Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Good Things to Eat Are Hard to Beat - United Methodist Church, Mason City, IA" - Chicken Casserole

Date I made this recipe: April 3, 2011

Good Things to Eat Are Hard to Beat – A Cookbook from First United Methodist Church – Mason City, Iowa – 1977

© 1977

Recipe – Chicken Casserole – submitted by LaVonne Oleson – p. 151

“We’re on a mission from God…” Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) – The Blues Brothers

People, I couldn’t help but think of this line from The Blues Brothers movie during my week-long quest to find a casserole to make. And not just any casserole, no sir. I had ideas. Big ideas. It just took me a while to get there.

This all started a week ago when I suddenly developed a craving for a shepherd’s pie (sans lamb). This was all very simple—I wanted ground beef, cream of mushroom soup (naturally) and veggies, topped with mashed potatoes. In theory, finding a recipe among my 1300 cookbooks should have been a slam-dunk; in reality, not so much.

I found ground beef, tomato soup, green beans and mashed potatoes and that was a no. I found a couple of tater tot recipes, one of which had no vegetables (WHAT???) and one that called for only peas. But I wasn’t interested in tater tots. I wanted mashed potatoes.

I found an inordinate number of recipes for ground beef and corn (mostly from Iowa community cookbooks) but no. I found a few recipes for ground beef and hash brown and once again no.

Nothing I found seemed to do the trick. So I thought about life as we know it and then changed my search to chicken and noodles and maybe some broccoli thrown in. And again, you would think this would be easy but hell, no!

I found plenty of chicken divan recipes but those didn’t contain noodles. Then there were your chicken and rice recipes and while I loved rice, now I was obsessed with noodles.

There were plenty of recipes for chicken and soup, chicken and broccoli and soup, chicken and stuffing (tempting…but no) and on and on. There was Mexican chicken, Peruvian chicken, Moroccan chicken but no freaking chicken and noodles and cream of mushroom soup.

I was on the edge of despair. I pulled everything off the shelf that I thought could yield the recipe I wanted but no. I can tell you that a cookbook for three-star meals did not contain said recipe, nor did the Junior League of the City of New York yield what I wanted. It goes without saying that none of my international cookbooks had anything nor did any of my Jewish cookbooks (The cream of mushroom soup alone disqualified them, never mind the milk I had to add to a chicken casserole. Jewish recipes do not mix meat and dairy.).

But finally, just when all hope was lost, I once again reviewed my community cookbooks and voila, there was a chicken casserole recipe containing…wait for it…chicken AND cream of mushroom soup AND milk and noodles! No broccoli was harmed in the making of this dish but such is life. I was just happy as hell to finally score something that satisfied my craving. But I was halfway to my pantry to start pulling ingredients when…wait a second…aw nuts! I have to mix up the ingredients and refrigerate the concoction for 24 hours. Shoot.

And so I had a minor setback, so what? My mission from God was complete. I bought the few ingredients that I needed, mixed up my casserole, refrigerated it and then on Sunday popped the thing in the oven for 1 hour and…ahhhhhh. “Heaven, I’m in heaven….”

Now I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t express a few concerns. First, I try not to cook from community cookbooks seeing as you all will likely have a hard time getting your hands on the same book. But when a craving hits, a craving hits and that’s all there is to it.

Second, two cans of mushroom soup (plus ½ tsp of salt plus 13 ¾ oz chicken broth—what’s up with that) might be a bit much for those concerned about their salt intake. I am not a big salt person and didn’t find it super-salty but I definitely tasted the salt in the soup. That being said, I hesitated using reduced sodium soup because it was not as god intended and I wasn’t sure if the taste would fall flat or not.

Third, green pepper is a major ingredient in most community cookbook recipes and yet I’m not overly fond of it. And so I left it out and call the Iowa State Police already, I don’t care.

But other than that (“…Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play”) this worked for me. I actually like the fact that all I had to do was pop this in the oven on Sunday and that was that.

Now that the weather is warming up, I should be done with the need for this kind of casserole although one never knows. My latest craving is not for another casserole but rather another viewing of The Blues Brothers, if nothing else to hear them utter the word “penguin.” (“Penguin” is what we called the nuns in my Catholic grade school…among other things that cannot be repeated in mixed company.) Blockbuster, here I come!

Chicken Casserole – serving size not indicated

2 cups chicken (diced, cooked) or ham, beef, etc.)
2 cups (8 oz.) macaroni (uncooked)
2 cans mushroom soup (I’m pretty sure she meant Cream of Mushroom)
1 soup can milk
1 (13 ¾ oz.) can chicken broth (or substitute)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
½ green pepper (finely diced)
1 (2 oz.) jar pimiento (diced)
1 (5 oz.) can water chestnuts (finely sliced)
½ pound Cheddar cheese (grated)
½ teaspoon salt

In 9 x 13 inch pan, refrigerate overnight the above ingredients, well mixed. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

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