Sunday, March 30, 2014

Subtle Changes Make Comfort More Comforting.

I enjoy trying out new foods; many I end up adding to my list of recipes or staples in the pantry; others, not so much.  The most important feature though is the degree of comfort I receive; how good does this food item make me feel?  Oh yes, taste, texture, smell and the "eye candy" factor are important features too, but then again, I am a "comfort cook". 

I have recipes that I often do not change as they seem to be as good as they'll ever be.  Then I get that little voice in my head nagging me, "..but what if you add or change this...?"  That's what happened when I began prepping to make one of my hubby's favorite meals, "Little Smokies and Bean Casserole".  Usually I add in diced raw onion; but what if I rough chop the onion, saute' in olive oil till softened and just browning on the edges?  While this dish is usually sweet, salty and savory; what if I add in some green chiles for a kick start?

Just a couple of subtle changes made this comfort food recipe into a "hugging your favorite stuffed toy while licking the bowl clean" comfort food.  Absolute Yum!!!

First I'll give you the original recipe; then the newest version.

Little Smokies and Bean Casserole


1 (15.5 oz) can each pinto, white kidney (Great Northern) and butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp each molasses and spicy brown mustard
1 small onion, diced
1 (13 oz) package beef Little Smokies
1 (8 oz) package shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/4 cup of cheese.  Pour mixture into the casserole dish; sprinkle remaining cheese over top.  Bake for one hour.

Makes 6 servings.

Now I've been making this casserole this way since 1994 without any changes; talk about being in a rut!

Here's the new version which I believe is so much better in so many ways.

Subtle Little Smokies and Bean Casserole


1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1 (53 oz) can pork and beans in tomato sauce; drain off top layer of clear liquid
1 (4 oz) can green chiles (mild gives a soft savory taste, medium gives some heat)
1 (13 oz) package beef little smokies
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 (8 oz) package sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a small skillet, medium-high heat, saute' onions in olive oil until softened and just browning on the edges; about 5 minutes.  The onions will begin to "hop" in the skillet, add the salt and pepper; remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the onions with the beans, chiles, little smokies, corn syrup and half the cheese.  Pour into the casserole dish; bake for 30 minutes.

Remove dish from oven, sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Well, I did make more than the two initial changes, but sauteing the onions and adding the chiles increased the savory flavor.  Using corn syrup, instead of the molasses plus brown sugar, lessened the sweetness, but caused all the ingredients to be a perfect flavor harmony.  The overall mouth feel was just yum - yum - yum and the desire to lick the bowl clean was strong!

Try out both recipes and see which one comforts you the most.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

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