Thursday, March 8, 2012

No knives required

March 4, 2012
Seven Minute Casserole
Panera Country Bread
Vella Merlot

This was a hard meal to plan, but an easy one to prepare. If cooking and eating were all we had to do in life, we could prepare elaborate feasts using the finest local ingredients all of the time. But we do other things than just eat and drink. Environment and circumstance influence our dining decisions. Our health, the weather, time constraints, work, hobbies, chores, family ... all of these and more affect what we cook and eat.

You've probably had some one tell you they were sick and tired. On Sunday, that was me. I had spent sixteen hours the previous day at the Silicon Valley Destination ImagiNation tournament. It was a good day: we helped over 700 kids become more creative problem solvers, but I was tired. I even took a nap, welcome albeit involuntary. On top of that I had a cold. The cold didn't affect me too much Saturday, fortunately, but I was really feeling it on Sunday. I had little energy and no appetite. Since I wasn't hungry and nothing I thought of preparing for dinner was appealing, it took me a long time to make a decision. (The same thing can happen when I am too hungry when I find it hard to make any decisions.)

I finally decided on a simple dish that Diane introduced many years ago and which we enjoy regularly. (The "box of frozen peas" in the ingredients list gives you an idea how old this recipe is ... I used 7 oz of peas but I don't really know how much came in a box.) It's not gourmet, not fresh, and includes several prepackaged ingredients. But I think you can say it's a comfort food for us. In a way it's also like popcorn. Popcorn is a convenient way to eat butter. Seven Minute Casserole is a convenient way to eat bottled Worcestershire Sauce and canned French Fried Onion Rings.

I don't know where the "seven minutes" comes from. It took 50 minutes from the time I entered to kitchen until dinner was served. Most of that time was hands-off cooking. No knives and no cutting are involved in the preparation. It's all just open, measure, pour, and simmer. Diane cooks this dish with the lid on in order to steam the rice. I leave the lid off and the rice seems to cook just as well, maybe a little slower.

I served it with "Country Bread" that I bought at Panera. I've enjoyed eating breakfast and lunch there but this is the first time I bought any of their bread. It was good. I didn't know until eating that it was a sourdough, it was just labelled "Country Bread". It went well with the casserole.

7-minute Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup rice
1 can French Fried Onion Rings
1 box frozen peas
1 package onion gravy mix
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1 1/2 cups water

Brown beef and pour off any grease
Blend in gravy mix, garlic salt, uncooked rice, and water
Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes
Stir in peas and simmer until peas and rice are ready

Serve with Worcestershire or Soy Sauce topped with the Onion Rings

Kitchen tip
Our kids liked to eat their soup with the spoons they use in Chinese restaurants, so we still have several in the silverware drawer. I use them all the time, but not to eat soup. Think of them as little ladles. For this meal I used one to remove the excess grease after browning the beef and to taste the casserole when checking for seasoning. They're also handy when transferring small amounts of powder or liquid between containers.

Diane thought the meatloaf had improved with time, I still wasn't very impressed. We reheated slices on the stove and served them after seeing this done on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

1 comment:

  1. I still make this occasionally. Though I have never seen the recipe.. I just make it up now.