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Making squash casserole comes with some flexibility

Great minds think alike. If you read last week's At Home section of that other paper that comes out in Bend, you would have seen a recipe for Squash Casserole in the Recipe Finder column. I want you to know that I had decided to run a squash casserole recipe long before that other column came out.
   Squash Casserole recipes have been floating around the Southern states for a long, long time. Yellow squash grows very well down there, and every gardener worth her beans grows yellow squash.
   I've never had Boston Market's version of this recipe (the recipe that other column used), but I've seen lots of versions similar to it. Several use cream of mushroom soup, several use herb stuffing or more often cornbread stuffing mix. If you ask me, they're all good.
   Several other versions use round buttery crackers and cheese, and that's the one I've chosen to use. I made it just last week, along with a pork roast in the Crock-Pot and a big green salad.
   Of course, I had to improvise with the original recipe. I'm not sure where I got this recipe, but I'm pretty sure it was from some kind of community cookbook from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
   As with many of my recipes, you can increase or decrease the amounts of some ingredients without affecting the final outcome. It's pretty flexible. Yellow squash, and its green cousin zucchini, grow like weeds. Remember my dire warnings about planting too many zucchini plants?
   The yellow ones don't look like squash on steroids like zucchini do when they get too big, but they still grow quickly and often. I'm not growing any squash, but I do have a couple of things planted along with my herbs. The herbs are doing beautifully, and the Italian flat-leaf parsley is hard to stay ahead of.
    I've cut what I think will be the last of the rhubarb, and while my tomato plant looks full and gorgeous and very green and has nine tomatoes the last time I counted them, they're still about the size of marbles. A friend of ours who lives up in Washington says he wouldn't live down here because you can't grow a decent `mater. Sometimes I think he may be right. My husband smiled indulgently at me the other day and said, "Hon, I know you like to grow a tomato plant, and I think it's a fine idea, but maybe you should rethink this. We won't see a tomato off that plant before Thanksgiving, even if a frost doesn't kill it in September."
   He's right, of course. I think next year I'll try growing one of those little container tomato plants, and I can start it indoors come about April. By the time those little tomatoes get to be the size of marbles, maybe they'll be ripe. Or maybe I'll grow both, my standard Early Girl in the garden and a big pot on the patio with some little cherry tomatoes.
   One way or another, I'm bound to pick a ripe tomato by at least Labor Day.
   Yellow Squash Casserole
   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with Pam (I used a square cake pan to bake this)
   3 or 4 medium yellow squash, sliced
   1-1/2 cups shredded medium sharp Cheddar cheese (if you have only 1 cup on hand, you can get by with that)
   4-5 tablespoons stick butter or margarine
    1/4 cup chopped onion
   2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
   1/2 to 3/4 of a sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
   Cook sliced squash in boiling water until just tender crisp, a couple of minutes. Don't let them cook so long they get mushy. You want them to hold their shape. Drain squash in a strainer for about 2 minutes to make sure all the liquid is gone.
   Melt 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a large frying pan. Saute onion and red bell pepper until onion is soft and translucent. Add squash to the pan with onion; add cheese and stir gently to mix. Stir in half of the crushed Ritz crackers (this will help thicken the squash mixture, so you judge for yourself if you need more crackers to make it as thick as you want). Pour into the greased casserole dish.
   In the same frying pan, melt the remaining butter and stir in the rest of the crushed Ritz crackers (if mixture seems too dry, add more butter). Spoon this mixture over the top of the casserole. (You can use your own judgment here, too. Some people will like more crunchy topping. Adjust accordingly.)
   Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top.
   Makes 4-6 servings
   Notes: If you're watching how much butter you use, you can certainly saut‚ the onion and red bell pepper in Pam, if you like. You will need to use some melted butter or margarine to stir into the crackers that go on top.
   This dish is best eaten right away. It doesn't reheat well because the cracker topping gets too soggy.
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte, where she regularly talks to her tomato plant, encouraging it to grow. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..