Dawn Hubbell-Staeble’s COVID-era Crock-Pot Casserole came together out of necessity and some mistakes in online grocery orders.

“We were snowed in at Marblehead. For a hot meal, we had some chicken breasts and I had a broccoli bake. It went from there,” Hubbell-Staeble said.

Hubbell-Staeble is a mother of invention: She cooks without recipes and measures without utensils.

“Call it COVID cooking. I ordered my meat this month through Perdue Farms. I don’t know why. It showed up on my Facebook page. I got it by FedEx. One of the things I got were frozen chicken thighs. I got the rest of my groceries either through Aldi, delivered, or Walmart as pickup,” she said. “The bacon also came from Perdue. I mixed that up. I didn’t realize it came in two-packs, so I got a lot of bacon. I also had some from Walmart, because I had forgotten I’d ordered it from Perdue.”

The Aldi Broccoli Bake is essential, because of the “creamy cheesy sauce,” Hubbell-Staeble said.

“I don’t measure. When you measure it just makes for more dishes,” she said.

She has a collection of slow cooker recipes.

“I have numerous Crock-Pots. This is a three and a half quart casserole Crock-Pot type slow cooker. I have two Instant Pots. I had an 8 quart and a 6 quart. I gave the 8 quart to a friend and then I was given another one that has air fryer lids. I use them more than I do the Crock-Pots now, because it’s faster. I also have five or six Crock-Pots,” she said. “As long as it’s one pot. That’s what I like, one cutting board, one pot. I’ve got them in all different sizes. I like to cook big.”

Her style comes from necessity and love. She and her husband Louis Staeble raised three boys who were all home schooled.

All three sons went to Bowling Green State University. She won’t say exactly how many years she has taught there, but she has gotten her 25 years in twice, “because there are so many ways of counting.”

Hubbell-Staeble is a non-tenure track professor who teaches first-year writing. She said she also teaches students to grow in their personal and professional development based on their personality.

There would also be monthly faculty pot-luck type events.

“At one point I would roast two to three chickens on a weekend and we would use those chickens for meals during the week,” she said.

Every semester there are more students that she keeps tabs on, long after her class has ended. Some of them show up for dinner, or just pick up left-over care packages on her porch.

She has some tips for casserole cooking.

“For this one, I threw in frozen boneless chicken thighs. How many? Whatever was in the package. Probably a pound? I threw in the chick thighs. I threw in the broccoli bake. Threw in a block of cream cheese, so that’s 8 ounces. I put the Crock-Pot on high, because I didn’t start it when I should have started it,” Hubbell-Staeble said. “Just open and dump the broccoli bake. It need not be cooked first.”

As pictured, it is on top of brown rice.

“If you use breasts, make sure to cook on low, so they are tender. Thighs don’t get as dry as breast meat,” Hubbell-Staeble said. “You could also fancy this up, if you wanted to put buttered bread crumbs or cracker crumbs on the top. It would probably be really good with crispy fried onions on top. It’s just a basic casserole. The binder is whatever is in the broccoli bake, that makes it firm up, and the cream cheese.

“But I think it would also be good as a tetrazzini kind of thing, with spaghetti noodles. If you’re not avoiding simple carbs, you could mix the rice in while it cooked.”

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