Here we are, another holiday season has been reached with many of us wondering, “Where did the year go!?!” It has been a difficult year for Roy and myself, so much loss and disappointment; just as the brass ring was to be grasped, it was snatched away too quickly. While material things can be replaced eventually or simply done away with, it was the loss of our 12 year old Doberman Pinscher, Jenna, which still has me reeling with grief. However, a New Year will be here soon enough, and we greet each year with a hearty “Welcome!” and think, “This year will be better, you just watch and see!”
For Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to come together with friends and family; to forgive and forget; to remember that life will go on, and better together, than at odds with each other. Days ahead of cooking has commenced within kitchens around the nations; those who have more, share with those who wonder where their next meal will come from. Personally, I still pray to a higher power that we will come together as a human race; put aside “holier than thou” attitudes and finally form a cohesive bond of togetherness. Yes, I am a dreamer, for I know that it is more difficult to “give up” than to “give to”.
Thanksgiving is more than just a day of sharing, it’s a day full of comfort which often disappears as soon as the last slice of pumpkin pie is served. Why? Why not extend the comfort? When it comes to leftovers, some cooks package it up, give it all away and think, “Thank goodness that’s over with!” I would prefer to think, “Let me freeze some of this, and bring back that comforting meal another day.” One recipe my husband loves, simply loves, is Turkey Vegetable Strata. When we lived in Pennsylvania, my mother would make several trays of this dish just for him; we would freeze the trays for when he felt the desire for it. Well, she is 2700 miles away in Pennsylvania; we're in Utah, so I needed to make this dish on my own for him; of course I tweaked the recipe. No, I just can't leave recipes as is; have to keep playing with new ingredients. While he does enjoy my take on my mother’s recipe, he still states afterwards, “Yours is good honey, but your mom still makes the best!” Guess what? I still feel the comfort and that is all that counts.
Turkey Vegetable Strata is one of those casserole dishes that takes two days to prepare. The first day, the body of the casserole needs to rest in the refrigerator, so moisture and flavor can soak into the bread stuffing. The second day is the baking process and to be truthful, the casserole is even better the next day after that when all the flavors have melded together...but who can wait!?!
Enough teasing, let’s get to baking and eating!
Turkey Vegetable Strata
1 medium onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 oz.) bag herb seasoned, cubed bread stuffing (white or cornbread)
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen white corn
1 and 1/2 lbs. cooked turkey, white meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half
1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
3 cups milk, divide into 2 cups and 1 cup
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of celery soup
1 tsp. crushed dry sage
In a 12 inch skillet, melt butter on medium heat; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushrooms for 10 minutes; do not let brown, just soften.
With nonstick cooking spray, spray a 4 quart baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, combine cubed bread, corn, turkey, one cup cheese and sautéed vegetables; spread out into sprayed baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, mayonnaise (or yogurt), two cups milk and black pepper until smooth. Pour evenly over contents in baking dish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Next day, bread stuffing is moist and double in size. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix together soups, sage, one cup milk and one cup cheese till well combined; spread evenly over top of contents in baking dish. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 50 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let casserole rest for 15 minutes before serving.
From the Cokenour Family, to you and yours, Happy Thanksgiving and let us keep the spirit of comfort throughout the years.