2 lbs. wieners (your kids' favorite kind

1 qt. water

1 large can baked beans, 28-oz. size

1 can chili without beans, 15-oz. size

2/3 cup hickory flavored barbecue sauce

2 boxes macaroni and cheese, 7-1/4 oz. size

12 cups boiling salted water (2-tsp. salt)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup milk, room temperature

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

2 packs hotdog buns

First thing you want to do is bring a quart of water to a rapid boil in a 4-quart Dutch oven. Then drop in the wieners and make sure that they're all submerged. The water will immediately stop boiling; but when it comes back to a full boil reduce the fire to medium low and let the wieners simmer for at least 5 minutes. (Note: After the initial boiling process, you may allow the wieners to remain in the warm water (set the flame to low) so that they stay hot while you prepare the beans.

Speaking of preparing the beans, very simply pour the contents of the can into another 4-quart Dutch oven or a 4-quart oval roaster. Then set the fire under the pot to medium-low and heat the beans until they are hot and bubbly. Caution: Watch the flame and continually stir the beans as they heat to keep them from scorching or burning.

Now when the beans come to serving temperature, stir in the can of chili along with the barbecue sauce and thoroughly combine the ingredients to a smooth consistency. Once complete, reduce the fire to low once again, drain the wieners and submerge them in the beans, cover the pot, and let everything simmer until you're ready to eat.

In the meantime, whip up the macaroni and cheese dish. Notice that most children don't insist that you make this from scratch-they seem to love the boxed varieties just fine! So open two boxes of your favorite brand, bring 12 cups of water to a boil in a large stockpot, drop in the pasta, and cook it at a rapid boil for about 10 minutes or until it is tender (but still al dente).

When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly in a colander. Then transfer it to a large mixing bowl and, while still hot, stir into it the melted butter, the whole milk, and the shredded cheddar (along with the cheese packets that came in the boxes). Take a little extra time to do this step right-you want to stir and stir so that the sauce comes out creamy and smooth.

Finally, all that's left is to spoon out on the kids' plates a helping of beans, one or two weenies, and a mound of macaroni and cheese. Believe me, they'll be back for seconds and they'll go off and tell all their friends that you're the greatest cook in the whole wide world! Oh, yeah-the hotdog buns are there because you can bet they'd want them if you didn't have them! Do I know your kids, or what?


Chef's Notes:

1. The choice of which 'weenies' to buy is up to you-you can get beef, pork, chicken, a combination of all three, or those 'el cheapo' red ones in the family packs that most kids think are the gourmet kind. Whichever you decide to use, the trick is to boil them the minute you get them home from the grocery and have them ready to eat (once boiled, they can be kept in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave for 'instant feeding.')

2. Even after combining the weenies and the beans, the mixture can be stashed in the fridge and served up al a cart whenever a hungry child beckons. Again, that's why God invented the microwave.

3. Beans can also be served ala microwave directly from the refrigerator, so you're encouraged to keep a good supply on hand at all times. By the way, if your family prefers the old-timey 'pork-n-beans' over 'dem high-fangled baked beans, serve them what they like best. I would, however, doctor up either variety with the barbecue sauce. It makes a significant difference in taste.

4. One more thing: I leave the addition of the chili sauce to the beans entirely up to your fancy. I find that it transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. But that's just me-you need to determine how your eaters want it. Of course, the same goes for the extra cheddar cheese. If your kids prefer just the powdered cheese packet that comes in the box, do it that way. If, like my grandkids, they like a 'cheesier' flavor, whisk in the shredded cheddar. Tell 'em it's what we call 'lagniappe.'