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Monday, January 20, 2014

7-Layer Dinner


I guess this casserole has been around for years.  I never heard of it until I was married and don't even remember when or where I became aware of its existence.  I would occasionally make this over the years using ground beef as the topping and then I became vegetarian.  What to do for the 7-Layer Dinner now?  I made it without the meat topping but it just never tasted right so I stopped making it.  And then a few years ago I had the flash of a light bulb going off in my head, the "ah, ha" of everything coming together about the lost 7-Layer Dinner.  I would make it with vegetarian patties or "meatballs" and mushroom soup.  I would lay the uncooked patties on top of the vegetables and rice and pour diluted mushroom soup over all, thus recreating this easy to assemble and serve meal.  

You may wonder why I chose the mushroom soup.  When using the ground beef, the juice (and fat) of the beef would drip down into the vegetables and give everything a meaty flavour which was very pleasing to the palate.  Mushroom soup has a meaty flavour all on its own and it gives the casserole the flavour I was missing.  By the time the vegetables are cooked so are the patties or "meatballs" or whatever mixture you may want to use. 

Since I've been making this casserole with mushroom soup I like it more than the original version with the tomato soup.  Sometimes I just layer everything and pour a gravy over all and this works just as well.  

There is no real recipe as just about every cook makes it differently but the method is the same--layers of vegetables, a little rice, 1 or 2 cans of diluted soup or sauce and some kind of meat.  Some people use canned peas or corn and some people have more or less layers.  I rarely use corn but I do use frozen peas but it's up to you what you want to use.  It's also known by other names one of which I've seen as "Shipwreck." 

So here goes.  I'm going to try and get this down in some kind of order you can follow if you'd like to try this delicious meal.

7-Layer Dinner
Suggested Vegetables
--Potatoes, peeled and sliced
--Carrots, peeled and sliced
--Turnip or Rutabaga, peeled and sliced
--Onions, peeled and sliced
--Cabbage, roughly chopped
--Spinach leaves, washed
--Frozen or canned peas
--Frozen or canned corn
Long grain white or brown rice, no more than ½ cup
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mushroom or Tomato soup or gravy or tomato sauce
"Meatball" mixture or your favourite vegetarian pattie or roast recipe

First you will need to find a casserole or roaster large or small enough to contain enough ingredients for the number of people you would like to feed.  I find a small chicken roaster makes enough for 4-6 servings which is just right for Don and me as we like to have left-overs for another meal.  And if we have unexpected company drop in there is plenty of dinner for everyone.


In a well greased or pan-sprayed casserole dish or roaster place at least 2 layers of sliced raw potatoes.

Then a layer or two of sliced carrots.  Don't forget to add a sprinkle of salt and pepper between the layers.  You won't need much as the soup is salty.

 A layer of sliced turnip or rutabaga can go next. These take a long time to cook so slice them thin.


 I like to put the onions near the top along with handful or two of  rice.  
Someone forgot to take a picture of the rice.  
If using peas or corn add them here.

Today I used spinach on top but I usually use cabbage.  The spinach was a nice change.  Just make sure it is a nice thick layer of spinach as it cooks down to almost nothing.


Pour your choice of liquid (soup, sauce or gravy) over all.  The liquid should come almost to the top of the vegetables.  When cooking some will evaporate and some will be absorbed by the rice and vegetables.


Lay uncooked patties or meatballs on top of vegetables.  On the left the casserole is made with spinach and patties.  On the right the casserole is made with flattened "meatballs" and cabbage.

Here are the finished products.  On the left the spinach dinner.  On the right I used cabbage and you can see I also used green peas.  Both were equally delicious.  Add a salad and dinner roll for a very nice meal.



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