Have you ever ordered one half of a pizza with pepperoni and the other half with sausage?  This common family meal solution can be extended to other foods like casseroles, quiches and stromboli, keeping the entire family happy without making  a lot of extra work for busy parents.

Sausage and Cornbread Pie

Sausage and Cornbread Pie before adding the topping (shown here made with sausage links)

I started experimenting with this “separate meals in one dish” idea when my boys started rejecting foods with red peppers.  Cameron will happily pick raisins out of his pineapple carrot salad before wolfing his salad down, but he refuses to even try foods containing peppers or celery.  I can live without celery, but I miss the pepper and adding it to my own portion before eating isn’t always satisfactory.

This family meal solution works best with casseroles that are layered not mixed, such as lasagna or quiche.  One of my boys’ favorites, sausage and cornbread pie, can easily be modified using the separate meals in one dish technique.

Sausage and Cornbread Pie

1 pound ground sausage (Or 2 pounds sausage and omit the ground beef)
1 pound ground beef
2 red or green bell peppers
1 onion
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or one 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained)
1 ½ cups frozen corn (or one 15-ounce can, drained)
½ teaspoon sage
1 package cornbread mix (8 ounces)
½ cup milk
1 egg
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brown the sausage and ground beef over medium heat.  Meanwhile, chop the red pepper into thin strips and finely chop the onion.  Drain the fat from the meat mixture then spread the meat evenly in the bottom of a 13” x 9” casserole dish.  Saute the red pepper, onion and cherry tomatoes (if using) in the hot skillet with a little cooking oil until the onion is translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Transfer the pepper mixture to the casserole. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with corn, canned tomatoes (if using) and sage.

Mix the cornbread, milk, egg and cheese in a separate bowl until the batter is just moist.  Drop the cornbread batter on top of the casserole by spoonfuls, making sure you leave an opening in the middle and maybe in the corners (this allows steam to escape while cooking which keeps your cornbread topping from getting too soggy). Bake the casserole for about 20 minutes until the cornbread topping is lightly browned.

Yeild: Serves 8 adults  (You may halve this recipe, by halving all ingredients except use a whole egg.  I keep the extra cornbread mix in a zip-lock bag and just add it to the batter the next time I make muffins.)

Separate Meals in One Dish:   If you are trying to please picky eaters by making separate meals in the same dish, then sauté the vegetables separately as needed. (You may also want to reduce the amount of an unpopular vegetable).  Layer the vegetables on one half of the casserole or the other as desired.  The tastes will mix a little, but you can keep at least part of the meal pepper or onion-free.  When I make this casserole for my family I put a lot of peppers, onions, and tomatoes on my side with just a little corn.  The boys’ side gets lots of corn, a little tomato, a little onion, and no peppers.  I also put more cornbread topping on their side, since they enjoy it so much.  Aidan still picks at the tomatoes a little, but it doesn’t keep him from eating a healthy portion (and last time he actually ate a few tomatoes.)

Get the Kids to Help: I like to assemble this casserole myself then call the boys into the kitchen to make the cornbread topping.  Kids can measure, pour and mix the topping ingredients.  My boys also love to “plop” the topping into the casserole dish, although sometimes I have to perform damage control and remove some topping from the center so we have a good steam vent.

Meal Planner: This makes a great brunch dish for lazy weekend mornings.  Or serve it for dinner with a garden salad and fresh strawberries or cantaloupe on the side.