Ham Medley

Recipe

This recipe could really go either way. It could be edible or really terrible. Cottage Cheese? It’s potentially better than the cream soups that are staples in 20th century casseroles so it’s got me interested to know how this recipe stacks up to Grammie’s other casseroles. The notepaper the recipe is written on has a watermark that can be seen on the other side.  It says “Nekoosa Bond.” I was hoping the type of paper would have helped narrow down the date of the recipe a bit but no luck. According to the Lehman Brothers Collection – Contemporary Business Archives at Harvard University Library, the Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation

“…was a Wisconsin paper company, founded as the Nekoosa Paper Company in 1883. A merger in 1908 created the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. Nekoosa-Edwards expanded into fine paper production in the 1930s, with continued growth through the 1950s.”

It goes on to talk about the evolution of the company into the 1970s. Nakoosa Bond paper and envelopes are still in production and can be bought at some retailers.  Check the Almighty Google for a list.

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The ingredients list looked really good for this recipe.  The prep time was a little more involved than just dumping the ingredients in a casserole dish (which is why there are no photos of prep, I was watching the pasta and cooking the celery and onion and had no hands for the camera) and I had to muddle my way through some of the directions, like the pasta instruction.  Grammie wrote, “add 4 cups noodles cooked and drained.” Okay, so did that mean measure 4 cups dry pasta then cook it or did it mean 4 cups of already cooked pasta? I deliberated with the Hubs. And then I winged it.  I cooked 3 cups of dry pasta which turned into way more than 4 cups.  The 4 cups of cooked pasta was plenty. I used Creamette since Grammie referred to the brand in other recipes and I (obviously) know that it was around in her day.

Also, our local Jewel did not have Krafts Cracker Barrel cheese so the Hubs asked around and was told that Kraft medium cheddar was a good substitution. Because this recipe was very specific about the kind of cheese used, I checked out the Kraft website to see if they had a similar recipe and they did!  It’s a paired down version, only uses five ingredients, and all the reviews all said it was too dry but if you want to check it out, click here.

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Grammie

Grammie titled this wonderful photo, “Me in my flower garden.” Grammie and Grampie always had a large garden in their back yard. I wonder if she did much canning? I’ll have to ask her sisters. I don’t remember the garden as much as the grape arbor. I can still taste them.  Every year on Labor Day weekend, my family travels to Grammie’s town for the annual town festival.  We always drive by the old house, which has definitely changed since Grammie and Grampie passed away.  Last year, as we drove by, we saw the owner outside having a cook out and decided to stop and introduce ourselves. The new owners (I call them new but they’ve owned the house since 2004 when they bought it from my father) were so nice.  They showed me where Grampie carved his name into several places in the garage and I talked about the grape arbor.  The man got excited and said it was still there and producing grapes after all these years.  He said that they had just harvested the last bunch the day before and offered them to me.  They tasted exactly how I remembered!  The owners were so sweet and I’m so glad we decided to stop by. I’m going to stop by again this year and see if I maybe I can take a cutting with me.

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Final Product

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VERDICT: Not So Bad

Ham Medley is a good solid recipe.  Well done Grammie! The amount of prep work was totally redeemed by the end product.  The consistency was balanced (not too creamy, not too dry), as was the flavor (not too salty or too plain), and the topping gave a nice little crunch.  Speaking of the topping, the next time I make this (and yes, there will be a next time), I’ll either double the recipe for it or perhaps use Italian seasoned bread crumbs or both.  One thing I did do differently (because I’m an idiot and didn’t see the whole “Bake 350 1 hour” at the top of the recipe) was put the dish under the broiler before I baked it for an hour. Since I made this the same week I made that horrible Chicken Casserole and my Boys prefer chicken over ham, half of this is going straight into the freezer for me to enjoy another time. Yay!

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Chicken Casserole

Recipe

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All righty, Grammie’s Chicken Casserole recipe looked pretty simple, I mean, five ingredients that I can make ahead before shoving it in the oven for an hour? I had high hopes for this one. I can see why casseroles were so stinkin’ popular.  Was this before the advent of the slow cooker?  Well, I did a little poking around, and according to Allison Speigel who wrote the nail-biting (just kidding, it’s very straightforward) article, “A Brief History of the Crock Pot, The Original Slow Cooker,” the Crock Pot, while invented in the 1930s, did not get wildly popular until it was bought by Rival Manufacturing in the early 1970s.  But before then, it’s totally understandable that dumping ingredients into a casserole dish and throwing it into the oven was the way to go for a busy housewife.

Grammie’s recipe was very specific about the brand and shape of the pasta which made me think that this might be a recipe from the company itself. I checked out the Creamette website and didn’t find one that matched Grammie’s recipe, though I’m sure the fine folks at Creamette have changed their recipes over the years.

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This recipe also didn’t say what kind of cooked chicken to use so I just chopped a couple of chicken breasts and fried them in a little bit of oil.  Maybe rotisserie chicken could have been used instead as a time saver. The Velveeta (SO reminds me of childhood!) was also a bit of a challenge.  I couldn’t for the life of me cube it.  Maybe because it was room temperature? Anyway, I ended up just pinching off bits and placing them evenly over the noodles.  I layered the ingredients in the order of Grammie’s recipe.  The clean up crew had to be called in after I got a little crazy with the mushroom soup/milk mix. She didn’t complain about the overtime though, so it all worked out.

Grammie

This is Grammie and Grampie, probably in the late 1950s.  I have a sneaking suspicion that my dad is the boy wearing the face mask on the left.  And look at that farmer’s tan on Grampie! Grammie looks so cute in her gingham bathing suit and that is the happiest smile I’ve seen in a photo of Grammie to date.  The family went on a quite a few vacations like camping (in a cabin), Yellowstone, and Mt. Rushmore, among other places. Grammie and Grampie often vacationed with her sisters and their families. Some of the vacation photos are labelled with locations and it would so much fun to recreate some of them one day!

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Final Product

If this tastes like it looks, it’s going to be Horrible.

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Looks kind of pretty plated up but…

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VERDICT: Horrible

Too salty, not enough flavor, looks like cat vomit.

Of course, the Hubs loved it.

It’s definitely a creamy dish, not super flavorful but it perked up a little bit after sprinkling some smoked paprika on top.  Some of the noodles were more al dente than others but overall not a bad make ahead dish for a busy mom, I mean, I’m never making this again, but I’m sure it would work for other people. I’m glad I cooked my own chicken as the Velveeta and mushroom soup gave this plenty of sodium and the plainness of the chicken balanced that out a bit, or at least tried to. If this is ever made again (never going to happen), maybe use low sodium mushroom soup instead? The Chicken Casserole needs an additional oomph in the flavor department, the smoked paprika helped but maybe it needs to be incorporated into the preparation, or another ingredient should be thrown in there.  Maybe a dash of chipotle hot sauce? I don’t know, it needs something though. The 12 year old thinks it’s edible but not great.

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