Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

2 cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (8.75 oz.) corn, undrained

1 can (4.5 oz.) chopped green chiles, undrained

6 flour tortillas (8 inch)

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend)

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp minced garlic

½ tsp Oregano

½ tsp crushed red pepper*

*optional

  1. Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet over medium heat and then drain.
  2. Add tomato sauce, beans, corn, and green chiles. Mix well.
  3. Stir in all the spices except the red pepper, and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower the heat and let simmer about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper (optional).
  6. Preheat oven to 350.
  7. Spray a lasagna pan (11x9x2) with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Spread a small amount of the meat mixture on bottom of pan, just enough to cover.
  9. Top with three tortillas, overlapping them as needed.
  10. Spread half of the remaining beef mixture over the tortillas, then cover with half of the cheese.
  11. Top with three remaining tortillas, overlapping as needed.
  12. Spread the last half of the beef mixture on top, then cover with the remainder of the cheese.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Note: It’s important to drain the black beans but NOT drain the corn and chiles. The extra liquid from the corn and chiles will be absorbed by the tortillas during baking, leaving them soft like lasagna noodles. This is a quick, cheap and easy meal that is astonishingly delicious, if you love hot and spicy Mexican food like I do. If hot and spicy scares you, don’t use the crushed red pepper at all, and go light on the chili powder.

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Apricot Turkey With Bourbon and Pecans

Trkingmomoe's Blog

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You are in for a treat.  The original recipe called for chicken breasts. I had some turkey fillet breast meat in the freezer and wanted to do something really nice with it. I was so appreciated to have been given the frozen meat in my food pantry box. Normally it is something I would not have the money to buy.  I spent time in my cook books having a food adventure trying to find a recipe that I could make with what I had on hand that would be elegant. There was enough meat for two meals so I partially thawed it out and split the package. What I didn’t need was returned to the freezer for another food adventure in a few weeks.

Rice and peas seemed like a nice complement to this main entree.  I had a box of instant brown rice and just followed the directions for…

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Chili Seasoning Mix (History and Recipes)

Chili was first introduced to the public at the Columbia Expositions in Chicago in the 1893 at a Texas booth. It was its roots in the south-western part of the United States. Originally it was made of chilies and chopped meat. Later beans were added to the mix. The Indian tribes in the South West like the Hopi made pemmican of dried meat, and chilies that cowboys later copied to take with them as they traveled. Chili was the food of poor people of areas in Texas because chilies peppers grew wild in the bush. In San Antonio there were “Chili Queens” who sold their chili at night on street in chili carts to the patrons of saloons until 1937 when they could not meet sanitary regulations. Around 1890 William Gephardt made chili in his café and imported ancho chilies from Mexico that he ground up into a powder which he sold as Eagle Brand Chili Powder. By 1899 he had trade marked Eagle Brand Chili Powder. It wasn’t long after that the one pot dish was common fair in the South West and spread across the states. Many new recipes were developed for it and shared in news papers and magazines in the first quarter of 20th century. Moreover chili is not a Mexican invention and only gets its name from the peppers. It is truly and American Cuisine and comfort food.

Here is an idea make up your own chili mix ahead of time. I have been making my own chili mix for years. This is an adaptation to a recipe that is offered by the University of Main’s Extension Center. Over the years funding for agricultural centers have been cut back for home economics. It was a program that was started by FDR and extended ideas and education in home making in the poor rural areas. This is something that is now needed in the urban areas and I am glad that our current First Lady has made nutrition her mission.

Even if your budget is stretched way beyond what you thought you could feed your family with. There is still seasoning mixes that you can have on hand to help make a quick meal without paying the mark up and packaging that is charged by commercial companies. I know it is hot right now and this is not the time of year for chili but you can start looking for inexpensive chili powder, cumin, cilantro flakes, instant onion and minced garlic. Good place to look is spices that are in bags at the grocery and on display for $1. I was able to make about pint and half of mix. That is enough for 10 batches of chili using the recipe for making chili given here. It cost me less than $4 to make the seasoning mix using inexpensive spices.

Chili Mix

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon instant minced garlic

¼ cup of chili powder

1 cup instant minced onion

½ cup of cumin powder

¼ cup cilantro dried flakes

1 tablespoon of salt

Combine all ingredients. Store in a tight container. Use ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon for the following recipe:

Chili

½ to 1 pound of ground meat

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of seasoning mix

1 16 oz. can of tomatoes ( whole. Chopped or sauce)

½ cup water

2 15 oz can kidney beans.

Brown meat in skillet and remove excess fat. Add seasoning mix and stir in. The oils release the flavors of some of the seasons. Then add tomatoes, water, and kidney beans. Don’t drain kidney beans, dump it all in. Bring to a boil cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

I like celery and green peppers in my chili so I would add a chopped stalk and some chopped green pepper when I fry the meat. You can use any kind of ground meat for chili. Sweet peppers have become very expensive. When I buy them I chop them up and put them in a baggie and freeze them. I have them on hand for things like chili. I do the same thing for the red and yellow peppers to. I look for them from a farmers market because they are cheaper. This chili is also good meatless.

Enjoy your Chili when you are in a hurry or out of ideas and out of money.

Crossed post at Trkingmomoe’s Blog 

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ( Comfort Food, History and Recipes)

For many of us, stuffed cabbage rolls bring back memories of family holidays and meals. It is truly a comfort food. The recipes and traditions was brought to North America by immigrants from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Historically cabbage rolls has roots in ancient middle east and spread to Eastern Europe as trade roots developed and people migrated. Some Jewish historians has found indications that stuffed cabbage rolls were part of Jewish food tradition as early as 1500 years ago. There is as many recipes and traditions as there is regions in Eastern Europe. Here are some of names and some of the differences in their recipes:

Jewish “holishkls” and is served during the fall harvest festival. Made with raisins, brown sugar, lemon and tomato for a sweet and sour taste.

Bulgarian “sarmi” made with veal, pork, finely chopped mint, sweet paprika and yogurt.

Romania “sarmale”  is made with dill, ground pork and bacon on top when baked.

Ukrainian “holubtsi” is made with sauerkraut and served with perogie.

Czechs and Slovaks version is known as “hulubky”

Serbs and Croatians it is known as “sarma.”

Lithuanians calls theirs “balandeliai” translates to “little doves.”

Russian “golubtsy” means “little pigeons” and is served with sour cream.

Polish “golabki” pronounced “gaw-WOHMP-kee” means “little pigeon feet” and served with sauerkraut, and sweet paprika.

In Finland it is known as “kaalikaaryle” and the cabbage rolls are browned before brazing.

It was in the early 18th century that stuffed cabbage rolls were brought to Scandinavia by Sweden’s Charles XII from the middle east after he was exiled there and was able to return. The kaalikaarryle is made with rice and chopped meat and rolled in cabbage leaves then brown in table fat before it is brazed on the stove. A gravy is made and served with potatoes and lingonberry jam.

The name “golubtsy” came to Russia and the region around it in the 18th century when the aristocracy traveled back and forth to eastern Europe. In France, pigeon was wrapped and cooked in cabbage leaves and stuffed cabbage rolls where then called “golubtsy” because the dish resembled the French dish. The Russian word for pigeon is “ golub.” After that Europeans continued to name dishes that resembled or mocked other dishes by what it resembled until the end of the Victorian period.

I have two recipes to share with you from my recipe box. The first one I got was from when I was a young girl. I was always encouraged to copy or write down recipes by my older relatives. My father worked at a private country club in North East Ohio when I was young and he was on call when they had parties. Sometimes I went with him when he had to repair a problem in the kitchen. I would sit on a stool and watch the chefs cook. One of the cooks who could speak English gave me the recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls that he learned from Hotel Algonquin in Manhattan. The Hotel is now a landmark and is still in operation. After that my father insisted we have golubtsy every new years eve with sauerkraut for good luck.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

2 cups of cooked rice

1 head of cabbage soften in boiling water and leaves separated

1 pound ground beef

½ onion chopped finely

2 cups of stock

Salt and pepper

Mix ground beef, rice, onion salt and pepper to taste. Take meat mixture in the size of a large meat ball and form short logs to roll in cabbage leaves tucking in the sides as you roll. Place in large pan with lid and pour over the rolls with stock. Cook in medium oven for about 1 to 1/12 hours until meat is done. Stock can be made with tomatoes, tablespoon of sweet paprika and other vegetables. Also sour cream can be added to stock when finished cooking or sour cream can be served on the side. Don’t cook sour cream or it will curdle just stir into sauce until thicken. The cabbage rolls are better if made the night before and warmed up the next day before serving.

This recipe I must of gotten from the newspaper or someone gave it to me. I kept it and made it like this from time to time because I like fried cabbage and apples and this recipe you sautéed the cabbaged rolls first and sprinkled brown sugar on the rolls before cooking you didn’t cook this in tomatoes. At the time I did not know this was traditional for Scandinavia.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

½ cup rice cooked with 1 cup of water until water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

1 medium head of cabbage blanched in salted water. Leaves separated and hard veins cut out.

1 pound ground beef

1 egg beaten

1 cup milk

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoons pepper

Mix together with cooked rice and take ¼ cup of mixture and roll in cabbage leaves tucking in the sides as rolling. Tie roll in string to keep the roll together while frying in a Dutch casserole.

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

½ cup beef broth

Brown all sides in butter first then sprinkle brown sugar on top. Add beef broth and bring to a boil and cover reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour until tender and filling is done.

2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup of light cream

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

Remove cabbage rolls and keep warm. Add flour to cream and mix. Add cream mixture to pan drippings stirring all the time. Heat on low heat until thicken but do not boil. Add salt and pepper and serve with mashed potatoes.

In North East Ohio and around Pittsburgh stuffed cabbage rolls were called “pigs in the blanket.” This was a blending of Slovenian and Scott-Irish influence in that area.

Please I would like you to add your families stuffed cabbage roll recipe in the comments and tell your families tradition with this comfort food.

Crossed post on Trkingmomoe’s Blog 

Blueberry Muffins (Comfort Food)

We have been eating blueberries the past few days on cereal for breakfast and it was time to finish off the blueberries before they spoil.  After I cleaned them, I still had a full cup of them, so I thought of muffins.  That is probably because of all the blogs posted about muffins.  I wanted these to be more like a quick bread muffin and not the sugary and cake type you find at the bakery in the grocery store.  So I adjusted my basic muffin recipe for blueberries and less sweet.  They turned out great with just the right crumb and lightness.  Alton Brown would be proud of me.  He did a whole show on muffins explaining why they are muffins and not cup cakes if they are made from a true muffin recipe.

I chose to make the muffins this time in my heart muffin/cup cake pans.  They were a bargain find after Valentine’s Day several years ago.  I just happen to be in a local hobby shop after some poster board and saw them marked down 75%.  So it only took a second to impulse buy them and I bought 2 because I knew it was a pain in the butt to have only one 6 muffin pan. I have bought a few other pans like that after a holiday. I only purchase ones that I can really get some use out of and they have to be really, really cheap.  Having a few fun things to bake with helps make cooking less of a chore when your budget it limited. It gives a basic diet some pizazz that otherwise would not be there.

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven 400 degrees and grease 12 muffin cup pan or use vegetable spray.

Mix together:

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

Sift together:

2 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3 teaspoons of baking powder

Gently stir in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients just until they are moistened.

Then gently fold in:

1 cup of blueberries.

Fill 12 muffin cups with batter.  You can sprinkle with a streusal topping or colored sugar if desired. Bake for 20 minutes.

Streusal Topping

1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

Mix with hands until blended and crumbly. Sprinkle on muffins.

Please give this recipe a try when you have a few blueberries.

Cross Posted at Trkingmomoe’s Blog

Pennsylvania Chicken Soup (Waste Not, Want Not)

Couple of weeks ago I cooked roast chicken for Sunday dinner.  I had found about a 5 pound bird for $4.51 and was happy because I would get a couple of meals and soup out of it.  Every week I make soup out of something because I grew up eating home made soup once a week for supper.  Sometimes it was made in the middle of the week from left over meat or it was made on Saturday from bought soup bones.  The reason for soup on Saturday was because it was house cleaning day. That made it easy because the soup bones was put on to simmer around noon and left to simmer most of the afternoon.  Then late in the afternoon, the rest of the ingredients was added to finish off making the soup.  We ate it when all the chores was done.

If there was soup during the week it was usually a soup that was made from the a bone from Sunday’s dinner like bean, split pea or chicken soup.  The broth from Sunday’s dinner was made Sunday evening from the pork or ham bone. With chicken soup, the broth was made as soon as the meat was cut from the chicken.  The chicken carcass was put right back into the roasting pan that it had just come out of and covered with water.  The lid put back on the roasting pan and left to simmer on top of the stove for a couple of hours to make chicken broth.  When the broth was cooled enough to handle, the bones and broth was strained through a calender.  After that the colander with the bones and strained broth was left to finish cooling.  Once it cooled down you could pick through the colander for the bits of left over meat that was then put back into the broth and the broth placed into the refrigerator.  The soup was then made a couple of days later with noodles and a few vegetables.

Home made soup is a wonderful way of stretching the food budget.  Also it is a way to use up leftovers like meat and vegetables in a meal that doesn’t look like leftovers.  Today with our wonderful refrigerators, we can freeze extra broth and leftovers for soup.  I keep a freezer bag that I put cooked vegetables that are left over in small amounts after a meal. It is usually just a spoonful or two. Really not enough to save to reheat.  I just collect all those little dabs of veggies in that freezer bag and in a couple of weeks I have enough for soup.  Other foods that I put in the leftover freezer bag can be the one slice of tomato no one ate or the extra chopped celery or onion that you over chopped for a recipe.  I refuse to waste the tops of the celery stocks so I will cut them up with the leaves into that bag.  If a recipe calls for less canned tomatoes then what was in the can, I just dump the excess canned tomatoes right into the bag.  Left over cooked rice is also a good addition to the freezer bag.  Sometimes the bag is blessed with leftover small pieces of meat or gravy after a meal.  In that case all that will be needed to make soup is some bouillon cubes and you have a meal when the cupboard is bare.

The recipe I am going to share with you is a basic chicken soup using a chicken breast.  You can make it the same way with other parts of the chicken or with home made stock with leftover roast chicken meat just like I described earlier in this diary.  The other feature of this soup is that you put 2 cups of soup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Then it is added back to the soup to make it creamy and thick.  I usually don’t do that to my soup unless I want more of a chowder like soup.

Pennsylvania Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 large chicken breast, skinned (about 1/2 lb.)

4 oz. noodles, narrow, wide or Dutch

1 cup corn frozen or canned

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Stir in the celery, carrot and onion; coat with butter.  Add the chicken.  Cook over medium low hear, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.  Turn several times.  Remove chicken. Cut into small cubes.  Set aside.  Add the chicken broth to the saucepan.  Bring to a rapid boil.  Add the noodles and corn. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until noodles are just done.  Remove 2 cups of the soup and blend until smooth. Return mixture to soup.  Add the chicken.  Heat for a minute or two.  Season with pepper.  Add salt, if needed.  Serve steaming hot in large, wide bowls.  Makes 4 servings.

I know it is hot out there right now and soup just seems yummier in the cooler weather.  I like to take my soup out side in the shade and eat it with a sandwich and jello.  We don’t get winter weather here in South Florida.

I hope the tips I gave you on saving leftover veggies will give a helping hand with soup making so you are covered when you are out of money and out of ideas.

Crossed Posted on Trkingmomoe’s Blog