Taco Casserole

I like mixing things up every once in awhile.  I get bored of eating the same thing over and over (except maybe pasta.  okay and pizza in Italy).  Not everyone in my family is like this.  A few years ago I went away for a few days.  I returned and asked my son what he and dad had eaten the few days I was gone.  “Tacos”, he replied.  “What else?”  I asked.  “Just tacos”.   It obviously works for some people.

We do see a lot of tacos around these parts.  And so the other day when I was thinking of something new to taste test, I thought about turning the beloved taco into a casserole.

My mom made a recipe similar to this all through my childhood called California Casserole.  I still love it, but it’s a little more Tex-Mex than taco-ish or Mexican-ish so I thought I’d try and make mine more local to where I live, while still using ingredients that are easy to find where most of you reading live.  One day I’ll blog that casserole too, although I think I’ll call it Mexican Lasagna.  (Let’s see if I remember this and actually do it).

This casserole is a little like lasagna actually, with the layers, so it does take a little more time than just a one-pot casserole, but it’s worth it.  I ever-so-lightly fry my corn tortillas to keep them from getting super soggy.

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See those nice little bits of brown?  Perfect.

In all actuality, I prefer flour tortillas, and you can use those if you prefer, but for this casserole, corn tastes better with the other ingredients.  Also, even if I buy the worst grocery store tortillas here, they’re still better than the pre-packaged flour ones.

I added corn because i would add it to everything if possible, but hubby isn’t a big fan, so I added a minimal cup so that he didn’t have too much to complain about!  Add more if you like.

Happy Taco Tuesday everyone!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 TAB chili powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (can substitute green pepper)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 28 oz. can tomatoes, diced
  • 1 TAB sugar
  • 1 cup corn (optional)
  • 20 ounce can re-fried beans
  • about 3 cups Manchego cheese (mozzarella is fine)
  • about 20 small corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 green onions, diced

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large skillet to medium heat.  Add ground beef, chili powder, salt and pepper and brown meat in batches until cooked.  Set aside

Add a little oil to the skillet, then add onion, garlic, and poblano pepper and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar and let simmer about 10-15 minutes.  Add meat and corn and let simmer another 10 minutes or so.

In another skillet, heat a little oil on medium heat.  Lightly fry each tortilla until slightly crispy, and set aside to train on paper towel.  Repeat until all tortillas are done, using only as much oil as necessary.

In a 13×9 casserole dish, scoop out enough of the sauce to thinly cover the bottom of the dish.  Layer 6 tortillas on top of the meat.  They should overlap slightly.  Spread half the can of refried beans, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese, then 1/3 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat with one more layer: tortillas, beans, cheese, sauce.  Add a third layer of tortillas and then top casserole with remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  Remove from oven.  Top with green onions.  Let rest 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Great served with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Serves 6-8.

Hamburger Quiche Bites

I hate how these don’t photograph well.  Actual truth: I need a few thousand lessons on food photography.  Because they. are. good and deserve all sorts of accolades and I had to share them with you no matter what they look like.

I never knew until a few days ago, actually after I originally posted this, that this is actually my aunt’s recipe.  My mom never told me!  So this post needed to be updated so I can talk about my auntie.

I don’t have a big extended family.  Growing up, the only extended family that we spent a lot of time with was my mom’s brother’s family and my dad’s brothers’ families.  Although I was closer in age to the cousins on my dad’s side, my mom’s brother and family lived closer and so we spent many a weekend over there.  My auntie was a great cook, even though she would say the opposite.  Her food was classic, consistent, and always good.   I have many a fond memory sitting around their dining room table.  In a family full of people who averaged 5’9 and taller, she was petite, but she could hold her own.  And she did.

She came from a large family with a lot of siblings so perhaps that’s why she was used to feeding a lot of people?  I don’t really know, but what I do know is there was never just one thing to eat at her dinner table; there were proteins and carbs and veggies.  I distinctly remember plate after plate of food being passed by me and I ate every one, whether it was a vegetable I liked or not.  That was the rule in our house, you did not turn down food that was served to you.  It’s a good lesson that I appreciate to this day.

Her family originated from Czechoslovakia, so there were a lot of similarities in the food between her culture and our Ukrainian one.  She made something called holushki/halusky (these Eastern European foods have at least two different ways to spell them it seems).  They are dumplings, plain or with sauerkraut, and hers were delicious.  Nobody else in our family made them, so every time we went over there, I hoped and wished that they would be on the table.  Usually, my wishes came true.  How can such simple foods taste so good?

This quiche is one of my auntie’s recipes, and it’s a great one for a few reasons.  One of them is you don’t have to fuss with individual wrappers, or fill and repeat over and over like a lot of the other mini quiche recipes out there.  You simply press the pie crust along the bottom of your pan, pour in your quiche, and bake. Cut into whatever size pieces you want and off you go.  You could even cut it in 6 large pieces and eat it for dinner.  Go ahead.  I won’t judge.

Yes, I know, it’s not tall and fluffy like quiche is.  You can make it in a smaller pie shaped pan and it totally will be fluffier.  But frankly, I’ve always liked how dense and packed full of ingredients each bite is.  I have made this recipe in pie pans also when we sold them at our cafe, but they don’t cut into cute little bite sized pieces.

I used to shy away from making these because I didn’t feel like whipping up a pie crust.  So what I’ve been doing for years is when I do make pie crust, I double or triple the recipe and keep the crusts in the freezer so I can pop them out whenever.  It makes pie making less daunting when the hard part of it is already done.

I promise I’ll work on my photography if you promise to make this and serve it at your next wine and cheese party.  They may not be fancy, but they’ll be gobbled up faster than any of those glittery appetizers.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 TAB cornstarch
  • 3 cups grated cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 double pie crust recipe

DIRECTIONS:

Make double pie crust recipe and put down on a greased 15×10 jelly roll pan.

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, brown beef until cooked through, set aside.  In a large bowl, add mayonnaise, milk, eggs, and cornstarch, and whisk to combine.  Stir in meat, cheese, onion, salt and pepper.  Turn mixture into pan.  Bake 35 minutes or until knife goes in and comes out clean.  Let rest ten minutes before cutting.

Cochinita Nachos

Cochinita Nachos

I have a feeling over the next few months we will see a lot more nacho recipes popping up on the social media sites of food bloggers.  With football in full swing, it seems Sunday is for snacking . While we don’t live in a football frenzy area, we do live in a constant state of snacking.

You know how you feel in summer? When the weather is so nice you just want to sit outside and enjoy it for all it is, with good food and drink and friends? Well, it feels like that almost always here on the coast, especially though in winter when we have more tourists and visitors and everybody wants cheap Mexican beer, tacos, guacamole, and anything easy to snack on while spending the day on the white sands of the Mayan Riviera.

Nachos may be on of the easiest meals to make, I am not sure why I don’t make it more often.  Especially here, where corn chips are cheap, and you can buy a kilo of any fabulous Mexican style meat like cochinita that I don’t have to cook in the ground for two days.  I know I say happiness is homemade, and technically this is, but the best family run cochinita joint in town.  It is family owned and they only make two kinds of meat for tacos, and, as many places do here, only stay open until they run out.  They could make so much more money and stay open all day, but they prefer to make enough to live off, and not be a slave to their business.  I so do admire that way of life here.

Some days I’ll be there at 10:30 a.m. and they’re closed up.  Sold out.  Some days they’re still there at noon if I’m fortunate.  They are a family run business, he calls me by name when I drop by, and man, his cochinita is the best.

So for nachos here, I had to put cochinita on it.  I bought a kilo and shredded it finer, and tossed it onto those chips, and added the rest of my toppings, including the pickled onions that they include when you buy a kilo of meat.  Oh my, it was good.

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I am aware that you probably can’t go down the street and pick up authentic Mexican Cochinita.  But keep an eye out for it if you are in a big city, I am sure there are local markets where you can buy it.  Otherwise, toss some pulled pork on there for a change from beef.  Or if you want to keep it vegetarian, we see a lot of black bean nachos here too.

This is another loose recipe, it’s all how much of everything that you like.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large bags corn chips
  • 1/2 kilo pulled pork
  • 2 cups mixed grated cheese (I used cheddar and Manchego, which is similar to mozzarella, nice and stringy)
  • 1/2 cup pickled onions (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Lay tin foil down on large baking sheet.  Spread corn chips in a thin layer.  Add meat, cheese, onions.  Repeat with another layer of chips, meat, cheese.  Bake in a 400 oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Add additional toppings to baking sheet or let people add their own.

 

One-Pot Taco Skillet

I love to cook.  But I don’t always want to cook.  Don’t we all have those kinds of days?

Some days I am out and about all day doing mom stuff and the last thing that I want to do is come home and make food.  And then there is winter, when we often have a number of friends visiting. It can happen that we are  at the beach all day and I’m too sunned out to cook when everyone is starving from laying around in the sun. Please don’t hate me for that: it’s kind of like your long summer days when you just want to relax and not do a thing except drink refills.

I had a part-time job up until my daughter was born in the early 2000’s.  By that time we lived in Bolton, about 30 minutes north of Toronto.  I drove into the city with my young son to my mom’s, dropped him off, and took public transit into the heart of the city.  On a good day, this took only an hour and a half.  How many days are good days for traffic in Toronto? Not many.  Mostly, this trip took about two hours each way.

I was fortunate, sometimes my mom would hand me dinner when I picked up our son saying “There, now you don’t have to cook when you get home.” But of course, she had a life, and was watching a very active toddler all day for free, so some nights I (gasp) had to cook for myself. It’s those nights that I needed a meal like this.

We almost always have chicken and ground beef in the freezer.  Either one can be concocted into a yummy weeknight meal under 30 minutes.  And while I didn’t have as many taco nights when I lived in Canada, we sure have a lot of them now.

This is by no means authentic Mexican.  Not even close.  You will never see ground beef for tacos on the menu here on the Mayan Riviera.  It’s most commonly beef or pork that has been sliced, diced, shredded, you name it.  This is a family friendly meal that you can change up a million different way depending on what you like and what’s in your pantry. 

We have to have some heat in it so I either shake in some hot sauce or a can of chipotle in adobo sauce.  We can’t buy here what you in Canada and USA commonly use as taco seasoning.   I guess to the locals it would just be called seasoning!  You can omit all my seasonings and add some of your local taco seasoning if you want instead.  We have eaten this alone or served with rice or tortillas. Or you can make it a fully loaded one pot meal and add 1 1/2 cups cooked rice or 250 grams noodles of your choice. 

One of the reasons it’s so great is how easy and versatile it is.

Enjoy! And let me know how you adjusted it for your family!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 poblano or green pepper, diced
  • 1 – 26 oz/796 ml can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen or canned corn
  • 1 TAB chili powder (in Mexico I prefer dired ancho, or guajillo)
  • 1 TAB hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 TAB red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (or Monterey Jack or a mixture)
  • green onions, diced for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a large skillet, brown ground beef.  Add onion, garlic, and pepper and cook about 5 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add canned tomatoes, corn, seasonings, and any water needed to add more moisture if so desired (or even some tomato sauce).  Combine well and simmer for 10 minutes or so Add cheese and stir until melted.  Turn off heat.  Add green onions to garnish. 

**Serve alone or with rice or tortillas. Or, you can add 1 1/2 cups cooked rice or 250 grams noodles of your choice for a one pot meal!

Serves 8.

Easy Bulgogi

I was a little late to the Korean Beef, better known as Bulgogi, food train. The first time I heard of it was when my mother came home from someone’s home for dinner, raving about this Korean beef that the husband made for dinner.  When my mother raves about someone’s cooking, I pay attention.  Of course, as we do in our family, we look up recipes and history about the dish, and set about seeing which version we like best.

This recipe is a super simple marinade which actually works great on chicken as well.  I will admit, I don’t know how authentic this is.  I see all sorts of Bulgogi recipes out there, some with vegetables, some without.  If anyone has more authority on what authentic Bulgogi is, please comment and let me know.  I want to know!

Authentic or not, this dish is fantastic, never mind being fast and easy and the perfect meal for a weeknight.

You can leave it marinating for 30 minutes, but I like to leave it marinating the day before I know I won’t have time to cook; then I can just come home and fry this up and within a few minutes, fantastic dinner is on the table.  Or sometimes I’ll leave it marinating in the morning and voila, dinner is served in under ten minutes.

Gochujang is a red chili paste that can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket, and if not, Asian specialty stores.   It’s a thick condiment that’s spicy and pungent in flavor, which is why you usually need a very small amount of it.  We have a one pound tub of it that we bring from Canada and keep it refrigerated after opening.  It keeps well in the fridge and even though we use it in different dishes, lasts us awhile.  I used to be afraid of going on the search for ingredients I don’t use a lot, but I’m not anymore.  I like having the access to a flavor profile that is different from our every day tastes here in Mexico.

If you want to mix it up, make it and eat in over rice, in tacos, or even toss it in a salad.  Add some pepper for color if you so choose.  I do promise that you’ll fall in love with the flavors and want it again and again.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 bosch pear, grated
  • 2 TAB soy sauce
  • 1 TAB gochugaru
  • 1 TAB ginger, diced
  • 1 TAB brown sugar
  • 1 TAB sesame oil
  • 1 lb boneless sirloin steak
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Bibb Lettuce leaves, washed and dried

DIRECTIONS

Combine pear, soy sauce, gochugaru, ginger, brown sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl.  Slice steak into strips and add to bowl.  Combine well.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or pour into a resealable ziploc bag, seal well, refrigerate up to 8 hours.  Heat a large skillet with vegetable oil, cook beef until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. (Or alternatively, grill on a bbq about a minute per side).  Transfer to plate, top with green onions.

Serve in washed and cleaned lettuce leaves or over rice if you prefer.