Our Favorite Casserole

I love reading about casseroles that other people make.  Chicken and rice casserole, creamy noodle casseroles…yum.  They all sound so good and are so easy.  The same thing applies to crock-pot recipes.  So easy and very little work.  Well… that is not my reality.  While my husband and I will eat most things, the kids (especially one) are shall we say…texture averse.  I take that back – they like texture.  A nice piece of meat, carrots…firm things – not smothered in any type of sauce unless it is red and has the word barbecue.

A casserole is not that.  I know someday that will change, but it takes time.  I thought I would sing the Hallelujah Chorus when my teenage son asked me if he could taste my salad.  It was a miracle. That was a year ago.  Now he will eat what is essentially a bowl of greens, maybe some onion, maybe some chick peas, with Honey Mustard dressing.  No tomato.  He could eat a whole bowl of salsa by himself, but will not have tomato on his salad. Go figure.

So when I made a casserole last year that I have loved since I was a teen, I fully expected to be rebuffed.  “Yuck, I’m not eating that!”  “What am I having for dinner?”  Yeah, yeah, I know.  You make your kid eat a bite of everything, or all your children have to finish what is on their plates even if they hate it.  Good for you.  I’m very proud of you.  We don’t do that. I do my best to try to get the kids to try new things, etc. but I don’t force them.  I would not want to be forced to eat food I hate, and I won’t do it to them either.  I want our dinner table to be a place of conversation, interest and happiness, not yelling, tears and bad feelings.

OK, so back to The Casserole – Introduction time.  One kid was not thrilled and picked at it.  The other gradually came to see that IT WAS WONDERFUL.  Now they both love it and request it.  I found this recipe in an old cookbook that my mother probably got at a garage sale.  It was the only recipe in the book I thought was interesting when I found it as a teenager.  It is called Martha’s Company Casserole.  Who is Martha?  I have no idea.  This book was written way before Martha Stewart.  Whoever she was, she was having company and it was good.  Enjoy!

Martha’s Company Casserole 
8oz Elbow Macaroni
3 T Margarine divided (2T melted, 1T unmelted)
1 pound ground chuck
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 cup cottage cheese

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup snipped scallions
1 T minced green pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cook noodles as directed on package and drain.
  • While noodles are cooking, saute’ the ground chuck with the 1 tablespoon of unmelted butter.  Saute’ until brown.  DO NOT DRAIN the fat.  Don’t be disgusted, just go with it.  If you drain it, it will be dry. (trust me)
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and remove from the heat.
  • Combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, scallions and green pepper.
  • Grease a large casserole dish.
  • Spread half of the noodles on the bottom of the dish.
  • Cover with the cheese mixture.
  • Put the rest of the noodles on top of the cheese mixture, distributing them evenly.
  • Pour the 2T of melted margarine on top.
  • Pour the meat mixture on top.
  • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes.

Now, as you have guessed, this is not a low-fat meal.  I do happen to use low fat sour cream and reduced fat cream cheese.  This is what I have in my fridge so that is what I use and it works fine.  This dish tastes even better the next day.  The picture above does not really do it justice – it is the taste that counts.  I usually serve it with a salad or fruit.  Please try it and let me know what you think.

7 Quick Takes – Vol 6 Easter Edition

Hi there! I hope you are having a happy Easter and all your festivities were blessed and wonderful. I’ve been a bit busy, but I’m happy to do another 7 Quick Takes!

1. So when I say I’ve been busy this week it is because I have had an epiphany and found just the most fantastic website. I have literally been spending days reading it and I feel so guilty…it is called Pioneer Woman. Now you may be familiar with Pioneer Woman, but I came across it by accident when a friend of mine posted a recipe of hers on Facebook and I became hooked. It is like 6 different websites in one and while one is about cooking, another is about photography. She has just the most beautiful pictures. BUT…go to the “Confessions” section and read the story of how she met, fell in love with, and married her husband. It is guaranteed wonderful and romantic. I stayed up until 3am reading it the other night. Truly delicious.

2.  Looking at all her photographs has brought back my lust for photography and I’m just dying to jump up and buy a digital SLR camera and get back into it.  I still have my old film cameras but….I’ve gotten spoiled by the instant gratification that is digital, even if it is only “point and shoot.”  Boy, it is really a toss up…dslr or iPad… I better get to saving my birthday and Christmas money.  Maybe I can get a camera used.  If you know of a good place let me know.

3.  Well, we colored Easter eggs with natural dyes and here are the results.  I used the recipes from Mother Earth News, which my husband has had a subscription to since the mid-70’s.  I did the onion skin recipe for yellow exactly as they said.  The eggs came out a beautiful golden color.  Since I did not really feel like scraping beets (especially since the only beets I had were canned and sliced) I just took the juice from the can of beets and added vinegar.  The results?…not so good.  Next time I’ll follow the directions.  And since I forgot to buy blueberries, there were no blue eggs, but that was OK, my littlest was more than happy to eat any of them.

4. So what did the Easter Bunny bring this year? Reester Bunnies and Peeps (of course) and various assorted pastel candy and money. That Bunny, he’s loaded.

5.  We actually did not have the official Easter Dinner until Tuesday.  My father-in-law is very ill and in the hospital, and so my husband had to fly up on Friday and returned on Monday evening.  We were very concerned, but my father-in-law is doing a little better and we hope for the best.

6.  We had ham again.  My husband cooks it on our charcoal barbecue.  We make a Dijon mustard, white wine and brown sugar glaze.  We serve the extra glaze with the Ham.  Wonderful.  We served it with sweet potatoes, green beans, strawberries and oranges salad, and Resurrection Rolls.  If you haven’t made Resurrection Rolls you are really missing something.  Our dinner was very simple because of the circumstances.  I did not use the good china.  My heart just wasn’t into it this year.  I did however, make Pioneer Woman’s Carrot Cake for dessert and it was very good.

7.  I was one of the readers for the Easter Vigil this year and, as always, it was beautiful.  If you have never been to one, please take the time to go next year.  While it is long (about 2.5 hours) it is so worth it.  It is hands-down the most beautiful and interesting Mass of the year.  I wanted to show you a few pictures.

This is one of our wonderful priests, Fr. Jonathan.  He LOVES baptisms!
This is our pastor, Fr. Alex.  He is a big fan of Holy Water too.  Can you tell he is just drenched?  He just returned from a trip to the Holy Land and mixed water from the Jordan River into the Easter Water to bless us.  Too cool.
I hope you have a wonderful Easter season (you do realize this is still Easter?  And that it lasts until Pentecost on May 23rd?) I pray the Lord blesses your family and friends with peace. 
He is risen!  Alleluia!
Oh, and p.s…. LiveCatholic is now on Facebook so stop by and say hello and become a fan.

Be sure to check out more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

7 Quick Takes – Vol. 5

Well, this has been a busy couple of weeks or so.  I’ve been dealing with tonsillitis that won’t go away – but apparently is “just” a virus – therefore no antibiotics for me, a kid with an almost-broken arm, another kid being a pain, a husband with a car that refuses to stay fixed, and a general feeling of depression/incredulity/anger at all the political nonsense going on.  BUT…I have rallied and have another fine (at least to me) selection of Quick Takes.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do….

1.  This is why I’m excited about the iPad:

The apps will be so cool and could revolutionize the way we do so many things.

2.  And while I don’t want books to go away for kids, here’s another reason to like the iPad:  Are Kids Destined to Grow Up With Tablets?   I could see this as an excellent tool for middle school and up.  It is a lot easier to carry a little iPad then a back-breaking bag of books.

3.  Have you ever wondered how to make a great bowl of soup?  Read what the Soup Peddler has to say.  Be sure to look at the interview he mentions at the beginning and then read the rest.

4. I found an interesting YouTube video yesterday – the Litany of the Saints from Pope John Paul II’s funeral.  I remember being so impressed by it at the time.  I’m not sure why…maybe just the prayerful repetition… but it is beautiful.

5.  Have you ever tried to color Easter eggs the old fashioned way?

When I was a kid my mom used to color the eggs with onion skins and beet juice.  I was not happy because we did not use the cool tablets they sold in the supermarket.  How old fashioned to do it with scraps!  While the eggs don’t come out real even like with the tablets, it is neat to try to color eggs with natural products, at least once.  I do not remember the techniques my mom used, but Mother Earth News has a great article to show you how:  How to Color Eggs With Natural Dyes.

6.  My resolution this Lent is to pay more attention to my kids and not give into frustration at interruptions.  Here is a ready made article about this.  If you are not in the corporate world you need to adapt it a bit, but it is helpful:  Nine Ways to Handle Interruptions Like a Pro.

7.  On a related note, here is a good article about 10 Reasons Why You Aren’t Done Yet.  This is about getting your stuff done and focusing.  It is also very helpful. 

Have a great weekend and skip on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes.

Another Great Lenten Recipe – Simple Shrimp Scampi

Here is another of my favorite recipes that works well for Lent – Simple Shrimp Scampi. I originally found this in Cook’s Illustrated magazine years ago. It makes a very elegant dinner for guests, though I would not serve it on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, since it is not a very penitential meal. I would suggest you follow the recipe exactly.

Simple Shrimp Scampi – Serves 4

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs large shrimp (21-25 count per pound) peeled, deveined and rinsed (I use quality frozen shrimp, defrosted)
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt
Cayenne Pepper (used very sparingly – I pretty much wave it over the shrimp)

Heat oil & garlic in 10″ skillet over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until fragrant and pale gold, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp, increase heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally until shrimp turns pink – about 7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or they will become tough. Remove from heat, add parsley, lemon juice, salt to taste and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve immediately. The recipe recommended to just bring the skillet to the table, serve with rice or rice pilaf, and crusty bread that you can use to sop up the juices right from the pan. I like to serve it with a green salad that has fruit in it, asparagus or broccoli.

2016 Update: I still love this recipe but I usually now serve it with my go-to rice which is Brown Jasmine Rice. I use it for everything now, but use a different proportion than what is on the bag: 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, otherwise it seems crunchy to me, plus 1 T olive oil and some salt. Or, if I’m pressed for time, I serve it with angel hair pasta. The brown jasmine rice is just fantastic but a bit pricey. I just found that Trader Joe’s has their own for a good price but I haven’t tried it yet.

Zucchini Bread Recipe – Great For Lent

I thought I would share with you a recipe for Cheesy Zucchini Bread. My mother received this recipe from a friend over 30 years ago, and it is one of my favorites. It is more like a casserole than a bread. It is great for Lent, but I make it year round. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it is extremely versatile. I have taken it to breakfast or brunch events served with fruit. I have served it as lunch for friends. Mostly, I serve it for dinner, usually with a side dish of rice pilaf, or pasta and sauce. I serve it with pasta so that the zucchini-phobic among us (aka Children) have something to eat.

Cheesy Zucchini Bread
3 Cups Zucchini with skin, sliced very thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C grated cheese (Romano, Parmesan, or Cheddar) I just use the canned Parmesan
4 eggs, beaten (you can also use egg-beaters)
1 Cup Bisquick (I use the Heart-Smart Bisquick)
1/2 cup oil (like Canola)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp salt

Slice zucchini in food processor or use a mandolin. Chop onion and garlic. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl, add zucchini. Pour in greased 9×9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy.

7 Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes is a wonderful idea from Jennifer at Conversion Diary and I’ve always been too busy or too slow-witted to come up with 7 little things to share every Friday. This week however, I’ve come upon a bunch of new stuff and I thought finally I would be able to throw my hat in the ring.

 
1.  I was looking through some old issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine I have saved and came upon a recipe for Oven Fried Bacon.  Now, you have to understand I have a love/hate relationship with bacon.  My husband is a bacon snob.  It has to be cooked a certain way, etc.   I love bacon, but am not picky and also don’t have the patience to baby the bacon while it is cooking, so I frequently either burn or otherwise mess it up.  So when I found this recipe I thought I would give it a try.  Get a jelly roll pan (aka:  cookie sheet with sides) line it with foil for easy cleanup, lay out bacon, cook at 400 degrees in the oven for 5-6 minutes, turn the pan around and cook another 5-6 minutes for regular bacon or about 8 minutes for thick sliced.  That’s it.  Serve.  When it is cool, throw foil with grease away.  Husband approved.  Wife happy and can concentrate on the pancakes.

 
2. I don’t care what the Apple/tech snobs say, I want an iPad.  I don’t have an iPhone because I don’t want to pay for a data plan every month.  I don’t have an iPod Touch, even though I lusted after one, because of all the cool apps.  I was not sure that reading books, etc. on one would be that great of an experience because of the size, and I investigated the Kindle but never was that enthused about non-paper books.  BUT when I heard Apple was going to be releasing a tablet I became really interested.  The snobs say “This is just a glorified Touch why would you want one?” or “It won’t replace a netbook or laptop.” or “It doesn’t have a camera or other features we think it should have.”  Well, by the time I save the money up to get one, it will probably be on it’s 2nd or even 3rd Generation by then and have all the cool features.  I’m looking forward to surfing the internet from the comfort of my recliner.
3. So what will I put on my iPad that I will someday, hopefully own?  First it will be the iBreviary.  I can’t wait!  Then I’ll get the Bible, probably Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.  Hopefully, they will have highlighting and the ability to make notes.  Also, some books, of course.  After that, we’ll see.

4.  This week I also discovered a free language website at the BBC.  Now I can continue on my seemingly never ending quest to pick up Spanish.

5.  I am so saddened over the latest news from Haiti:  that the death toll is 230,000.  Which is the same amount as died in the terrible Tsunami a few years ago that swept over 6 countries.  And they are still counting the dead in Haiti.  Most of the churches are destroyed, most of the priests, seminarians and other clergy are dead.  I have not been able to find a good article with exact info but it is bad. I urge you to donate to Aid to the Church in Need:  Haiti

Update:  Haitian Churches Rising Out of the Ruins – Miami Herald

6. This is just fascinating.  Eric Sammons at The Divine Life has a fantastic (and short) genealogy of the Catholic Church:  Understand the Churches & Rites of the Catholic Church.  Who Knew?  Apparently not I.

7.  OK, just like you, probably, I love chocolate.  I have come to love the dark kind (but not too dark.)  A few years ago I discovered just the best chocolate.  I was using it for a truffle recipe and fell in love with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.  Now, I know it says “bittersweet” but it just does not seem bitter, and of course, it is not too sweet.  It is less than $3 in the supermarket baking aisle.  I have been a big fan of Dove Dark Chocolate, Lindt Dark Chocolate truffles, and Perugina Dark Chocolate for a long time, but this is my general snacking chocolate.  I take about a dozen chips and it really satisfies my chocolate craving. 

I hope you have a great weekend.  Be sure to go on over and visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

Food! – One Of The Best Ways to Live Catholic

Well, yes I am alive. Thanks for asking. I haven’t posted for at least a couple of weeks and the guilt follows me. My kids started school a few weeks ago and it has been a real adjustment for me this year. I have a freshman in Catholic high school and another in elementary school. Mornings are now much more stressful. Our wonderful high school is at least 20 minutes away and we need to leave at 7am in order to beat traffic and have me back home in time to get the little one ready. I’m having trouble getting a carpool together to help, but our routine is down now. I’m in the car during the day almost 2-3 hours though, and it really cuts into my available time during the day. My husband helps when he can, but all bets are off if I get some freelance work. I’m trying to figure out when my prayer and meditation time will fit. I’ve come to the conclusion I just have to get up at 5:30am to pray because I just can’t seem to get it in once I get home from driving around.

One of the things I have been doing in my off time is cooking. I love to cook and I consider food to be a blessing from God for sure. There is no way you can talk about living Catholic without discussing food. As long as we are not talking about gluttony (which I’m sure is a topic for another day,) enjoying food and wine is part of the celebration of the life the Lord has given us. He has blessed us with so many, many wonderful foods there is no way He would not want us to enjoy them. He did give us taste buds after all.

Now, so many times the discussion of food on Catholic websites always leads to some sort of bean soup for Lent. Not here. While many of my recipes are meatless, it is not on purpose. They just happen to be. I love meat and figure that we were designed to eat both plants and meat. Look at our teeth. We were given teeth for both grinding (molars) and ripping (canines) and I definitely use both.

This week I made a recipe my mother received from a friend years ago, and while only my husband and I will eat it because it has zucchini, I do make it occasionally, serving pasta with sauce on the side for those who are vegetable averse. I have updated it a little to make it more healthy. It is good as a main dish or a side.

Zucchini Bread
3 Cups Zucchini with skin, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan, romano or cheddar cheese (I use parmesan)
4 eggs beaten (I use Egg Beaters)
1 cup Bisquick (I use the Bisquick Heart Smart kind – white box)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt (I omit it)

Slice zucchini very thin (I have a very cheap little mandolin but a food processor is good too). Chop onion and garlic. Mix remaining ingredients together, add onion, garlic and zucchini. Pour into greased 9 x 9 square pan and cook 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown.

I does not come out like bread, but like a casserole. The original recipe called for it to be cooked in a loaf pan, but I find it cooks better in a square pan. I have been also taking this to ladies breakfast or brunch meetings, like bible studies, etc. and it is very popular. Enjoy.