Monday, April 23, 2012

No Side Dish Needed?

No kidding!

There are days when I dream of preparing a lavishly laid out table...several colorful foods crowding the table, tendrils of steam rising from the tureens and crocks, succulent platters of savory meats, tender-crisp vegetables, and not to mention a wonderful variety of breads and sweets.

And then there's reality.  And that's when I make dishes like this:


Let me describe what you're looking at.  Mixed vegetables and canned vegetarian chili atop a dense cornbread bottom.  If you make this dish, know what else you'll be looking at?  An empty dinner table!  An empty dishwasher!  Because you've got everything you need in one casserole!

Cornbread-Chili Bake

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups boiling water
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 cans (15 oz) fat-free vegetarian chili
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen mixed veg, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 350.  Bring water to a boil, then gradually whisk in cornmeal and salt.  Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until mixture is thick.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 c. of the cheese.  Spread cornmeal into a sprayed 13 x 9 baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes.

Top the baked cornbread layer with vegetables, then chili, then cheese.  Bake another 15 minutes until cheese is melted.  Let casserole sit about 5-10 minutes before serving.

And, then, yeah.  Just place it on the table, and let people dig in.  You'll feel odd for several minutes...the feeling that you're forgetting something.  It will pass.  Eventually, you'll feel a great relief because you've just made a one-stop-shop dish that your family actually likes!  Save the laden-table dream for tomorrow.

Note: There's opportunity for real variety here.  Mix in some Parmesan, ground beef/turkey, spaghetti sauce for a lasagna-ish feel.  Use meat chili, leftover beef stew (as long as it's thick).  Leave off the cheese.  Use Jiffy boxed mix instead of cornmeal (although skip the eggs in the prep - big and fluffy is not desirable for this ensemble).

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