Category: casserole (Page 2 of 2)

The Casserole My Mom Liked

This is the casserole my mom liked.

I found the recipe in a torn and tattered cookbook. It’s falling apart and the pages crumble between my fingers. I handle them as delicately as possible, turning them with two fingers. The typed words appear to be mimeographed, not photocopied. And each page contains a single recipe.
This book is a culinary tribute from the students in my mother’s second grade class to their own mothers. 
Earlier this year, I took home a stack of old cookbooks from my parents’ old house. I was surprised to find my one with mom’s hand print traced on the front cover and her name, neatly written in cursive, in the entree section beneath a recipe for Green Bean Casserole. It’s funny how handwriting doesn’t change much over time. 

Five days ago, the fourth anniversary of my mom’s death quietly passed. In fact, it passed so quietly that I mostly forgot. 
My mom must have liked this recipe. So much so, that she chose this recipe over any others for this class cookbook. My grandma was a wonderful cook. She gave me my first sip of coffee (of which I spit onto her white table cloth), whipped cream by hand, and showed me how to make homemade mashed potatoes. So, when I studied this recipe of nothing more than canned green beans, mushroom soup, American cheese, and French fried onions, I had to smile. 
When my mom was grew up, canned vegetables must have been all the rage. When I grew up, they were frozen. And now that I’m an adult, I seek out those that are fresh and local. 
But this must have been one of my mom’s favorite dishes, so I had to try it. In honor of my mom, I made the casserole, almost exactly as it was written, adding a few additional seasonings. I tried to restrain myself so I would not ruin the integrity of the experience. 
I made a face as I sniffed the uncooked casserole in all of its canned glory. Fortunately, it tasted better when baked. In fact, it was pretty darn good, though I am one who enjoys that traditional green bean casserole, preferably made with canned beans. 
Cheesy, creamy, salty and crispy. No wonder she liked it.
Green Bean Casserole
Recipe from Dorothy Bossen. Cookbook published by Bittinger-Wolford, 1959. Recipes compiled from second grade students, rooms six and seven, Richardson School, Cuyahoga Falls, OH.

2 cans green beans (cut or French style). I recommend using lower sodium varieties
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of American cheese
Black pepper
1 pinch of white pepper
2 pinches smoked paprika
Dash of garlic salt
French fried onions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine the green beans, mushroom soup, cheese, and seasonings. 
  3. Place in small casserole dish.
  4. Top with French fried onions.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Check part-way through baking to make sure fried onions aren’t burning. Cover casserole with foil if onions are becoming too brown.

Lisa Lillien Would Hate My Trashy Casserole

I have a Saturday morning ritual.

I sleep in as little or as long as I wish, make a cup of tea, sit cross-legged on the floor, and giggle as I watch Hungry Girl.

There’s something about her show that I find endlessly entertaining.  I’m stunned by her perpetual combinations of cooking spray, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, shirataki noodles, garlic powder, egg substitute, the microwave, sugar-free cake mix, and sugar-free drink mixes.  All of these ingredients routinely make their rounds in any particular order and any particular combination.

I had a brief love affair with Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges.  Somewhere between my sixth package during month three, they were no longer appealing.

What happened to everything in moderation?  I am afraid of this diet for fear of budding like a hydra or growing a forehead eyeball.

On a Friday evening, I found myself hungry and alone with a can of 98% fat free cream of chicken soup I had mistakenly bought.

I felt like a 1960’s church cookbook-inspired casserole and gave it a go, in the name of reducing food wastage.  What’s worse, anyway?  Wasting food, donating a food product low on the nutrition spectrum, or making oneself a trashy casserole?

I chose the latter.  In my typical fashion, I did not measure ingredients.  I just heaped in whatever fresh vegetables I had on hand, scraps of meat from my freezer, and leftover pasta until the mixture wasn’t too saucy.

My trashy, gloppy casserole was surprisingly tasty.  My old church cookbooks are filled with recipes for casseroles containing condensed cream of (fill in the blank) soups.  While my version didn’t escape this unifying factor, it incorporated fresh vegetables and avoided Velveeta.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Velveeta. . .

1 can of cream of chicken soup (mine happened to be 97% fat free)
Shredded cabbage
Diced onion
Diced carrot
Fresh spinach, chopped
Garlic, grated or minced
Elbow macaroni
Black pepper
Cayenne (or other hot pepper)
Shredded cheese
Worcestershire sauce
A splash of milk
Juice from half a lemon
Meat of choice, cut into small pieces (I used one chicken breast and one chicken sausage)
Crushed potato chips (I used a salt & pepper variety)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pop open that can of condensed cream of chicken soup.  Shimmy it from its can and dilute with a splash or two of milk and season with Worcestershire sauce, your choice of hot pepper, black pepper, and fresh lemon juice.

Lightly saute the vegetables until they are tender.  Turn off heat.  Fold in spinach until just wilted and stir in the garlic until fragrant.

Cook your meat of choice.

Cook any type of pasta in any quantity.

The amount of vegetables, meat, and pasta you decide to cook depends on the ratio of pasta/vegetables/meat you are aiming for.

Combine the sauce, vegetables, and meat.  Pour into a pan and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Finish with a flourish of crushed potato chips.

Bake until bubbly and golden brown.

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