Enchilada Casserole

I grew up in the Southwest, eating a lot of Mexican food. As a result, I’m very picky about my Mexican food. However, while I grew up eating a lot of enchiladas, I’m not very good at cooking them! They are time consuming and difficult to get right. This casserole gives you the enchilada-y goodness without the hassle. It’s very simple and very tasty! Thanks to my mom for passing it along to me!

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 1 can nacho cheese soup
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • 1/2 cup chicken bullion or chicken broth
  • corn tortillas

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cube and cook the chicken breasts on the stove top. In a bowl, mix the chicken, enchilada sauce, nacho cheese soup, onion, olives, and chicken broth.

Now you’re going to layer your enchilada casserole like a lasagna. Pour 1/3 of your enchilada mixture into an 8×8 casserole dish, then top with corn tortillas that you’ve torn into bite-sized pieces. Cover that with cheese, then spread another 1/3 of your mixture on top of that. Add a layer of torn-up corn tortillas, the last of the enchi mixture, and lots of cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. YUM. Enchilada-y goodness without the hassle!

TIPS:
When I’m doing a layered casserole like this, I often find it helpful to pour the liquidy portion of the dish into a large Pyrex measuring cup. That way, I know exactly how much I have, and how much I should use for each layer. I usually use less for the first layer, so I can use more for the last layer, since the liquid will seep down from the top to the bottom. You don’t want to get to the top layer and realize you don’t have enough liquidy stuff left, so err on the side of caution, and use a measuring cup. If you have 3 layers, and 3 cups of liquid, use slightly less than 1 cup for the first two layers, and the rest for the top layer.

Mom says you can use lots of different kinds of meat in this, besides chicken — leftover pulled pork, for example.  Experiment to see what you like best.

You could also add a small can of diced green chilies for a little extra flavor and a hint of heat.

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Oh So Simple Burgers

Do you have 1 pound of ground beef and an onion? Ok, you’ll need burger buns and salt and pepper and trimmings too. This recipe makes two generous burgers or three more moderate ones.

  • 1 pound ground beef (not too lean)
  • 1/2 onion
  • salt and pepper
  • buns and whatever trimmings you like
You’re going to want a large baking pan with roasting racks for this one. (I’m not even sure I’m using the right words here, but heck, a rectangular cake pan with some wire racks is all you need)

Turn on the broiler in your oven, and place the rack so that your patties will be about 3-4 inches from the burner. You need to take into account the height of whatever you are using to broil them in. Then pan and racks I use are about 2 inches tall, so I set mine as close to 5 inches from the coil as I can.

Mince half an onion as fine as you can. Place your beef in a bowl and drop the onion on top of it. Sprinkle on a respectable amount of salt and pepper, according to your personal tastes. Gently mix everything together. Your goal here is not to make goo of the meat, just to get everything kind of introduced. If you have some onion left over, that’s fine. Gently form the meat into patties and place them on the racks in your roasting pan.  Be careful not to over-work the meat.  If you have left-over onion, simply sprinkle it on top of your patties.

Place the hamburger-cooking-apparatus in the oven and broil for about 4 minutes, then flip the burgers and cook for another 4 minutes. If you like your burgers slightly better done than pink-in-the-middle, cook for 5 minutes on each side.

If you’re looking for a cheeseburger, I would add the cheese less than a minute from when you want to pull it out, since the broiler will melt it VERY fast.

I know this recipe seems extremely simple, but I promise that it is quite tasty, and it is a jumping-off point for more complex flavors, if you like, such as adding Ranch flavoring, or even something so simple as adding Worcestershire sauce to the mix.

Thanks, “How to Cook Everything!” (my go-to cookbook)

Italian Crusted Smothered Chicken

Easy, quick, and tasty — who could ask for more?

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Italian dressing
  • bread crumbs (they even make Italian herb bread crumbs if you want some extra Italian in your dinner)
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 3 slices provolone cheese

Marinate your chicken breasts in the Italian dressing. Thirty minutes will do it, but if you have time to give it an hour or two, so much the better.

When you’re just about ready to get started, chop up your mushrooms. Pour some bread crumbs onto a plate. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms, then stir them around really well to get them coated, then push them to one side of the skillet to leave room for the chicken. Add a little more oil in the empty side of the skillet. While the mushrooms are beginning to cook, bread your chicken breasts in the crumbs and place them in the skillet, top side down.

Cook the chicken for about 7 minutes on that side, then flip and cook for about another 3 minutes. You’ll be wanting to move your mushrooms around a little during this. After you’ve flipped and cooked your breasts for another 3 minutes, scoop the mushrooms onto the breasts and cover with the provolone cheese. I found it took 3 slices to completely cover the chicken and mushrooms. Now, cover, reduce heat SLIGHTLY and cook for another 3 minutes.

Make sure your chicken is done, either with a meat thermometer, or by cutting into the thickest part of the chicken and making sure it isn’t all pink inside.

This goes well with any of the veggies I’ve previously posted. Tonight it was served with Brussels sprouts.

Handheld Spinach Dip


My husband has been so good for me in so many ways. For one thing, because of him, I’ve tried so many foods that I always thought were…well, gross. 😉 The ABCs, if you will — Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and Cooked spinach, to name a few of the recipes I’ve posted here that you wouldn’t have caught me eating 10 years ago. 😉 I’m still not up for oysters, but at least I was willing to try spinach dip, and thus was born this little treat.

Basically, mix up some spinach dip and then bake it in little frozen pie crusts. Oh, my goodness. It’s rich and decadent and tasty!

  • a 12oz bag of frozen spinach
  • an 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 6 to 8 ounces grated cheese (I use a hot cheese, like pepperjack or jalapeno)
  • a little bit of cumin
  • minced garlic
  • butter
  • frozen pastry shells like the ones seen above

Normally, I use fresh produce, rather than frozen. But for this, frozen works just as well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Next, if you bought the type of frozen pastry shells that I did, they need to thaw a bit before you bake them (mine said 20 minutes). So take them out of their packaging and separate them, then just leave them alone to thaw while you do everything else.

If your cream cheese has just come out of the fridge, you’ll want to microwave it for 30 seconds or so to get it nice and soft. Set it aside — we’ll need it soon.

Get out your spinach, open the bag, and dump the spinach into a colander. Run some hot water over it, then go chop your half onion up. Squeeze the water out of the spinach, then run some more hot water in it and let it sit. Melt some butter in a pan, then saute your onion and garlic in the butter. Sprinkle with some cumin, but be careful — it’s a powerful spice! Don’t cook this too long, as you don’t want your onions to be total mush by the time the whole dish is done. Just a couple of minutes ought to do it.

Grate your cheese. I really prefer a hot cheese with this, but if you don’t like hot, you could use plain jack or even mozzarella.

Keep running hot water over your spinach and then squeezing it out until most of the hard lumpy bits have gone. Then squeeze out most of the remaining water and dump the spinach into a bowl. Add the onion, the cheese, and the cream cheese. Mix very well.

By this point your shells are probably thawed. Poke a couple of holes in the bottom of each of them with a fork, then spoon the spinach dip into the shells. The box of shells I bought had eight in it. I only made six, but there was more than enough to make eight. I just didn’t think we could eat that many, so I greased a small casserole dish and scooped the rest of the dip into that, and baked it along side my little Handheld Spinach Dips. Bake for 30 minutes or so.

You’re going to want to let these cool a little before trying to take them out of their tiny pie tins, or the shells will break. I hope you did what I did with the extra dip, because I recommend using this waiting time to eat some of the spare dip on some pita chips or Italian bread.

I got the basics of the spinach dip recipe from my sister-in-law, another fantastic cook, and then kinda tweaked it to make it my own. Thanks, girl!

Modifications:

My sister-in-law’s original recipe called for a can of Rotel tomatoes. So, if you like spicy, use the hot cheese and add the tomatoes. I had just never had tomatoes in my spinach dip, so I skipped them this time, until I knew the recipe a little better.

And hey, if you’re worried about the calories or fat in this dish, you can always use Neufchatel cheese instead of the cream cheese. It has 1/3 less fat, and you can also use a low or nonfat mozzarella. (Personally, I say you’re probably not going to eat these every day, and a little decadence now and then is what makes life worth living!)

Super Easy Potatoes

I made this one night to go along with Vann’s awesome barbecued chicken (he invented a wonderful sauce, but it takes forever to make). This is so easy and very tasty.

  • 1 can of sliced new potatoes
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • kosher or sea salt
  • pepper
  • dill
  • garlic

Chop the onion and mushrooms. Drain the potatoes. Combine in a bowl.

In a jar or bottle (I used a glass baby bottle with a cap instead of a nipple), combine the oil and lemon juice with a dash each of salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake very well.

Pour the lemon sauce over the vegetables and stir, then liberally sprinkle with dill and stir again. I recommend letting this marinate for 30 minutes or so, but you can go ahead and cook if you’re in a hurry.

Melt some butter in a pan over medium heat and toss in a spoonful of minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add your potato mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the mushrooms are tender. Voila!

Squash Boats

So, WIC thinks we need to eat more beans, apparently. I’m not a big fan, but I didn’t need four more cans of chickpeas, so we got a couple different kinds and I was determined that I would find something tasty to do with them. This is what I came up with for the pinto beans (I also needed to use up my last squash!).

  • 1 large yellow squash
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes (if you don’t like spicy, just sub regular diced tomatoes)
  • olive oil
  • garlic

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

First, slice the squash in half down the center (so that they’re still round). Then slice them down the middle and scoop out the meaty part, leaving the rind intact. Drain the olives and tomatoes, and drain and rinse the beans. Dice the onion. In a bowl, combine the squash meat with the other veggies.

Once you have everything in the bowl, drizzle with olive oil, add some minced garlic, and mix well. Now brush some olive oil on the inside of the squash rinds, or boats. Scoop the veggie mix into the boats and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like your squash.

As long as your squash is not shaped oddly, you should be able to get 4 boats out of one squash. You will have lots of veggie mix left over, so you could either use more squash to make more boats, or do what I did — I used the extra to cover some chicken legs and wings and baked them for about 45 minutes. I won’t lie, though; the chicken was juicy and good, but not the high point of this dinner — the veggie mix was!

The next time I make this, I am going to add some herbs and other stuff to the olive oil. Maybe cilantro, maybe dill, probably some lemon juice…I haven’t decided yet. And definitely a little bit of corn.

Scratch Pancakes

Ok, I know it’s really easy to go to the store and buy pancake mix. But I read the ingredients and decided I would see how difficult it would be to do at home, from real food. Turns out, it isn’t hard at all.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used the unbleached kind)
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons oil (I used corn, but vegetable would work too)

Mix your dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the egg, milk, and oil together in a different bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients bowl and pour the wet stuff into that well. It’s going to overflow, so don’t worry. Now whisk everything together until it’s smooth, and you have pancake batter. (Not really much more complicated than “Pour our powder made out of weird stuff into bowl, add milk (or water, or oil),” and *I* think worth an extra few minutes)

Heat over medium heat a lightly oiled pan. I do mean lightly. The first batch of pancakes I did didn’t turn out nearly as well as the second or third, because my pan had too much oil in it. Honestly, you might be better off just using a generous amount of cooking spray.

I like small pancakes (I will post a picture soon of my pancakes) — about the circumference of a baseball. So I used a slightly large regular spoon to drop my batter on the pan. This will produce about 12 baseball sized pancakes. If you want fewer, bigger pancakes, you can used a 1/4 cup measure — it’s what the recipe actually called for.

Anyway, put your batter in the pan, let it sit until it is firm enough on the bottom that you won’t break it by flipping, and flip. Let cook, and I usually flip mine a couple of times to keep the browning even on both sides. Then I poke it with a toothpick to make sure it’s done in the middle, too.

YOU know what to do after that! Butter and syrup! (next on my list — figure out how to make my own syrup)

Thanks, Allrecipes.com!

Beef Stroganoff

So this is another favorite at our house. I know it’s not the *prettiest* of dishes, but it is so so tasty!

  • 1 pound stew meat (or other cheap meat cut into small chunks — you can buy the cheapest meat you can find and cut it yourself to save money)
  • olive oil
  • flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • water
  • cooking sherry
  • sour cream
  • egg noodles
Heat some olive oil (just enough to coat bottom of pan) over medium heat. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a quart Ziploc, then add meat, seal and shake. When meat is well coated, brown it in the oil.

Add the can of soup, the onion soup mix, and enough water and cooking sherry to thin it out. Probably 1 cup water, and about half that in cooking sherry, but everyone likes it a different consistency, so just add and stir, add and stir. 😉

Cover and simmer. Go take a nap. The longer you simmer, the more tender the meat, so if you’re using a cheap meat, you’re going to want to simmer for a long time. But 30 minutes is ok too, if you’re in a hurry or have a more tender cut of meat.

Start your egg noodles. Uncover your meat and stir in about 3/4 cup or 1 cup sour cream. Drain noodles. Cover noodles with stroganoff on your plate. Enjoy!

Oh, for the picture I sprinkled parsley and a little paprika on top, just to make it a little prettier. My husband said it was tasty that way.

Thanks, Mom, for this recipe!

Mmmmm! Zucchini

When I posted the chicken dinner with asparagus and garlic bread, some told me that they didn’t do asparagus. I can understand that, so here is an alternative veggie for that dinner.

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • garlic powder
  • bread crumbs

Heat oven to 350 and spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.

Place 2 Tbsp butter in a little bowl and sprinkle garlic powder on it. Melt in the microwave, a little at a time, swishing to make sure the garlic is well mixed in. In between swishings, slice zucchini into wedges. You should end up with 8 approximately 2-inch wedges per zucchini. Once the butter is well melted, pour it into a Ziploc baggie and add the zucchini wedges. Shake well.

Using a fork or tongs, move the zucchini from the bag to the dish. Sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like your ‘zukes.’ These have a nice buttery flavor that my toddler quite enjoyed. 🙂

Thanks, Mom, for helping remember how to do this. 🙂

Chicken, Asparagus, and Garlic Bread

This one is pretty easy and quick.

You will need:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Lemon juice
  • Seasonings
  • Butter
  • Cheese (preferably something like Monterrey Jack)
  • Asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Cheese (preferably something like grated Parmesan or finely grated Italian cheese)
  • Italian bread
  • Garlic spread

Marinate your chicken breasts in lemon juice and seasonings — I used garlic and herb seasonings — Mrs. Dash — for however long you want. I think I let mine marinate for about 2 hours, but I had to go take a nap with Elliott. 😉

Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a pan and brown your chicken breasts at high heat for just a couple minutes. Then turn the heat way down and cover them and let them steam/simmer while you do everything else. All told, they should probably cook for at least 15-20 minutes this way, but cut into the thickest part of one of them to make sure it’s not still pink before you serve.

Heat the oven to Broil.

While your chicken breasts are steam/simmering, get out your asparagus. This is really easy. Simply snap the asparagus where it wants to snap, and you won’t end up with those tough stringy ends. Then put all your asparagus in a Ziploc bag and put in some olive oil. Shake to coat all the stalks with oil. Then arrange them on a rack on top of a roasting pan.

Before cooking the asparagus, I prepare my bread. Just slice off the amount of bread you want, and then cut it lengthwise. Spread your butter/garlic spread on it (I cheat and buy the one from Wal-mart or Kroger). Because I only have one set of racks, and I’m using those for the asparagus, I just put the bread on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Put the asparagus and the bread under the broiler for just a couple of minutes — it really does not take long, and you don’t want to overdo it, because overdone asparagus is a bit gross, and you don’t want charcoal bread. For me, tonight, I checked the bread after 4 minutes or so, and it was perfect, so I pulled it out and then checked the asparagus. It was done too — but I like my veggies pretty crisp.  If you like yours softer, of course you’ll want to leave the asparagus in a little longer — but not too long!

When you put the asparagus and bread in, cover the chicken breasts with their cheese and put the lid back on.

When you pull the asparagus out, spray it with lemon juice and sprinkle it with cheese while it’s still warm. Serve right away, because cold asparagus just isn’t as good.

Easy easy dinner, and very tasty. Even our son has loved this asparagus since he was only a year old!

Thanks go to my mom for the asparagus recipe, and for teaching me that garlic bread does not live in the freezer!