Category Archives: Recipes

Taco Casserole? Yes, please!

I love it when I remember a recipe that I haven’t made in a while. I love it even more when it’s super easy and delicious. And it’s even more perfect when the recipe is cheap to make! Introducing: Taco Casserole!

I feel quite certain that I am not the first person to come up with this, but I know I never read the recipe anywhere, so that makes it original, right?

I went shopping this afternoon for our weekly groceries, and all I could think of the entire time I was walking around the store was how much I wanted Taco Casserole. Now, if you don’t like tacos, this isn’t for you, but that should be pretty obvious. This is really only a casserole in the sense that there are layers and it has cheese on top…but what more do you need?! I didn’t decide to share this until after I ate, so I don’t have great pictures to accompany each step like pretty food bloggers do (I also have terrible light in my kitchen and just my iPhone camera) but I hope you get the idea.

TACO CASSEROLE:

Brown 1 pound ground meat of your choice in a skillet and drain (I have used turkey and beef, but I’m sure chicken would work as well)

Add taco seasoning to taste

To your skillet add:

1 can of drained Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (Here is where you can turn the heat up or down. I use original which is sort of a medium spice, but it also comes in mild or hot)

1 can drained sweet corn

1 can black beans drained but not rinsed

Mix all ingredients together over medium-high heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the mixture is heated through

In an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish:

You will need 4 flour tortillas and 1 cup of cheese to complete the construction of this dish.

Spoon half the meat and veggie mixture into the bottom of the dish and cover with half of the cheese

Layer 2 tortillas over the top of the cheese (Note: They may not reach the edges, and that’s ok)

Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the tortillas

Cover with the remaining 2 tortillas and put the rest of the cheese on the top.

Bake at 400 for about 8-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown. If you’re impatient you can put it under the broiler for a minute or two (assuming your dish is safe to use under the broiler).

This makes about 6 good-sized servings or 8 smallish ones. Serve with guacamole and/or sour cream if you have it and like that sort of thing.

This is a good pantry dish because it doesn’t require any off-the-wall ingredients, and if you’re like me, you probably have all this stuff on hand most of the time. It costs about $7 for the whole dish, so $1-ish per serving. Not too shabby!! Plus…it’s delicious.

Behold:

I’ll admit, it’s not the most gorgeous thing in the world, but trust me, for as little work as it takes to make it, it rocks. Oh, and you may want to fight for the middle piece where the tortillas overlap…just a suggestion. Enjoy!!!

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I Don’t Think You’re Ready for this Jelly

After our little apple escapade the other day, I made plans to utilize our apple harvest and make some yummies. I have never made jelly of any kind before, so I really didn’t know where to start. When I don’t know where to start on a project, I usually start with Google. I am definitely a product of my generation on that point. When I searched “apple jelly recipe” (which you just did too if you clicked on the link), it came up with beaucoups sites to choose from. After perusing a few, I decided to go with a pretty blog that told a story similar to my experience. David Lebovitz found some free apples and decided to make jelly! That is exactly what happened to me! Now, to be fair, David Lebovitz is a fabulous foodie living in Paris with his partner, and his blog has gorgeous pictures of his fabulous food adventures, and I am a slightly less fabulous wanna-be foodie living in Southwest Arkansas with my amazing family, and my blog has mediocre pictures of my pretty normal food adventures…but still! He found free apples and made jelly; why can’t I?!

Soooooo, I made jelly! It jellied and everything! I started chopping apples:

Chopping apples…lots of apples

Then I weight the apples. Unfortunately, I only have a one-pound scale, so I had to weigh them one pound at a time.

8 pounds per recipe

Then, the 8 pounds were boiled in 10 cups of water. The only stock pot I have was barely large enough…but it WAS large enough. Whew!

An EXTREMELY full pot

After they boiled, I put them in a colander on top of cheesecloth to drain their juice. I had to leave them alone for hours…it was very difficult.

Apples draining

After the excruciating wait, I got 8 cups of juice from each batch of apples.

Apple juice!

Then, I added 6 cups of sugar and a quarter cup of lemon juice and boiled the apple juice…for a looooooong time. It makes for a very aromatic and steamy facial in case you were wondering. It got me even more in the Christmas spirit!

Candy thermometer in place...steamy juice

Very, VERY hot jelly!

I put a blob of jelly on a cold plate in the freezer to make sure it “jelled”. So pretty…. Mounded up just like it was supposed to. Had to go to 230 degrees.

Jelly blob

I had the jars ready to go:

Jars getting warm and ready to fill!

 I ladled the hot jelly into the warm jars. I don’t have any pictures of that because, well, it’s hard to take pictures when you’re using both hands, and I don’t have one of those cool tripods.

Canning

All done!

I ended up even making 6 jars of applesauce out of the leftover apples, and I still have some left to make apple butter!!! Lots of work, but also fun. Abbey can’t wait to dig into the jelly. Somehow, the second batch made 8 jars instead of 6. I think I put too much sugar in it, but even if I did, it wouldn’t have made that much more. Hmmm…I don’t pretend to understand chemistry.

Overall, excellent way to spend a few days…and a lot of apples!

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Why yes! I do make my own dough!

2-year-old Abbey making pizza

Friday night was pizza night at our house. I make pizza from scratch, and I noticed that I had a half recipe of dough in the freezer. Easy! I am definitely not against ordering pizza. In fact, we had it Wednesday night too (I can’t pass up half-price night!). But, I have been craving homemade pizza for a while. Not to toot my own horn, but…I make really good pizza. Some might even say I make GREAT pizza. It honestly isn’t that big a deal. I’ve been making it since I was a kid. My mom makes it; my grandma makes it; it’s a family recipe. An old, German family recipe. {wink wink}

Now, Germans aren’t necessarily known for their pizza, but apparently they should be. I found out just yesterday that my grandma had never even eaten pizza until she and my grandpa got engaged. Of course, that was 56 years ago, but this recipe apparently began with her. When I look back at the original recipe (and remember making it as a kid), I see where things have been simplified. I used to be the cheese grater. That was my job. I grated the big block of mozzarella cheese that would cover 4 large pizzas. I actually still prefer freshly grated cheese to the pre-grated kind. Even though it technically tastes the same, the texture of the fresh stuff is so much better. Mmmmmm.  But I digress…

After years and years of watching two amazing cooks make this fantastic meal, I am quite good at it myself. I also love sharing it with others. When someone who has never had my pizza eats it for the first time I’m always nervous. I love to share my cooking, and I have matured enough to be able to handle someone not liking something I make…sometimes I don’t like stuff I make! However, there are three exceptions to this: my rolls (also a family recipe), my chocolate pie and my pizza. If someone eats any one of these and either tells me they don’t like it or I can tell they don’t like it, I get my feelings hurt. I know. It’s silly, but these are my three absolute favorite things to make, and I pour my soul into them…I also apparently get quite dramatic when talking about them!

Every time I share this pizza I get similar comments that all massage my ego and make me feel very happy. One particular comment has always given me the same reaction. The comment is this: “Wow! You made this dough from scratch?!” My first reaction used to be: “Yes! I do. How else would I make it?” I still think that now, but I am able to temper it because I have enough life experience to know that, well, everyone doesn’t make pizza dough.

In my not substantial lifetime I have met people who burn macaroni and cheese, can barely work a microwave, literally do not know how to cook anything that doesn’t come from a can or plastic bag, or NEVER eat at home unless their meal was frozen first. Growing up, that was a foreign concept to me. I also didn’t even know pizza crust came in a tube until I was a teenager. I didn’t know there was such a thing as “Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning” in a pouch until I worked at a grocery store. I am nowhere near as good of a cook as my mother and grandmothers are/were, but there are some things that were just normal to me growing up that I have since discovered were not normal. How I was raised has served me well. Here is the main lesson I was taught regarding food/cooking/overall resourcefulness:

We can always make one! My mom and I (and my grandmothers and I) spent many days and late nights making things. Outfits, Halloween costumes, baked goods, etc. That may be why, much to the annoyance of my husband, I am still a night owl/procrastinator when it comes to seasonal projects. This has also served me in other areas. If we’re out of baking powder, I know where to look in the cookbook to find substitutions. Staple items for me are still flour, sugar, eggs, etc. instead of processed foods. Though I don’t feel like I’m cheating anymore when I use some convenience foods like Uncle Ben’s rice pouches (best ever!), I like it this way. I like to make stuff.

Now, I said I wouldn’t share recipes on this blog, but this is one that needs to be shared. This is my all-time favorite family recipe. One of these days, I’ll take nice purty pictures of the step-by-step process, but for now, the words will have to do.

Are you waiting with bated breath?!

Homemade Pizza

Heat oven to 500 F

1.5 cups hot water (not too hot, but more than warm)

1 package dry yeast (add a little pinch of sugar to help the yeast activate)

3 – 4 cups flour (divided)

1 tablespoon olive oil (or other vegetable oil)

1 teaspoon garlic salt (regular salt works too)

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, add yeast (and sugar) to water and mix. Allow to activate (the water should get a little frothy)

2. Add 2 cups of flour, the salt, and oil and mix. The dough should be sticky.

3. Gradually add flour until the dough can be turned out onto a board (or the counter)

4. Knead in remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Allow dough to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. It can be used immediately, but it will be easier to handle if you let it sit for a while.

5. Divide dough into the number of portions needed to make your desired number of pizzas, and allow dough to rest. (5 to 10 minutes)

(NOTE: This recipe can easily make 2-16″ pizzas or 3 to 4-12″ pizzas. Can be expanded by adding more water and flour, etc. to make more dough without adding more yeast. If you want to double it, you can probably get by with only one packet of yeast, but adding another won’t hurt.)

6. Roll dough out to appropriate size for your pans and place on greased pans.

7. Spoon on desired sauce (I use a mixture of 1 small can tomato paste mixed with one can water – just fill the empty tomato paste can with water…warm works best – and add oregano, garlic salt or powder, and ground pepper to taste).

8. Add cheese and other desired toppings. (My mom sprinkles garlic salt on at this point…it’s lovely.)

9. Bake in 500 degree oven for 10 to 13 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is brown. Cut and serve!

My oldest daughter LOVES to make pizza. If I can keep her from eating the raw dough and the mushrooms right out of the can, she makes a pretty good pizza (as evidenced from the photo)!

My little helper eating on the job.

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