Monday, October 17, 2011

a little casserole from home.

Last friday, my dear friend Rachel (aka Naomi - you'll always be Rachel in my mind though haha) celebrated her 19th birthday, and a whole bunch of us went over to her place over the weekend for a potluck and some birthday fun. Happy birthday girlie! I hope you enjoyed everything!

We started the evening by playing various songs from our childhood including: Jesse McCartney, Spice Girls, Avril Lavigne, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Disney music and more.. It was a nice flash from the past! After dinner we played some Taboo, and I realized that I am awful at that game! I guess I'm not a very outside of the box thinker, so once I see the words on the card that I'm not allowed to say, all I want to say are the words on the card.

For the potluck, Henrietta and I brought a casserole. I have always made casserole at home with my mom and brother. It's the go-to recipe when my dad goes away on business trips. Yeah, my family is a little backwards and my dad does the cooking at home, and when he goes away, my mom doesn't know what to make!! Except for casserole, of course. So naturally after taking a bite out of the casserole we made, I was instantly transported back home to my kitchen with my mom and brother. This casserole will always bring back warm memories for me.

The wonderful thing about casseroles is that there is no one recipe. You can put essentially anything you want in a casserole. The definition for casserole is also very vague. I like to think that a casserole is a baked pasta dish. One of my friends asked me what I made and I said casserole and pointed to it on the table, and she asked me if that wasn't lasagna? I said no, I didn't use lasagna noodles. I think lasagna is a very specific type of casserole, since it is a baked pasta, using lasagna noodles. Would you agree?

Well since my mom never actually gave me a recipe, I just went off what I remembered and made it up along the way. It ended up tasting pretty good though! I will keep this recipe in the back of my head for a long, long time. If my family were to have a "family recipe" to pass on, this would be it. It's the one dish that reminds me of many good warm memories in the kitchen. Of course, we always had to save some for my dad when he got back from a long and tiring business trip.

Casserole pre-cheese melting, mmmm cheese.

Home-Style Vegetable and Beef Macaroni Casserole

4 cups macaroni
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 head of broccoli, diced
1-2 packages ground beef
2 eggs, mixed (optional)
Salt, pepper, spices
2 cans tomato paste
Lots of shredded cheese (did not measure, haha- use as much as you'd like)

Cook macaroni, al dente.

In a pan, sauté the onions and garlic. Add the broccoli, peppers and eggs and brown the ground beef until cooked then stir in the tomato paste.

Set aside some cheese to sprinkle on top later. Combine the rest of the cheese, salt, pepper and spices with the rest of the meat mixture, and mix until the cheese has melted.

In casserole dish, layer the macaroni and meat mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Before serving, bake in oven for 20 minutes at 350F, or until cheese has melted.