Enchilada Lasagna

Made this delicious Enchilada Lasagna for dinner tonight. It’s all of the normal enchilada materials, only presented like a lasagna. It’s magic is in the velvety sauce. So good!

Enchilada Lasagna:
1 lbs Ground Beef
1 Tbsp Green Chilis (or cut up pickled jalapeno rings)
1/2 Tea ea: Onion Powder / Garlic Powder / Salt/ Pepper

3 Tbsp ea: Butter / Flour
1 Tbsp ea: Chili Powder / Paprika (any kind)
3 C Chicken Stock, hot
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1/2 Tea ea: Oregano, crushed or rubbed / Cumin / Salt / Pepper / Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Taco Seasoning (from a store bought packet)

1/2 Onion, diced
2-3 C Pepper Jack Cheese, grated (or Marble)
Eight 7″ Tortillas

In a hot fry pan, drop meat to brown, chopping it up as it cooks down and the fat renders out. Add the chilis and the seasonings, stirring them in completely. Spoon out the fat into a small bowl for discarding later when the meat finishes cooking. Spoon out the meat into a bigger bowl; set aside for now.

Add the butter to the fry pan to melt completely. Add the flour. Whisk both together and let is cook for a full minute as the colour of the fat deepens. To this, add half the chili powder and whisk continuously before adding the second half to whisk in. Add the paprika one half at a time and continue to whisk as the second portion also goes in, whisking so none of the mixture burns.

Add 1 cup of the broth to the pan and whisk the butter mixture into the liquid. When it’s smooth and incorporated, add the next 1 cup and mix it in. Continue with the last of the broth. At this point, add the tomato paste and really work it into the sauce to evenly distribute it.

Place one seasoning at a time into the pan and give it a good stir before adding the next so each one gets time to meld into the sauce properly. Remove the pan from the heat and start setting up the baking dish, tortillas, meat, onions and cheese for assembly.

Lay two tortillas on the bottom of the dish. Ladle a small spoonful of the enchilada sauce over them, spreading it out thinly all over the tortillas. Top this with 1/3 of the meat, followed by 1/3 of the onions and 1/4 of the cheese. Continue this layering two more times until you finish with the last 1/4 of the cheese.

Top with foil and bake it 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Rest it after that on the stovetop for another 15 mins before cutting it into 4-8 portions. Plate it with some cut up lettuce, a dollop of sour cream, and some diced tomatoes or a small spoonful of salsa.

Bowtie Ballsagna

(From the archives.)

Here is a dish I have been wanting to update for awhile now.

Bowtie Ballsagna:
2-3 C bowtie noodles
2-3 C fresh spinach
3 C homemade pasta sauce + 12oz of tomato puree
24-36 mini meatballs
6-8 fresh Thai basil leaves
2 C ricotta cheese with S&P to taste
2 C grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
2 C toasted breadcrumbs (optional)

Bowtime Ballsagna layering, from the bottom up:
Thin coating of pasta sauce (no meatballs)
Cooked bowtie pasta noodles
Pasta sauce with meatballs
Wilted spinach (in a thin covering)
Ricotta cheese
Cooked bowtie pasta noodles
Pasta sauce with meatballs
Wilted spinach (in a thin covering)
Ricotta cheese
Pasta sauce (no meatballs)
Mix of grated parmesan and mozzarella cheeses
Breadcrumbs (toasted, and optional)

Start by cooking your bowtie noodles in water that’s been generously salted. In a large non-stick pan, start wilting down the spinach with a small pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oil; set aside to cool when it’s all cooked down.

As you cook the pasta and wilt the spinach, reheat your prepared or jarred pasta sauce in a deep sauce pot. To this, add your freshly cooked (if you had time to make any, of course) or frozen meatballs, the tomato puree, some freshly picked and cleaned Thai hot basil (if using dry leaves, half the called for amount; whole or chiffonade) and freshly cracked black pepper. Let that cook long enough to heat the meatballs all the way through.

Note: If you don’t have fresh or dried out Thai hot basil leaves, fresh sweet basil will be fine in the sauce. We like a bit of zing in our lasagna sauce, so that’s why I grow Thai hot basil in my garden.

Scoop out a bit of the pasta sauce to spread all over the bottom of your lasagna pan thinly. Scoop out a few more spoonfuls of just the pasta sauce and set aside (this is for the topping). When your pasta is done cooking, drain it well. Layer more or less than half of the cooked pasta over the sauce in the lasagna dish. (Only use enough to cover the sauce, otherwise this lasagna will become very bulky.) Over the pasta, place a generous amount of sauce with half of the meatballs to cover the pasta noodles, but not much more.

Over the sauce and meatballs layer, lay half of your wilted spinach all over and top that with a few blobs of ricotta cheese; (I use a medium size offset spatula to) spread the ricotta over the spinach in an almost opaque layer. Top the ricotta with the second half of your pasta noodles and top them with the last of the sauce and meatballs. Top those with the last of the wilted spinach, and then top the spinach with the last few blobs of ricotta spread out and the reserved pasta sauce before finishing the lasagna with your two grated cheeses (and toasted breadcrumbs if you like).

Beef Stew

It’s getting to be that time of the year again. Oh, you know which one I’m talking about. Yup, the stewing season. I love this season so much, and yet I didn’t make a single stew last year for whatever reason (I can’t recall why right now), but I’m into it this year. Yee-haw.

Let me know what you think of this if you try it, and if you made any noticable changes that improves it. I’m always look for new ways to make old favourites.

A Burger For The Ages

I don’t make a lot of burgers by hand at home. When we do burgers, it’s typically store bought pre-formed and frozen for convenience only. The husband takes them to work fully cooked on the smoke bbq and cooled down, with a slice of cheese and anything else he wants to add to it on the fly.

I was cleaning out the two freezers last night (the one attached to the fridge, and our cube stand up mini freezer) and found some portioned ground pork in ziplock bags. I pulled them out thinking I can use it for a dinner this week. Not specifically anything like burgers, but sometimes I like to form them into a meatloaf or meatballs before even thinking about burgers.

Tonight I made burgers for a change of pace. And now my husband is demanding to be kept in the style to which he quickly became accustomed to (as of tonight). *sigh* Ok, fine. Here is what I made him:

Creole Burgers:
14 oz Ground Pork
3 tea Creole Dry Rub
I Egg
3/4 C Breadcrumbs (of your choice, though I used Italian flavoured)
1/4 C Parmesan Cheese, grated up

Don’t overwork the meat mixture as you combine everything. I measured out meat for three patties at 4.6/4.7/4.7 oz each. Each was hefty and fantastic. It was a tasty burger on its own that could forgo a bun if need be. But, of course we topped it with sauces, veg and lettuce from our herb garden.

I was spoiled Beyond when this truck showed up at my workplace.

I was, I suppose, trying to give that Beyond Meat burger I had earlier this week a run for its money. I think this burger is just as tasty as the meatless one. Similar flavour palette, same texture, same satisfying feeling in our tummies.

Try this burger recipe and tell me what you think.

Creole Dry Rub

I forget where I found this recipe, but it’s solid gold. I have used on loads of meats and vegetables alike, so it’s versatile. And we often smoke meats on our charcoal bbq. The husband doesn’t like ribs with anything but this rub on it. Give it a go.

Creole Dry Rub:
2 TBSP + 1.5 TEA Paprika
2 TBSP Garlic Powder
1 TBSP ea: Onion Powder, Dry Oregano, Dry Thyme, Cayenne, Black Pepper
1 TEA Salt

Pour all into a small mason jar, give it a shake, and rub it all over generously all over your chicken, pork, beef and other.

I often double this recipe to have some on hand at a moment’s notice when cooking in the kitchen since it can be sprinkled over roasted veg or into a lovely breakfast hash.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

2 tbsp Oil, neutral like veg or sunflower
1 Onion, medium, diced
1 Garlic clove, cut in half or thirds
1 lbs Pork or Beef, ground

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic chunks; cook in oil until they brown, and then discard. This will flavour the oil nicely. Add the onion dice; cook to translucent. Add the grown meat in one large patty over the onions. Brown both sides in tact before using a potato masher to beak the meat into chunks in the pan as it cooks all the way through.

Add S&P to the pan and mix it in well. Once fully cooked, remove ground meat out of the hot pan and onto paper towels to drain.

1 C Jasmine rice
1.5 C Water
1/4 C Chicken Broth powder

1 Egg, room temp

Cook the rice in either a pot on the stove, or in a rice cooker off the stove. When the rice is done cooking, remove it into a large mixing bowl and dump the cooked meat in with it. Add the egg and mix everything together.

1/4 lbs Bacon

In the large skillet, cook the bacon. Rest cooked bacon on paper towels to drain and cool down before finely chopping up. Do not discard the bacon fat in the pan. Add the bacon bits to the meat mixture and stir to combine.

1 Cabbage Head, finely chopped

Bring a large stock pot to rolling boil. Gently ease the cabbage head into that pot. Cook until the leaves are tender. (~ 5-8 minutes) Remove the cabbage head and place it in a deep bowl or a large soup bowl to cool down long enough to pull the leaves off for chopping.

2 C Passata sauce
1 Bay Leaf
2 tea Dry Basil
S&P to taste
1 oz Butter, cut into small cubes for faster melting

In a small sauce pot, heat up the passata sauce with the bay leave fully emerged in it. After five minutes, add the seasonings and continue to bring it to a slow rolling boil. Remove from the heat. Set it aside and add the butter. Let those flavours come  together after a bit of stirring.

Chopped Cabbage
2 tbsp Bacon Fat
Salt, small  pinch to help draw out moisture from the cabbage
2-3 tbsp Herbs de Provence (or Italian seasoning if you have that)

After the leaves are cool enough to handle, chop them into a fine dice. Add it all to the still hot skillet with the bacon fat. Add salt over top and stir. Cook the leaves down a bit longer to make sure all of the cuts have softened to a tender stage. Add the seasoning and continue stirring as it browns a bit.

Add the cooked cabbage to the meat mixture and stir it around to incorporate everything nicely and to cool the cabbage a bit. Taste test to see if the mix is to your liking.

Spray or grease the bottom of a small hotel or roasting pan. Dump the cabbage-meat mixture into it. Spread it out evenly. Top that with all of the passata sauce, smoothing it out all around for full coverage.

Optional: Top casserole with breadcrumbs and a bit of parm if desired.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Notes: I made this in stages over two days as I had the time and materials. (I originally wanted to make classic cabbage rolls, but this cabbage was too thick to roll even after a lengthy boiling time.) I would not expect anyone to have time to do all of these moving cooking parts for a weeknight dinner unless they have the day off or have all of the materials prepped ahead of time. But I could see this being a nice seasonal Sunday casserole.

Auntie Stacey’s Moussaka

moussaka-4Today it’s raining, so today is a great day for us to get real about, of all things, Moussaka.

Moo-saka, as most would say, or Moo-ss-ah-kah, as the Greek people pronounce it, is comfort food at its simplest, finest, and tastiest. This is a casserole dish my husband will unabashedly ask for a third helping of. It is that good. Oh, yes it is.

Traditionally this classic casserole is made with eggplant, but since only one of us likes eggplant, I have taken to making substitutions for him. I love him that much. Oh, yes I do. My version swaps out the eggplant for strips of zucchini and roasted red peppers.

I have been in Greek restaurants in a few parts of Canada that serve this dish with thicker generous layers, and whipped potatoes on top, but I don’t feel any of that’s right. This is a peasant’s dish, therefore it should be kept it as simple and bare bones as possible, and layered with Bechamel sauce up on top just like the Greek peasants did it when it was first invented. This is a great dish for the Spring/Summer time when you don’t want to eat a lot but you do want to eat well. This will do the trick. Every time.

Give this one a whirl, and if you are from different regions near Greece, feel free to add something that is familiar to you in place of the eggplant and let me know how that turns out. Here is the basic recipe I use.

Auntie Stacey’s Moussaka:
2 Zucchinis – sliced lengthwise 1/4″ thick
Salt – sprinkle over both sides of the zucchini slices, set aside for 10 minutes
Black Pepper – freshly cracked
10 oz Roasted Red Peppers – sop up excess brine with paper towels

1 Tbsp Oil
3 Cloves Garlic – minced (or whole if you only want to flavour the oil)
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped finely
1/2 Lbs Ground Lamb (or veal, beef, or pork , or a combination of a few)
8 oz Tomato Puree
1/4 C White Wine
1/2 Tea Dry Basil
1 Tea Oregano
Small Bay Leaf
S&P – roughly 1/2 Tea each

2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 C Milk
S&P – small pinches
1/4 Tea Nutmeg – grated (optional)

1/4 C Cheese – grated (I used Parmesan)
1/8 C Breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 500 degrees while heating up a large skillet. When the skillet is hot enough, add 1 Tbsp of oil to warm up. Add the garlic to the pan (I drop the cloves in and heat them up for about a minute or so to flavour the oil, then I discard them), and after a minute I add the chopped onion. Cook the onion until they are translucent and smell fragrant.

Add the meat to the pan and start to break it up into small grinds while tilling it over in the pan for about 5 minutes. Wash and dry the zucchini at this point and start slicing it up lengthwise into one quarter inch pieces. The idea is to have them cover the whole bottom of the baking dish in the assembly stage of this casserole.

When the meat is browned all over, add the tomato puree and white wine. Stir to incorporate it all with the meat before adding the seasonings. Cook another two minutes and remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and let it rest while broiling the zucchini slices.

Wide Zuke StripsPlace the slices on a lined baking sheet and broil each side of the slices about 3-5 minutes. Set them aside once wilted and browned enough to cook a bit while bringing the oven down to 350 degrees.Bechamel SauceIn a small sauce pan, heat up the milk and butter to start the Bechamel sauce. Once the butter is melted completely, add the flour and seasonings and stir constantly until it comes together in a thick white sauce. Remove from the heat immediately at this point to rest a minute or two while assembling the layers casserole like so:

Layer 1: Zucchini slices
Layer 2: Roasted Red peppers
Layer 3: Meat mixture
Layer 4: Bechamel sauce
Layer 5: Breadcrumbs
Layer 6: Parmesan cheese – ground or very fine grate

Bottom Two Layers Meat Sauce Middle Layer Bechamel Middle Layer Top Two LayersMoussaka-3aOnce assembled, bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Let it rest 5 minutes before serving with a lovely side salad and small hunks of bread with some heated up oil on the side. Or let it cool down as much as it will in a holding time of no more than 30 minutes before storing it the freezer for the future.

Finito[ This two container batch is for my MIL who is 87, a diabetic, never eaten Greek food in her life, and is suspicious of anything she’s never heard of before hence labelling them as Greek lasagnas. It’s a close cousin of Italian lasagna, but without the pasta layers. ]

Note: I often grind meat in my food processor or Magic Bullet if I have a great piece of meat already on hand at home to use up, or I cannot find any good already ground meat I’m after at the grocery store. I cut the meat of choice up into 1 inch cubes, and I process them in a few small batches.grindingmeat

Dilled Mushroom Stroganoff

PickleJuice PickleJuice2

This is a recipe I’m working on currently. I love it as is because it’s so quick, easy and flavourful without a lot of ingredients needed, but I still want to tweak it to see if I can make it better in the future to suit my moods. But, for now, this is the basic idea. Try it at home and let me know what you think.

The twist to this classic is that instead of wine (we don’t drink it here), I use dill pickle juice.

I know, right?!

At work I’m fortunate enough to have access to pails upon pails of pickles where the brine is left behind after we slice up the pickles for garnishing. I took a half pail home one night and as you can see in the above pic, it filled up a lot of my mason jars quite nicely. I am currently dreaming up uses for all of that delicious dill pickle brine. If you have any ideas, please leave them for me in the comments!!

Auntie Stacey’s Dilled Mushroom Stroganoff:
1 C Mushrooms, thinly sliced and washed
1/2 C Red Onions, thinly sliced
1 Tea Bacon Fat
1 Tbsp Oil

1/2 C Pasta

1/2 Tea Paprika
S&P, to taste
1 Tea Basil, dried (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
3/4 C Dill Pickle Juice

1/2 C Full Fat Sour Cream (or plain cream cheese if you prefer)

Put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. In the meantime, heat up a large frying pan. Wash and sliced up the mushrooms, and then sliced up the onions. When the frying pan is hot enough, add the bacon fat. Let that melt before adding the oil. When those two are hot enough, place the onions into the pan and let them soften a minute or two before adding the sliced mushroom. Toss them around in the fats to coat before reducing the heat to med-low and cover the pan with a lid to slowly cook the veg down.

Salt the pasta pot and add the noodles. As the noodles cook, add the paprika, basil and S&P seasonings, as well as the pickle brine juice, to the onions and mushrooms. Again, toss to coat all the vegetables completely. Return the lid to the frying pan to cook till the pasta is done. At that point, add the sour cream to the pan. Stir the cream into the brined vegetables fast so it doesn’t scald or burn. Take both the pot and pan off the burners, and turn off the stove burners.

Drain the pasta a large bowl and top with the stroganoff, stirring to incorporate both into one before plating, or simply add the cooked pasta to bowls and top with heaping spoonfuls of the stroganoff. Top each bowl with a bit more basil if using fresh leaves.

Korean Beef & Noodles

Korean_Beef_Udon_Noodles_001

[ Placeholder picture from “You Gotta Eat Here!” until I get a chance to snap my own. ]

Following the same theme as the last post about watching “YGEH!” and foods features in some of their segments, here is my version of their Korean Beef & Noodles that I made for the husband and myself the other night. I forgot the sugar, and it was sorely missed. The sauce is too acidic without it for my liking. Though, having said that, I’m not a fan of sugar in savoury sauces, so I will probably scale the sugar back to 1 – 2 tablespoons when I make this again. And I will make this again. It’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s easy. This is exactly the kind of dish I love to make after a long day at work, and dinner needs to hit the table in under 40 minutes. (I let meat rest for 30 mins to come up to room temperature before I cook it.)

I think the meat cost me $2.50, the noodles were $1.25 a pack, and the rest of the ingredients added up to, maybe, $2.00? Again, dirt cheap to make. And fast. And packed with flavour. Feel free to add more vegetables if you like to bulk this dish out. I know that’s what I’m planning to do.

Korean Beef & Noodles:
Sauce
1 TBSP Garlic, minced
1/2 T Ginger, fresh (I used 1/4 T ground)
1/4 C Brown Sugar (I’ll use 1-2 TBSP max)
1/4 C Soy Sauce
3-4 TBSP Sesame Oil
1/4 T Red Chili Flakes

2 TBSP Oil (any nut based oil will work fine)
1/2 C Beef, cut into strips
1 Portabello Mushroom, sliced
1 Carrot, grated
2 Green Onions, rough chopped
S & P
1 Pkg Udon Noodles
Sesame Seeds

1. Mince the garlic and chop or grate the ginger. Place in a large bowl. Over that, pour the sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Whisk up and set aside.

2. Heat up a pan, and then add the nut based oil to it. When the oil is hot enough, drop in the beef and Portobello slices, and ladle about 1 cup of the sauce over top. Toss and stir to coat the sauce over everything in the pan, and then let everything cook long enough to brown the meat and slightly soften the mushroom. (About 3 minutes.)

3. Add the uncooked udon noodles to the pan, along with the salt + pepper. Stir to coat the noodles before grating the carrot over the pan and adding the rest of the sauce. Cook this all together over med-high heat for another 3 minutes or so (the noodles don’t take long to heat through, so take care not to burn the sticky sauce by leaving them in the pan too long).

4. Plate the mixture into serving dishes, and top each serving with the green onions and sprinkles of sesame seeds.