Layered Enchilada Bake

Another recipe that I tried in my quest to feed 4 hungry guys without completely blowing my grocery budget, or disturbing them by veering too far from familiar tastes and ingredients. This recipe from Kraft fit those criteria, so I was happy to try it. But I will be honest. I did not use all the Kraft-recommended brands. I used generics mostly. Hopefully the Kraft police won’t find me.

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups salsa (I used more because we love salsa. I also added a can of mexican-style stewed tomatoes)
1 can black beans rinsed and drained (I used 2 cans; see above “feeding hungry guys”)
1/4 cup zesty Italian dressing (I actually did have this & used it. Amazing.)
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix (I used 3 because we like our food spicy)
6 flour tortillas (I have no idea what size I used; whatever size was in my fridge)
1 cup sour cream (how can any recipe be bad that includes a cup of sour cream)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Mexican-Style shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Brown meat with onions in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Add salsa, beans, dressing and seasoning mix; mix well. (And tomatoes if using)

Arrange 3 of the tortillas in single layer on bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish; cover with layers of half each of the meat mixture, sour cream and cheese. Repeat all layers. Cover with foil.

Bake, covered, 30 min. Remove foil. Bake an additional 10 min. or until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 min. before cutting to serve.

This was a HUGE hit with the guys. I like it too, but they loved it. I even managed to snag a little of it for my lunch the next day and it was really good reheated too. Yes, I did pull it out before I ever let them near the dish; I’d learned I had to guarantee myself some leftovers.

picture-009.jpg

Peanut Butter Brownies

I don’t know where I found this recipe. I’ve got it written out so I obviously copied it from somewhere or someone, but the exact origin is shrouded in mystery. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s forgotten in the dusty corners of my brain at the very least.

What I do know is that I did modify it somewhat from what I’d written. The original recipe didn’t call for any chocolate so I added the chocolate topping part. I mean, what goes better with peanut butter than chocolate?

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
12-ounce bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a 3-quart pan over low heat, heat butter until melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and peanut butter until smoothly blended.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

picture-001.jpg

Bake until edges set and brownies are slightly darker, around 30-35 minutes.

Immediately after removing pan from oven, sprinkle entire bag of chocolate chips evenly over the top of brownies.

picture-005.jpg

Allow a few minutes for the chocolate to begin melting, then spread chocolate smoothly over the top.

picture-006.jpg

Allow to cool, cut into squares and enjoy with a big glass of milk. Or, if you’re like me, wait until it’s no longer scorching, cut out a single piece, and enjoy it as soon as possible.

Real Simple Brownies

Real Simple as in the name of the magazine where the recipe was published, as well as how the brownies are to make.

1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or substitute 3/4 c. cocoa, 1/4 c. oil and 1/4 c. sugar)
2 lg. eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. flour
4 lg. peanut butter cups, cut into pieces

Heat oven to 400F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Melt butter and chocolate. Stir all ingredients together except peanut butter cups. Fold peanut butter cups in last.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 35 minutes.

The verdict?
I thought they were very disappointing. They were easy, but not tasty enough to justify the calories. And I had been so convinced that I’d love them (chocolate & peanut butter, how could I not?) that I doubled the recipe. Unfortunate that, from my perspective.

What else could I do with a bunch of brownies that I didn’t really care for other than give them to those who would appreciate them? Of course, I’m talking about my coworkers. I brought in a container of brownies and they were gone in no time. One coworker in particular even stopped by my desk to rave about the brownies, so perhaps my standards are too high.

They were kinda pretty though, even if the top is slightly cracked from me poking at it.

out-of-the-oven.jpg

Apple Pear Crisp

This recipe started life as one for French Apple Pie from my mom’s cookbook. During one of her trips to visit me in the far northern realms of Indianapolis (her perspective anyway), she modified it into a crisp and very thoughtfully wrote in the margins what she’d done to modify the recipe and create the tasty crisp.

And all I’ve done is use pears in place of half of the apples. Three main reasons for doing so:

  1. I have a bunch of pears to use up from my produce delivery.
  2. After having a couple from said delivery, I’ve decided I don’t especially like to eat pears out of hand.
  3. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that using pears in place of apples in recipes provides you with a substantial increase in the fiber content of the recipe. This makes my swap nutritionally AND fiscally sound!

Apple/Pear mixture:
6 cups of peeled and chopped apples and pears. This was 3 of each for me, but it’s been fewer in the past when I’ve had extra large apples.
sugar
cinnamon
nutmeg (oh! I forgot, I also skipped the nutmeg and used cardamom instead. Because I adore cardamom and have a big jar of it.)
Toss to combine and spread into baking dish. I used a 8 x 11 maybe? It’s an old dish of my grandmothers and it’s kind of an unusual size. Just make sure it’s big enough to fit the fruit in a shallow layer & still is deep enough to give room for the topping.

Topping:
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick cold butter
Mix flour, oats & brown sugar. Cut butter into mixture, then spread over fruit.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until brown and crispy. Watch to make sure the topping doesn’t burn.

This is so tasty, especially with vanilla ice cream. And it’s fruit, so I feel ever-so-slightly less guilty about eating it. Daily.

Apple Pear Crisp right out of the oven

Macaroni & Cheese, Take 2

So as I updated in the last post, my most recent attempt at mac & cheese left me thinking my search was over, I had found mac & cheese nirvana.

I still think that’s possible, although I don’t suppose it’ll necessarily keep me from trying additional versions. Maybe there’s a secondary nirvana that’s even greater than the first.

This version contains no Velveeta, so it kicks the pants off the first version right from the start. It is more complicated to make however, so there is that. But if all I cared about was how easy it is, I’d probably never stray from the boxed stuff.

The recipe is barely modified from the cookbook Saveur Cooks Authentic American. And “barely modified’ means I left off the bread crumb topping. Because I didn’t have any fresh bread crumbs and was too lazy to make them. It’s easy to be lazy when you’re not crazy about bread crumb topping anyway. And I upped the pepper amounts too but I always do that.

So, ingredients.

  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cayenne (1/2 tsp in the original version)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper (white pepper in the original version. I didn’t care about it defacing the appearance of my food to use my regular peppercorns. Plus I don’t own any white peppercorns & I wasn’t about to go shopping just for that.)
  • 3 3/4 cups hot milk. Mine was warmish.
  • 4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided. I used sharp, and grated it myself. That would be 16 ounces if I did my math correctly.
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked. I used penne I think.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Melt butter & whisk in flour & cook for about 4 minutes. Stir in seasonings. Whisk in milk a little bit at a time and cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly (or not quite constantly if you’re me and are doing other things at the same time as this is going). Reduce heat to low & stir in 2 cups of cheese, and cook until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese sauce.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the bottom of a large baking dish. Put 1/3 of pasta in the dish, top with 1/2 cup cheese, and repeat layers two more times. End with cheese. Pour cream over the casserole and bake in a 350F oven about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Directions are slightly abbreviated for typing ease.

This stuff is good. Rob said it was fantastically creamy. Well, he said it was creamy, but I know he meant “fantastically creamy.”

Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

(The little black speck in the picture above is black pepper. Really, it’s not dirt in my macaroni. Just course-ground black pepper.)

Macaroni & Cheese

I absolutely adore macaroni and cheese. It’s up there with my favorite dishes ever. Now if I could only find the ultimate recipe for cheesy goodness.* I am not very good at getting cheese sauces to be smooth instead of grainy so that always hinders my mac & cheese making.

So this time, I cheated. I used some Velveeta in an attempt to guarantee smooth-and-creaminess.

And guess what? It worked! Hallelujah & pass the mac & cheese.

oh, perhaps my new technique helped as well.

While water for some macaroni (actually penne rigatoni) was heating, I set up my make-shift double boiler. Which is just a metal bowl set into a pan with some water, which, while not as convenient as a true double boiler (the lack of handles would prove troublesome), had the advantage of being available.

Chopped and/or shredded cheese into the bowl. A lot of it. It’s about half velveeta, and then the other half is a combo of cheddar and cheddar with peppers. And this cheddar with pepper cheese is AWESOME. Just sayin’.

peppadew.jpg

Add milk. Maybe 2/3 of a cup? I just poured until it looked good.

mac-and-cheese-10.jpg

Then whisk away as the cheese melts and turns into a luscious sauce.

mac-and-cheese-15.jpg

Once the sauce is creamy and melted, add the cooked pasta and stir together.

mac-and-cheese-17.jpg

Pour into a baking dish and put into the oven for 10 minutes or so. I probably had the oven at 350.

Eat and enjoy. Super creamy, luscious macaroni and cheese. I love this stuff. This is not my ultimate mac & cheese however. I don’t like using Velveeta and I think that’s what caused this to be almost impossibly sticky.

mac-and-cheese-24.jpg

UPDATE!!! This recipe was made much earlier than it was posted, due to me being a slacker and taking forever to get the pics off the camera. But, I made mac & cheese following a different recipe last weekend (just after posting this) and it may have become my ultimate recipe. Not as simple as this one, but so much creamier and tastier. I’ll try to get it written up and the pictures ready to go ASAP.