“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

13 October 2011

Charlene’s “Utah” hamburger casserole and a recipe loosely based thereon

(Since I don't have a picture of this delectable dish I thought I'd share a relatable experience of what it's like, STILL, when grocery shopping with the animals.)
As forewarned, here is one of my flops.  Ok, not EXACTLY a flop, but a flop in my opinion.  I may end up trying it again... the jury’s still out on that one.  And for the record (to continue the court metaphor) Charlene didn’t call this a Utah casserole.  I added that because it’s just so typically Utah.  If I have any readers (fictitious or otherwise) who may not understand the culture, almost every “typical” Utah meal is made with cream of chicken or mushroom soup and cheese.  Other ingredients vary, but cream of soups and cheese are mandatory.

So here’s the recipe, the way I wrote it down during a phone conversation:

Charlene’s Hamburger Casserole
(title added later for your convenience)
Charlene’s hamburger casserole
1 pound ground beef
casserole dish with cooked noodles
can of cream of mush soup (my friend actually told me cream of chicken, but I like cream of mushroom so much better)
1 soup can of canned milk
30 mins at 350°

Yes, really, thats the recipe.  At least, thats the way my copy of it looks.  Leaves things pretty wide open, doesn’t it?  I have to admit, I deviated even from that.  (Hey, what can I say, it’s a talent!)  Here’s what I did:

Ms Version of Charlenes Hamburger Casserole
1 pound ground beef
about 12 ounces of shell pasta
1 can cream of mushroom soup
almost 1 can half & half
(I didn’t actually use half & half ~ I poured a little whipping cream and a little milk in the can, no exact measurements ~ my friend warned me that it wouldn’t taste the same without the canned milk, but of course I wasnt listening!)
a good handful of mozzarella cheese
(didn’t measure this either ~ my friend strongly recommended cheddar, but I had some mozzarella threatening to go bad in my fridge...)
season salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef.

Add all ingredients to a 9x13” (or equivalent) baking dish and mix well.  Cover and bake in a 350° oven for approximately 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

So, as my friend warned, this was probably quite a different dish than it would have been had I been willing to actually follow the directions.  It also received mixed reviews.  My husband said it was too bland (I apparently didn’t add enough season salt).  Oldest ate it, but didn’t like it particularly well.  Middlest picked at it but withheld testimony, pleading the fifth.  Littlest had something pretty surprising to say.  I’ll do my best to quote him verbatim: “I didn’t think there was anything much better than macaroni and cheese unless it was pizza.  But this is even better than pizza mom!”  At least I got one rave review!  And me?  I was hungry.  So hungry that apparently anything tasted good.  Either that or Littlest and I really do share the same palate...


  1. What this REALLY should be called is "Homemade Hamburger Helper" :-) Or "Opposite Charlene's Hamburger Casserole" From the sounds of it, I prefer the original, but of course it's what I grew up on... Hehe LOVE YOU! <3

  2. And egg noodles...I think it must have egg noodles... :D

  3. I'll have to try it your (mom's) way one of these days and see if the animals appreciate it better. Thanks for sharing!