Like many parents, I am always on the lookout for ways to help out at my kids’ school, without, well, doing things that I hate the idea of doing. For example, some parents don’t mind working with accounting, and they end up holding the position of treasurer in their PTG or PTO.
Bless those people because that sounds like hell to me.
So it is not surprising that my first and favorite way to volunteer at Alex’s and Sammy’s school is baking and cooking. Treats for school functions? I’m there. Cookies for teachers at the holidays? I get off on that kind of stuff! Meals for the teachers during conference weeks? You are speaking my language….
The meals are always a tad trickier, though, because, to put it bluntly, we live in a rural area where I am not sure most people would recognize the dishes we like let alone want to try them. Was that snooty? I didn’t mean to be snooty, but I also don’t want to work hard at making a meal only to have people pass it by or not appreciate it. I’ve sent in some more exotic meals before, but I always get the most compliments on the Midwestern classics, the Italian American pasta dishes, the cheesy Tex Mex dishes. So when I come across a casserole that fits the bill and can be made ahead, I make 2–and put one in the freezer for the next conference week.
If you are wondering why we need to cook meals for the teachers for conference weeks, it goes back to living rurally again. The teachers stay through dinnertime to meet with parents–but there is no way for them to get dinner because there is nothing–and I mean nothing around the school. No groceries, no restaurants, pretty much just cow fields. So parents make dinner for the teachers.
This is one of those dishes. I had about a pound of bacon frozen, so rather than try to defrost only half of it, I decided to double the recipe and freeze half of it (without the cheddar cheese and tortilla chip topping–that will be added when I bake it). So I cannot report on how this dish has gone over with the teachers yet, but I expect it to go over well (I would expect it to go over well at any potluck occasion). We loved it in this house. It’s a little more Tex Mex than Midwestern, but I would not call it Tex Mex completely. It’s just good. And a good one to make or make ahead this time of year, when the tomatoes, onions and corn are in season.
- 1 lb lean ground beef, or a combo of turkey and beef
- 6 slices bacon, diced (if you dice it semi-frozen, you can dice it more finely, which is preferable)
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
- 2/3 cup tomato chutney*
- 2 cups cooked kidney beans, I used an heirloom kidney bean but you can use 1 can, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups cooked pinto beans, I used a comparable heirloom bean but you can use 1 can, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups cooked corn, I used fresh, frozen will work as well
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup crushed tortilla chips, I used blue corn tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 3 quart casserole dish and set aside.
Heat a large skillet on medium high. Add the tablespoon of oil, and when it is hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the water from the onions has cooked off and they have started to brown. Add the ground cumin. Stir in and cook for one minute. Add the ground beef and diced bacon, with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Stir together and cook, until the ground beef has browned. Add the diced bell pepper. Cook another 3 minutes. Drain any excess accumulated fat.
Take the pan off the heat. Mix in the beans, corn and tomato chutney. Spread into the prepared casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling.
Take the casserole out of the oven and sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese evenly over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips over that. Return the casserole to the over and bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla chips are crisp and browning.
Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
*You can sub 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and the remainder ketchup if you do not want to make the chutney, but in my opinion the homemade chutney is what really makes this casserole.