Beef Casserole

Recipe

I really, really, really hope that Grammie’s Beef Casserole doesn’t go the way the previously posted casseroles went, right into the Horrible bin.

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The ingredients were, like all these recipes, simple.

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The instructions, however, were a shit show from the beginning.   Was I supposed to brown the beef (I did) and dilute the soup (I didn’t)? Was it 8 ounces of cooked pasta or 8 ounces of uncooked pasta (I measured 8 ounces before I put the angel hair pasta in the pot)? Why on earth was the ground beef not cooked with the onion/green pepper/celery mix (it seemed really odd to add that mixture to the noodles)? One pound of ground beef seemed like a very small amount in comparison to the big bowl of cooked noodles.  I only got two layers out of the whole business and dotted the cream of chicken soup on top of each layer.  It wasn’t pretty.

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Grammie

I absolutely love this photo of Grammie, Grampie, and my Dad taken in 1950!

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Final Product

After the Beef Casserole had been in the oven for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees, the soup still looked like the photo above so I used my spatula and spread it out.  Because it had warmed up in the oven, it spread better than I would have suspected when I assembled the casserole.

Warning: this is not a pretty dish.

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VERDICT: Not So Bad

Okay, so no one is going to like this but me I can already tell, but I’m going ahead and giving it a Not So Bad verdict.  The angel hair pasta was totally the way to go and there was just enough flavor for me to want seconds.  Granted, there will definitely be some changes made the next time I make this, namely, more beef (and less green pepper and celery by half).  For a recipe named Beef Casserole, the beef to noodle ratio was WAY off so next time I would brown two pounds and cook the beef with the onion mixture, throwing in a couple sprinkles of salt for good measure.  And, it turns out, I could have totally spread the cream of chicken soup with the back of a spoon so I’ll make sure to do that next time.

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!

Thanks for stopping by!

Carrot Casserole

Recipe

Let me start out by saying, I’m not a cooked carrots fan.  Unless, of course, they are covered in something sweet enough to make them borderline dessert. I’ll just put it out there – I think this dish is going to be gross.

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The ingredients for this dish were nice and simple and, with the exception of Oleo, wholesome.  I substituted butter for the Oleo. Whole milk is always used unless a recipe specifies something else and organic cane sugar was used in place of white sugar.  I should try a little harder to use only ingredients that Grammie would have had available to her but part of me thinks, in a number of these recipes at least, that some of the ingredients are so terrible that every attempt should be made to balance them out with some organics. Probably silly, but there you have it.

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So everything was going well until I hit the ‘toss carrots in Oleo [butter]’ instruction. I wasn’t sure if the carrots were supposed to be drained before tossing them or not, so even though I am trying to follow the recipes exactly, I went ahead and drained the carrots.  I expect it would have been okay to skip that step, but I thought too much water was poured over the carrots initially. Anyway, everything else went smoothly. And why yes, that is a Deathstar kitchen timer, thanks for noticing.  It makes pew-pew noises when time is up.

Grammie

Grammie and the family took a vacation to Missouri, at least according to the back of the photo which says, “Inez Entrance to Cave in Mo, July 1946.”  That was the year the bikini went on sale for the first time; UNESCO, UNICEF, and the Atomic Energy Act were created; and more importantly to housewives across the nation, Tupperware was introduced! My dad was born in July the next year after this photo was taken, when Grammie was 37 years old.

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Final Product

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VERDICT: Horrible

Okay, so Carrot Casserole is definitely not sweet, but instead very egg-y.  It tastes like a breakfast casserole that’s lacking some meat.  In fact, I may fry up some sausage and have a nice little breakfast with it tomorrow.  The carrots don’t taste like anything next to the egg flavor, maybe I should have taken into account that eggs were smaller in the 1950s -70s and decreased the amount?  Would that defeat the purpose of following the recipes exactly or would that make following them MORE exact? I don’t know.  Please comment with opinions (I’m lookin’ at you, Carla). Also, there was some water at the bottom of the dish so I’m so glad I went ahead and drained the carrots but probably should have gone a step further and given them a bit of a squeeze before drowning them in egg-y milk.

This mild dish may be a good balance to a strong meat like salty ham or barbecue, you know, something with a lot of flavor. If I were to make this again, I would totally incorporate some sausage or ham into the recipe and maybe some green pepper and onion to make it a true breakfast casserole.  I bet that would be a good way to get some veggies in the 12 year old too!

Today for breakfast, I paired Aidells Smoked Chicken Sausage Spicy Mango with Jalapeno with the Carrot Casserole and it was a great combination.  I could actually pick out a hint of sweetness from the carrots. But don’t get me wrong, just because I enjoyed it today, doesn’t mean I’m ever making this again.

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P.S. That cool blue sugar bowl was made by Darby Ortolano, she can be reached on Facebook at her page Darby Ortolano Ceramics. And the awesome salt pig is from Page Pottery (a super sweet husband and wife team from North Carolina), you can find them on Etsy here.

Thanks for checking out the blog!

Broccoli and Rice Casserole

Casseroles, including Broccoli and Rice Casserole, were a staple for American families in the 1950s.  They have been made for family meals, potlucks, and family gatherings ever since. Grammie, most likely, made quite a few casseroles in her day. Looking over the recipe, it looks pretty straight forward, edible even.  Okay, so you know from the About page that we try to eat as whole and as organic as we can in our house so I’m sure you completely understand when I say that when I read that one of the ingredients was Cheez Whiz, I threw up in my mouth a little bit. And lucky me, the Hubs bought the big jar so we have some left over. What the hell am I going to do with it?

So according to the Food & Wine article, “History of Cheez Whiz,”  the cheese sauce was originally created to more easily make Welsh Rarebit in England, and found its way to America in July of 1953. That dates this recipe from 1953 onward. I would assume that most of these recipes were from the 1950s to early 1960s when my father graduated high school. Since I’m determined to make these recipes while staying as true to the specified ingredients as possible, in the pot goes the Cheez Whiz (with a plop).

Author Clifford A. Wright includes a short history of casseroles in his book “Bake Until Bubbly: The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook,” parts of which, including the history of casseroles, can be found on Google Books here.

Recipe

In researching Broccoli and Rice Casserole, I discovered that both the Kraft and Minute Rice websites have their own recipe which is exactly the same, down to the picture of the finished project.  Their recipe differs slightly from Grammie’s as theirs calls for less liquid and more rice along with the addition of bread.

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Okay, the ingredients are assembled.  I knew I had frozen broccoli but didn’t realize it wasn’t chopped until I was ready to cook so I gave it a quick chop while the onions and celery cooked down.  I decided against adding the ham since we were using this as a side dish (with delicious Asian pork medallions from Cooking Light April 2004 which I can’t find posted on their website anywhere to link to). The recipe didn’t say what size casserole dish to use, I assumed a 13×9 but I have a nice oval one that the Hubs quickly experimented with to see if it equated to a 13×9 (he likes to do that kind of stuff) and it worked out perfectly!  Now into the oven for 25 minutes.

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Grammie

This recipe was from the kitchen of Lillian Peart.  Lillian was Grammie’s sister-in-law who was married to Grampie’s older brother, Harold (he died the same month and year I was born), and her name appears on a number of recipes in Grammie’s Recipe (chocolate) Box.  Lillian and Harold lived on the old Peart farm in Burns Township and farmed the land until 1973. She was born, raised, married, and died in the same town as my Grammie.  They lived their whole lives in the same place.  As sister-in-laws in a small town, one can imagine they saw each other often. I don’t ever remember meeting Lillian, who died in 2004, and I can’t seem to find a photo of her among Grammie’s old photos (at least not one that’s labelled with her name).  I have my feelers out but until I can find one, a cute little photo of my dad getting his hair cut by my Grampie in the kitchen while Grammie looked lovingly on (and kept him still with an iron grip) will have to suffice.  Absolutely adorable!

So this was Grammie’s kitchen.  The window over the sink looked out over the back yard with the grape arbor to the left, the garage on the right, and their neighbors horse pasture along the back.  I still remember feeding apples to the horses as a little girl.  Everything that is dark in this photo was red. From the little tchotchkes on the wall and circular decorations on the cabinets to the Formica counter top, scalloped wood valance, and toe kick under the cabinets was a bright cherry red. Grammie’s kitchen rocked that shiplap way before Joanna Gaines made it cool again.  There is no date on the photo but my dad only looks about two years old so it would have been taken around 1949 (before Cheez Whiz was invented).1949 Gary haircut

Final Product

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VERDICT: Not So Bad

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m never making this again, but it was not so bad.  I’m sure there are recipes out there that are a bit healthier that we would consider for the future. Overall, the textures were a bit off.  It was a little watery, though maybe some extra rice or broccoli would have solved that. My Hubs checked on the casserole at 25 minutes and determined it needed 5 more minutes. After that, he put it under the broiler for a couple minutes to get some nice browning action on top.  We made our plates and sat down to eat when the following conversation happened.

Me: The pork is really good, I like the flavor a lot, and you cooked them perfectly.

Hubs: Thanks, the pork IS good. Your casserole is….. (gives a look that translates to “Meh”).

Me: (under my breath) Self congratulatory ass.

The twelve year old has not had it yet.  Can’t wait to see his reaction when Broccoli and Rice Casserole is all he gets for dinner!

Thanks for coming!

Goody Good Bars

Recipe

A lot of the recipes in my Grammie’s recipe (chocolate) box had the name of the person that shared the recipe.  This one did not.  Maybe they didn’t want to own up to being the person that put ONE SOLID POUND of powdered sugar in a single dessert? I’m not going to lie, I’m a little scared.

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Okay, so I’ve assembled the ingredients.  The only substitution I’ve made is one stick of butter instead of  one stick of Oleo (read: fake stick of death. Okay, okay, margarine does not cause death but I’m clearly on Team Butter).  The Great and Powerful Google told me that a stick of Oleo was the same size as my stick of butter now. I’m not sure what constituted a ‘large’ cream cheese in the 1950s-1970s but I’m using 8 ounces and we’ll see how it goes. The recipe doesn’t specify, so I’m going with unsweetened coconut flakes.

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Steps 1 and 2 completed! The instructions did not say to grease the jelly roll pan so I didn’t bother.  Doesn’t look half bad.  The second step called for 1 pound of powdered sugar which was a LOT more than I thought it would be.  I just kept adding and adding and adding  spoonfuls to the scale.  I barely had enough but just squeaked by.  That 5 minute whisking was no joke either. I’m glad I opted for the mixer instead of hand mixing! As I was mixing, I thought maybe shredded coconut might have been a better choice, but it might not matter that much in the end.

Grammie

While the Goody Good Bars are in the oven for the next thirty minutes, I thought I would post a photo of my Grammie, Inez.  She labeled it herself as she wrote “Me” in the margin below the photo (not shown).  Grammie was born in 1910 so that dates this photo to about 1914-1918.  I remember her telling me a long time ago that she was five years old when this photo was taken which tracks with the drop waist white dress, over the knee socks, and white ribbons in her hair. On the reverse side of the photo (not shown) is printed POST CARD with defined spaces for correspondence, name and address, and the stamp.  Grammie also labeled that side with “Me.” She was so cute!

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Final Product

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Verdict: Horrible!

It would be easier to mainline sugar directly into your veins than to make these, even though the Goody Good Bars were pretty easy to make.  I know it said one pound of powdered sugar but holy cow.  Even the twelve year old passed on them initially. He said he might like them but wasn’t in the mood for them at the time.  A pre-teen boy NOT in the mood for a sweet treat?  Luckily, my neighbors have three kids so I’m going to take them over there.

If I were to ever make these again (never going to happen), I would use shredded coconut instead of flaked coconut (thank goodness I opted for unsweetened!) and cut waaaaaaaay down on the powdered sugar.  The top started browning at 30 minutes so I took them out but I think they could have stayed in a bit longer.  The bars were quite sticky to cut and the knife picked up bits of the bars. Greasing and/or flouring the jelly roll pan is definitely not needed as the bars released very easily.

UPDATE

Verdict: Not So Bad

The next day, I tried one (NOT because I was too lazy to make breakfast) and 24 hours made a huge difference.  I mean, it’s still sweet but it’s not so sickeningly sweet as yesterday.  They also firmed up and are less sticky.  I would suggest letting them sit for 24 hours even before cutting them. They are the 12 year olds new favorite thing in life so I’m not sure the neighbor kids are going to get any.

Thanks for visiting!