Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventures in Traveling: Easy Enchilada Casserole and Mexican Rice



Since I'm getting ready to jump on a plane for a food related adventure (story to come), I thought this a good time to republish one of my favorite posts from a couple of years ago that hardly anyone read, but that I really like.  For the handful of you that have seen this before, I hope you'll bear with me.  For those of you who didn't see it the first time, please enjoy.

 
Now, I make it no secret that I love being a mother; so far it has been the best part of my life.  I am just one of those people that loves being needed but, slowly I am being nudged out of my children’s lives.  My son is a big fellow now who can cut his own meat and pick out his own clothes.  My daughter now lives at university and actually requests vegetables for supper on her visits home.  If that’s not a sign of maturity I don’t know what is.



My previously mentioned, beautiful, all grown-up daughter is in New York this weekend to attend a ball with her new boyfriend in honor of third year West Point cadets.  I’m sure I drove her crazy helping her pack and giving her endless instructions on what to do in the unlikely event that the worst case scenario came to fruition.



I was worrying because, for the past eighteen years, during all of her pretty extensive travels, she has had her own personal concierge traveling with her.  Not this time though, my personal assistance expertise was not needed or invited.  She was going it alone.


Bless her, she rolled her eyes only slightly and smiled sweetly at me as she headed toward the security queue.  You see, I was that silly woman that you sometimes see on the sidelines blowing kisses, ringing her hands and pretty much hovering as usual.  I was comforted a bit because she was armed with two well packed carry-on bags that had my personal stamp of approval, and orders to text me as soon as she reached her gate so I could give her, her next set of instructions.



She did as she was told and was finally given permission to board her plane and head off to New York City and the handsome young cadet waiting there for her.  She sent me a message as soon as she met her date and they boarded their train enroute to their final destination and a blissful, motherless weekend of socializing.  I was now finally able to relax, figuring that West Point doesn’t maintain its sterling reputation by losing pretty young coeds who had come to visit for the weekend.  Ahhh, chardonnay time. But wait! Not so fast!



The next phone call I received wasn’t one that I had requested or would have even wanted if I had known what trouble awaited me.  The shaky little voice on the other end was my daughter informing me that she had left her bag with all of her clothing for the weekend in the overhead compartment of the train that was now on its way to parts unknown.  Ugh! Now, as bad as this was, there was an upside.  Since the missing bag was stuffed with necessities for the weekend, we thankfully had packed the expensive, borrowed ball gown in the bag that she had with her.  We can work with this, I thought.



To make a very long story short, instead of dining with friends at the Westchester Country Club, the two of them spent their first evening together driving through Connecticut, chasing a commuter train to it’s termination point, only to find out that the bag was either taken (and now being enjoyed by a very petite, smartly dressed thief) or rescued by the rail line personnel and safely locked up in lost and found until Monday between the hours of 16.00 – 18.00 (how generous). 

In any case, she not only faced wearing the same clothing for the remainder of the weekend but also sporting furry black boots with her ball gown.  Like the millions before her who have faced this problem, she made the pilgrimage to the nearest Target and purchased a skeleton crew of inexpensive necessities.  Oh, by the way, she was able to find a pair of brown satin shoes that “worked” with her dress for the ball.  If she ever questioned her faith, this is certainly proof that there is a God and she must be female.



During one of my heartsick calls to her, my sister assured me that my daughter’s well trained soldier date could certainly help her survive a weekend in the wilderness much less one without matching shoes or clean panties.  Poor fellow, in my opinion, even the army couldn’t possibly prepare him for this catastrophe.  My heart really bled for this innocent young man who was raised with only brothers and trained by the military, trying to comfort her.  If their relationship survives this weekend, it is meant to be.


My little road warrior arrives home tonight, a bit battered but hopefully no worse for the wear.  Even if she doesn’t get her bag back, she will soon forget the adorable clothes that she lost and remember the valuable lessons she learned.  Keep a pair of clean underwear in your handbag and now that you have made your personal concierge redundant, it is all up to you to have a successful and drama free trip. 


Maybe she will now appreciate how effortless I made it all look.  By the way, I learned my own lesson in Amsterdam, when I set my purse down in the wrong place only to have it snatched up by a sorry low down dirty thief, who will most certainly burn in hell for all eternity, and who benefited greatly by my carelessness.  As you can see, I wasn’t born knowing it all either.


 
When she arrives home, I’ll do what I do best and comfort her with her favorite food and an abundance of clean, smart clothing in her size.  Since she loves Mexican food, I’m planning on a full scale Tex-Mex fiesta with two of her favorites that will hopefully make her feel much better.  All of this has made me realize that while I may have lost my job as her personal concierge, I’ll always be her mom.



Easy Enchilada Casserole

 As you will see as you read this recipe it was written for a 9 x 9" pan but as you can also see by my photos, it can easily be increased by doubling the recipe or increasing the ingredients by 50% and using a 9 x 13" pan.  It is easy and versatile. 



3 tablespoons oil

½ small onion, finely diced (optional)

1 large clove garlic, crushed

2/3 pound ground beef, ground turkey or veggie crumbles

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

4 teaspoons mild chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

2/3 cup half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

8 yellow or white corn tortillas, cut into quarters

2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

 Additional chopped onions, cilantro, pico de gallo and/or sour cream to garnish

 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Heat oil in medium size non-stick frying pan over medium high heat; add diced onions to hot oil and sauté until onions start to soften, approximately 5 minutes.


Add crushed garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer.



Add ground meat and chop up with spoon or spatula; cook until browned, approximately 5 minutes.



Add the flour and stir to completely coat the cooked meat.



While stirring, add the chicken broth.  Stir until the mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken. 



Add the chili powder, cumin and coriander, stir.  Add the half and half, stir to incorporate; season with salt and pepper to taste.



Place a ½ cup or so of the sauce mixture in the bottom of an 8x8” baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.



Cover the bottom with a layer of tortilla quarters then top with 1/3 of the remaining sauce then 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat layers until all of the ingredients are used ending with the cheese.



Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 - 35 minutes covering with aluminum foil if top begins to brown too much.  Check the centre to make sure it is hot all the way through.


Remove from the oven and cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving.


Serves 4 – 6 people


Tex-Mex Rice

I was cooking for a picky crowd the night I photographed this rice and omitted the vegetables, cilantro and lime zest.  If you are serving a more adventurous crowd I encourage you to stir in everything for a really delicious side.

2 - 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon mild chili powder

1/2 cup frozen vegetable mix (peas, carrots and corn), optional


1 cup rice (white or brown)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1/4 teaspoon lime zest, optional

In a small sauce pan, bring broth, garlic powder and chili powder to a boil; stir in rice and frozen vegetables if using, reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

Serve or stir in cilantro and zest if using them,  serve while warm. 

Serves 6











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