Taco Casserole

We decided to try a taco casserole last night. I had a few recipes I looked at for the basics. Here’s what we came up with. My boys loved this twist on our usual taco night.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • tortilla chips
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (divided in half)
  • 2 – 3 roma tomatoes, chopped (divided in half)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
  • ½ cup sliced black olives, plus more for topping
  • shredded lettuce
  • sour cream (optional)
  • avocado (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook beef and yellow onion over medium-high heat until the beef is browned and cooked through (about 7 minutes). Drain. Add beans, canned tomatoes/green chiles, and taco seasoning. Reduce heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In an ungreased casserole dish (mine was approx 9 x 13), layer the bottom with roughly broken tortilla chips. Top with the beef mixture. Sprinkle the bell peppers, half the green onion, half the diced tomato, and the ½ cup of olives. Cover with cheese.

Bake uncovered 20 – 30 minutes, until hot and the cheese is melted. Top the baked casserole with lettuce and the remaining green onions, diced tomatoes, olives, and a little more broken tortilla chips. Serve with sour cream and avocado.

Note: Not sure how many tortilla chips we used. I just broke them right into the casserole dish, lining the bottom. I had about ¼” to ½” of a layer on the bottom, it made a nice crust. I didn’t add too many additional chips to the top.

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Cheddar Cheese Soup

A few years ago, our family took our first trip to Walt Disney World. As a kid, I wasn’t too excited about EPCOT and the World Showcase. As an adult, I loved it. Especially since we travelled during the Food & Wine Festival. We also participated in the Disney Dining Plan, and boy did we eat. And eat. And eat.

For readers that don’t know much about me, I love Disney. And I love cheese. So it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite dishes in all of Disney World was the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served at Le Cellier Steakhouse. So delicious. And then a year after our visit, Disney published this wonderful recipe as part of their Food & Wine Festival promotions. Here it is for you in all it’s delicious, cheesy glory. Enjoy.

One note: as regular readers know, we prefer veggie broth to chicken broth in our cooking. That’s the only change I make to this soup.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound of bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock [we use veggie broth]
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • Course salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup pale ale, room temperature
  • Chopped scallions or chives, for garnish

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a 4- or 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, celery, and butter. Sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and stir constantly for about 4 minutes.
  4. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add milk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. (Do not boil after adding milk,)
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper until cheese is melted and soup is smooth. Stir in ale. If soup is too think, thin to desired consistency with warm milk.
  7. Serve hot, garnished with scallion or chives.

Makes about 6 cups.

30 March 2015
We just made this again tonight. Two notes to the recipe:

Note 1: In step 4, I found that the 3 cups of broth wasn’t quite enough; the mixture is very thick. I slowly added a little extra broth several times while it was simmering, I probably ended up at about 3 1/2 cups.

Note 2: We are not Pale Ale drinkers. We use Kona Brewing Company’s Longboard Lager when we make this soup.

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad is an easy and delicious side, and even better when using tomatoes and basil from our garden.

My husband planted some tomatoes and basil in our garden this year. Last night he harvested some beautiful tomatoes. I happened to have bought some fresh mozzarella at the store the other day, so we picked some basil and had a lovely Caprese salad with our meal.

Ingredients

  • Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

The assembly on this is so simple; just layer a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, and a slice of mozzarella. Arrange your tomato layers on a plate, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Perfection.

Classic Cheese Fondue

The recipe makes much more cheese fondue than this; we dug in and ate almost the whole pot before I remembered to take a picture!

Now, I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I love cheese. I could be a vegetarian, but never a vegan, I just couldn’t live without cheese. (My husband and I love to go out for fondue; we always end up getting the full dinner, but we’d both be happy with just the cheese and chocolate I think.)

My fondue pot came with a bunch of different cheese fondue recipes. We made the classic cheese fondue first – we love eating it so much I still haven’t tried any of the other cheese fondue recipes that it came with! One note – our fondue pot is an electric one; I have modified this recipe so you can use it with any type of fondue pot.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Gruyere cheese (not processed), grated
  • ¾ pound Emmenthal cheese, grated (we usually sub Swiss instead)
  • 6 teaspoons cornstarch (I use arrowroot)
  • 1-½ teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 2-¼ cups dry white wine – not chardonnay (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 2-½ tablespoons Kirschwasser (to be honest, I don’t use this, it’s such a small amount)
  • Dipping ingredients, cut into cubes or bite size

Directions

Place the grated cheese in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the cornstarch and dry mustard and toss to coat the grated cheese completely.

Rub the bottom and lower half of the sides of the fondue pot with the cut sides of the garlic cloves. Add the white wine to the fondue pot, and then begin to heat the pot. Heat the wine to a strong simmer (bubbling, but not boiling strongly). While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or nonstick whisk, gradually whisk in the grated cheeses, sprinkling one handful at a time; don’t add any more cheese until each handful is completely melted and smooth. The mixture will slowly thicken. When all the cheese has been added, stir in the Kirschwasser and serve. Reduce the temperature of the pot at this point to allow the fondue to simmer; it should never boil.

We like to serve our cheese fondue with bread, apples, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. Our fondue recipe suggests blanching the veggies to crisp-tender (we just eat them raw), or trying cooked but firm new potatoes. Enjoy!

The Everyday Macaroni and Cheese

It took me a while, but I found it. A GREAT and fairly easy mac & cheese recipe. This one comes from Tillamook (I didn’t see it on their website); I clipped it out of a newspaper a while back. Of course they encourage you to use their brand of butter and cheese, I have used other brands and it still comes out great.

I follow this recipe to the T. Except the cheese – I add more cheese. You can never have too much cheese.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. dry elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk [We usually use 2% or skim]
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2½ cups (10 oz) medium shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 350, grease baking dish.

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2½ teaspoons salt and macaroni. Cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Pasta is done when it is slightly chewy to the bite or al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside.

Prepare sauce while pasta is cooking. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add milk and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking often, until sauce slightly thickens, 4 to 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and 2 cups of cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove pan from heat and fold in pasta. Pour into prepared baking dish, then sprinkle top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and top begins to brown. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.