Bryan’s Mom’s Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Woops! It’s been a little more than a month since I last posted. How time flies! We’ve been super busy around here. Most of my time has been occupied by studying for a big exam that’s coming up in December. I’m loving being a teaching assistant — I look forward every week to my two hour lecture.  I’m also taking a professionalization course and learning so many things about academia that I was unaware of before. And so much more! (I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had any free time!)

One of the recent highlights was a potluck with Bryan’s colleagues. I love potlucks because they’re a good time to showcase your best recipes. I also like when to see a large diversity of foods from other cultures. We had just the right recipe to fit the bill: Bryan’s Mom’s Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole! It was perfect because I was able to find fresh Anaheim chile peppers at the grocery store that week, it’s difficult to find Mexican or Southwestern food here, it’s one of our favourite meals, and I was sure it was something that no one else would contribute to the potluck. (We also made Green Chile Pepper and Tomato Soup for ourselves while I was roasting all those chile peppers).

We had a fantastic evening full of good food and fantastic company! I hope we get an invitation to the next potluck despite that Bryan has now graduated.

I’m happy to report that the dish was well-received! We took one enchilada casserole with us to the potluck and kept one at home. Good thing I made extras, because there weren’t any leftovers to bring home.

Bryan’s Mom’s Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Changes from the original recipe:

  • The original recipe calls fora package of frozen “Bueno Hot Autumn Roast green chile.”  These chiles aren’t available here and the closet thing I can get is fresh Anaheim peppers.
  • The original recipe calls for wrapping some cheese and chicken in each of the (large size) tortillas. I could only find the small corn tortillas and opted for the casserole style used in Bryan’s Step-Father’s Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole. Thus, all the cheese went into the sauce instead of reserving some to fill the tortillas.
  • The original recipe calls for a Mexican cheese blend. The blends that I found either have chili or jalapeño peppers in them, which I didn’t want because this dish is spicy enough as is… so I opted to make my own blend using Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.
  • I doubled the quantities because we wanted lots of leftovers for lunch!

Green Chile and Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter– approximate cost $0.50
  • 4 (slightly rounded) tablespoons flour– approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt– approximate cost $0.05
  • 4 cups whole milk– approximate cost $3.00
  • 7 cups cheese (a blend of medium Cheddar and Monterrey Jack), shredded – approximate cost $9.00
  • 1 onion, chopping– approximate cost $0.75
  • 2.2 kilograms (4.85 pounds) fresh Anaheim (Green) chile peppers – approximate cost $20.00

Method

  1. Preheat your oven’s broiler.
  2. Roast the Anaheim chile peppers.
    1. Arrange the chiles in a roasting pan.
    2. Roast under the broiler for 5 minutes.
    3. Turn the chiles.
    4. Roast for an additional 5 minutes.
    5. Turn the chiles.
    6. Roast for an additional 5 minutes.
    7. Turn the chiles.
    8. Roast for an additional 5 minutes.
    9. Note: The chiles should be blackened on all sides at this point.
    10. Allow the chiles to cool.
  3. Peel the blackened skin off of the chiles.
  4. De-seed the chiles as necessary (more seeds = more heat).
  5. Chop the chiles into 1/4″ pieces and set aside.
  6. Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat until melted.
  7. Turn down the heat.
  8. Stir flour and sea salt into the butter.
  9. Stir constantly until the flour dissolves.
  10. Add milk.
  11. Stir until hot, but not boiling (the sauce should be quite thick)!
  12. Add cheese blend.
  13. Stir frequently until melted.
  14. Add the roasted chile pieces.
  15. Remove from heat.

Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts – approximate cost $24.00
  • 48 small corn tortillas – approximate cost $1.80
  • Green chile and cheese sauce
  • Cooking oil– approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the chicken.
    1. Bake the chicken breasts until cooked through (about 15 minutes)
    2. Allow the chicken to cool until you can handle it.
    3. Chop the chicken into small, approximately 1/4″ pieces.
    4. Set chicken aside.
  3. Prepare the corn tortillas.
    1. Heat 1/4″ oil in a frying pan.
    2. Very lightly fry the corn tortillas.
    3. Place on paper towels as they come our of the frying pan to remove some of the oil.
  4. Assemble the casserole!
    1. Distribute half the fried tortillas into an even layer in the bottom of 2 9×13 baking dishes (it’s ok if they overlap).
    2. Top with half of the chicken.
    3. Smother with 1/2 of the green chile and cheese sauce.
    4. Distribute the second half the fried tortillas into an even layer in the baking dishes.
    5. Top with remaining chicken.
    6. Cover with remaining green chile and cheese sauce.
      1. Note: Once assembled, you can refrigerate the casserole and bake it at another time.
  5. Bake about 30-45 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble.
  6. Remove from oven.
  7. Let stand on the counter for a few minutes.
  8. Serve and enjoy! (Optional: Serve with beans, rice, and flour tortillas)

Makes about 24 servings, or 2 9×13 casseroles (approximate cost: $2.51 per serving).

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Bryan’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Miss me yesterday? Normally I post on Wednesdays and join a bunch of blog parties… but I decided to switch things up. Typically, today I would be be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. But… the challenge ingredients didn’t work well with our current dietary habits so I decided to skip out this month. You should stop by and check out the challenge though, there are, as usual, some delicious and fantastic recipes posted!

Today, I’d like to wish my wonderful, loving, best friend and boyfriend Bryan a very Happy Birthday!

Bryan — Thank you for being so wonderful! … and eating all my failed attempts at baking your favourite cake. Love you immensely!

To celebrate his birthday I’ll be making yet another attempt at making his absolute all-time favourite cake (His mom’s recipe). The pictures come from my last, and most successful, attempt at making the cake so far. My brother and I served the cake at a birthday lunch we hosted for Nana back in August. The cake went over really well despite the fudgy texture.

Nana, her sisters, and my brother Matt getting ready to enjoy their chocolate cake! (For Nana’s birthday gift, Matt and I hosted a lunch for these lovely ladies. They all loved it and had a wonderful afternoon!)

The recipe may look simple enough. But you see, I’m a terrible baker. It never seems to come out right.

At first, I tried to make the recipe, but changing some of the directions (I tried to melt/boil ingredients on the stove-top instead of in the microwave). I tried to fiddle with the ingredients (using only lard instead of adding some butter and vice versa). Less sugar maybe? Usually I get the cake right. It should be fluffy (not fudgy, which is what happened last time). The frosting is generally the tough part. It frequently comes out soupy (it should be thick). What I’ve learned… mother knows best when it comes to her own recipe! Stick to it.

What makes this cake so amazing? It’s chocolately (cake and frosting). It’s fluffy. It’s oh so sweet. And when Bryan’s mom makes it, it’s one of my absolute favourite desserts. But most important, this cake reminds me of Bryan’s wonderful and welcoming family and my trips to New Mexico.

Bryan’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups sugar  – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 cups flour  – approximate cost $0.60
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda  – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine  – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup lard (Crisco)  – approximate cost $0.40
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa  – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (1/2 milk added to 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice)  – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla  – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 eggs  – approximate cost $0.50

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine  – approximate cost $0.50
  • 6 tablespoons milk  – approximate cost $0.20
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa  – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1 pound or 454 grams icing sugar  – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla  – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 cup chopped pecans  – approximate cost $2.00

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the cake batter.
    1. Stir together sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Bring butter (or margarine), lard, cocoa, and water to a boil. (NOTE: Bryan’s mom melts the ingredients in the microwave. She also notes that she uses margarine and butter-flavoured Crisco sticks. I melt the ingredients in a pot on the stove. I have used butter and a generic brand of lard)
    3. Stir butter mixture well.
    4. Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the butter mixture.
    5. Mix well using an electric mixer.
    6. Slowly add (while continuing to mix):
    7. Buttermilk (NOTE: Bryan’s mom notes that you can use milk added to one-half tablespoon of lemon juice as a substitute — I use this recommendation)
    8. Vanilla
    9. Eggs (NOTE: Bryan’s mom notes that she uses one-half cup of egg beaters)
    10. Bake in 11×13 oblong pan for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Prepare the frosting.
    1. Bring butter or margarine, milk, and cocoa to a boil in the microwave. (NOTE: For whatever reason, this direction is a must! I’ve tried melting these ingredients in a pot on the stove many times. Each attempt was unsuccessful, resulting in a liquidy frosting that never stuck to the cake. Use the microwave and the frosting will turn out thick every time.
    2. Mix well with electric mixer.
    3. Add icing sugar, vanilla and chopped pecans.
    4. Mix well with electric mixer.
  4. Pour icing over HOT cake.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 15 servings (approximate cost: $0.52 per serving).

Nana’s Potato Salad

Over the weekend, we celebrated my dad’s birthday. We tend to spend our family occasions at home and cook a nice meal. On the odd occasion, we order take out Chinese food (which was always my birthday request growing up). I’ve learned to plan the meal ahead. I’ve got better at timing the things I’m cooking. Each time, the meal seems to come out a little bit better.

Dad’s birthday request was for steak. I got to choose the side dishes. So, I picked up some gorgeous sirloin steaks from The Bauer Butcher, fresh Ontario asparagus from Vincenzo’s (asparagus season is coming to an end soon, so I’m eating as much of this delicious vegetable as possible), and some potatoes for a potato salad. To top it all off, Nana made an amazing confetti cake (dad’s favourite).

BBQ Sirloin Steaks

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now, would you be surprised if I told you that the highlight of the meal is the potato salad?

You see, it’s my nana’s recipe and a family favourite. Nana has made her family-famous potato salad ever since I can remember… and ever since dad can remember. I have fond memories of spending weekends with Nana as a child and there always being an amazing array of delicious home cooked food. And her potato salad is among my favourites (also check out some of her other recipes that I’ve deconstructed and posted, including Macaroni and Cheese Casserole and Asparagus Soup). As a child I flat out refused to eat potato salad. I claimed I didn’t like it. I especially didn’t like the pre-made potato salads from the grocery store and fast food restaurants (I still don’t really like most of them). However, Nana’s potato salad was the exception. Not only did I eat it, I would go back for seconds.

Steamed Asparagus

The “recipe” is another one that I’ve had to watch time after time to document. The vague directions call for potatoes (it doesn’t say how many), the oil and vinegar dressing is the only thing that is really precise. And that’s as long as you know that the recipe is for 5 servings.

This weekend, I made the salad under Nana’s supervision. The salad was very well received by my family! No complaints. No comparisons. No suggestions for next time. It was just like Nana’s. Hooray! Now I need to make it again without supervision to really put my take on the potato salad to the test.

What makes her salad so much better? So one, she serves it warm. I don’t know why, but this makes a difference in the flavour. Her salad is good as leftovers but is definitely best served and consumed fresh. Like, within an hour of making the salad. It has great sweet and sour flavours in the dressing. It’s smooth with delicious crunch pieces of fresh vegetables. It doesn’t take too much time or effort to make. It just tastes better. (And I don’t think it’s nostalgia making me say this!)

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Nana’s Potato Salad

Adapted from her sister’s recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 large potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups when cubed) – approximate cost $1.75
  • 2 teaspoons sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil (canola or olive oil works well) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, diced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, sliced thinly – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 (slightly heaping) cup mayonnaise – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Boil and drain the potatoes.
  2. Allow them to cool until they can be handled.
  3. Peel the potato skin.
    1. If you like the potato skins, skip this step. For my own salad, I would leave the potato skin on. Nana prefers the potato skins removed.
  4. Cut potato into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Combine sugar and vinegar, stirring constantly until dissolved.
  6. Add salad oil to the vinegar and sugar mix.
  7. Pour oil and vinegar mix over hot potatoes.
  8. Allow the potatoes to cool until lukewarm, about room temperature.
  9. Add celery, green pepper, and green onion pieces.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Add pepper and mayonnaise.
  12. Mix thoroughly.
  13. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $0.80 per serving).

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Creamy Asparagus Soup

For those of you who follow regularly, you might be a bit confused just by the title of this post. Creamy soup? What is she doing? I thought Amber was lactose-sensitive?

Well, turns out I can have milk… I just had to shop around for the right type! How exciting is that?!

I still can’t have most dairy. I still have to be careful when eating out, asking if and how much dairy is in a dish. I still have to politely decline milk products when visiting friends. But, when I cook at home… I can have as much as I want! I’ve been enjoying a glass of milk with my breakfast every morning… just because I can. Seriously, I didn’t realize how much I missed copious amounts of dairy in my diet until I found a way to enjoy it again.

Guernsey cows — the blurry one was trying to lick me as I took the picture!

(This is yet another post that was a long time in the making… I started drinking milk again in late February and have been cooking with it regularly since about April.)

So, what makes this milk different? It comes from a different breed of cow: the Guernsey (most milk comes from Holstein cows), and it is A2 grade (most milk is A1). The Bovine‘s article “Mercola advocates raw milk, discusses A1 A2 beta casein in connection with autism, diabetes, heart disease, etc.” gives a good explanation of the differences between A1 and A2 cows:

The type of proteins in milk, and the proportion of various proteins, varies depending on the breed of cow and the type of animal (sheep, goat, cow, etc.).

One of the major proteins in cow’s milk is casein, the predominant variety of which is called beta-casein. In older breeds of cows, such as Jersey, Asian and African cows (called A2 cows), the beta-casein contains an amino acid called proline.

In newer breeds of cows like Holstein (A1 cows), however, the proline has mutated into an amino acid called histidine.

[T]he proline that exists in A2 cows has a strong bond to BCM-7, which helps keep it out of the cows’ milk. The histidine in the newer A1 cows, however, has a weak hold on BCM-7, which allows it to get into the milk, and also into the people who drink the milk.”

Guernsey Cow

Back in February, I visited an A2 Guernsey cow farm. The farmers showed me around, explained their product, and shared delicious samples with me. They even insisted I wait around for at least 1/2 an hour so I would be somewhere comfortable if I had a negative reaction. So kind of them! After a wonderful experience, I signed up to buy a share in the herd of cows. I now get my milk straight from the farm. (Which I LOVE visiting… the cows are docile and let me pet them, the farm dog is friendly and always greets me enthusiastically, a few of the barn cats are friendly, and I love to look at the gorgeous horses) The benefit? I enjoy dairy and no longer fear the consequences of accidentally eating a bit too much. I am confident that I will not be ill when consuming milk products.

Sylvester the Barn Cat — this handsome little guy LOVE attention (and the camera)

I’m excited to make and share family recipes that I had given up for the last 10 years or so! 😀 Today I’m sharing my family’s Creamy Asparagus Soup recipe.

And I’m going to share a little secret… we usually make this with the “scrap” pieces of asparagus. That is, when we cook asparagus, we save the ends that we snap off for this soup. I like to buy an extra small bunch of asparagus so we can reserve a few spears to make a pretty garnish. However, this is not necessary if you don’t like a smooth soup. This is a great way to use up something that would otherwise go to waste.

Please, please, please share any great recipes you have that use a large amount of dairy products. I’m so used to cooking without milk, I find it hard to come up with anything but soups. I need more ideas of delicious milk-based foods that I can now enjoy without worry!

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth – approximate cost $1.25
  • 4 cups asparagus pieces, spears reserved – approximate cost $2.50
  • 2 cups whole milk – approximate cost $2.66
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.10

Method

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add the asparagus pieces (reserve the spears if you would like to use them to decorate your soup later).
  3. Cook the asparagus in the broth for 7-10 minutes (the broth should reduce by about half and the asparagus will be very tender).
  4. Allow the asparagus and broth to cook slightly.
  5. Move asparagus and broth to a blender and add half of the milk (1 cup).
    1. Note: An immersion blender is not ideal for this soup because you will need to strain it.
  6. Blend until smooth.
  7. Pour the asparagus through a fine strainer back into the soup pot.
  8. Press the asparagus gently to help release the liquid from the tough pieces. Be patient, this can take a while!
  9. Discard the pieces in the strainer.
  10. Turn the burner on medium-low.
  11. Add the remainder of the milk (1 cup), sea salt, and black pepper.
  12. If you reserved any asparagus spears, add them now!
  13. Cook the soup until it is steaming.
  14. Serve hot with crostini pieces or your favourite sandwich.

Makes 2 large servings (approximate cost: $3.28 per serving).

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Bryan’s Step-Father’s Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole

Bryan and I don’t often go out of town. You might not guess because I’ve posted already this month about travelling to Northern Ontario. This time, the destination was much closer: Toronto. Bryan’s sister is currently living in Toronto and his step-father came for a visit, so we took the opportunity to finally visit. And we hope to visit his sister M again soon!!

We spent most of our day at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

I didn’t get any “good” shots of the group. Bryan and his step-father managed to make a “kissy-face” in every one! 🙂

Race time!

This is not my usual sort of activity. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about it as well. I brought a book with me just in case I was bored. Fortunately, that was not the case. I had such a great time with Bryan and his family. They’re a lot of fun to be around!

However, I think my favourite part of the day was dinner. We went back to M and C’s place in Toronto where Bryan’s step-father taught us how to make his Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole. We all pitched in one way or another (despite the kitchen being a bit on the small side). The “kids” made guacamole while the “parent” worked on the Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole. He went through the recipe with us step-by-step, explaining what he was doing and allowing for the occasional photo-op along the way.

The master chef showing us how to fry a corn tortilla.

There was enough left over that we got to bring some of the red chile home. I’ve since made another enchilada casserole. I’m so glad we documented the process… now we can make our own red chile sauce at home!

Red Chile

Bryan’s step-father’s recipe, posted with permission

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef – approximate cost $6.50
  • 3 heaping + 1 level tablespoons all-purpose flour – approximate cost $0.30
  • 4 ounces (red) guajilli molido chile powder – approximate cost $4.00
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • Approximately 1/2 cup canola oil – approximate cost $0.25
  • Water (about 6 cups)

Method

  1. Brown 1 lb ground beef in a large pot.
  2. Drain any liquid from the ground beef.
  3. Heat 1/4″ oil (approximately 1/2 cup) in a small frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Turn down the heat.
  5. Stir 3 heaping + 1 level tablespoons of flour into the oil
  6. Stir constantly until the flour dissolves.
  7. Add 4 ounces of (red) guajilli molido chile powder.
  8. Stir until it becomes a thick paste.
  9. Add chile paste to ground beef.
  10. Fill the pot to about half with water (about 6 cups).
  11. Add a teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of sea salt.
  12. Bring to boil and let the sauce thicken.
  13. Stir frequently.
  14. Remove from heat and divide into three batches.

Makes 3 batches of red chile (approximate cost: $3.73 per serving).

Red Chile Enchilada Casserole

Also Bryan’s step-father’s recipe, posted with permission

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red chile – approximate cost $1.24
  • 12 yellow corn tortillas – approximate cost $0.40
  • 2 cans of pinto beans (liquid reserved) – approximate cost $2.20
  • 2 cups Mexican cheese blend, shredded (cheddar, mozzarealla, and american cheeses) – approximate cost $4.00
  • Canola oil (for frying) – approximate cost $0.25

Method

  1. Heat 1/4″ oil in a frying pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Very lightly fry 6 yellow corn tortillas.
  4. Place on paper towels to remove some of the oil.
  5. Pour 1/2 juice from the can of pinto beans into a 9×13 baking dish (it should coat the bottom of the dish).
  6. Distribute the fried tortillas into an even layer in the baking dish (it’s ok if they overlap).
  7. Pour the can of pinto beans (and remaining liquid) on top of the tortillas.
  8. Top with 2 ladles of chile sauce (about 1 cup).
  9. Sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  10. Repeat steps 3-9 to make a second layer on the enchilada casserole.
  11. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the cheese and sauce begin to bubble.
  12. Let stand on the counter for a few minutes.
  13. Serve and enjoy! (Optional: Serve with flour tortillas to soak up any extra sauce)

Makes 6 servings (approximate cost: $1.35 per serving).

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Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

This post is for my childhood best friend and her mom. I know you’ll be reading this and you’ve wanted to know the “secret” macaroni and cheese recipe for a while now (I put sectret in quote not because this recipe is secret… but because it’s one of those things I had to be in the kitchen to learn, there wasn’t a written recipe for a while). This recipe is my progress so far at imitating Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. It’s not quite as delicious as hers (yet). She jokingly told me last weekend that hers tastes better because of the added love. 🙂

To me, this is my all-time favourite comfort food. It reminds me of my childhood. When I was in grade school, Dad would pick my brother and I up from school during lunch hour and we would go visit Nana and Boppa (I had trouble saying Papa as a toddler and the nickname “Boppa”stuck). Nana always had a fantastic meal ready when we arrived. We ate lunch, visited, and Dad dropped us back at school on his way to work. Back then, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have a home-cooked meal every day. And to spend time with my family at every meal.

Nana’s repertoire seemed endless, I remember homemade soups (chicken noodle, cream of asparagus) and sandwiches (grilled cheese made with a sandwich press, ham, turkey, hot chicken with gravy). Lunch was rarely the same two days in a row.

My favourite was always the Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. This was Dad’s least favourite meal, so Matt and I would beg Nana to make it. And she would.

I miss those lunches. But it’s a fantastic memory! As we grew up, we went to different schools, Dad was moved to an office that was further away, and eventually Nana decided to move. We still try to get the family together on weekends for dinner when possible.

Over the years, I’ve tried my best to learn from Nana and imitate the recipe. You see, it was originally my Great Grandmother’s recipe and it had never been written down. Interestingly, Nana tells me that she and her sisters each have their own way of making the recipe. And each of them insists theirs is “just like mom’s” The differences are minor: the tenderness of the pasta before it is added to the casserole, the topping, the way you prepare the cheese, and whether or not you include the liquid from the canned tomatoes…

I hope to learn to make more family recipes, but this is the one that I hope to perfect soon!

Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried macaroni noodles – approximate cost $0.60
  • 1 sleeve salted top crackers – approximate cost $0.60
  • 1 796 mL can of whole tomatoes, undrained – approximate cost $1.25
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 egg – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1 cup milk (the type of milk has changed over the years, I currently use whole milk or 2%, Nana uses Skim or 1%) – approximate cost $1.33
  • 250 grams of medium cheddar cheese, cubed – approximate cost $3.50
  • 250 grams of medium cheddar cheese, shredded – approximate cost $3.50

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Add the macaroni noodles.
  4. Boil the noodles for HALF of the recommended time (Nana calls this “parboiling”), about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
  6. Add the noodles to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Drain the liquid from the tomatoes into the mixing bowl with the noodles.
  8. Dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
  9. Add the tomato to the noodles.
  10. Add the cheese cubes and shredded cheese.
  11. Mix until well-combined.
  12. Pour the noodle mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish.
  13. Add the milk, egg, sea salt, and black pepper to the now empty mixing bowl.
  14. Mix the milk and eggs until well-combined.
  15. Pour milk mixture over the noodles (The noodles should be just covered, and it’s ok if a few tops of the pieces are not submerged. Add a bit extra milk if needed).
  16. Put the salted-top crackers in a plastic bag.
  17. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers into fine crumbs.
  18. Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the noodles, making sure to completely cover any exposed noodles so they do not dry out.
  19. Bake for 1 ½ hours (the edges should be slightly browned and the topping golden-coloured)
  20. Remove from oven.
  21. Allow the casserole to stand for 15-20 minutes on the counter.
  22. Serve and enjoy!

Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost $1.40 per serving).

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No Bake Cherry Cheesecake

This week I’m participating in the Crazy Cooking Challenge hosted by Mom’s Crazy Cooking!  This is my first time participating in the challenge and the challenge item happens to be one of my all-time favourite desserts: Cheesecake!

Yes, I have a slight lactose-sensitivity and tend to stay away from ingredients such as cream, milk, cream cheese, sour cream… but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to have a slice of cheesecake. I’ve tried and enjoy vegan cheesecakes, such as the Raw Vegan Summertime Strawberry Cheezecake. However, Bryan isn’t a huge fan of these nut-based desserts… and sometimes I just enjoy a more traditional cheesecake. So I decided to make a dessert we’d both enjoy.

The cheesecake I made is an adaptation of a family recipe. My cousin’s recipe actually. She makes it when the family gets together on holidays. She’s made it with all sorts of fruit toppings, but cherry is by far my favourite, so I decided to experiment with that. I added a few sour cherries and some almond and vanilla extracts. I also reduced the amount of dessert whip for a more dense cake.

What’s your favourite cheesecake flavour?

No Bake Cherry Cheesecake

Adapted from my cousin’s recipe

Ingredients

Bottom layer

  • 2 and 1/2 cups honey wafer crumbs – approximate cost $2.75
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted – approximate cost $1.00

Middle layer

  • 1 container of dessert whip, thawed – approximate cost $2.50
  • 2 packages of plain cream cheese, softened – approximate cost $5.00
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract – approximate cost $0.30

Top layer

  • 1 can of cherry pie filling – approximate cost $1.25
  • 1 jar sour cherries, pitted – approximate cost $2.50

Method

  1. Prepare the bottom layer.
    1. Combine 2 and 1/2 cups honey wafer crumbs and 1/2 cup melted butter.
    2. Mix well.
    3. Press the crumb mixture into a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Prepare the middle layer
    1. Use a beater to whip 2 packages of softened plain cream cheese until smooth.
    2. Add the dessert whip.
    3. Mix until well combined.
    4. Pour over crumb mixture.
    5. Spread cream cheese filling into an even layer.
    6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Prepare the top layer.
    1. In a bowl, combine the cherry pie filling and sour cherries.
    2. Pour over cream cheese filling.
  4. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Makes 12 servings (approximate cost: $1.30 per serving).

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Rumaki

Rumaki tends to be served covered in delicious sauce. Growing up, mom would prepare it plain. No sauce, no spices. The bacon added so much flavour that nothing else was needed to make this dish delicious.

As a child, I claimed to dislike beef liver. However, I had no qualms about eating rumaki. I was aware that mom had stuffed it with beef liver. But it didn’t taste anything like the liver and onions that I was adverse to at the time. I’d gobble it up and ask for more. This dish is a good way to introduce liver to those who are timid about trying it for the first time.

Over the last few years, rumaki somehow became a fond childhood memory and I hadn’t really thought about making it on my own. I’m not sure why. It’s delicious, though a bit time consuming to wrap each individual rumaki. Put on some good music, or have a friend join you in the kitchen for this part and it won’t seem to tedious!

I won’t wait so long before making rumaki again!

Rumaki

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of bacon – approximate cost $5.00
  • ½ pound of beef liver – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 can of water chesnuts – approximate cost $1.25
  • Toothpicks – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the beef liver into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Arrange a slice of bacon, piece of liver, and water chestnut on your cooking surface.
  4. Carefully roll the bacon slice so the other ingredients do not fall out.
  5. Secure the roll with a toothpick and move to a baking pan.
  6. Repeat until you run out of bacon (will make about 2 9×13 baking trays of rumaki).
  7. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the bacon starts to become crispy.
  8. Flip each rumaki and return to the oven for an additional 12-15 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and ensure the rumaki is cooked all the way through. If not, return to oven and continue to bake until cooked through.
  10. Let stand for a few minutes before enjoying. It will be very hot!

Makes about 6 servings as a meal (approximate cost: $1.38 per serving) or 15 servings as an appetizer (approximate cost: $0.55 per serving).

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