Mexican Lasagna

Get bold Mexican flavors and good-for-you veggies all in one simple dinner!

IMG_2072I’m a sucker for a good casserole. There is just something about cooking a bunch of good ingredients in one dish that I really like. I like the simplicity of serving a casserole.  I like that I can sit with a glass of wine while it bakes in the oven rather than hustling around the kitchen right up until dinner is served. I like that I almost always have left overs. I really like that they almost always turn out great. A casserole is pretty hard to screw up!  I came across this recipe in one of my old-school binders filled with recipes that I have clipped from magazines.  That was long before Pinterest :).  This one was from  Martha Stewart. I altered it a bit, but kept the same basic idea.

IMG_2068This dish fulfilled all of my casserole dreams. It’s not going to break any culinary records, but I’m sure it will become one of my go-to dinners when I need something simple and tasty to feed the family. We all love Mexican food, and I love a meatless dinner that is still hearty and satisfying. Our Mexican dinners tend to be light on veggies, but this one is filled with them.

IMG_2051Layers of black beans, spinach, zucchini, queso fresco, and salsa are nestled between corn tortillas. The prep is pretty easy on this, just a little chopping here and sauteing there. The salsa is store bought, so no sauce to make.  Just make sure you use a good salsa that you know you like. It is a big part of the flavor in this dish.  I used a combo of red and green salsa because I didn’t have enough of either one. Either would be great, just go with what you prefer. Then…the oven does it’s magic. All of the yummy flavors meld together and the cheese gets bubbly.

IMG_2094Of course you CAN’T forget the garnishes. You know how I love to garnish! Cool sour cream, olives, green onions, and the ever important avocado.  Save some of your green onions to throw on top too.  A little extra salsa on the side doesn’t hurt!

Mexican Lasagna

Click here for a printable version

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of cilantro
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 ounces of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 zucchinis –  shredded on a box grater
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 1 can of black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups of prepared salsa
  • 2 cups of queso fresco cheese – crumbled
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar or jack cheese (or a combo of the 2)
  • Avocado, sour cream, and black olives to garnish


Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Use a food processor to make quick work of your chopping – remove the tops of the cilantro (you want mostly leaves and minimal stems) and add them to the food processor (save a little to garnish if you like). Cut the green onions into 1 inch pieces and throw them in with the cilantro. Add the garlic cloves and pulse until chopped small. Add the spinach and pulse a few more times to roughly chop.

In a large frying pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the grated zucchini for a few minutes until the liquid cooks off. Add the spinach, cilantro, green onion and garlic from the food processor and saute a few more minutes. You want most of the veggies’ liquid to cook off.

Spray the bottom of a large casserole dish (I used an oval 11″ x 9″ CorningWare dish) with non-stick spray (or coat with a little oil). Layer 4 of the corn tortillas on the bottom (Cut them in half if you need to in order to cover the dish). The tortillas will overlap. Add half of the black beans to the tortilla layer, then add half of the veggie mixture, next add one cup of salsa, then one cup of the crumbled queso fresco cheese. Add the next layer of 4 tortillas, then the rest of the beans, veggies, another cup of salsa, and the rest of the queso fresco. Finish with the last layer of 4 tortillas, the last cup of salsa then top with the shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Let cool for about 10 minutes to set and serve topped with sour cream, olives, diced avocado, cilantro and green onions.

Serves 4-6

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Lean, Mean, & Green Chicken Chili with Garbanzo Beans

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I know that chili isn’t really a warm weather dinner, but we have had our typical June Gloom around here and a warm bowl 0f chili still hits the spot for me. And, this is not your typical meaty and heavy chili! This chili is light and zippy, thanks to the lean ground chicken and the tomatillos. I used garbanzo beans, which I love, because I had a bag in the pantry. You can used canned too, but it’s so easy to boil up a pot of beans if you have the forethought to do it and they taste a step above the canned ones. You could sub whatever your fave bean is and it would be just as delicious!

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You may know from some of my other posts (like my avocado and tomatillo rellish) that I LOVE tomatillos! They are so easy to cook with and add such great flavor to sauces, salsas, soups and stews. The only prep they need is removing the green husk and rinsing them well in warm water to remove the sticky film that they have. You can roast them whole and blend them for a sauce or chop them up and throw them in a pot like I did for this dish.

IMG_3604A quick saute of some chopped poblano pepper and onion start this easy dish. From there you just need to brown your ground chicken (organic if you can get it!), then add in your chopped tomatillos along with some stock and beer.

IMG_3605IMG_3607Once you bring it to a simmer, you just throw the lid on and let it do it’s thing. After it “stews” for about 30 minutes, the tomatillos will break down and make the perfect green sauce.

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Keep in mind…this is a really mild chili. If you want to heat things up a little, throw in a couple of finely chopped jalapenos or a serano when you are sauteing the onion and poblano. I kept this mild for my 6 year old. My heat loving husband and 9 year old added plenty of jalapeno slices to their bowls.

IMG_1919Jalapenos aren’t the only thing you will want to top this with. Garnishes can make a meal! I topped ours with diced avocado, queso fresco, and some sour cream. GOTTA have the garnishes 🙂

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After I served this, I thought it would have been great over some white rice. I think I will make some to serve it with next time. I did make some little quesadilla roll-ups with these cute mini corn tortillas I found. They were tasty for dipping!

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Green Chili with Chicken and Garbanzo Beans

Click here for a printable version of the recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion – chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper – chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound tomatillos – husked, washed, and roughly chopped
  • 1-7oz can whole roasted green chilis (like Ortega) – seeds removed and chopped small
  • 1 cup Mexican beer (like Pacifico or Modelo Especial)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 1/2 cups of cooked garbanzo beans, OR 3 cans – rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Optional Garnishes:
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Diced Avocado
  • Crumbled Queso Fresco or shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Sliced Radishes
  • Sliced Jalapeno pepper

*Cooked white rice to serve over if desired

Directions:

In a large dutch oven, saute the onion and poblano pepper for about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and minced garlic and cook another minute. Add the ground chicken and cook, breaking it up with the side of a spoon, until it is cooked through. Add the salt, chopped tomatillos, chopped green chilies, beer, and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the tomatillos have broken down.  Add the garbanzo beans and cilantro and cook until heated through. Taste to see if you need any additional salt – that will depend on how salty your stock is. Serve in a bowl, over rice if desired, with optional garnishes.


Sweet and Savory Corn Cakes

Who says pancakes have to be for breakfast?IMG_1216

I’m sure you have all been chomping at the bit waiting for me to post my corn cake recipe, right? Well, here it is! (Ok…I get that most of the world doesn’t care about food quite as much as I do, but I like to think that you all love getting Juicy Bites in your in box! :))

These are the little corn cakes that I made and topped with my Tomatilla and Avocado Relish as an appetizer for a party. I also served them for dinner for my family and topped them with black beans and cheese. Sort of like a tostada but with a corn cake instead of a tortilla.

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They were perfect little party food bites and they were a hit with my family at the dinner table. I think they would also be great served for breakfast or brunch topped with eggs and served with bacon…yum! A little crumbled bacon thrown in the batter wouldn’t hurt at all either.

IMG_1255I used a mix of Masa (a Mexican corn flour found with the other flours), all purpose flour, and corn meal. They had a nice texture with that mix and the scallions and green chilies gave them great flavor. Masa is also a great ingredient to thicken Mexican soups or chilies, or make to your own corn tortillas. But if all you use if for is these pancakes, it’s still worth it!  I added a little honey for a touch of sweetness, but you could increase the honey by another tablespoon or 2 if you were making these for breakfast dish.

IMG_1207Topped with black beans, jack cheese, and the tomatillo and avocado relish, these were a perfect main coarse and my family loved them.

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You could be creative with toppings…if you have any yummy ideas, please send them my way!

Sweet and Savory Corn Cakes

This makes about a dozen dinner sized cakes or about 30 appetizer cakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of all purpose flour
  • ½ cup masa harina
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼  cups buttermilk
  • ¼  cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablspoons honey
  • 8 scallions, trimmed, white and green portions thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sweet corn (frozen is fine, just thaw first)
  • 2 green chilies (like Ortega canned green chilies) seeded and chopped small
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

1. Combine the flour, cornmeal,  masa harina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside.

2. Using a food processor, pulse the corn several times until it is coarsely chopped.

3. Combine the buttermilk, butter, egg, and honey in a second, smaller bowl, whisking together. Add the corn, scallions, and chilies and mix well.

 4. Using as few strokes as possible, stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until the two are barely smoothed out.

5. Heat a non stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, ladle on the batter; using a ¼-cup ladle will yield about 12 good-size pancakes.

Optional Serving Idea:

Top warm corn cake with black beans, shredded cheese, and salsa of your choice. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

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Tostadas de Frijoles Peruanos

Frijoles Peruanos are Peruvian Beans. They are also known as Canary Beans and are actually a product of Mexico. They are lighter in color and a little creamier than Pintos. I have been to a couple Mexican restaurants lately that serve Peruvian beans instead of Pintos and they have become a new favorite of mine. I decided to track them down at the market (it wasn’t too hard…they sell them at my local chain grocery store in the Latin foods department) and make them at home.  They are lighter in color and a little creamier than Pintos. I love all beans, especially when they are made from scratch. They are so easy to make if you have a little patience and taste so much better than canned. I like the to soak them ahead of time to speed up the cooking. Make sure you pick through them to remove any rocks or debris first. When cooking beans, you don’t want to salt them until they are done cooking as the salt can make their skins tough.

After soaking the beans during the day, they cooked up in about 90 minutes. I re-fried them in a little bacon fat…just enough to give them that good re-fried bean taste, not so much that your cholesterol will shoot up. If you are anti-bacon (which would be just plain crazy), you can just re-fry them in a little olive oil. These re-fried beans would be really good in a bean and cheese burrito! After layering the tostada shells with some of the re-fried beans, I topped them with some queso fresco, a little shredded cabbage, a creamy salsa verde (the same one I use on my fish tacos), and some diced avocado. All family members approved and had seconds! The left over re-fried beans even made an appearance in Max’s lunch the next day with some tortilla chips and salsa.

Cooked Peruvian beans (before I re-fried them)

I found these great baked tostada shells from Costco. They tasted great and held up to all of my tostada toppings.

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Tostadas de Frijoles Peruanos

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Peruvian Beans (Frijoles Peruanos or Canary Beans), soaked for 4-6 hours or over night
  • 3 galric cloves, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  4 slices of bacon
  • Tostada Shells

Creamy Salsa Verde (this is the one I make for my Fish Taco recipe):

  • 1/2 cup of sour cream OR Trader Joes Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite Salsa Verde – I like Herdez brand, Frontera’s, or Trader Joe’s is good also
  • Juice from half of a lime
  • handful of fresh chopped cilantro

Optional Garnishes:

  • Crumbled Queso Fresco, or shredded jack cheese
  • Thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce
  • Diced avocado (squeeze a little lime juice over it and season with salt and pepper)
  • Sliced black olives
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh cilantro

For the Beans:

Rinse and drain the beans after soaking. Put in a large pot and cover with an inch or 2 of water. Add the garlic cloves and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stiring every so often and checking the level of the water. If the water drops below the beans, add a little more.  After the beans are tender, season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

In a separate pan, fry the bacon until it is crisp then remove it from the pan and drain on a plate with paper towels. Discard all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat and return the pan to medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, add the beans to the pan. Once all of the beans are in the pan, add about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the beans. Using a potato masher, mash the beans so to a partially creamy consistency. You want to leave some whole for texture, but have some smashed to make it nice and creamy. Add more of the bean liquid if necessary. You don’t want your beans to runny, or they won’t stay on your tostada shell. Crumble up your reserved bacon and stir into the re-fried beans.

For the Creamy Salsa Verde:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and creamy

To assemble the tostadas:

First put a layer of the beans, then top with some cheese. Add the cabbage and creamy salsa verde next. Top with the optional garnishes.

These are a bit messy, but delicious!

Check out some other recipes for Peruvian beans:

Peruvian Bean Soup by Feral Kitchen


Super Quick Fish Tacos

This is one of those dinners that you can throw together in just a few minutes. A life saver when you can’t start dinner until everyone in the house is already starving. I was in my local Trader Joe’s today and sampled their fish taco demo. I was starving, so of course it tasted like something from a 5 star restaurant. I decided that I would make them for dinner since we had a busy afternoon with Jiu Jitsu and golf lessons and I knew I would be starting dinner late. I made a couple of changes…of course. I can’t seem to make anything without changing it up a bit. I also would have added avocado if I had it…it would have been the perfect topper.

I love this Battered Halibut. Cooks in a short time in my toaster oven and it’s very tasty. Nothing artificial like you might find in your typical “fish stick”. I used one box for dinner which makes 7 tacos. This fed me and my 2 boys with no left overs (my husband is out of town). They LOVED these tacos and were fighting for the last one. If you need to feed a family of 4 or 5, you will need 2 boxes of fish or maybe a side dish like a black bean and corn salad.

Trader’s now carries these yummy corn and wheat blend tortillas that I have seen in other markets. They have a great chewy texture and the bonus with TJ’s is that they have less preservatives than the ones you will find in the grocery store.

This was TJ’s great idea…using broccoli slaw instead of cabbage in the tacos. It adds such great crunch!

This was my addition…I’m obsessed with this yogurt dip. So creamy and yummy and way less fat than the sour cream that TJ’s used for their tacos.

I mixed this Salsa Verde in with the yogurt dip.

I added some fresh chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice.

This makes a tangy, zippy, creamy, and delicious sauce for the broccoli slaw.

Then all you have to do is heat your tortillas…

And make your tacos!

Fish Tacos a la Trader Joes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Trader Joe’s Battered Halibut
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Corn and Wheat Tortillas
  • 2 1/2 cups of Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Slaw
  • 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip (or sub sour cream)
  • 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde
  • a handful of fresh chopped cilantro
  • a squeeze of fresh lime juice

Cook Halibut according to package directions. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt dip, salsa verde, lime juice, and cilantro until well blended. Add the broccoli slaw and mix to combine. Heat your tortillas and assemble with one piece of the fish and a couple spoonfuls of the broccoli slaw. Top with extra cilantro if desired.

An essential part of my dinner…


Roasted Salsa Verde

This is the Salsa that I served with my Empanadas. It’s a great simple green mild salsa that is delish with chips, great as a green enchiladas sauce, or for dunking empanadas in!

All you do is roast 2-3 poblano chilies, about 10-12 tomatillos (husked and washed well), a half of an onion (no need to chop), and a couple of garlic cloves on a foil lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 30 min. You don’t want to blacken the veggies, just get them nice and soft. Once they are done and cooled, peel and seed the chilies and throw them and the rest of the roasted veggies into a blender or food processor with a handful of cilantro, some salt, and a squeeze of lime…blend well!