Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

I belong to a message board where I chat with others who share my love (obsession?) of cooking, baking, and all things food. In fact, lots of those ladies also like to make food, photograph it, and write about it on the internet. For a long time now, many of them have participated in recipe swaps. I’ve really wanted to join in the fun, but with moving, living in a hotel, and traveling, I didn’t think it would be fair to commit to participating and then not being able to hold up my end of the deal. Now that we (finally!) are starting to settle in and things feel normal (well, as normal as they can feel when you live in a country and culture very different from your own!) I can finally play along!

Each recipe swap has a different theme, and usually the blogger submits a specific recipe that fits within the theme. This time, however, it’s Blogger’s Choice style! So we each are assigned a blog and get to choose any recipe. I was assigned Kate’s Recipe Box. I am not super familiar with Kate’s blog, so I spent a good amount of time going through the archives and bookmarking things. In the end, I kept going back to this casserole. Something about it was just calling my name.

Jesse and I were both really happy with my decision. Later in the evening I overheard him talking to his dad on Skype and telling him about the delicious “Mexicanish” dinner I made. Then he said something about chicken which really made me laugh, there is definitely no chicken in this meal. Haha.

I made only a few minor changes to the recipe, using my own Enchilada sauce recipe, and a couple small adjustments to ingredient amounts. I also made Mexicorn (recipe to come) as a side dish and wouldn’t you know, we both just mixed it right in to the casserole. Next time I might consider adding corn right to the dish. All in all, a big win for us!

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients
8 oz. dry pasta
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (I used red and yellow)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix*
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups Enchilada sauce, divided (recipe below)
1 cup cheese, divided (Cheddar, Mexican blend, or Monterey Jack)
1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus 1 Tbsp for garnish
2 Tbsp cilantro, plus 1 Tbsp for garnish
Salt & pepper, to taste
20 tortilla chips (about 2 handfuls), crushed
Sour cream, salsa, and/or avocado, for serving

*The enchilada sauce I use was pretty heavily seasoned, so I only added 1 tablespoon worth of additional seasoning (1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta to al dente, according to directions on box, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the red onion, jalapeno, bell peppers, and garlic, saute for 6-7 minutes., or until vegetables start to become tender. Stir in seasonings, black beans, and 1 cup of enchilada sauce, cook for another 5 minutes. Add the pasta, 1/2 cup of cheese, green onion, and cilantro. Stir until the cheese has melted and the pasta is evenly coated with sauce.

In the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of Enchilada sauce. Pour the pasta into the dish, using a spoon to evenly distribute in pan. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of Enchilada sauce over the pasta, top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips, green onions, and cilantro. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or avocado.

Slightly adapted from Kate’s Recipe Box, originally from Oh She Glows

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup bell pepper, very finely chopped
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp dry parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

Directions
In a small sauce pan heat the vegetable oil and cook the bell pepper until tender. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients from tomato sauce to salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

*I made this sauce the day before I needed (and stored in the fridge until I was ready to use it) making the pasta that much easier to throw together. Bonus, the added day in the fridge gave the flavors lots of time to meld together and enhance.

Source: My mom, as posted previously for Beef Enchiladas

Penne with Chicken and Vegetables in Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

Wow, that’s a really long name! Probably too long, but when thinking about this recipe it just didn’t feel right to leave any part out of the name. The chicken, vegetables, and roasted garlic sauce all work together to form one beautiful, filling, delicious pasta dish.

I knew that I wanted to make pasta for dinner and I knew what ingredients I had on hand, but I didn’t have a specific recipe in mind. So I went searching and what I found was very promising recipe on my friend Krystal’s blog (Krystal just had a baby, by the way!). I worked with what I had and used her recipe as guide, and what I thought was going to be a good dinner turned out to be a GREAT dinner! So much so that I’m putting it back on the menu for this week!

The first change I made was to use zucchini instead of broccoli (side note: why can I never spell either of those words right on the first try? mental spelling block) and penne instead of fettucine.  I also used milk instead of cream, but because I was worried that it wouldn’t thicken up enough, I added a tablespoon of corn starch. It worked perfectly and even held up and remained creamy for my next day lunch leftovers. Finally, I added mushrooms because it just seemed right.

Penne with Chicken and Vegetables in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1 head of garlic – roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small-medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
4-5 button mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for topping
1-2 chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken per serving you want), roasted and sliced
12 oz. penne pasta
Fresh chopped basil or parsley for garnishing

Directions
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the top off of a head of garlic to expose the tops of cloves. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Loosely wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic, pinching the seams to seal. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the cloves are tender and start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool.

While the garlic is roasting, drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest, covered with aluminum foil, until you’re ready to serve, then cut into slices. (Roasting in the same oven as the garlic slightly infuses some of the garlic flavor into the chicken, mmm!)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook penne until al dente then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the milk and corn starch in a glass measuring cup, set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion, zucchini, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, or until the vegetables soften and the onions are translucent. Season with a little salt and pepper. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the skillet. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the garlic and mix into the vegetables.

Create a well in the skillet by pushing the vegetables to the edges, slowly stream in the milk/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Work the vegetables into the sauce with the whisk then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, then cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, add the reserved cooking liquid a tablespoon at time until you get the desired consistency.

Top each portion with the sliced chicken, extra Parmesan, and fresh chopped basil or parsley. Serve hot and enjoy!

Adapted from Mrs.Regueiro’s Plate

Chicken Pesto Lasagna Roll-Ups

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Would you believe that this is the first time I have turned on my lap top in over a week? I know I can’t! I’m one of those people that is a compulsive email, facebook, and general internet checker. Even if I don’t have time to respond to or interact with what I read, I still constantly check. I guess smart phones and laptops will do that to you.

Last Thursday I hopped on a plane to head home for the holidays; while I was on the plane I watched 5 episodes of Modern Family and watched my battery go from 100% to 2%. Once I landed it was go, go, go right from the start. I never even had time to recharge the battery, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately that means this poor little blog of mine was seriously neglected!

While I haven’t had time to make anything new this week, I do have a few aces in my back pocket, including these Chicken Pesto Lasagna Roll-Ups. I wouldn’t exactly call this a fast weeknight dinner, but it can certainly be made easier by using store-bought sauce and pesto. Homemade is nice (and often better) but it’s all about doing what you can with the time you have.

Chicken Pesto Lasagna Roll-Ups

Ingredients
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Salt
Pepper
1 cup shredded chicken
1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought pesto sauce
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup of your favorite chunky marinara sauce, divided
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add flour and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Stream in milk, whisking constantly. Add salt and pepper and cook until thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the white sauce to the bottom of an 8×8 pan.

In a medium size mixing bowl, stir together the chicken, ricotta, pesto 1/4 cup of mozzarella, salt and pepper, until combined. Spread ~1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture over each lasagna noodle. Roll up the noodles and place seam side down in the 8×8 pan. Top the lasagna rolls with the rest of the white sauce, a spoonful of red sauce and the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Serve on a bed of red sauce with Parmesan cheese for garnish.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally from Sargento

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese


Starting out in the kitchen I was pretty lucky. I didn’t have a lot of flops and I had enough success to keep me motivated in trying newer, some more complicated, things. But let’s get real here for a second. Not everything I make turns out great the first time. Getting even more real, some things never quite turn out the way I want them to. I tried making pad Thai a few months ago…. We had pizza for dinner that night.

Of course, I’m not going to share things here that just don’t work, not really the kind of blog I’m going for. Keeping that in mind, I always have high hopes that whatever dish I make will be good and what I like to call “blog worthy.” Occasionally, a meal I expect to be good exceeds that expectation.

This Macaroni and Cheese is one of those meals. I found myself licking my bowl clean, going back for seconds and sneaking a few extra bites when putting the leftovers away. Plus there’s spinach in it, so it’s got to be healthy right? OK, maybe not. But turning one of my favorite appetizers into a meal this good is a win in my book. It’s also pretty easy to put together. Lots of stirring, and adding the ingredients in steps, but not at all difficult. From start to finish (including all the chopping) I think it took me just over 30 minutes.