Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Comfortable...

Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably heard that regions in the Midwest are experiencing something called a "Polar Vortex." (I linked you to a Wikipedia article to explain what that is, but I'll give you the Cliff's Notes - it's freaking cold.  Chicago was colder than the South Pole during parts of the day.  They brought the Lincoln Park polar bear INSIDE because it was too cold.  TOO COLD FOR A POLAR BEAR.)  Needless to say, we've all been snowed in (literally, our garage is frozen shut) and have been doing what we can to stay warm and not bored out of our minds.  (I love me a snow day, but being cooped up in the house gets a little maddening after awhile.)

So, what else could possibly be better on a too-cold-for-a-damn-polar-bear kind of a day than a nice, cheesy, comforting, casserole?

Before I go on to share this old family recipe, I must provide the following disclaimer: I know that cream-of-whatever soup is not good for you.  You'll notice there are a lot of foods I post on this blog which ignore some of my own basic food rules (i.e., feeding my  family with mostly whole foods packed with great nutrients).  SOMETIMES YOU BREAK THE RULES.  There are a ton of substitution recipes out there for cream of celery (et al) out there, so if that's your thing - check it out.  Otherwise, continue on.  All the while knowing that this recipe is built for comfort, not health.  And that it should be served in moderation. On days that are too cold FOR AN ACTUAL POLAR BEAR.  Now, proceed...


This used to be one of the simple recipes my dad would put together for us as kids when my mom would work late.  She would cook it sometimes too, but I think my dad was pretty much the king of casseroles in our house when I was growing up.  When my husband and I got married, he requested that I gather some of the simple weeknight meals that my family was accustomed to eating so that we would have some easy things to cook for the two of us.  This recipe?  At the top of his list.  You're gonna love it.  Let's get started.

{NMOTB Hamburger Casserole}

Ingredients
- 1 lb. of ground beef (We usually use the leanest beef we can find.  Go with what makes you happy.)
- 1 box of rotini noodles (We always use whole wheat rotini.  Growing up we used a lot of different shapes of noodles and obviously didn't use whole wheat.  You can experiment here if you want.)
- 2 cans of cream of celery soup (Just get over it.  It's fine.)
- Milk (You're just going to fill up one of the soup cans with milk.  LOOK, RECYCLING.  YOU'RE WELCOME.)
- Cheddar cheese (I use most of a 2-cup bag.  Eyeball this.  You just want enough to cover the top of your casserole)

Directions
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  I forgot both steps while photographing this tutorial.  That was a bummer choice.  Do me a favor and don't forget.


- Begin by browning your pound of beef in a large skillet.  Truth be told I've never tried this with ground turkey or chicken (obviously, it's HAMBURGER casserole), but if you wanted to be experimental, I'd love to hear your results...


- Drain your beef once it is browned.  Add to your skillet both cans of cream of celery and then fill one empty can with milk and add that in there too.


- Stir the mixture around until everything is combined and allow to cook over medium low heat until it bubbles and thickens. (At this step my mom would also sprinkle in a little thyme. We've tried it both ways and like it better without. But, by all means - experiment! It's a casserole. You can almost never screw it up!)

Don't worry, it'll look more appetizing in the casserole.
- In the meantime, I hope you were boiling your pasta and didn't forget like me.


- Once your soup mixture has thickened a bit, your casserole is ready to assemble.  Begin by draining your pasta and putting it in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.  (You can probably put it in something slightly smaller, but you may want to adjust cook times.)  Pour your soup mixture evenly over the noodles.  You don't have to worry about mixing it up, it'll get in there, but make sure it's relatively even so the whole casserole is layered correctly.


- After you've layered the noodles and soup mixture, sprinkle the entire top with cheddar cheese.  Like I said, I usually use most (if not all) of a 2-cup bag of cheddar cheese to do this.  Hey, no one said this recipe was health food.


- Then, just like any good casserole, you stick it in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted/bubbly.

You know it looks delicious.
- We usually serve ours with some sort of salad or green vegetable.  Because it makes me feel better about eating something so rich.  IT BALANCES OUT, RIGHT?  Recipe serves at least 8.  Or, two people who like seconds and a busy 3 year old who eats two pieces of pasta - with leftovers.  ENJOY!


2 comments:

  1. Looks good! We make something similar but mix jalapeno cheese with the hamburger, gives it a yummy spicy kick. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had no idea cream of celery soup was even a thing. #worthwhilecomments

    ReplyDelete

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