Author: Monica

Cheeseburger Casserole

We all have our quirks, right? I’m pushing 50 and I love amusement parks. I always have. My brother is 12 years younger than me, and I can remember him tagging along with me on a roller coaster when he was 6 and I was 18. He left nail marks in my leg, but he insisted that he loved it. Box Set When my daughter came along, my mom would babysit while my brother, then 15 to my 27, went with me to Six Flags. And when my daughter was old enough, Disney World became our thing. We’ve gone every year or two since she was about six. Sometimes twice a year. A couple of years, we went three times. She’s 27 this year, and she still loves it. This past weekend was her first anniversary. My daughter is an emergency medicine resident, which means she’s broke for at least another two years. And my son-in-law took the bar in February and doesn’t have his results back yet. That means he’s also broke. So my daughter called me to tell me she just happened to have five days off this past weekend and asked if we could all go to Disney. I pointed out that it was her anniversary, and it seemed it would be more appropriate for her husband and her to go by themselves. She reminded me that they couldn’t afford to go much farther than the end of their driveway. And that’s how we ended up going on a family vacation for my daughter’s anniversary. I still had the top tier to my daughter’s wedding cake in my freezer, and she asked me to bring it. I’ve always thought that was a weird tradition, and I couldn’t imagine that frozen, year-old cake would be any good. Still, she asked, and there’s not much I wouldn’t do for my daughter. So I put it in a cooler and drove it down to South Florida. They shared it with us. It wasn’t half bad. Happy anniversary, guys. But now I’m back home after a week in (mostly) sunny Florida. I’ve been eating restaurant food until it’s coming out of my ears. It’s time for something healthy. At first glance, you wouldn’t think this qualifies. That’s the beauty of it–it’s good for you, and it tastes amazing. Enjoy! Cheesburger Casserole

Cheeseburger Casserole

1 spaghetti squash 1 lb. lean ground beef 1/2 diced onion 1/3 c. nonfat Greek yogurt 2 T. tomato paste 2 eggs 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 2/3 c. fat free shredded cheddar cheese 10 sliced dill pickles   Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and pulp. Lightly spray the insides with cooking spray, then place both sides face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. When squash is done, remove from oven, cool slightly, and scrape insides with a fork to remove flesh. Press strands into the bottom and sides of a pie pan or 8×8 baking pan. Set aside. Spray a skillet with cooking spray, then brown onions until clear. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. In a medium sized bowl, mix tomato paste, yogurt, eggs and Worcestershire sauce until well blended. Add ground beef and blend again, then pour mixture over squash and spread until even. Sprinkle cheese over the top, then spread pickles on top of the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes.

Chocolate Pound Cake

Merry Christmas, all!! Yesterday, I watched A Christmas Carol (well, okay, I watched the Muppet’s version–my oldest daughter is visiting, and she still loves all the Christmas specials she grew up with). It got me thinking about Christmases when I grew up. My great grandfather died about three years before I was born. My great grandma, on the other hand, lived until I was 32. She never remarried. She  lived alone in the house where they had raised their children until her health required round the clock care, which happened somewhere around her 92nd birthday. She was 94 when she died, and had lived a long life surrounded by 5 children, 11 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren. By the time she died, she had outlived my grandma, who had taken responsibility for looking after her from the time my great grandfather died until Alzheimer’s took my grandma from us. That means I spent a lot of time with my great grandma.

Wherever grandma was, my great grandma was close by. I spent the night at my great grandma’s house, sat on her porch and drank Kool Aid, and ran up and down a long dirt driveway while I played with my cousins. I climbed trees in her yard and picked huckleberries from a bush out front. I played in her closet, where clothes and pictures older than my dad sat buried in old boxes. I adored my great grandma. Long after she was gone, when I married my amazing husband, it really hit home that my great grandma had outlived her husband by 35 years. Being born in 1908, she came from a time when women–when people–had to be strong and self sufficient to survive. I would be devastated if my husband died. I’m sure she was, too. But she soldiered on.

Every Christmas, we all gathered at her house. There were a lot of us. Everyone brought food, but she supplied dessert. She made the most amazing chocolate pound cake you ever put in your mouth. I never have been able to replicate it, and I’ve tried many times. This is my closest effort. My stepson loves it, and he doesn’t even like sweets. But it’s not as good as hers. I guess everyone should leave a little mystery behind when they go. She lived alone in the house where they had raised their children until her health required round the clock care, which happened somewhere around her 92nd birthday. She was 94 when she died, and had lived a long life surrounded by 5 children, 11 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren. By the time she died, she had outlived my grandma, who had taken responsibility for looking after her from the time my great grandfather died until Alzheimer’s took my grandma from us.

That means I spent a lot of time with my great grandma. Wherever grandma was, my great grandma was close by. I spent the night at my great grandma’s house, sat on her porch and drank Kool Aid, and ran up and down a long dirt driveway while I played with my cousins. I climbed trees in her yard and picked huckleberries from a bush out front. I played in her closet, where clothes and pictures older than my dad sat buried in old boxes. I adored my great grandma. Long after she was gone, when I married my amazing husband, it really hit home that my great grandma had outlived her husband by 35 years. Being born in 1908, she came from a time when women–when people–had to be strong and self sufficient to survive. I would be devastated if my husband died. I’m sure she was, too. But she soldiered on. Every Christmas, we all gathered at her house. There were a lot of us. Everyone brought food, but she supplied dessert. She made the most amazing chocolate pound cake you ever put in your mouth. I never have been able to replicate it, and I’ve tried many times. This is my closest effort. My stepson loves it, and he doesn’t even like sweets. But it’s not as good as hers. I guess everyone should leave a little mystery behind when they go.

. Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, softened

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a tube pan with butter. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa together. Set aside. With an electric mixer, cream the 1 cup butter, the shortening and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, beating as you add them, beginning and ending with the flour. Add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake; it should come out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Squash Casserole

Happy Halloween!! My husband and I usually have a party around this time every year, but we took the year off this year. That means a little downtime (yay!), and regular menu. We’re both on diets, which is fantastic going into the holidays, so no treats tonight. It’s fall-ish (I have the air conditioner running and I’m wearing shorts today), and I’m angling for gluten free, low carb, fall food. So I’ve settled on squash.

I’ve talked about my husband in prior posts. As a refresher, he’s awesome. I’ve told him more than once that our marriage was a better deal for me than it was for him. He always disagrees. That’s one of the things that makes him awesome. When it comes to cooking, like pretty much everything else about our marriage, he’s almost painfully easy to please. He’ll eat almost anything. In fact, when we got married, he told me the only things on the “no” list were tofu and squash. One of his step-daughters liked tofu. He said his step-daughter found some tofu in the refrigerator once that was missing a single bite, and she became irate. “Who would take a one bite out of my tofu and put it back?” My husband’s response: “Someone who didn’t have enough sense to not eat it in the first place.”

Knowing that about him, I’ve never tried to make anything with tofu. I’ve never eaten it myself, but I figure if my husband won’t eat it, it must be pretty awful. This is the man who considers unusual food to be a challenge. We saw avocado popsicles at Steel City Pops in Birmingham, and he just had to try them (they were actually really good). The beer milkshake? Must have it. Donut hamburger? Bring it on. But he draws the line at tofu. Therefore, so do I.

Squash, though…

I love fruit, but I’ve never been much of a vegetable person. I’ll eat them, but other than onions, I have to work at it to enjoy them. Still, my sister-in-law made some squash one time that smelled so heavenly that I had to try it. It tasted every bit as good as it smelled. That was many years ago, before my husband came back into my life. And now that he’s eating low carb, that means meat and non-starchy vegetables. The list of non-starchy vegetables I really like is short–brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and maybe a salad here and there (my favorite involves spinach, feta cheese, strawberries and infused balsamic vinegar). That puts everything in short rotation, and we get tired of it pretty fast.

I remembered my sister-in-law’s squash and decided to give it a go. She’s not much of a cook, so I figured if she could make it taste good, I could probably make something my husband would eat. A smarter, more patient woman than me would simply text her sister-in-law. My sister-in-law is like a real sister to me, so we chat fairly often. However, she’s a terribly busy woman who designs websites in the seven-figure range. And she has a small child. Yeah, sometimes my texts go unanswered for a few days.

Instead, I tried to remember something about her dish and then typed those search terms into my search engine. This is what it spit out. I knew by looking at it this was going to be a hit. My husband loved it (ta-da!!!) and so did my step-son. So did I. My step-daughter is a picky eater, so I didn’t expect much there. Three out of four ain’t bad, right?

<img title=”Squash Casserole” src=”https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.254/a8f.318.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Squash-Casserole-200×300.jpg” alt=”Squash Casserole” width=”200″ height=”300″ />
<h4>Squash Casserole</h4>
6 cups sliced squash

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Salt, to taste

1 cup chicken broth

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup shredded cheddar

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Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and saute until lightly browned. Place squash in casserole dish. Add diced onion and butter to skillet and cook till onion is clear. Add garlic and cook another minute, then add contents of skillet to casserole dish. Add chicken broth to casserole dish and top with shredded cheddar. Cook in oven on 350 until hot and cheese is melted.

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