Mexican

Mexican Lasagna

mexican-lasagna

If I could figure out how to make Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza at home, I would eat it every day.  It’s probably not that hard, but I haven’t figured out what I could use for the crunchy tortilla layer that would be just perfect. Also I would need to go there and steal like 95 packets of their taco sauce because it’s really a key ingredient.  And I wouldn’t want some homemade bull%$## taco sauce. That one is special.  So this Mexican lasagna is definitely inspired by Taco Bell’s pizza variation, but there are enough differences that I don’t feel like I’m trying to make their Mexican pizza but end up with something sub par.

And I decided to make this Mexican lasagna for three reasons: 1) my friend Annie was coming over for a Friday night happy hour/dinner/play date and she loves Taco Bell as much as, or more, than I do; 2) I also sort of had lasagna on my mind; and 3) But I was going to Terilli’s Italian restaurant for dinner on Saturday so I didn’t want back to back lasagna. So if you can follow all that I landed on Mexican lasagna.

So I made it. It was easy. It was super delicious. It was pretty. It was sitting on my stove all bubbly and waiting to be eaten. And then I had to cancel. And let me tell you – when you stay at home with your kids all day, this Friday night plan made me feel like I was going clubbing. Social interaction, good dinner, someone to drink with, kids playing with someone else, etc.  Very sad.

But I had to cancel because one of my kids had Hand Foot Mouth disease for literally the second time in a month. What I thought was a fussy baby due to having some major vaccinations a couple days earlier turned out to be a fussy baby due to 20 blisters covering the inside of his throat/mouth. Fair enough, Price, fair enough.  This second round of HFM was a BEATING. And it’s super contagious so I didn’t want to expose anyone else to it. So it was a very sad day, but I did cut it up into little pieces and froze it. It freezes beautifully and we’ve had a couple easy/awesome dinners this week.

Recipe

  • Ground beef recipe minus water and taco sauce (you’ll add more liquid later)
  • 1.5 cans (2.5-3 cups) tomato sauce
  • 3 large flour tortillas or 9 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 bottle taco sauce (I like Ortega)
  • 3.5 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray cast iron pan or other round baking dish with nonstick spray.  Prepare beef according to recipe above (2 lb), or just using a taco seasoning packet if you prefer.  Stir in tomato sauce with ground beef. In a separate bowl, warm up the refried beans in the microwave. Stir in the sour cream and set aside. Then, layer about 1 cup of meat sauce on bottom of pan. Drizzle generously with taco sauce. Coat one flour tortilla lightly in taco sauce (if using corn you will use 3 tortillas per layer). Place on top of meat. Spread about 3 spoonfuls of bean mixture on top. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese. Add 1.5 cups meat sauce on top of cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of taco sauce. Coat tortilla with taco sauce. Top with 3 spoonfuls bean mixture, then another cup of cheese. Add another 1.5 cups meat sauce, taco sauce, tortilla dipped in taco sauce, bean mixture. Add rest of meat (less than a cup), then remaining 1.5 cups cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

Red & Green Enchiladas

red-green-enchiladas

Ah, the age old question. Green or red sauce on your enchiladas? Does that decision haunt anyone else? It’s been a thorn in my side for years and it rears its ugly head nearly every Friday when we order Mexican food for dinner. When ordering out, why not get an enchilada trio, you ask? Well, because my husband and I get the same thing every week. We split chicken fajitas, an order of guac, and we each get one a la carte item. Usually one crispy beef taco and one enchilada. It’s a perfect order, and we’ll never change it. But I never quite feel comfortable with the enchilada piece. I want some red sauce and some green sauce; it’s that simple. And when my husband asked for enchiladas for dinner this week, the same decision haunted me all day long. Until I realized I could take control of my life and make a pan of enchiladas that had a little bit of both.  I created an aluminum foil barrier to separate the two (just fold it over into a 2 or 3 inch little panel and stand it up in the pan width-wise), but if I were braver I would have thrown caution to the wind and seen what happened without the barrier. Because there’s a good chance that some of the sauces would have meandered into the other’s side and it could be a super delicious green-red combo sauce. Up to you if you want to be adventurous. I don’t have that luxury in my life right now.

Onto the recipe. Guys, this is such an easy dinner. I bought boneless skinless chicken breasts but these would be incredibly delicious using a rotisserie chicken (might need two if you like them meaty like we do). But with the jarred salsa verde and red sauce this comes together in minutes, and tastes great for days. I toyed with the idea of making my own sauces, but then realized that if I wasn’t super excited about that idea then someone busier than me certainly wouldn’t embrace the thought. Easy and simple is my theme these days.

Recipe

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I just boiled for 20 min)
  • One ~15 oz jar red enchilada sauce
  • One ~15 oz jar salsa verde (make sure it’s one you like-love Happy Tomato in TX)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 12 corn tortillas (flour works too)
  • 1.5 cups shredded jack/cheddar cheese blend (or mexican blend, or just cheddar)
  • S&P

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the salsa verde with the sour cream in one bowl. In another bowl, pour the red sauce. In another bowl, place your shredded chicken.  Put your foil sauce divider into a 13×9 inch pan (if using), and ladle one big spoonful of red sauce on one side, and green on the other. Wrap the tortillas in paper towel and microwave for 40 seconds. Keeping them warm throughout this process makes them more pliable so they won’t rip, and you may need to reheat them a few times (I did at least 3 times).  When heated, dip each tortilla in one of the sauces, fill with chicken, roll it up and place seam side down in the pan. Do six of each kind (I laid 4 next to each other side to side, and the final 2 had to be perpendicular to stay on their side). So you should have about 12 enchiladas, 6 red and 6 green.  Pour the remaining red/green sauce over the enchiladas on either side. Top with cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the cheese a bit. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving (with sour cream, of course).

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Do you remember your first fajita experience? I do. I was in Arizona for a training camp with my gymnastics team. Our beloved coach, Jodi, spent the weeks leading up to it raving about Chili’s and our plans to eat there while in Scottsdale. Being from small town Wisconsin and growing up on standard comfort food, the idea of a restaurant that served Mexican like Chili’s seemed so exotic and exciting to me. And sure enough, it was. The fajitas came out on a sizzling skillet. They had flavored lemonade. Chips and salsa. Queso. Brownie sundae (again served on a skillet). Honestly it is one of the most vivid memories burned into my brain and was truly the start of a long and intense love affair with Mexican food. PS- it’s worth noting that our gymnastics team did not follow the rigid diet guidelines of those you hear about in the Olympics. I could also tell you about the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet we had at the hotel, but I’ll save it for another time.


So now that my husband and I are home bound more often now, we’ve gotten in a pretty consistent habit of carrying out fajitas on Friday night. We love them. Actually last week we discussed if we should consider doing some sort of fajita crawl to figure out our favorite. But until we get around to doing that, we also decided it would be a lot easier to make our own fajitas than to pick them up every weekend in Friday traffic.

You guys, I didn’t take this task lightly and we take fajitas very seriously. My husband has a very discerning/picky/annoying palate. We loved them so much I honestly have to say we will be opting for these going forward. Plus – EASY. Plus- HEALTHY (except when you wash them down with a DQ Dilly Bar after).

Recipe

Marinade

  • 1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher/coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon jarred minced)

 Fixins’

  • 3 bell peppers (I used one red, yellow, and green)
  • 1 large sweet/yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • Thin flour or corn tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese (Cheddar or Monterey Jack are good)

Start by marinating the chicken – at least 2 hours but hopefully 4-8. Whisk together lime juice, oil, Worcestershire, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, salt, and garlic. Pour into a large Ziploc bag and add chicken. Refrigerate. 


When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high.  Slice the peppers and onions into thin strips.  Toss with olive oil and salt. I cooked ours in a cast iron skillet on the grill, but feel free to use a grill pan or aluminum foil.  Grill until veggies are very tender and cooked down, about 30 minutes. Our chicken breasts were on the thick side, so they required about 5-6 minutes per side. Typically chicken is about 3-5 per side. Slice the chicken breasts, and build fajitas with peppers, sour cream, and cheese of course.

Ground Beef Tacos

ground-beef-tacos
 I’ve already posted about ground beef tacos, and
interestingly enough I pointed out that most people don’t need a taco recipe.
Those spice packets are very delicious, easy, and practical.

And yet, here I am, posting another ground beef taco recipe. Why? Because:

1.     I forgot I already posted about ground beef tacos
2.     I love ground beef tacos and we ate them on Sunday (Mon, Tues, Wed…)
3.     We liked these better
4.     I am making a conscious effort to eat more tacos

As a Wisconsinite, I grew up with very delicious simple comfort food (and cheese).  My mom was an excellent cook and we were always excited about what she was making for dinner each night.  I used to love her ground beef taco recipe, and I would pile my tortilla high with ground beef and rice. Once a carb lover, always a carb lover.

But after moving to Texas, unfortunately your tongue gets used to a certain level of spice. I still would not call myself a real heat-lover, but in general my husband and I like our Mexican food with a decent amount of kick.  And, that’s just what these tacos are. A Wisconsin-meets-Texas taco.  Not crazy spicy, but enough kick to satisfy the Texan in us. My new go-to taco recipe for sure.

 

Recipe

 

  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 90% lean)
  • ½ large sweet onion, diced
  • 2-2.5 tablespoons chili powder (medium heat if you get a
    choice)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp course kosher salt (can reduce to 1.5 teaspoons if you
    like it less salty)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½-3/4 cup water
  • ¼ cup taco sauce

Brown the meat with the onions in a large skillet. Once brown, mix in the chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, S&P, oregano, paprika, and onion powder. To create a little sauce, add between a half cup and ¾ cup water, and let simmer for a minute or two.  Stir in the taco sauce, cover, and simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes (add more or less water or taco sauce if your beef is extra lean or fatty). Serve on tortillas. Or on salad. Or in a quesadilla. Or on nachos. We did all four.

PS – I looooooove my tacos on Food for Life’s brown rice tortillas. Wowzer.

 

southwest-spaghetti-squas

When someone first told me about spaghetti squash, I felt confused. WTF. There’s no way a squash can do that. And that confusion festered over the next year or so and prevented me from ever really acknowledging the squash’s existence.  Then I was eating at True Food Kitchen a few weeks ago and ordered the spaghetti squash casserole. And guess what? SQUASH CAN DO THAT. AND IT DOES IT WELL. And now I’ve been making something with spaghetti squash at least once a week. As it turns out, there’s not much that spaghetti squash CAN’T do

This has been my favorite to date – a southwestern twist complements the flavor and texture of the squash perfectly.

Recipe

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced and seeds removed (or more jalapeno for added heat)
  • 2/3 cup black beans
  • 1 cup corn
  • Tad minced garlic (jar)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1.5-2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • ~3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a combination of cheddar and mozzarella)
  • Avocado and sour cream, for topping

Start by roasting the squash.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt, then place face down (skin side up) on a baking dish.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, until it can easily be poked with a fork.  Let cool.

In a large pan, saute the onions and jalapeno in a bit of olive oil – about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, corn, and tomatoes.  Stir in the seasonings and turn off the heat.

Scrape out the spaghetti squash using a fork (YES – it really is that easy) into a large colander and let the excess liquid drain out.  Then, mix the corn mixture with the spaghetti, and add the hot sauce and  sour cream if you like (I liked the creaminess).  Pour the mixture back into the squash halves, top with cheese, and broil until warm and slightly browned.  Serve with avocado and sour cream.

 

Ground Beef Tacos

ground-beef-tacos-2

Do you need a recipe for tacos? Probably not. Brown a little ground beef with the pre-packaged taco seasoning and you’re good to go. True.

But, it’s just as easy to use fresh ingredients that give you a way better flavor and a lot less sodium.  Perfect easy weeknight meal that your whole family will love.

Just kidding, that was cheesy. But I’m sure if you have a family they will love it.

Recipe

  • 1 lb ground beef (recommend 93% lean)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Dash worcestershire

How many recipes do I have on this blog that include a dash of worcestershire? A lot. It does magical things to food, particularly ground beef.

Brown the meat, then add the onion and jalapeno and cook for about 5 minutes or so. Mix in the tomato sauce, then remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for several minutes to let the flavors marinate. I don’t really know if that step is necessary, but it felt good. I like the idea of ‘flavors marinating.’

Serve on hard or soft tortillas (I couldn’t decide!), with chopped tomato, shredded lettuce, and sour cream. And salsa!

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