Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bacon Cheeseburger Skillet Casserole

We were interrupted during our dinner when we were eating this dish.  What is it about the "No Soliciting" sign tucked into our doorbell that says "ring me" to all the people who are selling stuff and asking for donations or support?  Do they think it doesn't apply to them?  Because it truly does apply to them, it applies to everyone who comes to our door uninvited.  Neighbors are ok, because they probably came to tell us something, not because they want something from us.  Friends and family are great, because we know them and like them.  But all those unknown people who wants something from us, go away.  That includes Girl Scouts, environmental endorsers, even people from my political party when I support their issue.  Don't come to our door.  I feel bad for the next person that comes to our house unannounced, because I've really gotten sick of people ignoring that "No Soliciting" sign and I'm going to tell them in no uncertain terms to go away.  Actually, I'll probably totally chicken out and just stand there all meek and politely listen, like I always do.  I hate confrontation and will avoid it at any cost.   

But anyway, back to the food.  Typically I write up our week's menu and scheduled events on a piece of paper and then once everything is finalized, I copy the same information to the big 8-foot chalkboard in our kitchen.  But this week I didn't write the menu out on the chalkboard, so I forgot to defrost the steak I wanted to grill because I wasn't looking ahead.  I needed to come up with a meal that would be quick enough to make after work for a toddler, and I couldn't rely on my standard dinner-for-breakfast because we had pancakes and frittata the day before.  I had bookmarked this concept and it was on my short list of meals that I want to make soon, and I knew I could pull it together pretty quickly since I had some pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer.

Don't tell Husband Jeff, but I was totally winging it when making this dish since I wasn't exactly following either of my inspiration recipes.   I didn't know until I tasted it at the end that it was a success.

Inspiration

Kristin's Kitchen cheeseburger noodle casserole (based on a Weight Watchers recipe) and SkinnyTaste cheeseburger cassserole

One recipe uses sour cream for the sauce, which we don't use, and the other didn't really have a sauce other than mixing in some shredded cheese, which I was afraid would get dry.  So I created a white sauce and adding shredded cheese to make a creamy cheesy sauce.

You can add any veggies you like, it would be easy enough to add some shredded zucchini when you're cooking the ground beef. 

This recipe will have you doing three things at once -- boiling pasta, making a cheese sauce, and cooking up the meat and veggies.  It's not difficult though since none of it really requires a lot of attention.  But you can always enlist someone to help you make dinner if you need a couple extra hands.

To make this gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta, rice, or quinoa.  To make it vegetarian, use faux-meat crumbles. 

Ingredients

  • 6 oz pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef (mine was frozen pre-cooked)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and minced (mine was oven-baked frozen)

white sauce
  • 2 T butter or margarine
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1.5 T Worcestershire sauce
  • heavy sprinkle of your favorite herb blend (I used Penzey's Mural of Flavor)
  • 2-4 T mustard (I used horseradish deli mustard)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used co-jack)

Instructions

Cook your pasta according to the directions.

In your largest pan/pot over medium heat, brown your ground beef or defrost it.  Once the meat is fully cooked, you can drain it and rinse it.  Add the onions and cook for 5-8 more minutes.  Add the garlic, spinach, and mushrooms and cook for 1-2 more minutes. 
Cooking up the ground beef, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach.

Now it's time to craft a white sauce.  Melt the butter or margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat and sprinkle in the flour.  Make sure it's all thoroughly mixed together.  Add a splash of milk and fully incorporate it before adding another splash.  If you dump all the milk in at once, you'll end up with lumps (speaking from experience here!).  Once all of the milk is mixed in, add the rest of the white sauce ingredients except for the cheese and stir well.  At this point the color will be rather a unappealing brown-grey, but go with it, no one will be able to tell when the dish is done. 
The start of a white sauce.  I love my rubber spatulas!
Got this Betty Crocker one at the dollar store.
Add the drained tomatoes and cooked pasta to the meat.
Woah, the pan is getting really full.

Add the shredded cheese to your white sauce and cook over low heat until it's fully incorporated. 
A pile of shredded cheese waiting to be stirred in.
The creamy cheese sauce is ready.

Added the cheese sauce, here's the finished dish.

Verdict 

Complete experimentation success!  Yay!

I tasted it and needed to add more seasoning when it was all said and done, but it turned out quite good.
It dirtied a lot of dishes, but it also made a huge batch of food, so we should be able to eat this for at least one more lunch if not two. And the leftovers seemed to be even better tasting than the first day, so I was glad this made a lot. 

I got caught trying to slip mushrooms past Husband Jeff because I didn't chop them up fine enough.  I didn't have any more time.   


I wish we had more than two slices of frozen, pre-cooked bacon to use in this recipe but we had used a bunch of it the day before for our bacon frittata before swimming lessons. 

Sonny D avoided this at first, but once the supply of sweet potato fries, avocado, and French fried onion strings and croutons dried up, he tasted it.  The first bowl was quite popular once he finally tried it and he was aiming to have more when our doorbell rang (see the story above).  I added spinach because I had a little bit in the freezer and figured I might be able to sneak it by him, which I did.  Success!   He also only picked out one tomato piece.  

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