CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Not Your Mom’s Casserole

Casseroles are a mom’s best friend. They can be made in a jiffy, usually contain some nutritious ingredients and generally are loved by kids.

I know that casseroles — or as we called them hotdish — were a favorite of mine and my brothers as kids. And it didn’t matter what kind Mom made.

My favorites were her tuna hotdish, a hamburger hotdish made with a can of Campbell’s vegetable soup and a chow mein hotdish with Chinese noodles, hamburger and cream of chicken soup. And we also were the recipients of several good hotdishes as part of our school hot lunch program.

These days, one of my favorites is Grandma’s hotdish, which Therese makes. It contains a can of tomato soup, a can of green beans, a little onion, a squirt of Worcestershire sauce and a pound of ground beef.

Here’s another casserole that appeals to me, which I hadn’t given much thought about until receiving a recent comment on my blog from Ilene Gauger of Vail, Co. Ilene is originally from Fosston, Minn. She still gets back home at least once a year to visit her mom, Ruth Davidson, who is 96 and living in Fosston.

She commented that when she was home visiting her mom many years ago, she had clipped a recipe from the newspaper that I had shared. “I loved it but lost it,” she said, “and has searched and searched for it” to no avail.

Ilene thought it was called Not Your Mother’s Zucchini Casserole, but it actually was called Zucchini and Hamburger Casserole. It was a recipe that comes from Therese’s “America Cooks” cookbook. The recipe contains several medium-size zucchinis and bell pepper as well as tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and ground beef, among other things.

It’s not your mom’s casserole, but it sure is tasty.

Zucchini and Beef Casserole
1 tablespoon shortening
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or buffalo)
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch slices
1 13-ounce can tomatoes
8-ounce can tomato sauce
6-ounce can tomato paste
½ cup chopped pitted ripe olives
1/8 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2½-quart casserole.
Melt shortening in large skillet; saute onion and green pepper for 5 minutes. Add beef and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste; cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in olives and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
Turn into 9-by-13-inch casserole dish; sprinkle with cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.

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