Grandma’s California Vegetable Casserole


(The following post is from 2017 but still captures a bit of the story of a very traditional part of our year end holiday meals–all of them!)

This year, work conflicts meant that all of our immediate family couldn’t gather on Thanksgiving day for the usual feast, so we would need to celebrate the holiday on two different days. As we began planning for this change, someone suggested that we might split the menu between the two dinners as well as the “guest list.”

Thanksgiving dinner in the US is one of the most tradition-bound of all meals, and we all have favorite sides that we expect to include in this November feast. When more than a few people contribute all these “must-have” dishes, the result is far more food than any of us really need at one time. Cutting the number of choices at each of our two dinners was a wonderfully workable way to enjoy our favorites without the usual over-stuffed feeling at the end of the meal.

We have a significant number of vegetarians in our crew, so it was an easy decision to make a vegetarian “turkey” the centerpiece of the first dinner. Then there were unadorned roasted sweet potatoes, Grandma’s California Vegetable Hot Dish, fresh cranberry sauce, cranberry apple bread, tossed salad, and, of course, two choices of pie.

For the Thanksgiving Day meal, we had roasted turkey, vegan stuffing, a different cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and gravy (turkey and vegetarian), sweetened sweet potatoes, that traditional green bean casserole topped with fried onion crisps, rolls, and, again, two choices of pie.

Actually, looking at these menus and remembering the meals, these were still very, very full menus, and we were right to make this the only real meal of the entire day each time we celebrated. For us, having the feast in early afternoon means that the pies are held for a few hours and become like a second meal, later in the evening.

All of this description is a lead up to today’s recipe, one that works well for all those year-end holiday potlucks, or even as a side if your family has a large Christmas dinner planned. My children’s Grandma Laack always included her California Vegetable Hot Dish when we were able to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and it quickly became a traditional side dish for any of our winter holiday meals. When asked the source, she once told me she had just gotten it off the side of some package–probably the Velveeta. Oh, but then she started to think; no, maybe I heard it on WHBL, a local radio station that had a long-running call-in program that featured a lot of recipes over the holidays. Or maybe, she thought, in the Plymouth Review, the local paper with a weekly recipe column, stacks of clipped-out recipes that were in some boxes of Grandma’s other “clippings.”

The source that I used came directly from a handwritten copy that Grandma had given my daughter-in-law many years ago.

Grandma’s California Vegetable Hot Dish
16-20 oz pkg California style vegetables (broccoli/cauliflower/carrots)
1 can cream of mushroom soup diluted with ½ can of milk
8 oz velveeta- cut up
seasoned salad croutons
½ c melted butter [that note just above the ½ c that looks like “2T”—could it be a change Nadia made, or Grandma?]
Mix all ingredients and top with browned croutons. (Can microwave vegetables first). Then bake at 350 degrees until browned.

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