November 17, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

What's with me and baking all of a sudden? First quiche (hi, Lorna!) and now a lasagna. Oh, right. It's the kind of cooking where I can start and then go play WoW. I've been on a bit of a Mexican kick recently and you know my penchant for fusion foods, so this meal fit in nicely. I've never made a lasagna before (and, arguably, I still haven't); this dish is lasagna-like in its preparation. That is, it's alternating layers of meat and veggies, a grain-based intermediary, and cheese. We just swapped the meat and veggies for Mexican-spiced chicken, black beans, and corn. The grain (usually pasta) for flour tortillas. And the cheese for, um, cheese.
To begin, start grilling two pounds of ground chicken (that's a lot of ground chicken) in a large skillet. Season the chicken with chili powder and cumin - to give it that Mexican smell and flavor - and add chopped red onions. Brown the meat for at least five minutes and then add your diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Heat this for another two or three minutes, making sure your chicken is well-cooked. The recipe calls for a shallow lasagna pan, but the one I ended up using was really just too large. It doesn't need to be deep, but it's better not to use one so voluminous (you'll see it took a lot of tortillas to cover from corner to corner). Coat the bottom with a little olive oil and then start spooning on your meat (half for two layers). Over the meat add a layer of tortillas - maybe quartered or halved to be more manageable. Over the tortillas add a sprinkling (about a cup) of shredded Cheddar or some other Mexican variety (I still had some left over from the fajita-tortilla soup). Repeat a second time, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 425. It really is best eaten hot, so invite friends. Fork through the tortillas and use them to spoon up the chicken. Who needs Taco Bell anyway?
The ingredients for Food Network's Mexican Lasagna are:
  • two pounds of ground chicken
  • two tablespoons of chili powder
  • two teaspoons of ground cumin
  • half a red onion, chopped
  • a 15-ounce can of black beans
  • a 14-ounce cup of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • a cup of corn kernels
  • eight (8-inch) flour tortillas (less is OK if cooking in a small pan)
  • two cups of shredded cheeses (your Mexican favorite)

November 10, 2008

Hash Brown Quiche

Quiche, hmm... how to describe it. Quiche is basically an omelet in pie form. It features egg and milk or cream and possibly meats baked into a crust. For this particular variety of quiche, the crust is made ourselves from hash browns. Preparation is relatively simple: make the crust and bake it; make the omelet/egg mixture, pour it in, and bake some more. Making the crust was a little difficult. The three cups of hash browns weren't quite enough to completely fill the bottom of the pie tin. But spread them out as best you can and try to form a little wall around the edges. Bake this in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes or so.A brown, crisp spot began to form where the hash browns were the least concentrated, so that's a fine point to remove it and continue preparation. Don't worry, the whole thing will end up very crusty (and delicious) when we're done. While this is baking, in a bowl mix together the remaining ingredients. The called-for quantity of green onions might be a little much, so don't feel like you have to obey the recipe strictly. Even though I used cubed ham, feel free to add any omelet-like ingredients you may prefer. Bacon is always a good choice (does my blog need a new motto?). Pour this concoction into the crust when you've removed it from the oven, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another half an hour. It's ready to eat when it's not too soft inside, but don't worry much - it'll solidify more as it cools down. Let sit for a few minutes and enjoy!
Ingredients for the recipe are:
  • three cups of shredded hash browns (if frozen, thawed)
  • four tablespoons of butter (half a stick)
  • three large eggs, beaten
  • a cup of half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup of cooked, diced ham
  • 1/2 cup of diced green onions
  • a cup of shredded Cheddar

November 6, 2008

Dessert Panini

In the mood for something sinfully delicious, yet sinfully easy to make? How about this dessert panini? Yeah, I can't think of a more original name and I can't find the original recipe (which I deviated from anyway), but it's delicious and very simple. I did make it on my panini grill, but I suspect any sandwich-grilling solution would work. Let's dive in, shall we?
To start, spread creamy peanut butter (or any other dessert-like spread) over the "insides" of two pieces of white bread (per panini). Quarter a banana in half and then length-wise (like the picture above demonstrates). A whole banana is a lot per panini unless you really dig banana... Put these banana slices on your peanut butter and spread miniature marshmallows all around (they'll kind of stick to the peanut butter). Now for the part that requires coordination: take one half of a panini and, using your mad skillz, flip it on top. You can do this without losing any marshmallows, I swear. Butter a side (or both) and warm up your panini-grilling mechanism. Once it's nice and hot, start cooking each panini (and butter any sides you may have not buttered yet). Grill for only a few minutes (we're not cooking any meats here) and then remove. You should have nice, grilled cheese-looking lines on your paninis. Cover them in a dusting of powdered sugar and then line with chocolate syrup. Diabetes, here we come. Enjoy!
The ingredients are straight-forward:
  • two slices of white bread per panini
  • creamy peanut butter (or another sweet spread)
  • a banana or less per panini
  • miniature marshmallows (as many as you can manage)
  • butter (to spread on the outsides of the paninis before grilling)
  • powdered sugar and chocolate syrup to cover (and help you die faster)

November 2, 2008

Chicken Fajita-Tortilla Soup

Sorry, gang. I'm a week late again. This meal was from last Sunday (October 26). Sometime in the near future I'll be cooking for this week. I've been tied up with recurring migraines and carpet installation, so it's been tough to find time to cook for fun. But when I did, I wanted to make some real pleasure food. Rachael Ray (no matter how you feel about her personally) can cook up a tasty meal. This "soup" ranks high on my indulgence meter. It's seasoned chicken with spicy tomatoes and veggies over tortillas with shredded cheese. OMG, delicious.
To start, prepare a bowl with crushed tortillas and shredded cheese (Rachael Ray's recipe called for Pepper Jack or a sharp white, but I used a four-cheese Mexican mix). Then chop up some chicken into bite-sized chunks (I've found that half a pound per person works well) and begin cooking in a large skillet with olive oil. Season the chicken in the pan with coriander, salt, and pepper and cook for three or four minutes. Then add the sliced onion, bell pepper, and jalapeños. Add more salt and pepper and continue cooking for six or seven minutes. The veggies should be crispy at this point. Add your diced tomatoes (I chose pre-jalapeño flavored) and chicken stock and heat through. Then simply ladle this soup in the bowls over the tortillas and cheese. Feel free to add more cheese or crushed chips if you'd like. You should end up with a gooey, delicious mess.
Ingredients list (not from Rachael Ray's book verbatim, but what I used), halved for two:
  • a pound of thinly-sliced chicken cut into cubes (for two people)
  • half a tablespoon of ground coriander
  • half a large onion, sliced
  • half a green bell pepper (or red if you'd like), sliced
  • half a jalapeño, sliced
  • a 14 ounce can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (seasoned if you'd like)
  • two cups of chicken stock (or so, eyeball it)
  • corn tortilla chips
  • shredded cheese (Pepper Jack or something Mexican)