Rustic Shepherd’s Pie in an Iron Skillet & Memories of Mom

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My husband Greg’s mother, Shirley, made him Shepherd’s Pie when he was a boy growing up in Oregon. As a girl growing up in Texas, I have had Taco Pie, Tamale Pie and Frito Pie — but Greg had to describe his mother’s Shepherd’s Pie to me. It took me a couple of tries, but it wasn’t long before I served him a slice of pie worthy of his mom’s memory. How I wish I had known her. Greg played me an old video of Shirley when she was about the age I am now, doing the Charleston to the delight of her kids and grandchildren. I am sure we would have loved each other!  Shirley passed away much too soon, when Greg was still in his thirties. She would have been 82 years old… today. Happy Birthday, Shirley, I hope you can see how happy, kind and generally all-around wonderful your son has grown up to be, from your window in heaven.

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Greg’s mother, Shirley, at age 15. Greg has her full lips, and cheerful smile. (And when he had hair, he had his mother’s red hair as well.)

You can see my husband’s feet, as he was standing like a happy, hungry little boy in the background, waiting for me to hurry up and take a picture of this Rustic-Style Shepherd’s Pie so he could carry the hot pan back in the house and enjoy it for supper:)

greg's feet & pe

Over the years, I have simplified the recipe so I can make it faster and easier. By using Golden Potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes, I can simply “smash them” in the pan I cooked them in, without peeling them or using a mixer to make them smooth and fluffy. We like a few chunks of potato and bits of peel in this recipe. These potatoes also taste buttery without having to use a ton of butter. Finally, by baking the mixture in the same iron skillet where I cooked up the gravy, meat and veggies – you save having to wash yet another dish.

Re-creating your mate’s favorite childhood recipes is the closest you can get sometimes, to allowing them to filled “hugged again” by someone they loved as a little boy or girl.

me and greg hug (2)

Happy Birthday, Shirley! I am doing my best to keep your boy happy, and well-fed and well-hugged.

If you want to wear something in a pretty shade of green, may I suggest you buy a copy of our book, below, and attach it, like a little sandwich board around your neck.  It is what all the cool Irish folk will be wearing on St. Patty’s Day!

update nourishedWhat recipe did your mother or grandmother make that brings you back to her kitchen, and happy moments?

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Rustic Shepherd’s Pie in an Iron Skillet

1 ½ lb ground beef
6 fresh mushrooms, chopped
¾ cup corn, frozen
2/3 cup frozen peas
5 carrots, peeled, cooked and sliced or diced (I usually microwave these in a small covered dish with a little water)
1 T. grill seasoning (or 2 t. salt, 1 t. pepper)

For Gravy
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 T. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups beef broth (if you don’t have this on hand you can mix up some dry onion soup mix with water, or use  1/4 cup miso paste and water, or a a couple of bullion cubes and water to make 1 1/2 cups.)
½ cup red wine
2 T. half-n-half (optional)

For Potatoes:
6 Golden, thin-skinned buttery potatoes (about the size of tennis balls)
2 T. Ranch dressing prepared
1 T. butter
Half-n-half or milk – approximately anywhere from 1/3 to 1 cup
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
Scrub and quarter potatoes,  but no need to peel, then place in a large pot with salted water (about 2 t. salt & water about 2 inches above the potatoes).Put them on the back burner to boil and in the meantime…

In a large skillet, lightly brown the beef with grill seasoning, then drain off any extra fat. Then add the mushrooms and cook untl they are soft and have released their juices. Next add the frozen corn, frozen peas and cooked carrots. Heat through.
In a separate iron skillet, make the gravy: melt butter with olive oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle flour over the bubbling oil-butter mixture and stir with whisk to make a smooth paste. Add garlic and stir. Continue to whisk while slowing adding broth and wine, stirring and simmering until gravy has thickened. You don’t want it to be too thick… as more liquid will evaporate with baking and some will soak into veggies.

Carefully pour the meat and veggies into the gravy. Add half-n-half if you desire a creamier gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat while you smash the potatoes.

Drain the boiling water off of the potatoes when they are tender,  leaving hot potatoes in the hot pan. Add Ranch dressing, butter and half-n-half or milk, ¼ cup at a time and smash (with skins on) with a potato masher. (Don’t use a mixer as there is too much gluten in golden potatoes and you’ll end up with glue.) Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a large spoon, gently put mounds of potatoes over the beef and veggie mixture, and spread evenly to the edges of the skillet.

Place in 350 oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and tops of potatoes begin to get a little golden.

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve. When it is fresh and hot out of the oven it is easier to serve in wide bowls, but the next day, after refrigeration, you can slice it like pie, heat up in microwave and serve.

I like to serve a few fresh slices of tomatoes with this dish and call it dinner!

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Juicy, Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Flank Steak

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Although it is raining today,  just a few days ago this was the view from my backyard porch swing in Denver Colorado.

view from porch swing

And yes, that probably is a yellow flower blooming from big toe — because that is just how happy I am to finally see Spring come to the Rockies.

With the coming of warm weather,  I get to dust off the ol’ grill and make some of my favorite summer recipes.   This easy recipe for steak marinade works just as well for chicken breasts. The longer you let the beef or chicken bathe in the bag, the happier it gets, but for the steak even four hours will do the trick.

Years ago when I had more energy, lots of kids and a big need for income, I was a caterer and this recipe for marinated chicken or steak was my number one, never fail, go-to main dish. People loved it and requested it again and again!

I am not sure why but it really does bring out the most tender flavor in grilled meat.  It is not overly sweet either, as some teriyaki marinated meats tend to be — but just the right the balance.  The pineapple juice adds a touch of flavor,  but it is a fresh and light background note.   Doesn’t cloyingly ring of pineapple.

Nothing says, “Summer is on its way!” like the smell of food on the grill,  and a gathering of friends on the porch.  This would be absolutely perfect to make for Mother’s Day, which is coming up soon.  And by the way, if you are looking for a pretty perfect Mother’s Day Gift — something to entertain and inspire and cheer your mom (or your wife or your daughter or grandmother, or your daughter is now a mom herself),  may we recommend a copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?

For any of you who may live near Alexandria, Indiana (or know someone who does),  Rachel and I will be speaking and doing a food demonstration at the Annual Spring Tea, this Saturday May 13, 2014, at 11:00 at Gaither Family Resources.   (Click on the link “Gaither Family Resources” and scroll down to the Spring Tea information box for ticket prices and the number to call to make reservations.)  We would love to see you, hug your neck and possibly sign a book for you or your mother in person!  Ya’ll come! 

Add a little "happy" to your days with this funny, uplifting mom-daughter memoir. (Perfect gift for Mother's Day, too.)

Add a little “happy” to your days with this funny, uplifting mom-daughter memoir. (Perfect gift for Mother’s Day, too.)

 

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Juicy, Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Flank Steak

1 flank steak

Grill Seasoning, about a teaspoon (or enough to season both sides of the steak)

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1/2 cup pineapple juice (or drain the juice from a can of pineapple rings)

1 T. olive oil

2 T. Worcestershire Sauce

2 large cloves of garlic, smashed with side of knife

Oil for grill pan, if cooking indoors

Ziploc bag

Directions:

Season both sides of a flank steak with Grill Seasoning (or salt, pepper and garlic powder). Add the rest of the ingredients to a large, Ziploc bag and carefully squeeze the contents to mix.  Place the flank steak in the bag of marinade, seal the bag then squeeze and turn the bag to coat both sides of the steak.  Put in fridge to marinate, turning  once or twice in the process and marinate anywhere from four to 10 hours.

Fire up the outdoor grill or use a grill pan over high heat (put a little olive oil in the pan if cooking indoors).  Place steak on the grill and sear one side until golden brown with nice dark grill marks.  Turn over and grill the other side.  Then cover the grill pan or close the grill and let it cook for another minute or two.  Remove and put on a plate,  cover the meat with foil and let it sit so that juices distribute throughout the meat.   While the meat is sitting, lightly grill small slices of pineapple (fresh or canned), and bring the leftover marinade to a boil.  Spoon some of the marinade over the steak and decorate with pineapple to show it off!    When you are ready to serve, remove pineapple slices, cut the steak in thin slices across the grain, giving each person a pineapple half and a drizzle of sauce.

The nice thing about serving a big piece of steak like this is that you serve the outer slices to those who prefer their meat more done, and for those who prefer their meat more on the rare side, serve them slices from the middle of the steak.

Depending on the size of the steak,  it will usually feed anywhere from 4 to six people.  Delicious with rice or mashed potatoes or pasta;  a green salad or steamed/roasted  green veggie is tasty and beautiful.

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Chipotle Chili, A Charm Bracelet Miracle, And The Long Awakening

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About 11 years ago now, one of my dearest writing friends, Lindsey O’Connor, gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl named Caroline.  That happy moment suddenly gave way to a trauma that would leave Lindsey’s life hanging in the balance for many long weeks and months.  She writes poignantly of that episode in her life, of what it was like to be “someplace other” and to try to make sense of it all once she woke up, in her brilliant memoir, The Long Awakening.  Warning: do not start the book until you have time to read it all. It is impossible to put down once you begin.

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Here’s a story Lindsey shared in her book, a memory I still look back on, and marvel at. In fact, I went to Texas two weeks ago, drove past the little store mentioned here, smiled and gave thanks in remembrance.

Near my daughter Allison’s birthday, my friend Becky had emailed Kathy asking for our home address so she could mail a birthday present she’d brought for Allison. Becky and I had started our friendship as writing and speaing colleagues and had grown into sister-friends, who knew and loved each other’s children, and she had wanted to get something special for Alli’s tenth birthday. She dropped in at The Mineola Mercantile, an East Texas boutique not far from where she lived, and told the owner what had happened to me and that I was lying in a coma missing my little girl’s birthday.

The woman told Becky she thought she knew “what God wanted this little girl to have.”

She pulled out a silver charm bracelet and the three silver charms – one said “Big Sis,” another of a heart with “mother and daughter” written across the front of it, and finally a letter “A” with a guardian angel peeking through the “window” of the letter.

The store owner said, “Now tell little Alli that charm represents her guardian angel that is always watching over her all of the time.” Becky went home, wrapped the present, wrote Kathy for the address, and only when Kathy replied did Becky discover a fact she had not know when she’d bought the gift.

It had been my tradition on each day of my daughter’s tenth anniversaries, their double digit day, to give them a silver charm bracelet…

Such a thing. Comatose for months;tradition intact. Unthinkable …..Coincidence? Perhaps.But I don’t think so. Loved by her God?  I believe so.  His eye was on my sparrow. ”  (Excerpt from The Long Awakening by Lindsey O’Connor, Revell, 2013, pg. 97-98)

Now, let’s fast forward time. Lindsey, of course, came out of the coma, and though the road was arduous, she is very much alive,  amazing us all. Caroline has grown from baby girl to double digit young lady following her sister Allie, who is now in college.   In addition to being the proud owner of a charm bracelet, she’s also of age to want to try her hand at cooking. I posted the picture of this Chipotle Chili, recently, on Facebook, and her mama, Lindsey, asked for the recipe.  There was a Chili Cook-off at church, and Caroline wanted to make an award-winning batch of it, all by herself. I gave her my best “Auntie Becky” style directions, and Lindsey let her daughter loose in the kitchen.  Later that night, Linds wrote in an email: “Carolyn was ecstatic when she won first prize!  She probably said, at least ten times while were cooking that she wanted to win, and thought she would win. And she loved knowing it was your recipe. She really did the whole thing by herself. I taught her how to cut an onion, stood back while she used her knife and kept wanting to take it from her the whole time. Taught her how to use the food processor.  She had such fun! Thank you for sharing the recipe.”

I hope this true story warms your heart, and the recipe warms your tummy.  Please visit & “Like”  Lindsey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindseyOConnorAuthor and tell her I sent you.  (I also write a story of Lindsey bringing me a wonderful Greek meal, including a favorite recipe,  watermelon mint feta salad,  in our book, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)

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Becky’s Quick n’ Easy (Award-Winning!) Chipotle Chili

1 ½ lb.  ground beef or buffalo (if you have leftover roast or other beef, you can dice that up and throw it in too)

1 onion diced (if you like onions)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 large (28 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 – 3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (a little can in the Mexican food aisle… — you can freeze the leftover ones in a Ziploc bag to use in another recipe or salsa)

1 can (15 oz) Ranch Style Beans, with liquid

1 can (15 oz) Kidney or Black Beans, with the liquid

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

1 t. chili powder

1 t. smoked paprika 

1 T. cumin

1 T.  brown sugar

Directions:

Brown the beef with onion in a big pot. Meanwhile,using a food processor or blender,  blend the big can of  tomatoes with the chipotle peppers and clove of garlic.   (If you want some chunks of tomato in your chili, don’t blend the whole can. But my husband Greg thinks I’m trying to kill him if there’s any visible chunks of anything but meat and beans in his chilli.) 

Add the blended tomato mixture to the pot,  then add the 2 cans of beans, and the rest of the seasonings, tasting as you go to make it balanced as you like it. Adding more sweet, or heat, or salt until you just love it.

Heat on med high and then turn down and simmer on low, for about 15 minutes, stirring often. (You can simmer it longer, but typically my family is in a hurry to eat it, and it doesn’t take long to be edible and yummy.)

You can top with sour cream or Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, jalapenos, diced avocado, green onions, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips… whatever you like. 

Always a hit with hot buttered corn muffins.

 

 


Easy Moo Shu Veggie or Chicken Wraps

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“Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with.”  Charles Dickens

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My husband Greg and I love our little pleasurable routines.  It really doesn’t take much to make us happy.  We don’t need high adventure, fast cars, tall mountains, or Broadway plays.  We get a kick out of watching Jay Leno’s “headlines” segment on Monday nights and reruns of “30 Rock”. We can’t wait to snuggle up on Sundays to watch Downton Abbey when it reappears on PBS this winter.  He often watches sports, while I contentedly piddle on Facebook from a comfy loveseat nearby.

We enjoy quiet road trips with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing in the background more than attending rousing stage concerts.  Greg stands and greets me with a kiss every morning as I stumble into the kitchen; me waking up to my first cup of coffee two hours after he’s greeted the morning. We watch Brian Williams tell the news every evening (in his friendly voice,  even the worst disasters sound less terrible).  Then I serve our suppers,  all prettily plated,  as we eat in living room, our feet up, hearts at ease. We usually clean up the unbelievably messy kitchen, afterwards, together.

 During the summer we meet outside on the porch swing for Happy Hour and conversation at 5:00 p.m.  We go to bed, each reading our e-books, a glass of ice water on my bedside table.  I slather on Lemon Cream Lotion and Greg always says I smell like lemon pie before he kisses me goodnight, wishing me sweet dreams. Then he hands me the treasures that have somehow gathered on our bed during the day: hair clips, reading glasses, books, jewelry, pens and notebooks, stray socks, apple cores — clearing room for us to ease under the quilt and fall asleep.

We’re mostly One-Note Nellys without much need for variety or grand adventures.  We find, in the comfort of each other’s company, all the thrill we generally need.  A free evening with nothing planned  is typically our idea of perfection.

Our date night’s are inevitably to our favorite Asian restaurant, John Holly’s, followed by a movie. At John Holly’s I always order the same thing:  Moo-Shu Veggies. I pile them up on thin rice pancakes with a drizzle of thick salty-sweet Hoison Sauce and dash of sriracha, then rolled the delicious stuff up like a burrito.

This quick and savory-sweet recipe for Moo-Shu uses thin uncooked flour tortillas (easier to find than rice pancakes) and has become one of my favorite veggie based cook-at-home meals now.  Greg likes it with chicken but you can substitute edamame, tofu or scrambled egg (or combo thereof) to avoid meat and make this easily vegetarian or vegan.

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Easy Moo Shu Veggie or Chicken Wraps  

1 16 ounce package of pre-shredded  Asian or colorful Cole Slaw mix

1 cup fresh snow peas, chopped into ½ inch pieces

1 cup fresh chopped mushrooms, any kind

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken (or sub 1/2 cup diced tofu, edamame or raw egg, whisked)

1 large clove garlic

1 T. olive oil

1 T. sesame oil

3 T. soy sauce

1 T. maple syrup, honey, molasses or brown sugar

salt & pepper to taste

4- 5 uncooked Tortillas (or the thinnest pre-cooked tortillas you can find)

½ cup Hoison Sauce (in Asian sections)

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¼ cup hot chili sauce or sriracha (optional, if you like heat)

1/2 cup cashew pieces or sliced almonds

Directions:

In a large skillet or walk, heat oils and 1 minced fresh garlic clove.  Toss in slaw, chopped snow peas and mushrooms.  Add chicken and/or tofu/egg. Cook until tender-crisp. Add soy and your choice of sweetener. Heat through.  Add salt or pepper if needed to season.

Lightly cook/brown the tortillas on a flat skillet.  Put about ½ cup of the hot veggie mix down the middle of each tortilla. Sprinkle with 2 T. sliced almonds or cashew pieces.  Drizzle on Hoison and dot with a little hot chili sauce or shriracha if you enjoy some heat with your Asian food.

 

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Roll up like a burrito and slice on the diagonal, in half to serve.

moo shoo pork 012Variations: Use any veggies you like: peppers, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, celery, some fresh grated ginger – use your taste and imagination.  Try using leftover beef, pork or shrimp instead. Experiment with different nuts or sesame seeds, sliced green onions, crispy Chinese noodles or fried won ton strips, perhaps a squeeze of fresh lime.


Smoky Baked Goulash

(Becky, the Mama.)

The other night was crazy.

I performed my usual bedtime routines: bath, then walked through the kitchen on the way to the bedroom, put lotion on my feet and legs and got in bed.

Suddenly my feet were on FIRE! Could not imagine why, but I rushed to get a wet cloth and washed them off.  Thankfully, the pain subsided, so I padded back through the kitchen, applied  more lotion, back in bed. Feet on fire!

I trekked back to the  kitchen where I saw that while making the recipe, I somehow spilled Tony’s Cajun Seasoning all over the kitchen floor. So basically, I was putting salt and cayenne pepper on my feet, then rubbing it in with lotion.

I hate it with this happens, don’t you?

So enjoy this recipe for Smoky Baked Goulash, as it is delicious and easy and great for a crowd.  (When your family is tired of turkey, this is a great make-ahead dish to stick in the oven and serve with a simple salad.)   Just make sure to let it melt in your mouth, and not on your feet.

Smoky Baked Goulash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Serves six to eight people

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

1/2  lb  sweet Italian turkey sausage

(*Vegans: In place of beef and sausage, use a mixture of crumbled vegan sausage– Field Roast Apple Sage brand recommended; lentils or beans; and chopped Portobello mushrooms to equal about  2 ½ cups)

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

½ c. BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s brand)

1 t. cumin

1 t. smoked paprika

1 t. Hungarian paprika

½ t. Tony’s Cajun seasoning

Salt & Pepper to Taste

8 oz  Penne Noodles (I used a high fiber Barilla Plus brand)

½ c to 1 c. cheddar cheese

1 red onion, diced

1 chopped sweet red or yellow pepper (or mixture)

½ cup Lite Ranch Dressing

¼ cup sliced olives, green or black

Directions:

Cook noodles according to package directions.  While they are cooking, brown the hamburger and crumbled turkey sausage in a large skillet  (Vegans, use a little olive oil and sauté the mushrooms and vegan sausage, then add beans or lentils.)

Add can of crushed tomatoes, bar-b-que sauce and seasonings to browned meat in skillet  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate pan sauté onions and pepper in olive oil. (To save time, you can do this when you brown the meat.  But it is prettier to see that layer of color on top of the casserole.)

When noodles are done, lightly oil a large rectangle casserole pan, and place noodles in it, in an even layer.   Gently spoon the meat sauce over the noodles.

Next, spoon sautéed onions and peppers over the sauce.  Then sprinkle cheddar cheese over all, as much as you like.  (We go light on the cheese, but if you love it, go for it! Vegans, omit cheese or use a vegan cheese product.)

Then pour pretty “squiggles” of Ranch Dressing over cheese layer. (Vegans use Vegan Ranch Dressing or make Rachel’s awesome recipe!)

Finally top with olives.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until melts and dish is hot all the way through.

Variations: This is a great recipe for using left-over veggies: corn, diced carrots, mushrooms,  diced squash, beans — it is all good.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Smoky Baked Goulash
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-MW
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Fiesta Tortilla “Flower” Pie

Becky’s Fiesta Flower Pie

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I heard a loud thump followed by a yell outside my kitchen window. I rushed out to see my husband Greg lying on the patio, telling me he twisted his ankle. “Don’t move!” I said, “I’m coming down there to help you.”

I really did mean to scoot down and cradle his head in my lap. I really did not mean to kick him hard in the temple with my knee in the process. Thankfully, Greg wasn’t so wounded that he lost his sense of humor: he pretended I knocked him unconscious. He was able to walk on the ankle in just a few minutes, but I still wonder if it was just a heroic attempt to save himself from my further attempts to help him.

My record for doing good, and no harm, in a medical emergency is a little bit uneven.  When my son Zeke was about thirteen, he cut his leg badly while we were in a shopping center parking lot.  I started throwing everything I could find in the car on his leg to stop the bleeding and then drove him to the emergency room.  As the nurse took off layer after layer: a towel, napkins from fast food restaurants, a clean diaper, and some grass clippings… she looked up at me quizzically and asked, “Becky, were you trying to smother the wound?”

On the other hand, I once expertly performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking in the women’s restroom. Just as calm as you please, I walked into her stall where she had been coughing and banging on the door, and was now turning blue.I told her not to worry, that I was going to do the Heimlich (that I’d heretofore only seen done on TV). Somehow I did, and out popped a piece of pineapple from her mouth. As soon as she could breathe normally again,she announced to everyone around that I had saved her life.

Maybe I’m better in life-threatening situations than I am in more minor emergencies. A nurturing person at heart, I wonder sometimes if I could have made a good nurse. My husband says, “You would have been a wonderful nurse, Becky.  Your patients would have loved you and you would have kept them laughing and smiling…. right before you accidentally killed them.”  It is true. I can’t keep up with my own cell phone or purse on a daily basis, so keeping track of med dosing schedules for patients would have certainly been a crap shoot.

I’ve probably made better and safer use of my nurturing nature by caring for ailing folks through gifts of home cooking.  I woke up from a nap the other day with the idea for this dish dancing in my head.  It was even better than I imagined it would be.  It uses simple ingredients that most of us have on hand, but arranges them in a way that looks like big, colorful Mexican flower in a pie pan. It would be a wonderful dish to take to a friend who has twisted their ankle, cut their leg or been kneed in the head by a clumsy do-gooder.

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Serves 6

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

Shell:
1 t. olive oil
4 medium sized flour tortillas, cut 3 of them in half, leaving one whole

Beef-Bean Filling:

1 lb lean ground beef or buffalo meat
3 cloves garlic, minced

16 oz. can pinto beans drained (I had leftover home-cooked one) but not rinsed
½ cup thick salsa (I used “On the Border” brand)
¼ cup thick bbq sauce (I used “Sweet Baby Ray’s”)
1 t. grill or steak seasoning (or ½ t. salt and ½ t pepper)
½ t.Cajun seasoning (I like Tony’s brand.  Or use red pepper flakes or chili powder instead.)
3 quick dashes Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 t. brown sugar

Additional Layers (Before Cooking)
¾ c. Greek yogurt (I prefer 2%)  or sour cream (light is fine)
¾ c. bottled salsa
¾ c. grated cheese, any kind you like
½ c crushed corn chips (we like Fritos) or tortilla chips
Jalapeno slices – as many as you like for garnish

Fresh Salsa Topping for After Cooking
1/2 c. chopped tomato
½   c. diced avocado
½   c. drained corn or corn cut off a cob
Squeeze of fresh lime, dash salt, dash sugar

Directions:

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and brown a whole one round tortilla and five halved tortillas in batches, until they are light golden brown in spots on both sides.   Line a deep dish pie pan with as shown in the photo below, slightly overlapping the “petals” of the tortilla flower.

In a large skillet brown the beef with the garlic.  Then  add the next seven ingredients, stir and heat through until simmered and thickened.Pour meat and bean mixture into “tortilla flower.”

Gently spread the sour cream or Greek Yogurt over the beef mixture.  Next spread on the salsa.

Then sprinkle the grated cheese over all, followed by an even sprinkling of crushed corn chips.  Finally decorate with a few jalapeno slices.Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes while you make a quick fresh salsa topping.  In a bowl, combine tomato, avocado and corn. Give this mixture a quick squeeze of fresh lime, a dash of salt and a pinch of sugar.  Toss.   Pile in the middle of the tortilla pie.

Use a very sharp serrated knife to cut pie shaped wedges.  It may be a little messy if the pie is still hot, so feel free to serve in a bowls if you prefer.

Vegetarian Version: Replace beef with 1 cup lentils or other beans (in addition to the ones in the recipe), 1/2 cup grain such as quinoa or rice, 1/4 cup chopped nuts such as walnuts, and 1 cup chopped mushrooms.

Vegan Version:
Follow Vegetarian Version above for meat replacement. Skip sour cream and cheese layers and cover the pie with fresh guacamole once comes out of the oven and has cooled for 5 minutes. Use just the tomatoes and corn for salsa topping.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Fiesta Tortilla Pie
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Bv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

One of my friends, Shirley, who knows me well, posted this picture on her facebook page and said it reminded her of one special person, and wondered if that person might recognize herself. I saw it and immediately claimed it.

If you saw our first post on this blog, you know that I’m famous for burning food. I am a good cook, but I just get distracted easily. So the smoke alarm, for many years, was often our dinner bell. One day my eldest son Zach walked into the kitchen as it was billowing with smoke pouring out of the oven. “Mmm mmmm mmm,” he said, “Smells like mom’s home cooking!”

When my second born, Zeke, was about five-years old, I made him a perfectly browned piece of toast. He took it, walked to the trash can and started automatically scraping it with a knife. “Zeke, Honey,” I said, “You don’t have to scrape it today. I didn’t burn it this time!” He looked at me, his eyes wide, and said, “Oh, I thought we always have to whittle our toast.”

Once when my youngest son Gabe was about twelve, he was home from school, feeling sick. I decided to make him some breakfast and put a pan of bacon on the burner to cook. Then I promptly forgot about it and went to take a nice long bubble bath. If it were not for Gabe’s quick action with baking soda and a pan lid, my kitchen could have easily gone up in flames.

Having heard these stories, and seen enough of my absent-mindedness up close, my husband Greg now hovers near when I cook, constantly asking if I remembered to turn off the stove and oven, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of smoke. My children would agree that I needed, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Especially in the kitchen. With Greg on the job, they all rest easier.

Today’s recipe is one that I created last week, and I am pleased to report that no kitchen cabinets were burned and no innocent food was scorched in the creation of this dish.

This easy vodka pasta sauce turned out creamy and delicious with lots of flavor layers going on, from the thin salty pieces of Italian salami to the nice bite of the tomatoes and artichokes, to the smoothness of the melted cheese. I learned to make a simple pasta sauce from a New York-Italian friend of mine: it was just lots of fresh grated garlic, a few chopped fresh tomatoes, and about ½ cup of creamy cheese, like a brie or soft Buffalo mozzarella or even cream or goat cheese (or a combination).  You simply melt it all together over low heat, and pour over pasta. This sauce springs from that basic idea, but I’ve fancied it up a bit.

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

¼ c. thin Italian style salami diced (any hard salami can be substituted)

1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (mine were canned in water)

¼ c chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 c. soft white cheese (brie, fresh mozzerela, cream cheese or goat cheese — or a combination)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – 1/2  c. vodka (according to your taste)

1 c. crushed tomatoes or 1 c. fresh tomatoes whirled in blender until as chunky as you’d like in your sauce

1 t. dried oregano or Italian seasoning

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked or roasted chicken

Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese  for garnish

Pasta of your choice, cooked al dente  (save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce) to serve four people

 Directions:

While the pasta is cooking (according to package directions), chop the salami and render out the fat in a skillet until it has crisped a little.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the chicken,  basil and Parmesan) and stir over medium heat until the cheese melts.

Sauce ingredients tossed in pan ready to be stirred and heated

Add pasta water until it is the sauce is at desired thickness. Finally, add chicken and stir until heated through. Serve over pasta, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and ribbons of fresh basil.

Vegetarian Option: Substitute roasted chick peas for meat and add 1 t. smoked paprika

Vegan Option: Sub roasted chick peas for meat, add 1 t. smoked paprika and sub vegan cream cheese like Tofutti for cheeses

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