Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Comfort Food...with a Twist

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My brother once said, "I used to think mom was a really good cook until I grew up and learned there is something called spices." I'll give my mom a lot of credit for putting wholesome, filling, and nutritious meals on the table, but my brother had a point. Salt and pepper was about it for putting a little extra flavor, and we had some pretty bland meals.  One of our favorites back then, and total comfort food, was what she called goulash.  Now those of you of Hungarian descent will be mortified at using that term for what I am going to describe, but that was our family name.  Even after we as kids were grown and out of the house, if it was a Saturday or Sunday afternoon impromptu gathering with kids and cousins, she would cook up a big batch of either Sloppy Joes, or her goulash. 

Basically it was hamburger cooked  loosely with some onion, salt and pepper, a big box of Creamette elbow macaroni, cooked to package directions, and a large can of tomato juice.  She would combine all the ingredients and let it cook until the juice had been cooked down and absorbed around the pasta, creating a kind of sauce.  Leftovers reheated were even better.  Sometimes she would use leftover Sloppy Joe meat that she had kept in the freezer-not enough for a meal on its own,  instead of fresh hamburger.  She was inventive, and didn't let food go to waste. I was craving some of that comfort food, but at this point, my palate needs a little more spice.  So here is my version.

1/2# hamburger cooked with 1 chopped onion, salt, pepper, and plenty of garlic powder
(tonight I had some leftover fresh mushrooms so I sliced them up to cook with the hamburger as well)
Once brown, add a 15 oz. can dice tomatoes, and 1 small can tomato paste. Add generous amounts of more garlic powder, Italian seasoning, more pepper, and a few healthy shakes of  chili powder.
While this is all simmering, cook 1# of elbow macaroni to box directions, drain, then add back to the pot, with the hamburger tomato mixture.  Mom always bought Creamette, but I have whatever was a good deal, though our preference is Barilla. Stir. It is now ready to eat. 

This was not so different than mom's, but it had more spice and more texture because of the dice tomato's instead of juice. Not counting the spices because I get those so dirt cheap I couldn't even estimate what I spent-maybe $ .25 worth  total, this came in under $6.00, and will feed the three of us to stuffed, with leftovers for DH lunch tomorrow, and probably a reheated dinner for my daughter after her confirmation class. It probably could and should go farther, but both DH and DD#2 have high metabolism and are athletic, so burn the carbs.  I reserved about two cups of cooked pasta so the hot dish would be  bit saucier, and I wanted to mix the left over macaroni with some chopped vegetables and a couple hard boiled eggs for a cold pasta salad for  my lunch tomorrow, making a $ .50 lunch.

Have you perked up or refreshed any family favorites from your childhood?  What meals stir up those comforting memories?  Chime in, and feel free to link to a favorite recipe or two.

My Advent Challenge changed from what I intended this morning.  I had a bag with some great tween age virtually brand new clothes to drop off at Family Services, along with some assorted jewelry.  We were running late out the door, and there it sat.  However, I was able to improvise, and  decided to give back to  my co-workers and put a fresh box of cinnamon tea in the break room this afternoon for a little pick me up.  I'll need to refresh my desk drawer supply, but it has been a cold week already.  A new dusting of snow will mean half of everyone in Minnesota will forget how to drive again, making for a long commute home for some of us.  I hope someone warmed themselves before getting on the road. It's all about comfort for me today. 


  1. I remember long ago, reading a recipe when I was new to Wisconsin from northern EUrope, and was looking for a good beef curry. The recipe gave a nice set of instructions for beef stew, then explained, that you made it into a curry by adding a quarter spoonful of curry powder just before serving. Bland, definitely. Wholesome, yes, that, too. But that was in the early 60s, when as you say, salt and pepper was about the limit of condiments, aside from yellow mustard on hot dogs.

    1. Oh-I think my friends mom uses that "curry" recipe. This was similar to her Chinese food recipes that meant "include soy sauce".

  2. Too funny! I knew you'd get it.

  3. Now the variety of spices seem endless right in the neighborhood grocery store. I do like a good curry.


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