Whoa! Can you believe August will be here in just a few days!?! I know I certainly can’t believe it! Yeah sure, it physically feels like August is fast approaching, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees the past few days, but it doesn’t “feel” like August is coming. You know what I mean!?!
But the reality is that August is almost here. The shelves at stores are being packed with school supplies and parents are rushing to not only squeeze in much needed shopping for new clothes, but maybe a last minute summer vacation or summer activity.
And I must admit, while I am hanging onto every single minute of summer, the onset of August and a new school year, always brings a flood of memories. Memories of pink lunchboxes and a new box of crayons, all while
eagerly nervously anticipating a new grade at school with new classmates.
Another memory I have of starting a new school year is our annual “Back to School” dinner. For as long as I can remember my Mom took our entire family out to eat or made an extra special dinner at home for us to celebrate the start of a new school year. My siblings and I always looked forward to this special dinner because we rarely went out to eat and if one year we were celebrating at home, well we thought it was so cool that our Mom let us pick out what we would have for dinner.
If we were choosing, we usually picked Frito Chili Pie! I mean what kid doesn’t love a meal that they are allowed to eat chips for the main course! With the arrival of August, I was recently reminded of not only this tradition, but specifically this meal, when I was recently at Randalls picking up a few things. I ran in to grab milk, but of course ended up getting a few other things as well! I noticed Randalls (and their family of stores) is having a huge anniversary stock up sale with many popular back to school food items, like Quaker oatmeal and cereal, Frito Lay chips and a variety of Pepsi and Mountain Dew sodas, all on sale. When I saw these items I immediately wanted make that Frito Chili Pie that I remembered so vividly from my childhood.
Frito Chili Pie is a classic southern dish, consisting of three basic things: Fritos corn chips (duh!), chili (duh!), and cheese. My Mom always made her’s the classic southern way by using canned chili and baking her Frito Chili Pie in a large casserole dish. However, as I have gotten older I have put my own spin on this dish. I skip the baking, because who needs the extra step (and dirty dish) and I hate heating up my house because of the oven on a hot Texas day. I also crafted my own homemade Texas style chili (Texas style means no beans!) that I prefer. In my base chili recipe I always add about a cup of beef broth or tomato juice, but when I saw the Pepsi on sale at Randalls, decided to add it instead. After all, having soda with dinner was another “special occasion only” sort of thing and sweet treat that I loved as a kids. But don’t worry, this substitution was perfect and the sweetness of the soda helped balance the heat that lingers after each bite!
Today I am sharing this go to family recipe as I anticipate our own back to school dinner that we will be having soon! Since I know many of you are partial to a baked Frito Chili Pie (like I had growing up), I have also included those directions in the recipe below.
For the Texas Style Chili:
1 ½ tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (12 -ounce) can Pepsi (1 ½ cups)
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon masa or cornmeal
1 (14-once) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
For the Frito Chili Pie:
1 (9 ¾-ounce or 19-ounce) bag Fritos Corn Chips (or 6 individual bags)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar pickled jalapeno peppers
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat ½ tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink; using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain the cooked ground beef and set aside.
To the same pot, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add minced jalapenos and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in Pepsi and stir until tomato paste has dissolved.
Return cooked ground beef to the pot. Stir in the spices and cornmeal. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or up to one hour, stirring occasionally.
Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed before serving.
To serve, place corn chips in bowl. Top with a ladle full of chili. Top chili with desired amount of toppings including cheese, yellow or green onions and pickled jalapenos.
Alternatively, Frito Chili Pie can be served directly in single serve Fritos chip bags.
Baked Version: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare chili as directed above. Spread a thin layer of Fritos corn chips along the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish. Pour half of the prepared chili evenly on top of the corn chips. Top chili with half of the cheese. Top cheese with another layer of Fritos. Top second layer of chips with remaining chili and cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Allow chili pie to cool in pan for 5 minutes before serving. Serve topped as desired.
While I shopped Randalls’ Huge Anniversary sale (going on from 7/29/15-8/11/15), check out what great deals are available at Safeway, Albertsons, Tom Thumb, or Amigos (or the Albertsons’ banner store in your area)! Sales vary by store so be sure to click on each link to see what is on sale at your store!