Being the mother of picky eaters, I’ve struggled to find dishes my boys would willingly eat. CHEESY “HAM” CASSEROLE became an instant favorite in our home. A bonus is that it’s loaded with broccoli, so even if they try to pick out the larger pieces, they’re still ingesting the smaller bits. (Hey, I’ll take what I can get!)
New readers may be perplexed by a vegetarian cooking blog using ham. Well, if you look carefully you notice the quotation marks around the word “ham”. That’s my shorthand for “fake”, “faux”, or “imitation”. If the idea of fake meat makes you cringe, then just leave it out and call the dish CHEESY BROCCOLI CASSEROLE. But for those of us ex-carnivores who like meat but are choosing not to eat it, the right imitation meat keeps us from falling off the vegetarian wagon.
CHEESY “HAM” CASSEROLE is quite easy to put together, plus it can be prepared ahead of time. Half an hour before dinner, just pop the casserole in the oven to bake. Use the cooking time to make your side dishes, set the table, and get the kids to make their way into the kitchen (a feat in itself).
CHEESY “HAM” CASSEROLE
- 3 cups uncooked spiral noodles (I use Wacky Mac)
- 2½ cups broccoli pieces
- 5 oz fake ham (I use Worthington frozen “Ham” loaf)
- 1¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2/3 cup milk (any kind)
- 3 cups medium Cheddar cheese, shredded
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles until they are ALMOST done – they will continue to cook in the oven. Rinse with cold water in a colander to stop the cooking process.NOTE: If you’re using colored pasta, such as Wacky Mac that I use, you’ll notice that the color, unfortunately, fades with cooking. (See photo below). I don’t think there’s anything that can be done.While the pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli. Like the noodles, you don’t want it overcooked or it will be mushy. Just steam it for about 5 minutes.While the pasta and broccoli are cooking, cube the “ham” into bite-sized pieces. To save dirtying a bowl, use the empty pasta pot to combine the noodles, broccoli, “ham”, mayonnaise, milk, and 2½ cups of the cheese. Stir gently, but thoroughly. Pour into a 2.5 quart casserole and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Cover and bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.