What flavors or dishes bring you back to your childhood kitchen? Is it a certain aroma that takes you back there, watching mom or dad, maybe even grandma or grandpa make you that special dish of theirs that you absolutely loved?
Sarah at Homemade is having a blog event called Tastes To Remember. Sarah has a fantastic blog, and I hope you'll all check it out. And bring your favorite childhood dish when you do, so you can submit it to this great event! Here's what she says about Tastes To Remember:
"Think about the foods that remind you of your childhood. Perhaps it is your mother's homemade spaghetti, or your grandmother's freshly baked apple pie. Or maybe it's a sauce or a simple snack you used to have after school. Whatever it is, this event is all about those tastes and smells that immediately bring you back to your childhood. This is an opportunity for all you food bloggers out there to share what recipe is really important to you (that is, if you're willing to give up the recipe!)."
I wasn't sure what to make for this. I have it marked on my calendar, and it had been staring at me every day. "You'd better get your !@%&* moving and choose something for this event!" (it seemed to say...) hehe. There were lots of things to choose from--my mom and my grandmother always cooked for me, but I couldn't narrow it down. Until yesterday, at the grocery store. My sons and I were looking at the different pasta shapes--they love to try new ones! We looked at Cellentani from Barilla. Those are fun--they're little tubes shaped like corkscrews. My sons, 8 and 5, like their pasta with only butter and parm, or "stinky cheese," as my husband started calling it for their benefit. Which is perfectly fine, until you're in a restaurant and one of them yells to the waiter (who has started to walk away, and is halfway across the dining room) "Wait! You forgot my stinky cheese!!!!!" Luckily, the place erupted in laughter, instead of looks of scorn and disdain.
So! My girls, 13 and 11, have graduated from topping their noodles with butter and stinky cheese, and now wouldn't have noodles without sauce. They don't care if it's homemade or from a jar, they love spaghetti sauce. So looking at the pasta, it hit me...American Chop Suey! My mom used to make it for us about once a week, and we happily gobbled it up. She made it for my kids, too, when they were younger, and it quickly became one of their favorites. Well, the girls, anyway--not the still picky boys.
Maybe some of you are wondering, WTF is American Chop Suey?
American Chop Suey
American Chop Suey (also American Goulash, Chili-Macaroni, Chili-Mac, Mac 'n Beef, Macaroni and Beef, or simply Macaroni) is an American pasta dish. The preferred name and recipe varies by region, for example, the name American chop suey is most prevalent in New England. Commercial preparations of this dish are commonly marketed as Macaroni and Beef.
Classic American chop suey consists of elbow macaroni and bits of cooked ground beef with sautéed onions and green peppers in a thick tomato-based sauce. Though this decidedly American comfort food is clearly influenced by Italian-American cuisine, it draws comparisons to chop suey or goulash because it is a thickened hodgepodge of meat and vegetables.
The recipe is quite adaptable to taste and available ingredients. Elbow macaroni can be substituted with any pasta of similar size, such as ziti, shells, or wagon wheels. The onions or green peppers may be omitted. While some recipes call for a smooth prepared tomato sauce, some cooks prefer to add crushed or diced tomatoes along with tomato paste for a tastier, chunkier dish. Black pepper, Italian herbs and Worcestershire sauce are commonly used in preparation.
American chop suey is served on a plate or in a bowl, with grated Parmesan cheese and/or Worcestershire sauce as condiments, often accompanied by bread.
Incidentally, chop suey itself is an American invented dish that is not usually served in mainland China.
It's a great comfort food, that's for sure. It's quick, easy, and (most...see above) kids love it! It shows up on school lunch menus around here to this day. I don't make it often, but my girls are so happy when I do. My 13 year old actually clapped and said yay! when I told her we were having it. It's not easy to get happy reactions out of a 13 year old girl, by the way. I made extra noodles for the boys to have the way they like it.
This couldn't be any easier, and you can make a lot to feed a crowd. It's great for potlucks, too. Oh! I try to use homemade sauce when possible, but since I didn't have any made, and was short on time, I used...shhhhh...sauce in a jar. But it was organic and HFCS free!!! I'm sure you'll let it slide, because the girls loved it, just the same, and that's what counts, right?
There's really no set recipe for this, as you can see from the Wikipedia entry above. Use what you've got. I don't usually use green pepper, but my mom always did. She also used beef, I use ground turkey. Here are the amounts I used, and we have lots of delicious leftovers.
American Chop Suey
1-1 1/2 boxes of your favorite small type of pasta (cellentani, elbows, whatever)
1-1 1/2 pounds ground turkey or beef
about 1/2 an onion, chopped finely
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
oregano and basil to taste, or you could use an Italian blend
a bit of salt and pepper
your favorite sauce (I used about a box and a half of pasta, and almost 2 (26 oz) jars of sauce)
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
While that's cooking, heat a large skillet.
When the skillet's hot, add a bit of oil to heat. Add the meat, onion and garlic, spices of your choice, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned and no longer pink.
Drain meat, if necessary, and return to pan. Add sauce to meat mixture and lower heat, just to heat the sauce through.
Drain noodles, and either add them back to the pan the pasta pot, or to a large bowl.
Pour meat and sauce mixture over, stir to combine.
Serve with grated parm and crusty bread.
And there you have it. Easy, and a real kid-pleaser. I know, because I used to be a kid. :)
So get on on over to Sarah's place and bring your favorite childhood dish! You've got until midnight, May 23rd. Thinking about what to make for this event brought back SO many memories. Thank you, Sarah!