetables is how they tend to cool off quickly once they are placed at the table.
Putting them into a casserole does add calories, but it also holds the heat for a much longer duration of time. Don’t worry, I ‘love’ my steamed foods and sautéed cooking, but this is just a different approach to bringing a large serving of vegetables to a family dinner.

Any mixture of vegetable can be combined to make this casserole. I’ve even suggested taking this down an oriental avenue. Grab water chestnuts and bamboo shoots for starters. For the topper reach for chow mein noodles that are crumbled and sprinkled over the top.

One thing I like to discuss with readers is the first step; sautéing the vegetable. If you didn’t include this step you would have vegetables releasing too much liquid in the dish. The mushrooms can come or go, depending upon who you are entertaining. After the vegetables are sautéed you simply pour them over the mushrooms. This is enough to cook them slightly before being encompassed by the creamy sauce.

My assistant, Bonnie thinks the bacon sprinkled over the top makes this dish. I’m good with that too. When I first wrote the recipe I put panko across one half for the topping and crumbled butter crackers on the other side. For me the butter crackers won out. Certainly feel free to change out the parmesan cheese on the top to an alternative cheese. Swiss would certainly cut the amount of sodium being consumed.

Springtime Scalloped Vegetables
3-4 tablespoons light olive oil
1 small to medium cauliflower
1 large bunch broccoli
6 large carrots, peeled & diced to 1/2 inch
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 large stalk celery, sliced 1/4” thick

Sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper
1 1/4 cup chicken stock, unsalted
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded

Topping
1 cup crushed regular Ritz crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4 strips cooked bacon, finely crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into bite size pieces. Sauté all vegetables except mushrooms in olive oil. Cook until el dente. Remove vegetables and place in large bowl. Stir in mushrooms immediately to the hot vegetables and all to set while making the sauce.

For the sauce, melt the butter and work in the flour and spices, as if making a roux. This would actually be called a dry ‘slurry’. Cook the flour for a little bit before adding the wet to cook off the floury taste. Add chicken broth into the roux with a whisk. Add heavy cream and barely bring to a boil. Add the cheese to the mixture and whisk to blend. When thoroughly blended, pour the sauce over the vegetables in the bowl, stirring to coat evenly. Turn into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Melt topping butter and stir in crackers, pepper and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the casserole. Evenly distribute the crumbled bacon over the top. Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until heated thoroughly. Serves 8 – 10 persons.

If you cannot located the cheese of choice then use Swiss, Gouda or Havarti, even a Farmer’s cheese would work.

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