Sausage & Lentil Casserole

My husband doesn't usually vocalize if he doesn't like something I make. Okay, who am I kidding, it's obvious when he doesn't like something because he just leaves it on the plate. Doesn't even try and squeeze it down for the sake of politeness. He'll pick at it, and just leave the rest for the birds. Yes that's right, he'd rather go hungry than eat something that doesn't suit his palate perfectly. And yes, sometimes it's insulting - especially when I'm my biggest critic and I find the meal outrageously delicious.

Like this casserole. I love it. Could eat it everyday. Jeff groans when I tell him it's what's for dinner. Groans. He claims it's the spinach. He doesn't like cooked spinach. Well okay, that's fair enough but the spinach in this casserole is so mild in flavor and texture I think it's all in his head. I'm certain it's all in head. What you taste most in this casserole is the spicy sausage and the sharp cheddar, all the other ingredients just take very important supporting roles. So if you are like my husband and would rather not eat at all then eat cooked spinach, okay, then this casserole may not be for you; however, even if spinach isn't your favorite (like me) but you won't go running for the hills at the mere sight of it (like me) and you just so happen to love sharp cheddar and spicy sausage (like me and everyone else) then I bet you'll like this casserole.

The only tricky thing about this casserole is finding the right ingredients. The ingredients on paper seem pretty straight forward, accessible, and easy. But then when you actually go out and try to find them, it gets a little tough. Please take my advice on a few things here. I've only found 2 brands that actually make a 19 ounce can of lentil soup. Progresso and Muir Glen Organics. I've used both and Muir Glen is much better than Progresso, but Progresso is cheaper and more widely available. Also, IQF spinach is key and also very hard to find. What you're looking for is going to be a bag of spinach that the spinach leaves were frozen separately in chunks. The boxed kind won't work here. I've made it with the boxed kind, having to cook it first then mix it in, and it turns out mushy and gross. I've found IQF spinach at Whole Foods. Haven't really looked too hard anywhere else. Leave a comment if you find another brand of soup or a store that carries IQF spinach.

Sausage & Lentil Casserole

16 ounces hot Italian-style sausage (I use Bob Evans zesty italian sausage)
1 small onion, chopped
1 19-ounce can lentil soup
2 cups individually quick-frozen (IQF) spinach
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup uncooked converted white rice (like Uncle Ben's)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Remove casings from sausage and crumble with a fork. Add sausage and onion to large skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add soup, spinach and oregano; heat through. Add rice and season with pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish; cover with foil. Bake until rice is tender, about 35 minutes. Top with Cheddar and bake uncovered until the cheese is melted, a few minutes longer.

Adapted from Eating Well

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