cooking with the domestically impaired: casseroles

Hi MySpaz Friends!

How was everyone’s weekend? I did some fun stuff. In fact, for the frist time in a while I probably have three blogs or so to relate from the weekend. But frist, since right now I am eating dinner and feeling quite smug about the improvement in my cooking skills, I would like to share with you two recipes that I have been working on perfecting lately.

They are casseroles. Why casseroles? Because they are easy and they are like an entire meal in one dish. And they make great leftovers.

The first one came from the esteemed No N (she can make dinner out of a bag of rice, peanut butter and a paperclip – she’s like the McGyver of the kitchen). I made some of my own changes because I like onions but here’s the recipe, I think it’s pretty close to the one she made up:

Hash Brown (or Tater Tot) Casserole

You Will Need:
1 to 2 lbs hamburger (depending on how hearty you want the casserole to be)
Onions (the sweet Walla Walla ones are the best if you can get them)
1/2 to 1 spoonful chopped Polaner garlic
A TON of shredded cheese. I will usually use about 12 oz all together.
Shredded hashbrowns. I like the Ore-Ida country style shredded potatoes.
Fried onions. I use the French’s Original French Fried Onions. They’re in the same aisle as the canned green beans usually.
Crumbled bacon. I like the Hormel’s Picnic Bacon in the same aisle as the salad dressing.
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup. I like the Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic (YUM!)
1 can of milk. I have no recommendations here other than it should not be expired.

Directions:
First, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. I tried this one time without doing that and I had frozen hash browns topped with warm meat. Yuck. While that’s going on, start sautee-ing the onions. I will usually just squirt some olive oil on the pan and get them started on medium heat. Once they’re starting to turn transparent, I dump in the hamburger and put in the spoonful (or so) of garlic, then stir it up. While that’s cooking, I pull out a rectangular pan thing, I think it’s a casserole dish (oven friendly, of course) and it’s 13×9 I think. Anyway, spread a layer of the shredded taters on the bottom. They’ll be frozen, so I thaw them in the oven first. I think No N puts the whole mess together and cooks for 45 mins, but this way you can be finished in about 30. I also tried it by cooking the hash brows first in a pan which made a mess and didn’t make much difference in the taste.

So at any rate, the layer of hashbrowns should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Depends on how much hamburger you’re making (you need a balance) and how much you like potatoes. So just cook the hamburger and when that’s done, drain it. While it’s draining (tip: You can drain it into a bowl and pour the grease over your dog’s food if he’s having dry skin like some Dogs I can name), open up your can of cream of mushroom soup and pour it into a medium sized mixing bowl. Here you may want a small little spatula to get all the soup out. Add a can of milk and about 1/2 a cup of bacon bits. Stir it up, then pour in the hamburger and onion mix.

Next, depending on how long your hashbrowns have been warming (you can tell when the edges start to turn a little darker) pull the hashbrowns from the oven and add a layer of shredded cheese on top. How much you use depends on how much you like cheese, I suppose. On top of that, add the soup and hamburger mix and spread it out evenly across the top. Add another layer of cheese (I make this one a little thicker), sprinkle on some bacon bits, and add a fairly thick layer of fried onions. Then I stick the whole thing back into the oven and let it cook till the cheese starts to brown on the top. Usually about 20-25 mins. Once it’s done you can scoop out squares of it to eat. I recommend sticking them in bowls since it can spread out a little.

Variations:
I haven’t tried this yet, but I am thinking of adding a can of green beans to the hamburger/onion mix. I think it would then sort of be like a hamburger-potato-green-bean-casserole. Yum!
I think No N uses tater tots instead of shredded hash browns but you’d need to ask her. She also uses Velveeta instead of real cheese which makes it a little more gooey.

The other one is a variation on something my mom used to make when I was a kid. I made it this way for the first time tonight.

Mashed Potatoes, Hamburger and Gravy Casserole (or: Comfort Food Casserole)

You Will Need:
1-2 lbs hamburger (I made it tonight with one pound but it could have used more)
1/2 spoonful chopped Polaner garlic
8 oz shredded cheese
Ingredients for Potato Buds (water, milk, water and Buds)
2 packets Brown Gravy mix (I use French’s Low Sodium kind)
Onions (Walla Walla Sweet)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 (no frozen stuff in this one). Start with the onions first like before, and add the hamburger once they start to turn transparent. While that’s cooking, start boiling the water for the Potato Buds. Tonight I used the ingredient ratio for 8 servings which would have been perfect with just a little more hamburger. Anyway, start the water boiling and then start your gravy. The best way to cook the gravy is pour the gravy mix into a little sauce pan (that’s the one with the high sides right? Not like the one you cook the hamburger in), turn the heat up to medium high, and pour in a little water. Mix the water with the mix till you have a paste-like mix, then slowly add the rest of the water (for the French’s mix, it’s 1 cup of water to 1 packet of mix) and whisk as you go. You’ll want to keep an eye on the gravy while you’re making everything else. Keep stirring it pretty frequently or it goops up and has a wierd consistency. What you want is for it to be smooth. Once it starts bubbling, turn the heat down to medium low or low.

Meanwhile, when the water for the Buds starts boiling, add your butter and garlic. I like butter rather than margarine. Once the butter is melted, add your milk. Once that starts steaming, add your Buds. KEEP STIRRING! Otherwise you have taters with dry crumbly parts. Ew.

Once the taters are done, dump them in your casserole pan and spread them out. They don’t need to be smooth. Next, pour on your hamburger/onion mix. You should probably drain that first too. Spread it out over the top of the taters as evenly as you can. Then, dump your gravy on top of that and add a layer of cheese. For me: the thicker, the better. Stick the whole thing in the oven till all the cheese is melted and it starts bubbling (about 15 mins). Then you’re all set!

Variations: 
I was thinking that adding a layer of corn on top of the taters would be yummy. Sorta like those potato bowls from KFC. Other than that, I mean, seriously – how can you improve on perfection?

**Update:

Just in case you wanted a visual on the Comfort Food Casserole:

P1030268

It is SOOOOOOOOO good!! Anyway if you try those let me know how you liked ’em! Maybe this can be a regular feature! I think I’d run out of recipes after about a month. Sad.

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