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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Wieners and mashed potatoes whip up hearty winter casserole

Thursday, February 17, 2000

Tested by Betsy Kline

Hot and hearty and fast. This week's Countdown to Dinner recipe from Adelyn Sommer of Upper St. Clair combines wieners -- a kid fave -- with mashed potatoes, onions and cheese for a simple yet satisfying meal that will ring the dinner bell for adults as well.

Wiener Potato Casserole is a fondly remembered hand-me-down from Sommer's childhood. "My mother used to make it when we were kids" with the leftover mashed potatoes from Sunday dinner, recalls Sommer. "I think she devised it, but she could have gotten it from a cookbook. Mother collected recipes; I do the same. I cut out lots of recipes."

Adelyn, who is retired from teaching English in the Upper St. Clair school district, and her husband, Don, are empty nesters now, with their three children -- Christopher, Timothy and Sarah, grown and on their own now. But the family still gets together to cook and have good times on holidays. She and daughter Sarah, mother of five, cook together every Sunday.

The Sommers have just returned from a three-week vacation in Thailand, where they attended a cooking school for a day and learned to make an appetizer, entree and dessert.

What did they enjoy best about their experience? "The people," says Adelyn.

Getting back to today's recipe, Sommer says, "The nicest 'plus' about this recipe is that it can be doubled, tripled or adjusted to any amount of mashed potatoes and wieners. The order can be reversed with the mashed potatoes on top."

Tester's note: If you're starting with leftover mashed potatoes, you can easily make this in 30 minutes.

If you must make instant mashed potatoes from dry flakes as we did, it will take several minutes to measure your mashed potato ingredients (water, milk, margarine, salt and instant potato flakes) and microwave them to the desired consistency, following package directions. But because they will be piping hot from the microwave, you can shave several minutes off the cooking time at the end.

The whole process comes very close to 30 minutes, especially if you take the chill off the wieners by zapping them in the microwave for a few seconds (pierce them with a fork first).

This dish is a meal in itself. At most, maybe serve it with a steamed vegetable -- broccoli or carrots, perhaps-- for nutritional balance and visual appeal.

Wiener Potato Casserole

6 wieners
4 cups cooked mashed potatoes, instant is fine, see note above
1 small onion or 3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup grated cheese (we used sharp Cheddar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Split wieners lengthwise.

Combine potatoes, onions and 1/2 cup cheese.

In a greased, 9-by-9-inch baking dish, spread half of potato mixture. Place 3 split wieners over potatoes.

Pile rest of potato mixture on top of wieners. Cover with the remaining wieners.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with rest of cheese and bake until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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