Tag Archives: ground beef

Company Casserole


I deeply sympathize with all recipe writers, past and present, who have had to find a way to fit complex sets of ingredients and instructions onto a 3” x 5” index card. The compression methods I have seen range from the merely illegible to the truly Byzantine, and are often meant to be deciphered only by the author, or to serve as a set of memory cues. I had never encountered today’s recipe before, and I read through the instructions four times before I was certain that I understood what my mother had intended. There is no Rosetta Stone for these things.

The casserole, despite its translation issues, is excellent. I particularly enjoy the way that the flavor of the green onions permeates all of the layers. While the recipe is another variation on “what to do with ground beef”, it is a tasty and satisfying one which I plan to repeat.


  • 8 ounces medium pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the ground beef over medium heat until browned.


Add the tomato sauce, salt, and garlic powder, and simmer for 5 minutes.


In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cottage cheese, sour cream, green onions, and pepper.


In a 2-quart casserole dish, alternate layers of the noodle mixture,


and meat sauce.


Top with the grated Cheddar.

Bake for 30 minutes.


Serves 4.

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Chuck Wagon Casserole


Success at last! Today’s recipe is a rework of the Chuck Wagon Skillet that I posted about a month ago. Regular readers may remember that recipe as one of my rare failures. I wrote a few notes on modifications I planned to make in order to improve the end result, and I am pleased to say that they work as expected.

I changed the procedure significantly from the original recipe, and I also modified a few of the ingredients and quantities. The pasta is cooked in advance, the beef and onions are cooked together, and everything is layered together in a 13” x 9” Pyrex casserole dish. I substituted diced tomatoes for stewed tomatoes, as they are easier to spread in an even layer. Half of the cheese goes in the middle, and the other half goes on top to help “glue” everything together. The only change I might make in the future would be to add a thin layer of sour cream somewhere in the dish: I put a dollop on top of some leftover casserole that I heated up, and it was really good!


  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion until tender.


Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned.


In a 13” x 9” Pyrex baking dish, layer the pasta,


meat mixture,


tomatoes, half of the cheese,




black olives,


and remaining half of the cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.


Serves 6.

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Mom’s Homemade Lasagna


Lasagna doesn’t have to be labor-intensive, contain ten thousand ingredients, or cost an extravagant amount to make: sometimes simple food is the best food. This is the recipe I grew up eating (and making), and it starts with a batch of Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce. The sauce may be made on the same day, or cooked earlier in the week and frozen. It will work well no matter what. There’s a combined pound and a half of cheese in this lasagna, so ditch the diet for a day, pour a glass of wine, and dive in. :)


  • 1 batch Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce (see link for directions)
  • 8 ounces lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


In a small bowl, cream together the cottage cheese and cream cheese until well blended.


In a 13” x 9” Pyrex baking dish, layer the noodles,


spaghetti sauce,


cheese mixture,


and shredded mozzarella.


Repeat the layers once more.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until heated through.


Serves 6-8.

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Chuck Wagon Skillet


“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
— Robert Burns, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”, 1785

All ingredients assembled per recipe directions? Check.

Heat reduced to low? Check.

Checking the food every ten minutes or so to make sure that all is well? Check.

Smell of burning? ……Dang. Check. :(

I had my trepidations about this recipe, and I ignored my gut feeling. The result was somewhat of a disaster. I’m noticing a pattern here: this recipe is from the same source as the failed Easy Pork Chop Rice Bake, and has a very similar problem. There simply was not enough liquid to prevent the dish from burning. Not a good sign for future reliability.

The flavor of the unburned portion was pretty good, but the pasta was still hard and crunchy. I think that I could rework this recipe without too much trouble, by doing the following:

– Cook the pasta in advance. Hoping that it will miraculously self-cook, as the author of this recipe seems to have done, is unrealistic.

– Brown the ground beef and onion together, and layer over the pasta in a 13” x 9” Pyrex dish.

– Layer the remaining ingredients per the original recipe directions, omit the extra water, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour.

I really don’t think that this would be a difficult fix, and I’m a little disappointed that the original recipe led to a burned mess of what could have been a really delicious casserole. The next time that I attempt a “Peggy’s Kitchen” recipe from the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, I’m going to follow my instincts. I have been fooled twice now, and it’s time to wise up. In the meantime, here are the pictures and directions for what I did cook. While today’s post is filed under the ‘fail’ tag, I took on this recipe blog with the intent to be transparent and honest whenever things didn’t go according to plan. If I can learn from my own mistakes, others can learn from them as well.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 cups medium noodles, uncooked
  • 1 (16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water



In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until tender.


Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper, and cook until browned.


Layer into the skillet the cheese,






and noodles.


Pour the tomatoes and water over the top.


Cover, and heat to steaming.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.


Serves 6.

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Green Chili


What defines a “family” recipe? Must it be hand-written? Do clippings and articles count? Are modifications from cookbooks legitimate? What if the original author is someone nobody in the family has ever met? What if a family member has collected the recipe, but no family member has ever actually served it?

I use a simple rule: if it’s in the box of family recipes, it’s a family recipe.

Today’s chili recipe was originally contributed to the “Melba’s Swap Shop” column of the Daily Oklahoman by Naveda Ely, of Medford, OK. We are not related, but I am deeply appreciative of the author’s choice to send this recipe in to the newspaper; it makes a wonderful addition to the family collection. :) It is simple to make, and requires no exotic ingredients. The flavor balance is excellent: green chiles add a smoky flavor, which compliments the jalapeños’ heat.  As with all chilis and stews, the longer one cooks this recipe, the more delicious it will become. I simmered my batch for 2 or 3 hours, adding liquid as necessary.

I recommend following Naveda’s original serving suggestion; serve the chili over pinto beans with grated cheese and chopped onions. It will warm you right down to your toes.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (remove the seeds if a milder flavor is desired)



In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat.

Add the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir well.


Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture, and blend well.


Add the dissolved bouillon, and stir.


Add the green chiles, jalapeños, and 1 1/2 cups of water.

Reduce the heat, and simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over pinto beans with grated cheese and chopped onion.


Serves 4.

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Peg’s Shepherd’s Pie


This recipe was clipped from a newspaper, and that is as far as I can document the source. The clipping is clearly quite old and weathered. I can definitely see why it was put into the collection, though: this is a very good shepherd’s pie recipe! The Cheddar cheese on top adds an additional flavor component, and makes the meal a little more special.

The original directions call for instant mashed potatoes. I have a somewhat rational prejudice against this ingredient, and have thus made a minor alteration to the recipe; instant potatoes are, to me, desperation food. Unless I am holed up in an underground bunker, I refuse to do anything with instant mashed potatoes. I am a grown adult who is perfectly capable of peeling potatoes, boiling them, and mashing them. It just isn’t that hard. That said, I left the rest of the recipe unchanged: it is delicious as is, and does not require any modification.


  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, prepared according to package directions
  • 4 to 6 servings mashed potatoes, made from scratch or instant
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat with the thyme, marjoram, oregano, salt, and pepper.


Stir in the mixed vegetables.


Place this mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish.


Cover the mixture with the mashed potatoes.


Sprinkle the casserole with the Cheddar cheese and paprika.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until warmed through and cheese melts.


Serves 4-6.

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Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce


I am so thankful that my mother made notes on this recipe; I had no idea that she had done so until I found the recipe card. When she taught me to make spaghetti sauce (at the tender age of 7), the instruction was completely hands-on. There was no written recipe of any kind. I was taught what the sauce should look like, what it should taste like, and what the consistency should be. These are difficult things to quantify. I have not made this recipe in at least five or six years, and while I recall the procedure pretty well, notes – especially those pertaining to seasoning – are very helpful in the reconstruction.

My mother used to make a double batch of this spaghetti sauce for canning, freezing, and so on. She would cook it in a huge turkey roaster pan over two burners of the stove, and the entire house would take on the aroma. The recipe here is for a single batch, which will fit in a large skillet. However, if you would like to double (or even triple!) the amount, go right ahead. It preserves beautifully, and also makes a very good meat lasagna.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 8 ounces water (use the tomato sauce can to measure, for convenience)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar



In a large skillet, sauté the celery and onion in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes clear.


Add the meat to the skillet, and brown.


Add the garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt, and stir well.


Add the stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.


Add the water, and stir well.


Reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to simmer for 2-3 hours, adding liquid as needed.


Add the oregano and sugar, and stir well.

Allow the sauce to simmer for at least another 20 minutes, or longer if desired.

Serve over hot spaghetti noodles, and top with Parmesan cheese.


Serves 4-6.

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Gold Rush Meatballs with Pan Fried Gravy

Some of the best recipes are passed down through oral tradition. My mother taught me to make this dinner when I was about 9 years old, and I have documented the amounts and process for this blog. As is usual with recipes, the form changes slightly with each generation. Mom always made the meatballs with Cheddar cheese; I use a mixture of Cheddar and blue cheeses. The gravy, however, remains unchanged.

Proper pan-fried gravy is a bit of an art form. I have met only a handful of people in my generation who know how to make any gravy that does not come from a powdered mix. I now pass on this skill to you, the reader. The timing is delicate, and the steps must be followed in order. Once you have added the liquid, you cannot add more flour without the gravy becoming lumpy. And if the gravy sticks to the pan and burns, you’re in trouble. Use a very low heat setting, and keep a close eye on what is happening.  Let me know in the comments section if you have any trouble or questions, and I will do my best to help.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 16 (1/2-inch) cubes Cheddar cheese
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1/4 cup white flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup milk



Divide the ground beef into 16 portions. Each portion should be roughly the size of a small handful.


In the center of each portion, place 1 cube of Cheddar cheese and a small amount (roughly 1/2 teaspoon) of the blue cheese.


Roll up each portion into a meatball. Make sure the meat is as compacted as possible, or the cheese will melt and run out.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.


Add the meatballs to the skillet, and roll them in the oil to coat.


Sprinkle the meatballs with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder.


Turn the meatballs, and sprinkle with the rest of the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.


Brown the meatballs, and remove them from the oil. Reduce the heat to low.


Sprinkle the flour into the remaining oil in the skillet, and use the back of a gravy ladle to mix. This technique helps to keep the texture smooth and free from lumps.


Add the water to the skillet, and continue mixing with the back of the gravy ladle. The gravy may thicken quite quickly at this point; you may add more water as needed.


Add the milk to the skillet, and mix gently.


Add the meatballs back into the gravy.


Baste the meatballs with the gravy, and cook until the gravy becomes as thick as desired.

Serve the meatballs with mashed potatoes, a vegetable of your choice, and a generous amount of gravy.


Serves 4.

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Cowboy Beef and Beans with Roundup Bacon Biscuits


The range’s filled up with farmers and there’s fences ev’rywhere
A painted house ‘most ev’ry quarter mile
They’re raisin’ blooded cattle and plantin’ sorted seed
And puttin’ on a painful lot o’ style

There hain’t no grass to speak of and the water holes are gone
The wire of the farmer holds ’em tight
There’s little use to law ’em and little use to kick
And mighty sight less use there is to fight

There’s them coughin’ separaters and their dirty, dusty crews
And wagons runnin’ over with the grain
With smoke a-driftin’ upward and writin’ on the air
A story that to me is mighty plain

The wolves have left the country and the long-horns are no more
And all the game worth shootin’ at is gone
And it’s time for me to foller, ’cause I’m only in the way
And I’ve got to be a-movin’—movin’ on.
— Robert V. Carr, “The Old Cowboy’s Lament”, 1908

105 years after the poem above was published, its words ring true. Gone are the days of wagon trains and cattle drives; the 405 Interstate and the trucking industry run that territory nowadays. The era of the cowboy is no more. Still, images of rope and saddles, horses and open country, resonate in the American imagination. There is something about the old idea of freedom, of space enough for everyone to live without rubbing up against their neighbors, that quietly awakens a longing for the “Wild West”.

For those who yearn for a simpler time, for outdoorsmen and women seeking good “campfire food”, and for home cooks who want to serve a hearty, robust meal in the manner of our Western forebears, I present the following recipe. It can be cooked in a single 12-inch cast-iron skillet if desired, or baked in a 13” x 9” casserole dish. The largest cast-iron skillet I own is 10 inches, so the “city folk” baking dish method is reflected in the directions.

The newspaper clipping shows that the original recipe comes from the Pioneer Brand. However, the newspaper chose to do its own rewrite of this recipe, which, while descriptive, was not particularly easy to follow. For this blog post, I rewrote the newspaper’s version for legibility and clarity. I also chose to slow-cook the recipe using dry beans instead of canned beans, using the conversion for dry beans to canned beans from Be It Ever So Humble.


Cowboy Beef and Beans:

  • 1/2 cup dry red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup dry navy beans
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pork and beans
  • 1 package brown gravy mix
  • 1 1/4 cups brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red habañero sauce

Roundup Bacon Biscuits:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese


For the Cowboy Beef and Beans:


Place the dry red kidney beans and dry navy beans in a large pot, and cover with several inches of water.


Boil the beans until tender, approximately 2 hours, adding water as needed to cover.

Remove from heat, and set aside without draining.


In a large skillet, combine the beef and onions over medium heat.


Cook the beef and onions until the meat is brown and the onions are clear.


Add the beans and their liquid to the meat mixture.


Add all remaining ingredients (can of pork and beans, brown gravy mix, coffee, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and red habañero sauce) to the skillet, and stir well.


Reduce the heat to low, and simmer this mixture for 2-3 hours, until it has a thick, chili-like texture. This takes time, but the flavor bonus is worth it.


Remove the meat mixture from the heat, and pour into a greased 13” x 9” casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and make the Roundup Bacon Biscuits.

For the Roundup Bacon Biscuits:


In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and milk. (City folk can use a whisk here, if they so desire.)


In a large bowl, mix the Bisquick together with the milk mixture, stirring until it forms a ball.


Roll this dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. The dough should form a rectangle.


Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the bacon and cheese. This is an excellent time to call your cardiologist and frighten the daylights out of him or her, by the way.


Roll up the dough, beginning at one long side.


Slice the dough into 1-inch slices.


Place the slices on top of the beef and bean mixture in the casserole dish.


Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.


Serves 8-10.

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Last Resort Casserole

1-recipe_card 2-recipe_card_2

When I chose this recipe, I was frustrated. It had been a long day, I had no inspiration to cook, and I felt irritated with everything. “Screw it,” I thought. “I’m making Last Resort Casserole.” As it turns out, the name is quite apt: this is exactly the right thing to make as a last resort. It is flavorful, wonderfully cheesy, and a good family comfort food. I am usually suspicious of any recipe that relies too heavily on cream of [whatever] soup, but this one holds its own. Gourmet food? No. Inexpensive easy dinner? Yes.

A note on measuring pasta: the original recipe calls for 1 cup of dried macaroni. You don’t have to use macaroni: any pasta you have in the kitchen is just fine. I happened to have some larger whole wheat pasta lying around, so I used that. However, take into account when measuring your pasta that size matters. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of small shells, but you only have large shells, scale up. Use 1 1/2 cups. The larger the pasta shape, the less densely it will pack into your measuring cup, and the more you will have to use as a result.

…Of course, you could always simply weigh the ingredient, and measure in that manner. Not everyone has a kitchen scale, though, so I am trying to keep things “low tech” whenever possible.

Also, the final picture here looks a little greasy. I promise, the food doesn’t quite come out that way. It’s the lighting in my kitchen. :)


  • 1 cup dried macaroni (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 beef bouillon cube, crumbled
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 8 ounces grated cheese (cheddar, jack, whatever you like)
  • 2/3 cup milk


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pot, boil the pasta until al dente, 7-10 minutes depending on your pasta.


Drain the pasta, and transfer it into a greased 13” x 9” casserole dish.


In a large skillet, cook the onion and green pepper in the olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are lightly browned.


Add the ground beef to the skillet, and cook until browned.


Add the salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and bouillon cube, and mix well.


Add the soup to the skillet, and thin with 1/2 can of water. The mixture won’t look very appealing at this point. I remember being worried, and commenting to my SO, “This looks like something the cat threw up.” Have faith: it will look better as a casserole, and the flavor will be just fine.

Stir well, and allow the mixture to thicken.


Pour the meat mixture over the pasta in the casserole dish, and mix well.


Top the casserole with the grated cheese.

Pour the milk evenly over the top of the casserole. (I wanted to get an “action shot” of this step, but it is singularly difficult to evenly pour milk with one hand while taking a picture with the other.)


Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil, and make a few slits to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.


Serves 4-6.

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