The recipe for Meal-in-One-Casserole comes from the same issue of Quick Cooking (March/April 2000) that Chicken with Mushroom Sauce came from, so perhaps that should have been my first clue. I think Quick Cooking has reinvented itself and now has a new name, although the quick factor is still part of their vision, but I don't know if I could be persuaded to buy a new issue and test their recipes. Every slow-cooker recipe we've tried is a total dog -- and I'm not talking a Westminster show dog with prancy feet and bright eyes and a silky groomed coat; I'm talking, like, the mean, mangy curs that hang out at the junkyard who feed on rusty auto parts and the brains of intruders.
Initially, Meal-in-One sounded like a sure thing. With ingredients such as ground beef, chopped onion and green pepper, salsa, egg noodles and Monterey Jack cheese, how could you go wrong?
Huh. Believe me, you can go very, very wrong. To be honest, my stomach feels a little strange just typing these words as I recall the food that appeared on my plate last night.
This recipe gained no points at all, although the ingredients were all easy to come by.
This recipe lost points because, when it was dished up on our plates? It looked like vomit. Horf, hurl, barf, ralph, the technicolor yawn...whatever term you'd like to use for describing what happens when your digestive system suddenly slams itself into reverse, that's what Meal-in-One Casserole looked like.
I served this meal with very attractive mixed-greens salad the girls concocted, accompanied by a tasty garlic vinaigrette dressing.
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 cab whole kernel corn, drained
1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (I omitted this ingredient because mushrooms? With salsa? I think not.)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
5 cups uncooked egg noodles
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup hot water
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese -- cheddar, colby/Monterrey, etc.
This was easy-peasy to put together. First, you had to brown the ground beef with the onion. After it was cooked through, I put it in the slow-cooker first, adding the chopped green pepper on top. After that, the can of corn went in, followed by the salt and some vigorous grinds of the pepper mill. Salsa was next, topped by the egg noodles, undrained the diced tomatoes, the water and the cheese.
The instructions said to cover the slow-cooker and cook the ingredients on low heat for four hours, or until the noodles were tender. I did this, but some of the noodles never got tender. Some of them stayed a bit crispy, which is not a pleasant texture.
Dished up, this meal was the most awful-looking thing I've ever seen. Truly. It was horrible. The taste was extremely bland, in spite of the fact that I used a medium-heat salsa and set some jalapeno peppers out on the table. Nothing could counteract the blandness.
Mostly, we all just pushed it aside and ate our salads.
Aisling and I entertained ourselves later by scooping the leftovers into the kitchen sink with a spoon and making throwy-uppy noises when it splattered into the sink. Meelyn found this vastly amusing, and screamed with laughter. It sounded very realistic. And looked realistic, too.
So it might not have looked or tasted good, but maybe I should give it a few points for the entertainment value.
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