Southwestern Chili Casserole
I hid in the shadows of the long rolling coat racks along the wall of our church basement, biting my lip, and praying that I’d just fade into the creamy yellow walls and disappear. As I was sporting my favorite neon colored, geometrical patterned blouse with the shoulder pads protruding 6 inches past each arm, this plea was out of the question.
My fourteen year old self had been so excited, and thinking back, quite bold, signing up to bring the ‘treat’ for fellowship coffee hour at the small country church I grew up attending. Our little church was full of wonderfully talented cooks. The spread was always lovely every Sunday morning. Whether it was homemade or store bought, warm coffee cakes, donuts, fruit and countless other goodies were always present. At fourteen, I was just entering the foray into cooking and baking on my own, and was quick to want to share my seriously amazing skills. Dump cakes with 3 ingredients, and Girl Scout Banana Boats were my specialties. It’s like I was born for the Iron Chef competition.
I decided to go with a showstopper – Rice Krispie Treats. Made well, this classic kid’s dessert is delectable (and addicting, c’mon, admit it!). Made terribly, and well, you have what I served to our congregation that morning. The steps leading up to the terrible end results are a blur. I can’t remember what went wrong. However, I do remember sampling a bite before cutting and plating them up that Sunday morning. Snap, crackle, pop…went my teeth. They were hard as a rock! Horrified, and with no Plan B, I continued to ice pick my way through the pan, sawing them apart. Why my mother didn't insist we stop at the store and pick up a Plan B, I do not recall. Perhaps I didn't tell her they were terrible. Perhaps we were already late and/or she was busy taking care of my 3 younger siblings. Who can know, but I was headed for coffee hour disaster.
I stood far away from the treat table, observing people drawn in by the mountain of delicious looking rice krispie blocks, only to see eyes flying wide open as they realized they were chewing on a brick paver. My father, always the comedian, kept walking past me singing Bob Seger’s song “Like a Rock.” To this day, I hate that song.
Fast forward twenty years, lots of practice in the kitchen, and I still have the occasional “bomb”. Don’t we all? Within Burnt Offerings, I promise to share delicious family pleasing recipes - “bomb free” guaranteed.
So what’s your Plan B when things go awry? Or, when it’s 5 o’clock and there’s no dinner plan on the horizon? For many of us, it’s spaghetti. Old faithful.
A spaghetti dinner, in my opinion, is deceivingly laborious. The ingredients appear so innocent there in the cupboard. Just a box of noodles, and jar of sauce, right? However, when it’s all said and done, my kitchen looks like Hurricane Francesco Rinaldi blew through. By the time you’re finished boiling the noodles, making the sauce (or just heating a jar of sauce up), browning and draining meat, baking the garlic bread, tossing a salad or heating a vegetable, you are left with approximately 900 dirty pots, pans, colanders, spoons, serving dishes, and then there’s the dinner table to clean up!
I’ve got a solution for you. It’s called All-In-One Spaghetti. I kept seeing this recipe floating around, and the Italian in me was skeptical of the ingredients. But finally I decided to try it – and we had a winner! It was delicious! The method here is cooking the noodles right in the sauce, saving you a few extra steps and dishes to wash. Brilliant! I’ve also made this recipe using my own homemade sauce (or 2 jars of spaghetti sauce), and just add 3-4 cups of water.
All-In-One Spaghetti – 4 Servings
(Double for a big family – it’s always plenty for us, but we have small children who eat tiny portions.)
½ to 1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (or about 1 ½ cups frozen chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or oregano
Dash of pepper
8 oz spaghetti, uncooked
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Cook first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven (or larger pot if doubling recipe), stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return beef mixture to pan. Stir in tomato sauce and next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes.
Add pasta; cover and simmer, stirring often, 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with cheese.
On The Side: Serve this with your favorite kind of garlic bread, and a chilled tossed salad, or green beans dressed with a little browned butter and garlic salt.
Recipe Source: Southern Living Magazine - November 1998
If you were to peek inside Jen’s recipe box, you would find a little bit of everything. She vacillates between Velveeta and Quinoa, and considers a successful meal one in which no gagging noises were made by her children. Pulling from old family favorites and new classics, Jen is always on the lookout for recipes that are simple, crowd pleasing, and of course delicious. She's eager to share some of her favorites with you! Watching “food is love” in action by many of the cooks in her family and community growing up, Jen now strives to love her family and friends through the dishes she serves and shares.