Use your noodles!

I will be forever grateful that my parents, especially my dad, taught me how to think for myself.  If I asked for help solving a problem, Dad didn’t necessarily spout out the solution.  He often guided me along the path of figuring out the answer on my own.  To him, my head was for something more than to fill the space between my shoulders.  Dad trained me in the art of “using my noodle.”

Bob (my late husband) was also good at working things out for himself.  If there was a solution to be had, he was going to find it.  Bob frequently used items he had on hand to come up with a gadget that would accomplish his purpose.  For instance, he once created a device that sliced a narrow channel in the ground and then inserted wire for an underground fence.  This compilation of pieces and parts was made to pull behind his garden tractor (which had hydraulics), and he was quite pleased with himself for being able to come up with something that would save time digging, and we could save the money it cost to rent one. 

Soon after we were married, Bob decided to help me defrost the refrigerator freezer.  It wasn’t self-defrosting, so every month or two I was obliged to take everything out of it and remove all the ice myself.  If I didn’t, the fins around the coils would get frozen solid, and the refrigerator quit working properly.  I developed a routine that enabled me to get the job done fairly quickly, depending on how much ice had built up around the fins. 

One evening after I had emptied the freezer, Bob declared that he was going to come up with something that would speed up my task.  He worked and worked on his idea; in the meantime, I grew impatient.  I wanted to finish the job and get our frozen food back where it belonged. As per usual, I unscrewed the bottom of the freezer section and removed it, revealing the iced-up coils.  Bob was still planning the contraption that he thought would make my life easier.  I used my trusty hair dryer to melt the ice, sopped up the water with a bath towel, dried the coils as best I could, screwed the bottom back in the freezer, and plugged in the refrigerator.

Just as I was finishing the dreaded defrosting job, Bob returned to the kitchen with his plans for a labor-saving device.  He wasn’t happy that I hadn’t waited on him to complete his invention before I used my hair dryer to accomplish what needed to be done.  I gently explained to him that in the time it took to for him to concoct his plans, the job was done and I was ready to put the food back in the freezer.  That was the last time Bob ever volunteered to “help” me defrost that refrigerator.

Sometimes I believe that using one’s noodle is a lost art in today’s world.  However, there is a way to use our noodles without having to think about it very much –  in the kitchen!  And March is National Noodle Month, so there’s no better time to start.  Here are some recipes to help:

Fettuccine-and-Spinach Casserole

1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian-style tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces fettuccine noodles (broken into thirds), cooked and drained

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

Cook first 4 ingredients in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink.  Drain and return to skillet.  Stir in mostly drained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning.

Combine spinach and next 5 ingredients.  Fold in noodles, and spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with half of Parmesan cheese; top with beef mixture and remaining Parmesan cheese. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Yield: 8 servings.

Vegetable-Bacon Noodle Toss

1/2 (16-ounce) package uncooked wide egg noodles

4 bacon slices

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

2 cups broccoli, steamed until barely tender and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes, slightly drained

1/2 cup light balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Prepare egg noodles according to package directions; drain noodles and keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp; remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in a small bowl.  Discard remaining drippings; wipe skillet clean with paper towel.  Crumble bacon.

Sauté chopped onion in hot reserved drippings over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender.  Add squash and broccoli; sauté 6 minutes or until squash is crisp-tender.  Add noodles, tomatoes, bacon, vinaigrette, salt, and pepper, stirring until well blended.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated.  Serve immediately, with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Note: Bacon may be omitted – use 2 teaspoons of olive oil to sauté the onion. 

Johnnie Knows It

4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles

1 pound ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 (10-3/4 ounce) can tomato soup, undiluted

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (may use Mexican 4-cheese blend)

2/3 cup salad olives, drained

Cook noodles in salted water according to package directions.  Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef in large skillet.  Remove meat from pan draining off grease.  Wipe pan clean with paper towel. 

Heat canola oil in skillet, add vegetables, and sauté until soft.  Return meat to skillet. Add salt and pepper.  Add tomato soup and tomato paste; mix well.  Add cooked noodles.  Heat thoroughly.  Mix in olives just before serving; melt cheese on top.

Ham & Noodle Casserole

1 cup sour cream

1 (10-3/4-ounce) cream of celery soup, undiluted

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles

1 (10 to 16-ounce) bag frozen Italian green beans

2 cups chopped cooked ham

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder OR 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 cup grated Swiss cheese OR 8 slices Swiss cheese

Combine sour cream, soup, milk, water, salt and pepper in large bowl.  Stir in noodles, green beans, ham, and garlic.  Spoon into greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and top with cheese.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes.