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  • Mary Kay

Italian Sausage Wild Rice Bake

Take your old Green Bean Casserole to a whole new level with Italian sausage plus a variety of veggies, flavors and wild rice!

I love Green Bean Casserole, but I've always wanted to elevate it to another flavor and add more colors. Everyone knows how to make the popular 1960's casserole, pouring a can of this and a can of that into a casserole dish and calling it Green Bean Casserole. Or, at least know that there are green beans and French fried onions in I won't repeat the recipe here. I know certain people don't want to mess with what they consider a good thing, but I will. People who don't care for green bean casserole or turkey stuffing enjoy this recipe because it still have some carbs of the stuffing but not the flavor or texture of stuffing. Of course, you can substitute other veggies in this recipe.

I use all fresh vegetables in this recipe. But, of course, I have offered the similar amounts of frozen veggies which offer almost the same amount of vitamins, but save time in the prep arena. Thanksgiving is a time you want to utilize as many

shortcuts as you can so you can spend more time with your family. I often prepare (par-bake) this dish the day before so all I have to do is bake it a little on the day of the family event. I like using fresh or frozen vegetables since they taste fresher and have brighter colors than canned. Plus they don't contain all the salt that canned items do. So, I'll begin with my own ingredients and take you through how I make it. You and your family even might even like it!

Prepare the pan:

- Brush a little butter in the bottom of a 12" - 14" refrigerator to oven safe casserole pan or bowl. Mine is a heavy old oval ceramic bowl that we've had for decades. It's easy to use, easy to clean and we have never chipped or cracked it even though we use it at least once or twice a month for a variety of foods in the oven. I say 'we' because my hubby also uses it for scalloped potatoes and other things he likes to bake.

Preheat the oven:

- A few minutes before you're ready to put your bake in the oven, set it for 350F degrees.

Serves 6-12, depending on the serving sizes.

Italian Sausage Wild Rice Casserole Ingredients:

- 1-2 Sweet Italian Sausages (I use Johnsonville brand)

- 20 fresh beans, cleaned and cut into 2"-3" chunks (or 1/2 of a 10 oz bag of frozen) (OPTIONAL)

- 1 Broccoli floret, large, rough chopped (or 1/2 10 oz Bag of FROZEN Broccoli)

- 2 fresh long carrots, cleaned and diced (or 1/2 10 oz Bag of Frozen Carrots)

- 6 fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (One 4 oz Can Sliced Button Mushrooms)

- 1/2 C Wild Rice, uncooked (Save time with with 1 C precooked rice)

- 1/4 C White Rice (Save time with 1 C precooked rice)

- 1 C Chicken broth or water. (I prefer water which is not loaded with sodium like broth is)

- 3 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded

Roux :

- 3 T Butter

- 1/2 Onion, diced

- 2 Celery stalks, diced

- 1 clove garlic, peeled and diced or smashed

- 3 T Flour

- 2 C Chicken Broth or water

- 1/2 C Heavy cream (optional)

- 1/4 t Sage

- 1/2 t Rosemary

- 1/2 t Basil

- 1/2 t Salt

- 1/4 t Black pepper

(If you don't want to make a Roux, use 1 10 oz Can Mushroom Soup)

How to make the Roux:

- Dice the onion and celery.

- Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.

- Sautee onions and celery in the butter until translucent.

- Add the garlic and cook a couple minutes, but do not burn.

- Add the flour and whisk until all is combined and smooth.

- If you like a nuttier flavor, cook the mixture until it takes on an amber to brown color. The flour will take on a nutty flavor, but don't let it burn.

- Add the chicken broth or water and stir until all combined.

- Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

- Add all the spices, herbs, salt and pepper. Taste and add more if you need to.

- Take off/turn off the burner and set aside.

How to make the casserole:

- Take the casing off the the Sweet Italian sausage(s), break apart and sauté. I normally use only 1 sausage in order to keep the fat content and sodium to a minimum. You may want to use more sausage. Set aside.

- Clean and prepare all the vegetables. I sincerely feel it's worth the extra effort to use fresh (or even frozen) for a fresher taste and more vitamins. Canned vegetables lose much of their vitamin values and colors through the canning process. Plus, they are loaded with salt, which we don't really need.

- Add the veggies to the Roux in the large bowl and stir well so everything is combined.

- Add both types of rice to the veggie mixture. This recipe has more wild rice than white rice. If you want it with more white rice than wild rice, then switch the amounts specified for the two different rices.

- Pour all, including the sausage, in the prepared casserole pan.

- If you think you need more liquid, now is the time to add some of the 1 C of chicken broth or water from the list of casserole ingredients. If you have used precooked rice you probably will not need the extra liquid at this time. Just set it aside and use some or all of it during the baking process when you check on it half way through the baking.

- If all of your goodies are too much for your baking dish, use a larger one or put the extra mixture in another smaller oven safe pan, making sure you have equal distribution of the liquid, rice and veggies.

- Sprinkle the freshly shredded Gruyere cheese on top.

- I do not add any canned French fried onion rings on top, but of course, if your family absolutely demands having them on top, go ahead. It's your family. Or, have them warmed and available in a separate dish on the table for those who love the onions.

- Bake in the preheated oven at 350F degrees for an hour.

- Take the casserole out of the oven and test the veggies and rice for doneness. Add another 15 minutes and test again before baking longer.

- I like to par-bake the casserole the day before. In other words, I'll bake it for the first hour, so the fresh veggies are still just a little crunchy and the rice is almost done. Store it in the refrigerator. Then, on the holiday, I'll bake it at 350F degrees for another 30-45 minutes. It might take a little longer since the casserole and baking dish are cold from the refrigerator.

- Serve hot! This is also wonderful warmed up in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Get the kids involved:

- This is another dish that's great for kids to get the feeling for what it takes to bake a casserole. Let them help clean the veggies and measure out the spices. Let them get used to helping around the kitchen. And, don't forget to have them help with the clean up. It doesn't have to be a drudge...make it fun so they enjoy coming back for more. If you have a compost pile this is the time to explain to young children just how vegetable peelings help grow future vitamin rich veggies.

- Be sure to Bake your own Memories!

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