Potluck casseroles make entertaining easy

Just because the holidays are over, it doesn’t mean we have to stop getting together to share meals with friends and family. Church and club socials are great reasons to gather, or simply plan a casual gathering for movie night, sports viewing or a card game. When it comes to the food, make it potluck. With all the guests making a contribution to the menu there’s always a wide variety of delicious homemade foods to sample and the host isn’t stuck doing all the work.

Casseroles are the perfect entrÈe choice for potlucks because they are economical, easy to prepare and will serve a crowd. Prepare a family specialty or experiment with something new, perhaps one of the tasty recipes below. There will be no shortage of judges to critique your offering. You might even want to bring a copy of the recipe along for exchanging.

Italian

Pasta Bake

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. oregano

3 cups spaghetti sauce, homemade or jarred

3 cups uncooked pasta (rotini, ziti or penne)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Sliced pepperoni, if desired

Directions: Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In large skillet, brown ground beef and sausage with onions, garlic and oregano. Drain off excess fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes.

Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Add cooked pasta to the remaining sauce and toss to coat. Put half of the mixture in baking dish and top with 1 cup of cheese and some of the pepperoni (if desired.) Layer with remaining pasta, cheese and pepperoni. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes or till lightly browned and bubbly. Serves 10.

Chicken

and Tots Casserole

3 cups chopped cooked chicken

16-ounces sour cream

1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup

1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 pound bag frozen tater tots

Directions: Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside. In large bowl, stir together chicken, sour cream, soup, ranch mix, bacon and cheese. Fold in tater tots. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 40 to 45 minutes or till bubbly. Serves 10 to 12.

Taco-Stuffed Shells

1 box jumbo shells, cooked and drained

2 pounds ground beef

1 tsp. onion powder

1 package taco seasoning mix

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

A little milk to moisten

1 (10-ounce) bottle taco sauce

1 1/2 cups taco cheese

Shredded lettuce, chopped onion, salsa and sour cream for serving, if desired.

Directions: In large skillet, brown ground beef with the onion powder. Drain. Add cream cheese, milk and taco seasoning to burger mixture, along with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Stuff shells with mixture and arrange in 13×9-inch baking dish. Pour taco sauce over shells and sprinkle with remaining taco cheese.

Cover pan with foil and bake in 325 degree oven 30 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of baking remove the foil to brown the cheese.

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