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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Quick chili recipe really computes

Thursday, April 05, 2001

Tested by Bob Martinson; written by Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

Mildred Sirocca has come a long way, baby.

So far, the 81-year-old Morningside woman says she's helping to tutor a computer class at Vintage Senior Center in East Liberty. She starts tomorrow.


Not that she relegates herself to sitting for endless hours in front of a computer screen. "I'm in a walking group and a country line-dancing group," she says.

And now she's part of the elite group that has had a Countdown to Dinner recipe printed. She's no stranger to newspaper ink, though. We first met her and daughter Ilene, a singer/pianist, at an apple tasting for The Pittsburgh Press.

Mildred was raised in Homewood and has lived in Morningside for 49 years. She and her husband, Charles, will celebrate their 58th anniversary April 15. He has retired twice, first from the Bureau of Mines, then after 10 years at The Pittsburgh Club, a private men's luncheon club Downtown.

Daughter Vicki, who lives in Atlanta, has recently retired from the travel business and, says Mildred, "joined a senior center to keep up with her mother."

"If I could stop doing housework, I'd be retired," she jokes.

As it is, she has so many activities she tries to keep cooking chores to a minimum, and recently used our recipe for Pasta Fagioli, which was good, though her family thought a few more spices would be in order for next time.

We had to admit that we cheated a bit in our recipe test and added a chopped onion to her Quick and Easy Chili recipe. Turns out, she often drops in onion or chopped pepper herself.

"It's something good to throw together in a hurry," she says.

"I did not invent this recipe but it just evolved as I tried different combinations of tomato products. I made it this week."

We have tried similar recipes, but the tomato paste adds an intensity that we liked. We used a tablespoon of chili powder, but Mildred says she uses "a couple," which we'll try next time. The dish reheats beautifully for lunch, too. It's good with a little sharp Cheddar melted on top.

Quick and Easy Chili

1 pound ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1 small can tomato paste
1 14 1/2- or 15-ounce can kidney beans
Chili powder to taste

Brown ground beef in a large Teflon-covered pot, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add soup, paste and beans plus 1 or more cups of water, depending on whether you want the chili to be soupy or thick. Stir well, bring to simmering point and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chili powder to taste and stir well.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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