Sunday, March 29, 2009

Easy Enchiladas

Easy Enchiladas

I would like to preface this recipe by stating, for the record, that I don't like refried beans. At all. Even at a Mexican restaurant I order a la cart or from the appetizer menu if at all possible, so that it comes without the refried beans. If I do order a "plate" I skim the cheese off the top layer of beans, I never, ever, eat the beans.

But I like this dish. And one of the main components is refried beans. Have you ever had a dish that the results are more than just the sum of the parts? This is one of these dishes.

I got this recipe through my husband. Someone at his job brought leftovers from home and shared with everyone, and he got the recipe from them. I totally did not like the sound of it, and resisted making it to the point of kicking and screaming. Well, almost. He finally convinced me to make it made it himself just to get me to try it. And I like it. I like it a lot. I still don't eat refried beans per se, but I eat this, as often as I can.

I love this because it's another of those that you can keep all of the ingredients on hand for quick, last minute throw together meal.

Which I know you never do, but just in case.

  • 8-10 four tortillas
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can chili (I like Wolf brand no-beans chili for this)
  • Grated cheddar and monterrey jack cheese or Mexican blend

I usually make this in a 9 x 13 pan. Be sure and spray the pan first with Pam or other cooking spray.

Open the refried beans, and spoon a little line of beans across the middle of a flour tortilla. Don't overfill, but put at least 2-3 tablespoons, this is all the filling there is.

Roll up tortilla, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until the dish is full, or you run out of beans or tortillas.

Open the chili, and pour over the top.

Cover with grated cheese.

Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees, for about 20-25 minutes, until everything is hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted and starting to brown a little on the edges. (Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes or so)
Garnish with a little sour cream if you like.


This is easy to adjust up or down for size; smaller, as I did in the pictures, or doubled for a larger family or gathering.

You could use mashed pinto beans instead of the refried beans if you have homecooked beans available, or substitute low-fat cheese (don't use fat-free cheese, it doesn't melt the same)

For links to other good recipes, go to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, or Tasty Tuesday at Forever...Wherever!

Good cooking, and good eating!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tamale Bake

It's been awhile since I've posted a regular "main dish" recipe--I almost hate to post anything these days unless I have a picture, and I haven't made anything picture-worthy or different in a while. (Sounds like I need to get out my rut, huh?) (eta--I've added a picture now!)

So I'm pulling one out of my family favorites repertoire to share. I love this recipe because it's, as always, quick and easy; and because everything can be kept on hand in your pantry/fridge/freezer stockpile, just waiting for those nights you don't have time for something more elaborate.

Tamale Bake

  • 1 can of tamales, drained and unwrapped

  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained

  • 1 can chili

  • shredded cheese--cheddar, monterrey jack, or taco blend

Unwrap the tamales and place in a greased or cooking sprayed casserole dish. (This is important! I gave this recipe to someone who forgot this step, and they had tamale wrappers in their casserole when they tried to serve it!) You can lay them in rows, or chunk them up, or mash and spread in the bottom--I've done it all three ways. Spread drained corn on top of the tamales. Spoon chili (straight from the can, you don't have to heat it up) on top and smooth over the corn. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until heated through and cheese is bubbly and browning on the edges.


You can make this with canned, frozen, and or fresh tamales; I've used all three (Fresh is best, but I don't always have access to fresh made hot tamales, but when I do, I try to buy extra and freeze them!)

You can cook this in the microwave--the cheese doesn't brown on the top, but it's still good. (I've done this when the weather was hot and I didn't want to heat the kitchen up any more than it was already)

You can double or even triple this to pot-luck dinners, just allow extra cooking time to be sure it's heated all the way through.

You can use different kinds of cheese--I've used cheddar, American, monterrey jack, and taco or Mexican blend cheese.

Basically I don't think you can mess up this up! I hope your family enjoys this as much as mine does!

Good cooking, and good eating!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Party Time!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

It's almost time
the Ultimate Blog Party 2009
hosted by
5 Minutes for Moms
March 20-27th, 2009

Stop by the main party page and follow links to find some new and of course fabulous blogs for and by women for your browsing pleasure.

In honor of the Ultimate Blog Party 2009, hosted by 5 Minutes for Moms, I'm offering a variety of party foods for your selection.

For your liquid refreshment, we have sweet tea, unsweetened tea, and eggless eggnog. Anything stronger will be strictly BYOB, but you have to give us your keys first.

We have a variety of dips and spreads including two different cream cheese and crabmeat spreads here and here, as well as classic spinach dip. These are all delicious with our homemade seasoned snack crackers. For you corn chip lovers, we have the best queso dip.

Moving right along, we have the ever-popular cocktail wieners in secret sauce, and meatballs with a surprise inside.

For your sweet tooth, we have a cookie platter with chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snowdrop cookies. Also on our dessert table is my world-famous poppy seed cake, as well as crustless baked cheesecake.

I hope you have a good time at the party; please come back and visit us anytime, as well as my regular blog, A Virtuous Woman.

Added Friday, March 27th:
I've had such a good time this week blog hopping, "meeting" so many nice ladies and finding lots of new blogs, some of which I'll be sharing in the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, I finally went back and looked at the list of prizes, and while I'd be glad to win anything, whether for me or something I could gift to someone else, these are my top picks:

#58--the top pick for several of the blogs I've visited--a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer, provided by Moms Who Think

#68 – $30 gift certificate to Christian Book Distributors, provided by A High And Noble Calling

#88 –$40 gift certificate to Carrabba’s Italian Grill, provided by The Divine Miss Mommy

And any of 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 51, 95, 111, 113, 121,or INTL 1,INTL3, INTL5, INTL23, INTL33, INTL35, INTL36, INTL65

Here's to good cooking, and good eating!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Easy Iced Tea--No Sugar Added

Yesterday I shared my easy version of my easy sweet tea. Today I want to tell you about my favorite way to make "unsweet" tea, again because it's so easy. It makes a mild, not too strong tea, and because it's made with COLD water, it never gets cloudy in the fridge.

When I was a newlywed, we spent the first year of our marriage in a little house with a hot little kitchen--on the southwest corner of the house with lots of windows, and no direct flow from the window air conditioner unit that ran 24/7 and never really kept the place cool. We drank a two quart pitcher of unsweet tea almost nightly between the two of us, so I perfected this technique!

In a half gallon pitcher, put two FAMILY sized tea bags. (I think this is the equivalent of 6 regular tea bags). Fill with cold water, and place in the fridge. Leave this either all day till supper time, or if you fix it in the evening, leave it overnight.

Now, if all you want is to make one pitcher of tea, take out the tea bags, pour over ice, and enjoy.

It's that simple.

But if you want a perpetual source of cold unsweet tea like I did back in my newlywed days, this is how I did it.

  • Day one, fix the tea and water and put in the fridge.
  • Day two, drink the tea, refill with water, using the same tea bags, and put in the fridge.
  • Day three, drink the tea, leave the original tea bags and add one new tea bag (again, one large or three small), fill with water, and put in the fridge.
  • Day four, drink the tea, then discard all of the old tea bags and start from scratch again.

I hope you enjoy your tea, whether it's sweet tea or "unsweet"!

Until next time...good cooking, and good eating!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Easiest Sweet Tea Ever

At many restaurants and eating establishments outside of the South, they don't offer sweet tea. If you do ask for sweet tea, they will offer you regular unsweetened iced tea and refer you to the sugar and artificial sweetener packets for you to add your own sweetening.

Now to the uninitiated and those people unfortunate enough to not live in the South, Sweet tea is not just unsweetened iced tea with sugar stirred into it. That bears repeating, with emphasis. Sweet tea is NOT just unsweetened iced tea with sugar stirred into it. Not by a long shot.

Adding sugar to already cold tea is an exercise in futility. Most of the sugar ends up at the bottom of the glass, and you can never get it sweet enough. Proper sweet tea has the sugar added while it's hot, or at least warm, so that the sugar incorporates into the liquid--technically I guess it becomes a suspended solution. (It's been too long since I took a chemistry class, so I may not have the terminology right!)

You can vary the strength of the tea and the amount of sugar, and even the technique used to make it, but good sweet tea is like nectar and ambrosia to us southern folk.

Over the years, I've made a couple of different versions of sweet tea, but this is one of my favorites because it's so easy. This makes 1 gallon.


8 tea bags
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c sugar

Start with hot, but not boiling water. If you have good tap water and safe pipes, you can run the hot water from the tap till it's hot and steaming; if you want to use other water, or if you don't trust your pipes (some older buildings may have lead, etc in the pipes), you can bring your water to an almost boil, or boil it and then allow it to cool slightly.

Fill a gallon pitcher about 1/3 to 1/2 full of hot water; add 8 regular tea bags. Let this steep for at least a couple of hours. (I have to confess, I've even left it overnight with no ill-effects) Fish out the tea bags, and add your sugar. The person who taught me how to make sweet tea used 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon; for my family this is a little too sweet, so I cut the sugar down to 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups per gallon, depending on who's going to be drinking it. Stir this into the concentrate, and fill the pitcher the rest of the way with hot, but not boiling water.

Pour into a tall glass filled with ice, with or without lemon added, and enjoy!

Tune in tomorrow for my easy version of "unsweet" tea. It's a totally different technique, but does make a good mild unsweetened tea that never gets cloudy in the fridge.

For links to more recipe posts, go to Tasty Tuesday at Forever...Wherever or Tempt my Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

Until next time...good cooking, and good eating!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Secret to Using Leftovers

If you're like me, most of the time when I decide that it's time to clean out the fridge, and I find all kinds of good-food-gone-bad lurking, hidden in Tupperware and wrapped in foil. Sometimes it's nothing more exciting than a few spoonfuls of leftover vegetables, but sometimes it's something (that was) good, that I could just kick myself for letting go bad.

Some families have a built in defense against leftovers--if you have a large family, you probably don't get leftovers very often, or if you do, they're scavenged from the fridge when you aren't looking! If you have a small family, though, or one that turns up their noses at leftovers, the secret is planning, planning, planning.

Instead of making a large meal and serving the same thing 2 or 3 nights in a row, plan for the leftovers when you plan for the meal.

Use your freezer:

When you making casserole meals--lasagna, taco casserole, etc--split it into two smaller dishes instead of making one large one; cook one now and freeze the other one for later. To help with this, line the freezer pan with foil. Once the contents are frozen, remove it from the pan, wrap in another layer of foil, and put it inside a zipper freezer bag. Write the contents and the date on the bag, then you know what it is and how long it's been there when you're scrambling through your freezer later. If you freeze a whole casserole like this, put it out to thaw the night before or at least several hours before you need to cook it, then slip into the same size pan you froze it in.. This works well for those nights you know you won't have time or would be too tired to cook.

An alternative is to cook the whole casserole, then freeze it in individually sized portions. These can be used for lunch, or again, take out several on those nights you're home alone or someone needs an alternative to the regularly scheduled dinner.

Learn to cook in smaller quantities:

When I was a newlywed, learning how to cook and plan, I happened on this on by accident. Like most frugal cooks, I made beans and rice on occasion. My new husband loved pinto beans; me, not so much. And a pot of beans seemed to last, and last, and last. Finally one day I had a light-bulb moment--I didn't have to cook the whole package! Don't ask me why I had never thought of this--I guess I had just seen my mom open a package of pinto beans and cook the whole thing, so I never really thought about doing it differently. I happily cooked pintos from then on, half a package at a time.

Work those leftovers into your meal plan:

This is another one that I did as a newlywed, inspired, again, by my lack of desire to eat pinto beans over and over. I started off with pinto beans and sausage, cooked in the crock pot, served over rice and with a side of cornbread. The next day, I made a small pot of chili, using pinto beans left from the first night. This was also served over rice, and with cornbread left from the first night. The third night, we had chili dogs, made with the leftover chili. And if there were any more left after that, we had Frito pies. By planning ahead, and working those ingredients into something a little different, I saved time and money.

Other examples are using leftover pot roast to make stew; leftover hamburger steak or meatloaf, combined with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes to make shepherds pie; and probably the Queen Mother of All Leftover Use---make soup!! Almost any kind of leftover meat, vegetables, rice, pasta, etc, can be combined to make a good pot of homemade soup. At times I keep a plastic container in my freezer, where I put little bits of leftovers that aren't enough to save and too much to throw out. I just open the container and add whatever the current leftover is to the top, then pop back into the freezer. When the container gets full, or when I decide it's soup-making time, I set the container out to thaw while I brown some stew meat or even ground meat and start the fresh ingredients cooking--potatoes, carrots, etc. Then I add the bits of leftover veggies from my freezer container. You never know what you're going to get, but as long you put fresh cooked food into your soup container, it will still be good when you decide to use it.

What tricks and tips do you have to utilize your leftovers?

Good cooking, and good eating!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Baked Chicken and Rice

I've been at home in Louisiana for the last ten days or so. I have two homes--my house in Louisiana, and a furnished, corporate apartment, currently in Georgia. When I'm home, as in HOME home, in Louisiana, I tend to not cook as much because life has a sort of temporary, almost "vacation"-like quality. One dish that I do tend to make a lot at home, though, is baked chicken and rice. I developed this version when I was working full time, involved in ministry, taking care of family, trying to figure out main dishes that I could just throw together and let it cook at the end of a busy day. I hate to admit how often I used to make this, just because it's so easy! But as a result, it's one of my son's favorite meals that speaks of home.

I make this in a large covered casserole dish or dutch oven--my favorite is a 4 1/2 quart Corning Ware baking dish with a clear glass lid.

  • 1 c uncooked long-grain rice
  • frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1-2 t chicken stock base or bouillon
  • dried onion flakes

Mix together 1 cup uncooked rice, 1 cup of water, and 1-2 t chicken stock base or bouillon, dried onions and little pepper directly in your cooking-sprayed or lightly greased casserole dish. I use IQF (individually quick frozen) boneless skinless chicken thighs in this, which I buy by the bag from Sam's Club--it has all of the convenience of boneless, skinless breasts, but is less expensive, more moist, and I think tastes better. Lay unthawed chicken on top, sprinkle with seasoning mix (I use Tony Chachere's); cover, and bake a 350 degrees for at least an hour. I usually cook a little longer, because we like the rice to get browned and "crusty" right around the edge.


If you use frozen boneless, skinless breasts, add 1/2 c extra water or broth--they tend to be dryer than the thighs

You can substitute broth or stock if you have it, for the water and chicken stock base--I love the Tone's chicken stock base, also from Sam's Club--it's a paste, not a powder, and has the best flavor of any I've tried. I've also used onion soup mix instead of stock base and dried onions--it's a different taste than the using the chicken stock base, but just as good.

I love this recipe for the "fix it and forget it" quality--I can come in from a long day, throw this together, get it in the oven, and still have some time to put my feet up and catch on world events while it cooks. If I get sidetracked and it cooks a little long, the rice may get a little brown around the edges, but the cover keeps it from drying out completely--perfect for those times I get carried away catching up on blogs or emails! Steam some veggies in the microwave, add a pan of quick rolls to the oven, and you have an easy meal that still means "home cooking" to your family.

For more recipes, check out Tasty Tuesday over at ForeverWherever or Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

Good cooking, and good eating!