Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

We love tex-mex food around here and this recipe was awesome! I got it from the cookbook my daughter's preschool put together in 2008. The only things I changed were the amounts of sour cream and salsa - I used WAY more than the recipe calls for! Oh, and I omitted the cilantro (cilantro and I do not get along).


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasonings
3/4 cup water
2 green onions, finely chopped, divided
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped, divided
juice from 1 lime
12-15 corn tortillas, taco size
1 cup salsa
3 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 roma tomatoes, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan brown the ground beef, drain off fat. Stir in taco seasoning, water, half green onion, half cilantro and lime juice. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with some of the tortillas (4-5 should do). Spread some of the sour cream over the tortillas and sprinkle with a generous amount of cheese. Add half the ground beef, layer with some salsa and then sprinkle with more cheese.

Add some more tortillas over the first layer. Spread some more sour cream over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Add the remaining beef, then more salsa, then sprinkle with more cheese.

Add a final layer of tortillas. Spread some sour cream over the tortillas, layer with salsa, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Top with remaining green onion, cilantro and tomatoes.

I tore some of the tortillas to fit in the holes and I think they were flour, not corn, tortillas. Reading the recipe you can see where I had to use more than just a measly cup of sour cream and salsa, right? Anyway, it was delicious and is definitely being put into heavy rotation around here!

Happy eating!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Al's Veggie-Cheese Subs with Olive Relish

Al's Beefs is almost as popular as Portillo's Beefs here in Chicago, and I have to say I prefer Portillo's beef sandwiches. However, Al's has a veggie-cheese sub sandwich that is SO good that I had to find a way to re-create them at home. I started by going to their website which lists the ingredients to the sub including olive relish. But of course they don't list the ingredients for the relish so I had to come up with it on my own. My husband and I have eaten many veggie-cheese subs at Al's, so I was pretty confidant that I could "taste" my way through the building of the recipe for it.

I started by Google-ing olive relish and found one that sounded good and started there. The following is the Al's veggie-cheese sub recipe and following is my version of the olive relish that goes on it.


1 - 6" cut of french bread
2 slices American cheese
1 slice Provolone cheese
olive relish
tomato slices
thin sliced red onion
roasted red peppers (from a jar)

Spread a thin layer of mayo on the entire inside of the roll. Spoon a generous amount of the olive relish on one side of the roll. Cover the inside of the roll with the 2 American cheese slices, put the Provolone in the middle. Then pile in your lettuce, tomato, red onion and roasted red pepper; choose how much of each according to your taste.

8 black olives
6 kalamata olives
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), diced
splash of red pepper juice from jar
3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, splash of red pepper juice, salt & pepper; set aside. Chop the olives into small pieces. Add to the vinegar mixture along with the red pepper, shallot and basil. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors blend before using.

You can use your own homemade roasted red peppers if you wish; I used to make my own, but the jarred variety aren't bad and are much easier. Plus I use the juice in this recipe, as well as others. (Keep it in the fridge or keep it even longer in the freezer for your next batch of potato salad or pasta sauce.) I am also lucky enough to have an olive bar at the local grocery store where I can pick up exactly 6 kalamata olives, I hope you are too.

I would also like to send out a WELCOME HOME to my neighbor's daughter K. who just came home from the hospital this past week. She was born at 26 weeks back in April and has beaten all the odds and has come home a very healthy little 6 lb. bundle of joy just before her actual due date! Congrats to my neighbors, J. & J.; little K. is just beautiful!

School starts in a month! Ack!

Happy eating!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mexican Beef & Bean Casserole with Tomato Corn Salad

Last week when I was looking at recipes for the stuffed peppers I checked out the one in my Betty Crocker cookbook. On the adjoining page this recipe, which sounded easy and yummy, caught my eye. Of course, I had to to have some veggies to go with it and I remembered recently cutting out a veggie salad recipe from Gourmet magazine. It was great with the casserole and I would also consider bringing it as a side dish to a barbeque.


1 lb. lean ground beef
2 cans pinto or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 8oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup thick and chunky salsa
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook beef in a medium saucepan over medium heat 8-10 minutes, breaking up meat into small pieces, until brown; drain off fat. Mix in beans, tomato sauce, salsa and chili powder in ungreased 2 qt. casserole dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking. Sprinkle with cheese and put back in oven, uncovered, until cheese is melted.

I only used one can of red beans, I think two cans might be too much. Also, I used Cheddar cheese ILO Mont. Jack, and I used 4 tsp. of chili powder for extra flavor. I think this would also be delicious in a tortilla with lettuce and tomato or as a dip with tortilla chips.


salt & pepper
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 1/4 lbs. tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, keeping the white and green parts separate
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 8 ears)

Whisk together oil, vinegar, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss tomatoes with dressing. While tomatoes marinate, cook white parts of scallions in butter with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add corn and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool. When corn is room temp, add to tomatoes and toss with green scallions.

I used frozen corn that I had thawed, but I'm sure fresh would be awesome, just more work than I wanted to do. Also, I used rice vinegar because I was out of cider vinegar, and I used a whole tablespoon, not just a teaspoon. This was delicious eaten right after I made it, but it did not do well in the fridge. The next day the tomatoes were mealy and mushy and unpleasant to eat.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Mother's Day Gift / Stuffed Peppers

No, I didn't get stuffed peppers for Mother's Day! LOL

I received, among other things, the The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook - Every recipe from 10 years of the hit TV show with product ratings and a look behind the scenes. Not to be sacrilegious but this is my new bible. Before each recipe is a little story of what they were trying to achieve as far as taste, ingredients, authenticity and ease of preparation. There are also notes throughout the book on techniques such as brining, use of fond, how to flambe, and more. And at the end are all their favorite products, both food and utensil, from mustard to bread to cheese to vinegar, from skillets to spatulas to food processors to ice cream makers. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Plus, it has recipes on everything from pastas to steaks to cookies to diner food and everything else in between. But the main reason I love it is because these people have tried everything over and over and are handing me the results so I don't have to do all the guess work myself. That is the gift of time and time is priceless.

So, tonight I made their stuffed peppers recipe, with a few small changes that I will tell you about at the end.

STUFFED PEPPERS from America's Test Kitchen

table salt
4 medium bell peppers, 1/2 inch trimmed off tops, cores and seeds discarded
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
12 oz. ground beef (80/20)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbsp. parsley leaves, chopped
ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add 1 tbsp. salt and the bell peppers. Cook until just soft, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water, and place the peppers cut side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil; add the rice and boil until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain the rice and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the beef into small pieces with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the rice; stir in the tomatoes, 1 cup of the cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together the ketchup and the reserved tomato juice in a small bowl.

Place the peppers, cut side up, in a 9-inch square baking dish. Using a soup spoon, divide the filling evenly among the peppers. Spoon 2 tbsp. of the ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is browned and the filling is heated through, 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

I did not have the diced tomatoes on hand, so I poured an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce into the mix. Also, I had shredded Cheddar instead of Mont.Jack and I omitted the parsley. Also, I used my rice cooker to cook the rice, and I did not make the ketchup sauce, I used a can of Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce (which is basically seasoned tomato sauce) and poured it all over the peppers and around them. We like a lot of sauce and it is terrific over the mashed potatoes I made to go with the peppers. I peeled a 3 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut them into small pieces and simmered them for 20 minutes. Then I mashed them with a stick of butter and 3/4 cup half-n-half and salt to taste. YUM! I probably could have just spread them on my thighs, but they taste SO good.

Happy eating!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Starting Over

The end of the school year/start of summer really threw me for a loop. There was so much going on and a new schedule to get used to and the fact that I have had my nose in a book and I "lost" the laptop - let's just say it's taken me awhile to adjust.

Plus I have not been in the mood to sit and type, and I have also been making the same old things for dinner lately which gives me nothing new to type about. But I miss blogging and I miss reading everybody's blogs (although I am unapologetic about shortening my reading list and I am not going to be as obsessive about leaving a comment on everything as I have in the past).

Many of you know my love of reading and I have been trying to read one classic novel in between reading the chick-lit/mommy-lit in which I love to indulge. I have read Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and I am currently reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My next classic book will be To Kill A Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee. I know that most of us were forced to read at least one or two classic novels in high school or college, but I am really able to appreciate them now and I am really enjoying them. Do you have a favorite to recommend?

I will be trying a few new recipes next week, but this week is all old fare. The rest of this week's menu is: Porcupine Meatballs, Burritos, Caprese Sandwiches, and Veggie Pitas. Next week's menu is: Popcorn Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Pizza Margherita on the grill, Little Italy Sausage Burgers (new), Homemade Stuffed Peppers (new), Mexican Beef & Bean Casserole with Tomato/Corn Salad (new), Spaghetti & Garlic Toast, and Chicken Fajitas with Rice (new). If you are interested in any of the old recipes you can find them by typing in the key words in Search This Blog which is located at the very bottom of my blog page.

I hope you are all having a lovely summer and I look forward to catching up with you all.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sourdough Starter & Stuffed Poblanos

About a month ago I made a sourdough starter, has anyone else ever done this? I have been feeding it a little sugar once a week and it smells pleasantly sour, but it keeps separating and I don't know if that is normal. The top part is a liquid and the bottom part is dough-like. Is it supposed to be this way? When I feed it I mix it back together with a wood spoon, but it always separates again.

We installed a patio in our backyard! Boy, was it a LOT of work, but it looks great and I can't wait to get a table and chairs for it so we can eat out there. It's in the back left corner of our yard, raised up slightly, 16x16 red patio stones with a plant border along one side. There used to be a big pine tree there, but we didn't like the mess the pine needles made or how shady it made our garden which made it hard to grow anything.

I would like to ask for your prayers for my neighbor J. and her new little baby girl K. who was born very early at 26 weeks. Little K. is now 29 weeks old and is doing great for someone so small, but she still needs all our prayers for continued growth and healthiness. Go baby K! In other baby news, my cousin Z. and his fiance E. had a baby girl too, and I would like to offer my congrats to the new parents and to the new grandma who is also my wonderful Aunt K. Sugar and spice, and everything nice indeed!

Last night we had leftovers for dinner and tonight I will be making Stuffed Shells. But for now I would like to share my Stuffed Poblanos recipe with you, it was so good! I had never had them before and I really liked them. I copied this recipe out of a book, but I can't remember which one. Also, I only made half this recipe since I knew only my husband and I would be eating them.


1 - 28oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
1 jalapeno chile, minced (ribs and seeds removed for less heat if desired)
2 small onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves; 2 crushed and 1 minced
salt & pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup shredded pepper-jack cheese
1 tsp. cumin
3/4 cup water
4 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise (stems left intact), ribs and seeds removed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a blender, puree tomatoes along with their juice, jalapeno, half the onions, and the crushed garlic until smooth; season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9x13 baking dish and spread to cover evenly.
In a bowl, combine beans, cornmeal, 1/2 cup cheese, remaining onion, minced garlic, cumin, and the water; season with salt and pepper.
Dividing evenly, stuff poblano halves with bean mixture; place on top of sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle poblanos evenly with remaining cheese; cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking until sauce thickens slightly and cheese is browned, 10-15 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I served them with a big green salad on the side. Oh, and I also did not use a blender (I hate washing my blender!); I just bought petite diced tomatoes instead of whole, put it in a bowl, and used my potato masher to combine it all. My sauce was not a smooth as the recipe calls for, but it was still great.

Happy eating!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

...and we're back!

Hello all! Did ya miss me? I have missed you all! It has taken me much longer than I thought it would to visit all of your blogs and go back and read all the older posts, but it was worth it. And I have even gained a few new followers to whom I would like to say "hello and welcome" to Kayla, Holly, and Heide. Also, Mrs. Crumb was sad that my email address does not appear when I post a comment to her blog, so here it is: Please feel free to send me a note, if you are so inclined (and please be nice).

A lot has happened since I last posted here almost a month ago, but nothing earth-shattering, so I am just going to continue along as though I wasn't gone. I will, however, share the new recipes I tried while I was "away" and the first one is Warm Black Bean Salad. Over spring break my wonderful Aunt K. took us to Rainforest Cafe, my daughters favorite restaurant. I got the chicken chimmichanga (or something like that) and it came with a delicious warm black bean side dish that I just had to re-create at home... and here is what I came up with.


1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes with chiles, NOT drained (I use Red Gold Zesty)
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I use my garlic press)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high until warmed through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top if you feeling sassy!

This is so easy and so yummy and pretty good for you too!

Tonight I am making Meatball Burgers. The meal plan for the following week is: leftovers, Dirty Rice, frozen pizza, Stuffed Shells, Steakhouse Cheeseburgers (new!), and Hot Dogs with Baked Beans. Some recipes I tried while I was gone and will post here soon are: Apple Dumpling Casserole and Stuffed Poblanos.

Many more recipes to come, glad to be back.

Happy eating!