06 March 2012

Frito Casserole

You know how memories throughout your life all revolve around food? Or is that just me... Anyway, all most of my childhood reminiscing triggers food I loved as a kid.  Not just Eggo cinnamon toast waffles, frozen TV dinners with that cartoon penguin, and sausages wrapped in pancakes from Market Day, I'm talking Home.Cooked.Meals. Hence why I'd like to be a halfway decent cook by the time my children arrive... by stork... as fully developed 3 year olds.... isn't that how it works?!

As a stay-at-home mom raising three kids close in age, teaching private piano, accompanying church and choirs, and doing bills and the displays for the family bakery, when it came to dinner my mom relied heavily on the middle class favorite: CASSEROLES. Doesn't it have an ominous ring to it? Now with countless fad diets, vegan/vegetarianism, the Food Network & Cooking Channel, tons of food magazines, Pinterest... the idea of a casserole is old fashioned, uncool, stereotyped as (dun dun dun!) unhealthy.  Now that the Crockpot is en vogue, I want to bring back the Casserole Love.

The fact remains that I still love many of my mom's casseroles (Note: I did not say ALL) and enjoy the simplicity and smell of dinner baking in the oven. If you hadn't guessed-- which I know you did cause you're a mad genius-- my absolute favorite is Frito Casserole. Since my little brother John HATED beans as a kid, FC became a treat as my mom tried desperately to please her family of five (3 of whom were picky children who disliked various foods) with one singular supper. We'd have it occasionally, John washing down every bite with the required glass of milk for our meal and a pained expression on his face, and those were the nights I was happy to eat home rather than McDonald's or (getting fancy on you now) Applebee's.

Can you blame me?

Seriously, who doesn't love meat, cheese, and Fritos?! (rhetorical question alert) Honestly, there aren't too many beans and they're easy to pick out, so if you have a child that has an aversion to those gas wielding beauties, this is still a manageable meal.  Otherwise try leaving them out or substituting them for something else and let me know what you do-- I love when people mess with my recipes :)

Mmmmmmmmmm NOM NOM NOM!

The best part about this recipe is it's a version of my mom's but even she changed it from the original: she added the cheese. My taste buds thank you, Mother.

1 to 1.25# ground turkey (or beef)
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 - 16oz can tomato sauce
5.5oz tomato juice (Campbell's makes little cans)
1 medium sized bag Lightly Salted Fritos (or regular)
1 can chili beans, with liquid (I used organic, but Brooks is a recommended brand)
1/2 to 1 tsp oregano
Dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
1-3 Tbsp chili powder-- to taste
8oz Shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat, onion, garlic (add salt & pepper to taste). Drain. Stir in tomato sauce, juice, oregano, red pepper, chili powder. In 2 qt casserole dish, layer beans, meat, cheese, and chips twice in that order. Cover and bake for 45 minutes-- uncover for the last 10 minutes.

Hodge Podge notes...  If you're like me and don't have a 2qt dish, any deeper and less wide dish will work. I used my Dutch oven, but you can buy aluminum dishes at the grocery store for one time use. Just cover with foil :)

Next time I want to add some chopped jalapeno (add with onion) as well as my favorite herb... CILANTRO (add with oregano)!!  Feel free to try.

Finally, serve guacamole and chips-- or some kind of avocado salad as a side-- it's a great balance of flavor.

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