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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Count Down To Dinner: Pierogi casserole a hit

Thursday, May 04, 2000

Tested by Betsy Kline

Lee and Ken Hanawalt were Penn State students 35 years ago. They married one Saturday in August in her parents' State College home and were en route to Pittsburgh later that day. That Monday, Ken started teaching at the West Jefferson Hills School District.

They settled into the South Hills, raised two sons and eventually moved to a farm in Eighty Four, Pa., where they have variously raised animals and vegetables. Now, the Hanawalts are empty-nesters, still living the busy life, growing flowers and herbs.

Lee, an artist, has a show coming up; Ken works at Bechtel Bettis. They're happily anticipating the wedding of their elder son next month, for which they hope to supply all the flowers themselves.

Because they're both busy, Lee specializes in preparing quick meals that don't cut corners on taste. Last year she supplied Countdown with her recipe for delicious Potato Fish Casserole. Her most recent entry -- which snares her another free cookbook from the PG Food grabbag -- is Kielbasa Pierogi Casserole.

As Lee humorously notes: When they first came to Pittsburgh "I had never heard of or eaten the ingredients in the following dish." Now she's an expert at pulling together pantry meals and has even canned her own sauerkraut, an ingredient in this dish.

As Lee says, "I seldom stick to recipes, but when I do, I add, subtract, multiply and divide." Her experimentation has paid off again.

Kielbasa Pierogi Casserole

2 (14-ounce) cans sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1 pound kielbasa, any brand, cut into serving-size chunks
2 cans water or enough to cover meat, see note
12 frozen pierogies, any brand (she uses potato and cheese)
1 onion, cut in rings or half rings
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

In a large frying pan, add all ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer till heated through. (Don't overcook or the pierogies will turn to mush.) Dish out with a slotted spoon. Serve with mustard and crusty buns or rolls.

Note: A can of beer can take the place of an equal quantity of water. (We used beer.) Use just enough liquid to barely surround the kielbasa; the pierogis will steam in very little liquid.

Tester's note: Use a good quality sauerkraut. We bought a supermarket house brand and its bitter flavor left us scraping the cabbage shreds to the side of the plate.

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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