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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Mom's Surprise (Mix & Match) Casserole

I can't believe it is February already!  Much of January has seen us dealing with one of the nastiest cold strains either of us has ever had.  My husband's started just before New Year's and he still has a cough.  Mine has been a bit more problematic with complications so I'm still under the weather. While good, healthy and nutritious food is important any time  it is especially important when you are sick to help your body heal.  That is the time you want to pack in as much extra nutrition as possible.  We have been relying heavily on casseroles, home-made/home canned soups, and salads to get us though.

Of note, everyone knows to avoid dairy if the illness includes a gastrointestinal upset.  However, leafy green salads should also be avoided in this case as they make digestive system work harder.  The alternative way to get your leafy greens if you have a gastrointestinal upset is through juicing once you are well enough to be off of clear fluids.

ground beef version of mix and match casserole
I have been making a casserole that goes mainly by Mom's Surprise Casserole since I was a young bride, before we even had kids but the dish was actually named by out kids later.  I have several versions of it because it constantly changes by what I have on hand.  This casserole is basic comfort food, a great way to pack in extra nutrition and it is very frugal to make.

Have you seen those charts in the women's magazine's that give you a choice of meat, vegetable, starch and extras to make different versions of the same dish?  Well, Mom's Surprise Casserole is exactly the same except I've never taken the time to make a chart.  Here's a bit of an idea of what I mean for choices:

  • ground meat - beef, chicken, turkey, venison, pork
  • vegetables - corn, potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans or whatever vegetable strikes your fancy
  • soup - any kind of condensed soup (I prefer using my home canned soups), vegetable soup, smooth soups
  • topping - cooked macaroni, cooked rice, mashed potatoes
  • cheeses - your choice of any cheese you like; I like to add a soft cheese (eg. cream cheese, yogurt cheese or Cheez Whiz) stirred into the pasta until melted before topping then adding shredded hard cheese after topping.  This is a great way to use up those little bits of left-over cheese!
To get you started, here is the way I made the ground beef based casserole earlier this week.  Note that this is a bit higher in fat for extra nutrition and calories as well as adding to the creaminess.  Extra fat is necessary when healing from certain illnesses like a cold as it helps your body absorb fat soluble nutrients.  Also of note, while it does look like the casserole in the picture is overflowing with melted cheese, the overflow is actually bubbling home canned tomato soup. 

Mom's Surprise Ground Beef Casserole
source:  Garden Gnome

2 lb ground beef
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 c each cooked cubed potatoes, carrot medallions, whole kernel corn, sweet peas
1 L (quart) home canned tomato soup
½ c milk
2 c dried elbow macaroni
1 c cream cheese
2 tbsp butter
½ half & half
1½ c shredded cheddar cheese

Bring salted water to a boil then stir in the macaroni.  While the macaroni is cooking, brown and drain the ground beef.  Spread it evenly over the bottom of 9 - inch X 13 - inch oven proof casserole dish.  Clean, slice and brown the mushrooms.  Spread evenly over the meat.  Wash, cut and steam the potatoes and carrots.  Spread evenly over the mushrooms.  Mix the frozen (no need to thaw) corn and peas together then spread even over the potatoes and carrots.  Drain the macaroni then mix well with cream cheese, half & half and butter.  Divide the shredded cheese in half.  Spread half the cheese over the thus far assembled casserole.  Top with the macaroni mixture.  Mix the tomato soup with the milk and pour the tomato soup evenly over the top.  Top with the remainder of the shredded cheese.  Place the assembled casserole dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips as it will have a bit of overflow.  Bake at 350°F until bubbly and cheese topping is golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve.

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