Dangerous Compassions

nostalgic casserole

Good morning–been thinking about nostalgic casserole.  Yes, what my mom made when I was a kid.  There are two main nostalgic casseroles that I group together: hamburger chili powder, and chicken with rice.

hamburger chili powder

My mom would start rice.  While it cooked, she would fry up some ground beef in her favorite frying pan.  She would drain the fat into a corelle teacup, then add to the meat a diced onion and lots of garlic.

Then she would add a ton of chili powder, pepper, salt.  Garlic salt maybe?  This was a pretty standard meal-beginning.  If she was going to make tacos or burritos, she might start the meat this way.

Yes, I did make this dish as a child.  It’s beyond easy.  Later I made it with ground turkey, when I stopped eating mammals as a teenager.  That was a few years on my veg journey!

Then she would mix the meat in with the cooked rice.  And she would scramble some eggs, and add those too.  All this material she would heap into a pyrex dish and put in the oven.

Not sure why.  I don’t remember any side-dishes for this meal.  In the oven a while, the food might get slightly drier on the edges.  Otherwise, I see no reason for the oven part.  It’s not like she was melting cheese or keeping it warm while the ______ cooked.

We were not really salad-eating people until later.  So I don’t think we were busy making the salad or anything.  Maybe putting something in the oven and taking it out of the oven was a pleasure.  Or meal-legitimizing.  The oven door made a beautiful squeak sound.


This meal was delicious, but I had an issue with onions, as a kid.  I didn’t believe that onions were food, as they are clear.  I also had an issue with the texture.  Onions were highly suspect.  They reminded me of fingernails.

My mom would try to cut the onions very fine, and if I picked them out anyway, that was a problem for her.  I’m not going to say it enraged her, but something like that.  So I was in a difficult position.  I needed to choose the discomfort of eating a non-food, vs discomfort of upsetting Mama.

The flavor was nice, and the carbiness of the rice was comforting.  She left the meat in little clumps, and the eggs were similar.  So you could get a bite with a meat clump or egg clump, which was fun.

It might have had salsa also, but I’m not sure.  Red salsa was the only kind we had, when I was a kid.  Her brand of chili powder was Gephardt.  I keep some Gephardt chili powder in my kitchen, nostalgically.  It used to come in that pretty angular glass bottle.

Not sure if Mama made up this dish, if it was from her childhood, she read the recipe it in a magazine, or was it just a desperation dish of poverty and the ingredients that were plentiful?  Who knows, but I loved it.

veg version

I made a version this morning that was vegetarian and also vegan because I left out the egg.  I had this veg ground beef from Trader Joe’s.  Spoiler alert: it turned out delicious.

I started some rice cooking.  Then I diced an onion and half a green bell pepper.  I don’t think bell pepper was in the original version, but sounded great.  Fried that up in my wok, and added three cloves minced fresh garlic.  Added the fake meat–browned all that.  Added black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder.

nostalgic casserole

Trader Joe’s veg meat turns into small bits, so it didn’t have that quality of clumps.  But wow, the dish was amazing.  Looks humble, but it’s lovely!

Tomatoes aren’t so good for my tummy, so I didn’t put salsa in the whole thing.  I added salsa to Ming’s, and he loved it.  I also put a raw bell pepper slice for him as a tasty garnish.

chicken nostalgic casserole

The chicken nostalgic casserole was rice, onions, left over chicken shredded, and cream of mushroom soup.  Similarly, all the ingredients were heaped into a pyrex and baked, for no good reason that I know of.

Similarly, I had an issue with the onions.  Thank goodness I became an onion lover as an adult.  Life is easier this way.


Please feel free to make these foods and delight your family, friends, or own tummy.  I had no concept of highbrow vs lowbrow food, as a kid.  My concepts of nutrition were very basic also.  We were struggling to get by, and thank goodness we did.

Sometimes the most simple foods are the most delicious.  There are so many ways to be satisfied.  Thank goodness for all of them.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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