I don’t remember often hankering for any particular meals when I was a kid. I ate just about everything and I think I was relatively happy regardless of what my mother served on any given night, although I wasn’t very happy when she insisted on making breakfast (eggs or pancakes) for dinner. Really, the food I remember most fondly from my childhood is the salads my mom and I made just about every night in the summers, with vegetables grown in our own garden. Other than the occasional brownies or cake from a mix, picking the veggies for the nightly salad was about the only “cooking” I did as a kid. And my mom even made her own croutons, can you believe that?!
Anyway, apart from salads, although I remember particularly liking special-occasion meals like baked ham and roast beef, I don’t remember ever requesting my mother make any particular meals…except once, when I remember asking for “that noodle stuff with the meat and cheese” for my birthday dinner. When I went through her recipes this weekend, I discovered it is called Hamburger Noodle Bake and it was my great-aunt’s recipe, and although Mom didn’t make it all that often, I guess it made a big impression on me because I’ve never forgotten it (unlike the alleged pork chops). As more and more years have passed since I became vegetarian (more than 20 now), I’ve forgotten what the dish really tasted like, but I have never forgotten liking it. At long last, the memory is restored!
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 T. shortening
1 1/2 lb hamburger
1 med. onion
1 tsp salt
3 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 8-oz package noodles
1 tsp sugar
1 3-oz package cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
Melt fat in skillet. Put in hamburger and brown. Add onion, salt, pepper, sugar, and tomato sauce and cover; cook 15-20 minutes. Cook noodles according to pkg. Combine cream cheese and sour cream together and add in layers starting with noodles, cream cheese mix, and meat Cover with cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
“Hamburger” Noodle Bake
1 medium onion, diced
1 12-oz package vegan “ground beef”
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (optional, as it wasn’t in the original)
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia (optional; I won’t use next time)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz noodles (the rombi shape I used was perfect)
3 oz vegan “cream cheese” (I measured for those of you who don’t have a kitchen scale: it’s about 1/3 cup)
1 cup vegan “sour cream”
1/2 cup grated vegan “cheddar cheese” (I can really only recommend Cheezly, but I realize with grocery bills being what they are right now, most of you outside of the UK are going to think I’m crazy.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Weigh noodles. I usually never scale pasta and just guess at serving sizes, and I always vastly over-estimate. So tonight I scaled it!
Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet up to medium heat and then add a bit of oil. When oil is warm, add the onions and saute until translucent.
Add the “ground beef” and cook for 5 minutes.
Next I added garlic because I found it inconceivable it wasn’t called for, but that’s just me.
Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar or stevia if using and stir to mix.
Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese and sour cream in a small bowl.
Grate the “cheddar cheese”.
Place the noodles into a casserole dish. I sprayed it lightly with olive oil so they wouldn’t stick.
Cover noodles with the cream cheese/sour cream mixture …
… then top with the “meat” and sauce mixture.
Top with the “cheddar cheese”.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with a tossed salad (I do wish for those halcyon days of having a garden that grew an entire salad!) or plenty of veggies.
I made a super-easy zucchini dish by sauteing a sliced zucchini with a few onion slices, then tossing with Hawaiian red salt and freshly-ground pepper. I also steamed some broccoli because I figured Mark wouldn’t touch the zucchini, however, he not only helped himself to some, he stole a slice or two off my plate while we were eating! This is highly unusual; I think it was the salt. Must remember to put red salt on things I want Mark to eat…
Mark, who is on a big health kick, has a habit of asking me if everything I make is “bad for you”. As a general rule, very few things I make are actually downright bad for you, and he actually asks this question of things like steamed broccoli, so the answer he generally gets is, “Are you insane?” His question was a bit more relevant than usual in regards to this meal, because it was made with several processed and convenience foods, which I generally like to avoid or use sparingly. So I told him it wasn’t as great for him as most meals I make, although probably better than the original. However, I wanted to know what this meal from my memory banks really tasted like, and making it with Tofutti products and commercial vegan “ground beef” was the closest I was going to get to that – and it worked: it tasted right. But as I was pulling it together, my mind was already churning with ways to healthify it – or in other words, in typical Renae fashion, make it much more difficult than it needs to be – and sophistify it. I’m thinking bulgur instead of “beef”, cashew and/or tofu cream for the “cheese”, and whole wheat noodles. And I felt the tomato sauce was just calling for wine. It is my plan, therefore, to repeat this meal, using whole foods. I think it will be a fun experiment.
This meal also reminded me of one I was served more frequently as a child: Hamburger Helper.