Monday, August 22, 2011

The History Of My Mom's 6 Ingredient Crockpot Recipe

This post was prompted by the 108th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, which was focused on food. I think it's such a fabulous idea to look at our family history in terms of food!

Food is tied to so many things, from culture to health, how we cook to the brands we use, our relationships with food and our family ties over food... So many interesting facets to consider! (You really should spend some time reading the posts at that carnival link!) Each of us has many memories of family food s which don't revolve around those consumed at holidays.


Back in the day, when my mom was a single mom raising two little girls, she went to cupboard and found that while not completely bare, it certainly left a lot to be desired... But like most mothers, the real mothers of invention when it comes to necessity, my mom took what she found, along with some ground hamburger meat, and made a dish that lives on in our family.


When I first ate it, and indeed for many years of eating it, I had no idea this was a meal born of poverty or thrift. It was just dinner. Years later, knowing the truth behind the meal has comforted me more than just filling my belly; it's proof that having to scrimp isn't always bad and (perhaps most comforting of all) the knowledge that when times and cupboards are lean the kids typically have no idea. Less guilt, hooray!

Now my kids know this meal best as the start of the football season (more on that below); but I hope when they grow up, have families of their own and they make this dish, that they'll remember we all go though hard times. At those times, you make the most of what you've got until you get through it. And we all get through it.

The name, Corny Rot, derives from mom's lament that things weren't better. For me and mine, we just love it. It's easy and inexpensive to make -- and gives you easy to reheat leftovers too. The recipe allows great fluidity in terms of recipe size and ingredient substitution, for special diets, etc. This meal is also a great alternative to chili, if you, like I, have those who complain about chili for everything from "it's too spicy" to "I don't eat beans." And, of course, knowing the tradition brings another sense of warmth to the meal for me. 

Mom's original recipe is below -- complete with the brand names that she used and that I, in tradition, prefer to use. (My notes on any adjustments will be in parenthesis, just like this comment!)

Corny Rot: Crockpot Recipe

2 cans (29 oz.) of Hunt's tomato sauce
2 cans (10 3/4 oz.) of Campbell's tomato soup
2 cans (15 oz.) of whole kernel corn
1 can (14 oz.) of Hunt's stewed tomatoes (completely optional; no one in my family will eat stewed tomatoes, so I don't bother)
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef (I now use 2 or 3 pounds of ground beef or ground turkey meat -- which totally guarantees leftovers. But, in lean times, I've also made it with as little as one pound of ground meat.)
1 pound of Creamette's elbow macaroni (I usually use half of the 3 pound box, or 1 1/2 pounds of noodles)

Open and pour the tomato sauce, soup and, if used, stewed tomatoes into a crock pot or slow-cooker. Stir. Drain the cans of corn of their packing water, then add the kernel corn to the crock pot. Cover the crock pot; turn crock pot on "high."

Brown ground meat (I use lemon pepper to season at this time). Drain browned ground meat and add it to the crock pot. Stir in. Replace cover and leave.

At least an hour later, prepare the elbow macaroni (per box directions).

When the noodles are ready, drain them. Place noodles in bowls; ladle the contents of the crockpot over the noodles.
While there's no reason not to eat this year round, this dish signals the start of the football season for my family. Brown the meat and load the crock pot in the morning, before the game starts; make the noodles at half-time. When everyone returns to the TV for the second half of the game, the meal is ready and your kitchen duties are done! Folks can get refills as often as they wish.

When everyone's done eating, add the remaining noodles to the crock pot, cover, and place in the refidgerator for a quick microwavable meal later. (I think it even tastes better the next day, when the tomato sauce etc. adds flavor to the noodles!)

I also discovered the Best Six Ingredients Or Less Dinner Recipe Contest and I realized that in telling one of my family's stories and sharing the recipe I also had a contest entry. *wink*

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