Tuesday, October 25

Casserole Czar!!

Today I have been in Casserole Czar mode.

Centenary United Methodist Church has entrusted their annual bazaar's frozen casserole sale to me for the second year in a row. I'm not sure that is because I did a great job last year...or perhaps nobody else volunteered. Either way - I'm getting excited!!

As you may have noticed...I love food. Love to cook it, love to eat it, love to talk about it. I read food magazines (my current fave is one called Cook's Illustrated which shares techniques as much as recipes) and can tell you what channel Food Network is on here, at my sister's house in Roanoke and even down in Duck! I just think that food is a common interest of all people. True, not everyone geeks out on it as much as me...

But each year one of the main components of the annual Fall Bazaar is our frozen food sale. In addition to some truly delicious Brunswick Stew that is made by our good friends at Pride of Virginia (thanks to CUMC member Jimmy Mays for cutting us a great deal!) we also take orders for several different frozen casseroles. Last year we made about 150 of them. This year I'm hoping to break 200!

We've been trying to fine-tune the offerings to a) make sure we are creating something that people want to buy and b) make sure that we aren't losing money! So we have tweaked and researched and now are in the test kitchen phase.

The #1 seller every year so far has been the Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Casserole. And we have that one down to a science. I know that you break 18 eggs into a 2 quart pitcher and then fill it with milk to make the egg mixture. I can tell you how many slices of white break get torn into each pan and could grab the correct scoop for the right amount of sausage. The only downside to that casserole is that it has the lowest investment-to-return ratio. But it is quick to make and I have directions so that any group can make 30 4-serving pans in about 2 hours. So we are keeping that one in!

We also have a very popular Pasta Casserole. Made up the recipe for that one in about 5 minutes while Mom was at Sam's Club. Spiral pasta (gives lots of place for the sauce to hide!), ground beef, a little sausage (because pork fat rules), tomato sauce and a couple cheeses. The only thing is that I only know how to make it in a 96 serving batch! Which works out fine, because that sucker sells great and has a good return.

We are on our third chicken-based casserole in three years. I THINK that this one is real winner. My test subject will need to report on it (I just put the test batch in the oven for dinner) after he tastes it. This one is a Chicken, Mushroom and Rice creation that is a melding of about 40 different recipes. The hardest part about it is shredding the chicken. Found boneless skinless breasts for 1.97/pound - but in a 5 pound package! So I spent about 45 minutes pulling chicken meat this afternoon. But it created about 14 cups of chicken!! As long as it passes the taste test, then this one is a shoe-in.

And that would usually be about it...except that this year's bazaar is the weekend before Thanksgiving...and so the bazaar director has requested that I offer some appropriate side dish offerings. Do you know how hard it is to find a corn pudding that freezes??? But I think we did it! Tonight Dad will not only be testing our Chicken and Rice, but will also be the judge of the freezer-friendly corn casserole AND a sweet potato casserole with a granola topping. Mom and I went ahead and froze the green bean casserole so that we could experiment with topping/defrosting issues. He'll have to eat that later this week.

Wish me luck - and don't forget to order!! The Bizarre - I mean Bazaar will be November 19th. And if you'd like to be a guinea pig...I've still got some testing to do!!

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