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Thanksgiving extras make special casserole

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002

This easy recipe is an excellent way to use leftover Thanksgiving staples, such as turkey and stuffing. Home Plate winner Tracy Nangle shares California Turkey Casserole, a creamy layered dish she's been making for 12 years from a recipe given to her by her aunt Dee Carlson, of Mt. Pleasant. The "California" in the recipe title pertains to the fact that Carlson came upon the recipe while her son was stationed there in the Navy.

"I wanted to be sure I mentioned that I got this recipe from my aunt," Nangle says. "She gave it to me when I was 16."

It's one of the few recipes Nangle actually has on paper. "My recipes never taste the same twice because I never write them down," she admits. But she never hears any complaints. In fact, she adds, "I do all the holiday cooking. Either everyone comes here, or we go to my mom's house. and I cook there. I'd rather cook at her house then they can do the cleanup."

When you cook that way, without a recipe net, you must be confident in your cooking skills — or, as Nangle laughs, "You have to be able to take criticism."

Sharon Bortz and Nicole Gardner, students in the Westmoreland County Community College Specialty Foods class, tested this recipe.


California Turkey Casserole Tracy Nangle - Mt. Pleasant

  • Leftover turkey or chicken
  • 1 box chicken or turkey stuffing mix
  • 8 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 small boxes frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 can water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly grease 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Cover bottom of pan with turkey or chicken.

Layer in the following order: turkey, prepared stuffing mix, cheese, broccoli.

Mix both cans of soup with 1/2 can water. Pour over top all ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

About the cook

Tracy Nangle, 28, of Mt. Pleasant, must have been born to cook. She doesn't remember how it happened, she only knows she's always been drawn to the kitchen. Her earliest cooking memories are in the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Firemen's food tent at the annual fireman's fair. "My dad was a volunteer fireman. He always had to volunteer, so we'd (she and her younger sister, Jen) go to the fair or glass festival and he'd put us in the food tent." She, however, graduated long ago from the "burger with onions" school. By high school she was collecting and creating her own recipes.

Today, she has two devoted tasters, her daughter Kiannah, who will be 4 in January, and Kiannah's dad, J.J.

Kiannah, who is a story all by herself, flits in and out of the kitchen between glimpses of "Dora the Explorer" — first for a yogurt snack for herself; then for a celery snack for "Pig," her white and brown guinea pig; then just to tell Mommy something.

"She's a good eater," Nangle says. "It's so hard to believe that she only weighed 1 pound 1 ounce when she was born. In fact, I can hardly remember it." Born prematurely on Jan. 2, 1999, Kiannah didn't come home until April 22, when she weighed 4 pounds. "I do remember we had to do something called a kangaroo hold, where I'd hold her up to my chest to keep her body warm," Nangle says. "She fit right in my hand," she adds, holding her right hand, fingers together and slightly cupped. "In fact, her first outfit was baby doll clothes from a teddy bear display at the mall," Nangle says. "She was 2 to 21/2 when she finally came up to her weight."

You'd never realize her short history by looking at her today. "They, her doctors, teachers, say there are no problems now," Nangle glows. She's a healthy little girl with a healthy, and diverse, appetite. While Kiannah definitely agrees that Mom is a great cook, she also enjoys dining out. Her favorite place is "Chicken with Ren" — the pet name she's given to the China Buffet in Countryside Plaza because an employee there named Ren befriended her and used to feed her string beans when she was "little."

Nangle, who worked for a telephone answering service before Kiannah was born plans to return to the work force after her daughter goes to kindergarten. Meanwhile, she volunteers at Mt. Pleasant Head Start as an assistant to the cook, helping to serve snacks and lunches and packing lunches for field trips.

While not certain what field she'd like to get into, Nangle is seriously considering taking classes in culinary arts at Westmoreland County Community College. "I don't think I want to work in a restaurant or anything, but I love planning parties and cooking for a buffet style setup. I just want to take classes to broaden myself and get new ideas."

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