Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our Favorite Casserole

I love reading about casseroles that other people make.  Chicken and rice casserole, creamy noodle casseroles...yum.  They all sound so good and are so easy.  The same thing applies to crock-pot recipes.  So easy and very little work.  Well... that is not my reality.  While my husband and I will eat most things, the kids (especially one) are shall we say...texture averse.  I take that back - they like texture.  A nice piece of meat, carrots...firm things - not smothered in any type of sauce unless it is red and has the word barbecue.

A casserole is not that.  I know someday that will change, but it takes time.  I thought I would sing the Hallelujah Chorus when my teenage son asked me if he could taste my salad.  It was a miracle. That was a year ago.  Now he will eat what is essentially a bowl of greens, maybe some onion, maybe some chick peas, with Honey Mustard dressing.  No tomato.  He could eat a whole bowl of salsa by himself, but will not have tomato on his salad. Go figure.

So when I made a casserole last year that I have loved since I was a teen, I fully expected to be rebuffed.  "Yuck, I'm not eating that!"  "What am I having for dinner?"  Yeah, yeah, I know.  You make your kid eat a bite of everything, or all your children have to finish what is on their plates even if they hate it.  Good for you.  I'm very proud of you.  We don't do that. I do my best to try to get the kids to try new things, etc. but I don't force them.  I would not want to be forced to eat food I hate, and I won't do it to them either.  I want our dinner table to be a place of conversation, interest and happiness, not yelling, tears and bad feelings.

OK, so back to The Casserole - Introduction time.  One kid was not thrilled and picked at it.  The other gradually came to see that IT WAS WONDERFUL.  Now they both love it and request it.  I found this recipe in an old cookbook that my mother probably got at a garage sale.  It was the only recipe in the book I thought was interesting when I found it as a teenager.  It is called Martha's Company Casserole.  Who is Martha?  I have no idea.  This book was written way before Martha Stewart.  Whoever she was, she was having company and it was good.  Enjoy!

Martha's Company Casserole 

8oz Elbow Macaroni
3 T Margarine divided (2T melted, 1T unmelted)
1 pound ground chuck
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup snipped scallions
1 T minced green pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cook noodles as directed on package and drain.
  • While noodles are cooking, saute' the ground chuck with the 1 tablespoon of unmelted butter.  Saute' until brown.  DO NOT DRAIN the fat.  Don't be disgusted, just go with it.  If you drain it, it will be dry. (trust me)
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and remove from the heat.
  • Combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, scallions and green pepper.
  • Grease a large casserole dish.
  • Spread half of the noodles on the bottom of the dish.
  • Cover with the cheese mixture.
  • Put the rest of the noodles on top of the cheese mixture, distributing them evenly.
  • Pour the 2T of melted margarine on top.
  • Pour the meat mixture on top.
  • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes.
Now, as you have guessed, this is not a low-fat meal.  I do happen to use low fat sour cream and reduced fat cream cheese.  This is what I have in my fridge so that is what I use and it works fine.  This dish tastes even better the next day.  The picture above does not really do it justice - it is the taste that counts.  I usually serve it with a salad or fruit.  Please try it and let me know what you think.

The Portiuncula Indulgence

This Sunday is August 1st, the first Sunday in August, and you will have the special opportunity of gaining the beautiful Portiuncula Indulgence.  The Portiuncula Indulgence was given by the Blessed Mother through St. Francis of Assisi in 1221. It is the first plenary indulgence that was ever granted in the Church. "All that is required to gain it is worthily to receive the Sacraments of Penance and of the Blessed Eucharist and to say in a church of the Franciscans, or in the parish church, the customary prayers for an indulgence...One who gains the Portiuncula indulgence is freed from all temporal punishments and becomes as pure as after holy baptism."  I'd say that was a pretty good deal.

To receive this Indulgence you need to:
  • Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation within 8 days before or after the first Sunday of August.
  • With a contrite heart, go to a parish church and attend Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament on the First Sunday of August.
  • Pray the Our Father, the Apostles Creed, and a prayer of your choice for the intentions of the pope.  Here are some Beautiful Prayers you can use for this occasion.

I first heard of this indulgence listening to an old podcast by Franciscan Friar, Fr. Seraphim Beshoner of Catholic Under the Hood.  You can listen to this on your iPod, any mp3 player, or just on your computer.  He has some good information there.  Other good sources of the entire story behind this indulgence can be found at the site and

For more information on indulgences in general, check out these articles from Catholic Answers:
Primer on Indulgences
Myths About Indulgences
What is Wrong With a Little Indulgence?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Life At 70+ Miles An Hour

Well, we're back from our three week, 3749 mile trip through 12 states to see all the wonderful people we love. That included 5 days in the car at mostly 70+ miles an hour. So I thought I would give you a little pictorial tour of the traveling portion of our trip. 

I drove the first 7 1/2 hours of the trip up I-95 so there are no pictures of Florida or Georgia here, but we will get to those states later. Since I "drive too slow" even though I gracefully go at least 5 miles over the speed limit most of the way, I turned the Captain's Chair over to the Commanding Officer.  He feels his method of driving will get us there in a more timely fashion, and there is always the added benefit getting a bit closer to the Lord since the level of prayer increases substantially while he is at the helm.  That is not to say he is a dangerous driver - far from it since he used to drive race cars - he just likes to get there...quicker than I do.

We pick up in beautiful South Carolina. Be sure to insert a rest stop between each picture, since we seemed to have to pee at every tree on the way....



As you can see here, we started out by bringing our own food and stopping at the hot and miserable lovely, comfortable, cool rest stop picnic areas ...but one tires of lunch meat, chips, dodging mosquitoes and wasps, and eating out of the trunk.  So on the next legs of the trip, while we still carried fruit, water and, of course, chocolate, we wound up here....

 several times. 
And also Subway, Arby's, Chili's, Cracker Barrel and Taco Bell.
After some problem trying to find room in the inn, we finally found a nice place to stay in North Carolina.

 Big Walker Mountain Tunnel, Virginia

East River Mountain Tunnel, Virginia

Go through this and Voila...You're in a new state, onto our first destination, Wheeling, WV.

Charleston, WV, the Capitol

We picked red raspberries and gooseberries on Uncle Jim's Farm in Ohio, played with babies, loved up family, had scooter wipe-outs, and ate a lot of great stuff. 
Finally after 10 or so days it was time to leave and move onto see more people we love,
and more states, but first...
Bad Accident (not us!) - Everyone OK

This is something we did a lot of.

 Welcome to Indiana...

The stadium for the Indianapolis Colts.

Welcome to Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.

On to St. Louis, where we...

go over the Mighty Mississippi River,
actually listening to the rock song "Mississippi Queen"
that happened to come on the radio at exactly the right moment.

And finally near our second destination in the trip...

A wonderful city I tell you, where we reveled in family,
visited our cousin's farm and rode horses and took in local sites...

like the World War I memorial,

and the Dinosaur Exhibit at Union Station,

plus Science City and the Miniature Train exhibit.
It was finally time to move on down the road and go home,
the last 1400 miles of the trip.

Now, let me show you one of the highlights of the trip...

I never realized the St. Louis Arch was so beautiful or such a bright silver color.  
I'm really happy we got to see it.

 Beautiful, beautiful mountains in Tennessee. 
For a Florida girl, anything larger than little hill is a thrill.
But on we must move...
Yes, we do things the old fashioned way.  Actually, we plan the trip with Google Maps and print out what we need, but I really enjoy having a real atlas to track the trip and see where we are and where we are going.  I just wish Google maps used mile markers too.  We really use them to see how far we are in the state
and how far it will be till the next restroom.

The home of CNN, TNT, TBS etc.

The home of one of my favorite beverages...

Ah yes, the angst in the backseat...

and we keep moving...

and finally we come to the end...almost home,
happy to be here but sad to leave family so far away.