This is by no means authentic Spanish rice but it’s got rice, seasoning, and a whole lotta love. Besides that..it tastes great! Along with the rice, seasoning, (and tasting great) this Spanish rice is a meal all in itself. It’s filled with ground beef, green peppers, onions and all kinds of tomato-ey goodness. After all, Aunt Kathy made it and named it- so, no comments from the peanut gallery!
Let’s start off with WHO exactly “Aunt Kathy” is. She was my friend. She was the person I’d call to make feel better and end up being the one that got cheered up at the end of the conversation. We shared the same weird family “ailments” because we ARE family like low body temp and funky thyroid issues. Along with the internal likeness came external likeness too, like our same (but atypical) eye color and our wicked sense of humor. She’d always call me Sweetie or Peanut whenever I’d call and we’d spend the rest of the convo just laughing away. In one of our last conversations she told me I’d always been more of a daughter to her rather than a niece. She said we were like soulmates. I’ll never forget that, and those words will forever be in my heart.
I called my cousin a couple of days ago to see how she was doing and ask about her moms favorite casserole. I’d mentioned it to her last week and she said she’d mail me a copy. But selfishly, I couldn’t wait. This past Sunday was two weeks ago that my beloved Aunt Kathy passed and to be honest, I just wanted it. To hear the ingredients she picked. How she prepared it. I dunno.
We shared a love of food. Of cooking. We talked about it often. We’d laugh about the cooking shows on the Food Network and ooh and ah at new and maybe not so new seasonal recipes we were going to be making for the holidays. She was an amazing cook. My fondest memories are of us all gathered together for Thanksgiving at her house. She would make a HUGE turkey! Sometimes two! The sides were off the chart amazing and there was something for everyone. Dear Lord, the dessert table (yes, TABLE), was set out for the likes of kings and queens.
She was the epitome of gentleness. Of sweetness. If you could package up love and warmth and kindness, it’d be her. And so;
Aunt Kathy’s Spanish Rice:
*1 1/2 – 2 Cups Cooked White Rice (Follow package instructions- I used one cup of uncooked rice to 1 3/4 cups water to achieve 2 cups of rice)
*5-6 Slices Bacon
*1 lb. Ground Beef
*1 Large Sweet onion, diced
*1 Medium/Large Bell Pepper, diced
*1 Package Chill-O Mix Flavoring Packet
*2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
*1 Can Crushed Tomatoes (15 oz)
*3/4 cup water
*2 teaspoons salt
*1/3 to 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Render bacon in large skillet and remove from heat. Set bacon to side and pour off bacon fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in pan. Add ground beef and onions and bell pepper to pan. Cook beef until no longer pink. Drain in colander to remove fat and put back on heat. Add in seasoning packet as well as 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir together and add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in cooked rice. Crumble cooked bacon and add to dish. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking. Transfer to lightly greased 9″ x 9″ casserole dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and nicely browned.
Aunt Kathy loved this dish served hot from the oven with a simple tossed salad dressed in Italian dressing.
Cooking brings people together. Recipes connect family members. I was insistent on getting this recipe because I wanted to somehow connect with my aunt again-somehow. When this came out of the oven I spooned myself up a big bowl and sat up on the counter beside the stove and immediately felt like I was with her. Just knowing how much she enjoyed having this dish for her husband and kids made me feel like she was right there with me enjoying it too. That’s why I love food. It connects us.
What special family story do you have? Is there that one special dish that you love to make because it reminds you of that special someone? Who was it? Your grandmother? Maybe even your aunt? Share below:) I’d love to hear your story.