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Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna

I have been cooking and baking, but not doing much writing. I would love to say I will share all of the recipes that I have been making with you this week…I doubt I will. I can say that I will share a recipe with you that I made for the person who gave me this recipe. I can also say I will try like heck to share some stories of more food adventures in the Denver area.

The recipe I am sharing came from the wife of my oldest brother. She made it for a family get together many, many years ago. I really enjoyed it, and got the recipe. I have made it for my family many times over the years. I got the recipe back out a few weeks ago when I heard that my sister-in-law’s grandmother had passed. I wanted to take her dinner for after the funeral, and pulled this out of the recipe file. I made a double recipe and kept one at home for our dinner. The little girls liked it, and didn’t remember having it before. My Sister-In-Law was glad she did not have to make dinner, and said it had been quite some time since she had made the dish: Mexican Lasagna.

Mexican Lasagna

  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 -16 ounce can tomatoes, chopped
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese, drained
  • 1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups lettuce, shredded
  • ½ cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup black olives, sliced or chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef and drain. Add all spices and canned tomatoes and heat through. Cover bottom and sides of a 9 X 13 baking dish with tortillas. Pour beef mixture over tortillas. Place layer of tortillas over mix. Put aside. Combine cottage cheese, jack cheese, and egg. Pour over tortillas. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Top with rows of shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and olives.

This casserole has good flavor, and looks pretty. It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated  pre-assembled before baking. I generally serve it with rice.

I am glad that my sister-in-law shared this recipe with me all of those years ago, and that I was able to make it for her in a time of sadness.

 

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in recipe

 

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Battered Chicken

Battered Chicken

For the anniversary dinner that I made for my mother I purchased a “Fry Daddy” to make her the homemade French fries she asked for. I have made homemade French fries numerous times on the stove, but NOT since purchasing my new flat top stove. This is what prompted the purchase of the “Fry Daddy”.

That was the only thing I had done with the fryer since buying it. I’m not a fan of fried foods because of the health aspect, so I have spent years “unfrying” everything! Maybe I should say “oven frying”. The other evening when pondering what to make with the chicken breasts I had pulled out of the freezer that morning, I saw the recently purchased and still homeless fryer sitting on the counter. I pulled the Family Cookbook out of the cabinet and started looking for the batter recipe.

My dad came up with “The Batter” recipe when I was a child. He used it for fish, shrimp, and chicken! It was a big hit with my family growing up. I wondered if my husband and children would love it just as much as we did, or if I would still love it.

Batter

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Lemon-Lime Soda (Sprite or 7-Up)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in beaten egg. Add lemon-lime soda to provide the proper fritter consistency. (In case you do not know the proper consistency you do not want this thick like dough. However, it is easier to add more liquid than to take it away once you have put in too much.)

I heated up the fryer, prepped the chicken, and battered away. I almost immediately had inquisitive people in the kitchen (and an inquisitive Chihuahua). “What are you making?” “ Are we having donuts for dinner?” “Did you make French fries?”. I explained that I was making chicken nuggets  or chicken tenders, as my chicken was not all uniformly sized! I also explained that I could not make French fries and chicken nuggets at the same time, or probably not even in the same meal – because of the size of the fryer and the constraints on keeping the fried food fresh and warm.

When the moment of truth arrived I was a bit concerned because of the looks on the faces of my family. The girls LOVED it. Still worried about The Hubs reaction, I waited. He smiled, and then asked if there were more. He had only taken a couple in case he didn’t like them.

Another success! I was so excited that my family was as happy with this batter as when it was first created and brought to the table!

If you are in to fried foods, or really want to try something easy and new (or not), I recommend this morsel!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini Noodles

While I love to cook and try new recipes and new techniques I am not one of those people who run right out and buy the newest gadgetry or feel the need to try out a new fad food. However, when I started seeing endless recipes calling for vegetable noodles I had to find out how to do this. It seemed one of the easiest ways would be to purchase a spiral vegetable slicer; or a Vegetti.

On an occasion where I was shopping with my mother I happened upon a Vegetti. I told Mother what it did, and she was intrigued. We purchased one.

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Unfortunately, there was no zucchini at home that night. I made sure to pick some up at the store the following day so I could try my new gadget.

According to the package directions I could boil the noodles, microwave the noodles, or sauté the noodles. I chose the sauté method. My first thought was to only serve the zucchini noodles. On second thought I decided to make regular spaghetti, too. I’m glad I did. I personally enjoyed the zucchini noodles with the marinara. The Hubs thought the zucchini noodles a la Vegetti were good…as a side dish. He did not think they would be a good replacement for the pasta. Daughter Number Four was good with the regular or the zucchini, but Daughter Number Three was NOT having it.

I will definitely have to try using other types of vegetables in my Vegetti. I will also try other ways of cooking the zucchini noodles.

I think using this gadget was a huge success. 3 out of 4 people at my dinner table enjoyed the zucchini noodles – and no one would have expected Daughter Number Three to have liked them!

Whether you buy a Vegetti or use a peeler or some other gadget to create your own vegetable noodles, I highly recommend you try!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in recipe

 

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Sharing Family Morsels

Sharing Family Morsels

An ort is defined as a morsel. Some synonyms include bit, fraction, segment, or taste. Some of the things I always enjoyed and appreciated about my dad’s column were the personal parts of life that he wove in.

My post today is about food, but it is about bits of food. Different tastes and segments of my family and life.

Earlier today I got a text message that said *’Your Brother invites you to come down to G’s (our mother’s) and try his homemade sriracha”.

I invited my little girls to come with me when I drove the three long blocks to my mom’s house.

homemade Sriracha

Upon arrival, my brother (Second born) hands me a cracker with some of his homemade goodness on it. The first thing I noticed was the flavor. It was so good! Then…AH! Heat, and then more heat! It was good. He held up another bottle and put it on a cracker. He offered it to me. I asked him if it was hotter than the first. He said it was; I gave it to my nephew who gobbled it up. I grabbed an Oatmeal Stout. Brother 2 then told me he had cured some bacon. I have mentioned before that I do not eat bacon. Bacon doesn’t like me, and I do not like it in return. He asked me to try the bacon and because I love my brother and he is a magnificent cook. I tried the bacon. The last time I tried a taste of bacon was at the Denver Biscuit Company last winter. I tried that bacon because The Hubs asked me to try his bacon, and I did. The bacon that the Denver Biscuit Company serves is Tender Belly Bacon. http://www.tenderbelly.com/

cured bacon

My brother’s bacon was so close!

A short time later My oldest brother came down. He had spent the long weekend making his own Sriracha style hot sauce and salsa. His Sriracha wasn’t as hot…a little looser than what I had tried earlier. The salsa was terrific. Daughter Number Four enjoyed it immensely.

What a wonderful way to end the Labor Day weekend; good food and good time spent with my family. The food was great, but it was especially good knowing the time spent preparing that food and the love and attention that went in to creating it. These orts, segments, and fractions of my life are absolutely the best!

 

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Colorado Pasta Salad

Colorado Pasta Salad

Just in time for Labor Day weekend, I am going to share a recipe for my family’s favorite (and my go-to) pasta salad.

I first tried this salad sometime in the late 1980’s. My parents had gone to Denver over the summer to see my maternal Aunt and her family. One of my cousins made this as a side dish to go with our dinner.  It was delicious. We all loved it, and I can remember my father raving about how good it was. He was not generally a pasta salad kind of guy and as the Food Editor of the local newspaper, he had discerning tastes. My father later found the recipe in a cookbook from Colorado, which he thought intriguing since that is where we first had it. In our house, we still call it “Heidi’s Pasta Salad”, but you can call it by its formal name:

Colorado Pasta Salad

  • 1 12-ounce package of Rotini
  • 2 cups seedless grapes, halved
  • 3 of 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, in small cubes
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Cook Rotini according to package directions. Rinse to cool. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat noodles and combine thoroughly. Serve cold.

Some substitutions can be made: black olives in place of the grapes; blue cheese in place of cheddar. I much prefer the grapes to the olives.

I sincerely hope everyone enjoys this pasta salad as much as my family does. The flavor combination is delicious.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in recipe

 

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Slow Cooker Tikka Masala ~ and Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala ~ and Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

Another triple digit Kansas day meant I was not cooking. I happened upon a new recipe that I had all of the ingredients for and that sounded fresh. So tonight, it was “Slow Cooker Tikka Masala”.

I found the recipe at http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/chicken-tikka-masala-recipe-00100000072578/index.html.

I did cheat just a bit, because I had started my homemade ketchup yesterday and it was done this morning. I used some of the homemade ketchup in place of the onion, garlic, and tomatoes. It worked perfectly! Everything else I followed to the letter. It was great to have home grown cucumbers to use as well as our own cilantro.

When I was plating the dish, I had three faces looking at me cautiously. Daughter Number Three was immediately put off by the cucumber relish. She is not a fan of veggies. She and Daughter Number Four went ahead and tried the chicken and I saw smiles. “It tastes like pumpkin pie chicken!” announced 4. I waited for The Hubs to give me any signs. He did eat the relish for Daughter Number Three. I finally asked him what he thought. It tasted really good, but was a little bit tough. I had cooked if for 4 hours on high. It was a bit tough. He did say that if I cooked it on low it would be something he would definitely try again. The flavors were different, but good. Yay! Winner Winner Chicken Tikka Masala Dinner!

I did finish the ketchup overnight in the slow cooker. It sure condensed down! It worked great in the Tikka Masala and I ended up with a pint to use on burgers or Patatas Bravas!

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Many of the tomatoes that I had from the garden were yellow plum tomatoes. Daughter Number Three and I opted to skip the broiling / roasting part of the recipe so that we didn’t heat up the kitchen. Instead, we boiled water in the microwave and poured over the tomatoes to loosen the skins. We slipped the skins off and pureed the tomatoes, then ran them through the colander to remove some (many) of the seeds.

I read a bunch of recipes and didn’t like any of them…so I added what sounded good to me!

Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

  • 4 pounds tomatoes (I used half yellow plum, half red)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped coarse
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Wash the tomatoes and remove stems and blemishes. Place in a large bowl, sink, or colander. Pour boiling hot water over the tomatoes to loosen skins. Set tomatoes aside to cool, then slip the skins off. In batches, puree skinned tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Pour pureed tomatoes into slow cooker crock. Chop onion, garlic, and jalapeno and add to the slow cooker. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, peppers, and paprika. Stir together and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until thickened. Do not place lid on slow cooker tightly.

I did not ‘can’ my ketchup because I used half of it in the Tikka Masala and ended up with a pint! I did sterilize the jar, ring, and lid before putting the remaining ketchup in the jar, though.

Overall, the ketchup was a success. It was a success because I used our homegrown tomatoes. It was also a success because I tried something new. Again, a success because I was in charge of what went in to my ketchup. Yes, all add up to success.

In fact, it was a weekend of Slow Cooker Success! It was wonderful to make so many great new things without heating up the house! If you are in a Triple Digit Dilemma for cooking and baking try these are some of my other tested and approved slow cooker meals!

 

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2014 in recipe

 

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Baking on a Hot Day ~ Slow Cooker Dump Cake

Baking on a Hot Day ~ Slow Cooker Dump Cake

When the temperatures soar over the century mark, the last thing I want to do is cook. Baking is definitely out of the question. I do have to feed my family, though – and take care of things that need taking care of.

One of the best parts of my Kansas summers is the fresh produce. That can also be a burden when the tomatoes are pouring off of the counters and they start to attract little fruit flies. I had waited as long as I could, but The Hubs was starting to make mention of the little flying pests, so I knew that I had to do something with the tomatoes first thing this morning. Knowing it was going to be hot I decided I would make homemade ketchup, in the slow cooker. I read through several recipes and took pieces of several to create my own. After cooking on low for the allotted number of hours, it still seems a little bit thin, so I put it back on low to cook overnight. I’ll be sure to post how it turns out!

With the house smelling delicious with the ketchup cooking, the family was getting restless for something to snack on. It was so hot outside that I knew I wasn’t in the mood to do much. Daughter Number Three was pushing me to make “No-Bake Cookies”. I was going to oblige, but she lost interest in that as I was looking up recipes and I lost my helper. Pre-teens… After she wandered off to some other part of the house and I was all alone in the kitchen I decided that I didn’t even want to use the stovetop. I decided to get creative / crazy and make a dump cake. I remember discovering a recipe for “Dump Cake” in a cookbook that my dad helped put together in the mid-80’s. My parent’s didn’t use ‘boxed’ cake mixes so we didn’t have the ingredients on hand. I asked my mom to buy me the ingredients that the recipe called for and I put it together. 2 cans cherry pie filling, 1 white or chocolate cake mix, 1 stick of butter melted. Pour into a baking dish in the order listed, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes – 40 minutes, until cake is ‘done’.

I don’t keep canned pie fillings in my house, but I almost always have a couple of boxed cake mixes in case I need to make “Cake Balls” or “Cake Pops”. I improvised using things I had in the house. This is what I came up with:

Slow Cooker Dump Cake

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 pint apricot jam or preserves
  • 1 lemon cake mix
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • ¼ cup water
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Spray the inside of the slow cooker crock with nonstick spray. Pour in the blueberries and apricot preserves. Stir together gently. Pour the cake mix over the top evenly. Pour the melted butter and water over the cake mix to cover completely. Cook on high for 1 ½ hours and low for 1 ½ hours until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I served this for dessert after a quick dinner of fried hamburgers and fried potatoes. (No healthy eating today!) It was terrific to serve the burgers topped with onions and fresh tomatoes from the garden. I did scoop a bit of the homemade ketchup onto my burger. I really hope it thickens up tonight! The family all liked the slow cooker cake. The Hubs said that the ice cream was a good touch, because it cut the tartness of the lemon cake and the apricot. The girls didn’t seem to mind the tartness. Daughter Number Four had to be admonished for sticking her spoon back into the slow cooker. (She was only admonished after she had been asked nicely to stop 3 times.)

I’m glad that my little creative experiment worked out. It was nice to have a fresh dessert, even on a hot day!

This creation certainly was not the pinnacle of my creative success, but I will definitely be sharing the idea with anyone who loves using a slow cooker or want to bake something on a hot, hot day!

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in recipe

 

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