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).

Guest Post: Best Waffles for Independence Day

Tomorrow, my friends south of the border will be celebrating Independence Day. More often, I hear it referred to as the 4th of July. Between school, work, hobbies (yes, I find time for that on occasion), and having just celebrated Canada Day over the weekend, I just haven’t had time to prepare a blog post celebrating Bryan’s country’s holiday.

Instead, today I have a blog poster here to help me celebrate!  I learned quite a bit of history from David’s article and hope you will too!

How will we celebrate? I think Bryan and I may need to make some waffles (topped with blueberries and fresh Ontario strawberries) now that I’ve got a new recipe on hand. Red, White, and Blue waffles!

Welcome and take it away David!


Author Bio: This is a guest post by David J. from Fridge Freezer Direct, UK’s premier commercial refrigeration and catering equipment specialist. For more information you can visit www.fridgefreezerdirect.co.uk.

Best Waffles for Independence Day

Independence Day – commonly called “The 4th of July” – is a proud day for the United States. It’s a day when we can celebrate our independence and really take pride in this beautiful country we live in. We generally mark this occasion in a number of different ways, and if you’re looking for a way to celebrate this great day, then we can help you!

The key is to do something truly American. After all, being American is what the 4th of July is all about! However, it doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture then enables you to mark this magnificent date; there are many small ways in which you can showcase your patriotism.

One possible way is through waffles. Thomas Jefferson returned from France in 1789 and he brought back a waffle iron. Since that day, we Americans have loved waffles, and so, what better way to celebrate than by making the perfect American style waffle?

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So if you want to mark Independence Day with a whole heap of waffles, you first need to grab the following ingredients.

Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Once you’ve got these ingredients in stock, follow our easy guide to turn these ingredients into delicious American style waffles.

Method

1) Turn on your waffle iron.
2) Get yourself a big mixing bowl.
3) Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar together.
4) Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
5) Stir the milk, butter, and vanilla extract into the eggs.
6) Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl containing the dry mixture
7) Beat the batter until it develops a smooth consistency.
8) Ladle the batter into the waffle iron.
9) Cook until the waffle looks done (golden and crispy).
10) Garnish with whatever toppings you like; for example, fruit, syrup, chocolate, or candy.
11) Repeat the process until everyone’s full!
12) Sing the national anthem.

It’s as easy as that! Enjoy your 4th July and some delicious waffles!

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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Improv Challenge: Cinnamon and Sugar (Strawberry Cobbler)

Once again I find myself thinking… it’s been way too long since I’ve posted on my blog! Last post, I had just made it through the exam season. Since then, I’ve been quite busy as usual.

I took a short vacation to visit one of my very best friends and her family in Northern Ontario. I spent 3 wonderful days visiting and relaxing. The time out of the city was much needed.

Waterfall in South River

Waterfall in South River

We made a day-trip to Pickerel River where H’s aunt and uncle own a lovely cottage. It had been about 10 years since my last visit. As children, we visited for a week most summers, not a whole lot has changed (except they finished building the house). We even fit in a short kayaking trip! I wish I had been brave enough to bring my camera along, the was a waterfall down the river that was still frozen.

Pickerel River

Pickerel River

A beaver swimming in the Pickerel River

A beaver swimming in the Pickerel River

I have to admit I didn’t really want to come home. Don’t get me wrong, I missed Bryan and Loki. And I was looking forward to starting my summer classes. But a full week away would have been nice. 🙂

I’m excited to once again be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! This month, the challenge ingredients are cinnamon and sugar. So far, I’ve shared:

This month, my dish is inspired by my trip up north. When we visited Pickerel River, H’s mom made a lovely peach cobbler that we took along for dessert. For the challenge, I made a Strawberry Cobbler!

Strawberry Cobbler

Inspired by S’s Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

Fruit Filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 cup COLD water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon – approximate cost $0.10

Topping

  • 1 cup flour – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 cup whole milk – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided into 6 – approximate cost $0.30

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the fruit filling.
    1. Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a cup.
    2. Mix well.
    3. Add cornstarch mixture and brown sugar to a sauce pot.
    4. Cook over medium heat until thickened and sugar is dissolved.
    5. Remove from heat.
    6. Add lemon juice.
    7. Add strawberries.
    8. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
    9. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Prepare the topping.
    1. Combine flour, cane sugar, baking powder, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add milk, stirring constantly.
    3. Add water, stirring until well-mixed (no dry flour).
  4. Spoon the topping over the fruit (leaving it in dumpling shapes).
  5. Dot each dumpling with butter.
  6. Bake the cobbler for about 25 minutes (or until topping is cooked through and golden brown).
  7. Cool slightly.
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

Makes 6 servings (approximate cost: $0.60 per serving).



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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Improv Challenge: Peas and Carrots (Shepherd’s Pie)

I’m excited to once again be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! This month, the challenge ingredients are peas and carrots. So far, I’ve shared:

For this month’s Improv Challenge, I made Shepherd’s Pie! When I heard the challenge ingredients were peas and carrots, I knew exactly what I would be making (It happens to be one of Bryan’s favourite meals). I changed up the recipe a bit from the usual… I added some crimini mushrooms and cut the amount of mashed potatoes in half. The mushrooms were a great addition. I missed the extra potatoes (Bryan seemed to enjoy it more this way)! If you love mashed potatoes… DOUBLE the amount called for in this recipe.

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil – approximate cost $0.05
  • 4 onions, sliced – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 bunch (9 small) carrots, sliced – approximate cost $2.00
  • 250 grams crimini mushrooms, sliced – approximate cost $1.50
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 pounds learn ground beef – approximate cost $9.00
  • 2 284 milliliter cans of beef broth (+ 2 cans of water) – approximate cost $2.40
  • 500 grams green peas – approximate cost $3.00
  • 3 pounds potatoes, diced – approximate cost $3.00
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 teaspoons paprika – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 cup milk – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup butter – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Prepare the meat and vegetable mixture.
    1. Preheat the grapeseed oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    2. Add the onion slices.
    3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
    4. Add the minced garlic.
    5. Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
    6. Remove the onion and garlic mixture and set aside in a mixing bowl.
    7. Add the ground beef to the cooking pot.
    8. Brown the ground beef.
    9. Use a wooden spoon to break the ground beef into small pieces.
    10. Return the onion and garlic mixture to the pot.
    11. Add the carrot, mushrooms, and green peas.
    12. Mix well.
    13. Add the beef broth and water.
    14. Bring the pot to a boil.
    15. Cook for about 5 minutes.
    16. Add the paprika, rosemary, and black pepper.
    17. Mix the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup cold water.
    18. Stir the cornstarch into the broth slowly.
    19. Stir frequently until thickened.
  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes.
    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    2. Optional: Peel the potatoes. (We dice them right away, leaving the skin on)
    3. Dice the potatoes.
    4. Boil the potatoes until tender (about 10-15 minutes).
    5. Drain the potatoes.
    6. Add the milk and butter to the potatoes.
    7. Use a potatoes masher to mash the potatoes.
  3. Put it all together!
    1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Divide the meat and vegetable mixture evenly between two 9×13 baking dishes.
    3. Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes.
    4. Bake the Shepherd’s Pie for about an hour and a half.
  4. Remove the shepherd’s pie from the oven.
  5. Let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy! (Makes fantastic leftovers)

Makes 16 servings (approximate cost: $1.58 per serving).



Piparkakut (Finnish Gingerbread) Cookies

I’m excited to once again be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! This month, the challenge ingredients are hearts and flours. So far, I’ve shared:

This month, I’m sharing a gingerbread cookie recipe I got from my friend Kas (with slight modifications).

  • The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon ground cardamom in addition to the other spices. However, I left this out because I didn’t have the ingredient readily available in my pantry (and it was Family Day, so I couldn’t go to the store to buy some).
  • I used fancy molasses instead of unsulphured molasses.
  • I baked the cookies for 8 1/2 minutes (which made for crunchy cookies, but I would have preferred they turned out soft like Kas’s cookies).
  • I used lactose-free milk instead of regular milk.
  • I used cane sugar instead of white sugar.
  • I used sea salt instead of table salt.

Kas’s Piparkakut cookies are amazing. She tends to make them around Christmas and, if you’re lucky, you get a pack of cookies as a gift. this year, I had the privileged of making a double-batch of cookies with her during a visit. I’m not great at baking, so it was nice to go through the process with a pro (it is her family’s recipe after all!). The ones we made over the holiday were decorated with sprinkles and divided between the two of us. I gave a few away, but Bryan and I kept most of that batch for ourselves.

So, after getting the stand mixer a few weeks back, I decided it was about time that I try making these cookies at home. So on Family Day (this past Monday), I enlisted Bryan’s help with some cookie making. One thing I must point out is that the cookie dough is just as delicious as the cookies themselves. As we were rolling out the cookies, Bryan and I enjoyed many tastes of the dough before it even made it into the oven! We just got our first set of cookie cutters and made several shapes: hearts (as per the Improv Challenge), stars, multi-pointed stars and a shape we cannot agree on (I think it’s candy — Bryan thinks it’s a bone). At the end of the night, we’d sampled so much dough that we were too full to sample the finished cookies! I may have had cookies for breakfast on Tuesday morning, just to make sure they tasted ok.

A single batch, we found, was wayyyyy too many cookies for the two of us. So I’ve given a few to friends as taste testers of my first batch.

Kas and her partner got half a dozen. I was upfront with her about the changes I’d made. Their verdict? Not bad for the first batch! And they didn’t miss the cardamom too much, They only complaint was that I’d left them in the oven a touch too long and they were a bit crispier than they should be. I was already aware of this.

Another half dozen went to my childhood best friend and her sister. Our visit was unplanned, but I was glad to have a few cookies to share with them. They had also tasted a few that I had made with Kas over the holiday and had a point of comparison. They too thought the cookies were pretty good!

Finally, I gave another half dozen to my friend and her four-year old son when I went to babysit last night. She, as far as I know, hasn’t tried a cookie yet, but they also seem to be kid-approved! I allowed him to have one cookie during my visit last night and he savored it over about half an hour.

Hooray for a successful batch of cookies!

Piparkakut (Finnish Gingerbread) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter – approximate cost $2.50
  • 1 ¼ cups cane sugar – approximate cost $1.00
  • ¼ cup fancy molasses – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 large egg – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons lactose-free milk – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (and a bit extra for rolling the cookies) – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon – approximate cost $0.15
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger – approximate cost $0.10
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves – approximate cost $0.05
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.03

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, and molasses until well mixed and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and lactose-free milk and stir until well mixed.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, sea salt and pepper in a separate large mixing bowl.
  5. Slowly add the flour and spice mixture (1/2 cup at a time) into the butter and molasses mixture, mixing constantly until the two are well-combined.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (the dough should be about 1cm thick).
  7. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies.
  8. Gently peel away the unused dough.
  9. Work the unused dough into a ball.
  10. Place cookies on a cookie sheet.
  11. Bake cookies for 7 1/2 minutes (until golden brown but still soft).
  12. Remove cookies to a wire rack.
  13. Repeat steps 6-12 until you use up all of the dough.
  14. Cool cookies completely before packaging or enjoy warm.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie-cutter shapes (approximate cost: $0.15 per cookie).



Spicy Chipotle Meatloaf Topped with Potatoes Whipped with Horseradish

While in Virgina last month, one of our meals was a large buffet. My two favourite items at the buffet were the meatloaf with chipotle sauce and the mashed potatoes with horseradish. These two items were surprisingly delicious when mixed together. So, I decided to try to recreate the food at home. And you know what? It was way too spicy! I can handle a medium-spicy dish. Bryan can handle super spicy dishes. Even he told me that  my first attempt at recreating the food was delicious, but way too spicy. And it got more spicy the longer I let it sit in the fridge.

I was disappointed, but I’ll be trying this again soon (with fewer chipotle peppers and a milder horseradish). Despite the spiciness, I tried to eat one small piece at a time. A glass of almond milk at the ready.

What’s your favourite spicy dish? Have you ever made it too spicy to eat? How did you tone it down enough to enjoy it?

I’ve adjusted the portions in this recipe to reflect a milder version that I will be making next time.

Enjoy! I’m off to enjoy the last day of this gorgeous holiday weekend!

Spicy Chipotle Meatloaf Topped with Potatoes Whipped with Horseradish

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef – approximate cost $6.00
  • 2 large eggs – approximate cost $0.50
  • 4 slices of bread – approximate cost $0.25
  • 4 cloves of garlic – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 4 tomatoes – approximate cost $1.50
  • 3 ounces of chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce) – approximate cost $1.50
  • 8 medium-sized potatoes – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/4 cup butter – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 cup milk – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Prepare the chipotle sauce.
    1. Roast the tomatoes (I broiled them in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes on each side).
    2. Allow tomatoes to cool.
    3. Optional: Peel the skin off of the tomatoes (I left the skins on).
    4. Combine the roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in a blender.
    5. Blend until combined into a thick sauce.
  2. Prepare the meatloaf.
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Place bread slices, salt, and pepper in a food processor and grate into fine crumbs (alternately tear bread into very small pieces or purchase breadcrumbs).
    3. Mince garlic.
    4. Combine the ground beef, garlic, eggs, and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl.
    5. Move meatloaf mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and press into an even layer.
    6. Bake until cooked through (approximately 35-45 minutes).
  3. Prepare the whipped potatoes.
    1. Optional: Peel skin off of the potatoes  (I left the skins on).
    2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    3. Slice potatoes into quarters.
    4. Boil potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork (approximately 15 minutes).
    5. Drain water.
    6. Combine potatoes, horseradish, butter, and milk.
    7. Whip with a hand mixer until well-combined.
  4. Put it all together.
    1. Top cooked meatloaf with a layer of the chipotle sauce.
    2. Add a layer of whipped potatoes on top of the chipotle sauce.
    3. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes (or until the potatoes are browned).

Makes 8 servings (approximate cost: $1.78 per serving).

meatloaf, chipotle sauce, and horseradish whipped potatoes ready for the oven

Day 31: Recipe

My former roommate’s recipe for mini muffins which we referred to as “mufflings.” She made me a recipe box a while back and this is one of the recipes she included. It’s one of Bryan’s favourites. They’re very very tasty and easy to prepare, even if you’re not that great at baking.

Mufflings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup sugar – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 cup milk – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/3 cup salted butter, melted – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 egg – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup defrosted frozen berries – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract – approximate cost $0.10
  • 12 muffin cups – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and butter
  5. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture (don’t beat)
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 mufflings (approximate cost: $0.40 per muffling).

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