Betty Kaiser - Cook’s Corner: Comfort Food in Uncomfortable Times


Hi, everyone! How are you doing? I hope that you are well while we are coping with these difficult times. Our last two COVID years have really taken their toll on everyone. The virus seems to not only have killed thousands of people but also the spirit of everyday living.

I think all of us are tired of being bombarded day after day with bad news. Almost everyone I talk with has a sad story of illness or heartache to share with me. And I’m not much help because I’m as confused, frustrated and tired as everyone else.

I’m even tired of cooking and that’s a rare problem for me. At times, don’t want to cook and so we used to go to a restaurant. Not so easy anymore! So, last week, I pulled myself together to make up some new dinner menus. But where to begin?

I started by checking online for the most popular dinner entrees in the USA. Wow! That is interesting. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what Americans like to eat the most. Every list had different popular foods and entrees. 

Check out these preferences:

#1 list: Buffalo Chicken Wings, Tater Tots, Hot dogs, Apple Pie, BBQ Ribs, Reuben Sandwiches, Biscuits and Gravy, Meatloaf.

#2 list: The hamburger, Clam Chowder,  Bagel and Lox, Deep Dish Pizza, Biscuits and Gravy, Texas Barbecue, Hominy Grits.

#3 list: Traditional  dishes:

Apple Pie, Hamburgers, Macaroni and Cheese, Clam Chowder, Bagel and Lox, Deep Dish Pizza, Hominy Grits, Tacos and Thanksgiving.

#4 Tourists: They want to eat corn dogs, barbecue, Sloppy Joes, Philly Cheese steak, BBQ Ribs, root beer, pie and gumbo.

And there was more. But at the end of my research, I was still not inspired. So, I opened up my many recipe files and books to see if I had overlooked anything. Nope!

Ultimately, I decided to stick with my usual routine which is pretty boring. The week’s main dishes go something like this: Monday Roast beef or Chicken so there’s leftovers for the week. Tuesday: Soup from the leftovers; Wednesday: Pick up a pizza; Thursday: Casserole; Friday: Fish; Sat. Tacos or enchiladas; Sunday: Brunch.

So, there you have it. Boring! I mostly look forward to the casserole of the week. I let my imagination run wild. But my California Casserole (with variations) is a favorite. The original recipe is from a Foods Class at Pepperdine College and it never fails to please. So here it is! Enjoy!

Betty’s California

Casserole

1 package (8 +ounces) wide egg noodles

1-pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon garlic salt 

1 teaspoon Italian Herb seasonings

2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce

6-8 fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1 small (3-4 ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup cottage cheese

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

6 green onions and tops, finely sliced

1-cup cheddar cheese, grated

Pre-heat oven to 350º F.

Brown meat, stirring with a fork until crumbly; drain well. Stir in spices, mushrooms and tomato sauce; simmer over low heat while noodles cook. Mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese and green onions.

Gently mix all ingredients together and spoon into a sprayed or oiled oven proof casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese and bake for 20 min. or until hot and bubbly. 

Note: Original recipe called for casserole to be assembled much like lasagna: Alternate layers of noodles, meat sauce and cream cheese mixture in the casserole baking dish. Top with cheddar cheese and bake as above. Serves 6.

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner at 942-1317 or email [email protected]

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