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

Summer Vegetable Casserole

I have been holding out on you. I’ve been making this side dish for almost a year now and I am just now getting around to posting it. The good news is that this is pretty much the perfect time of year to share/make this recipe.

Back when we lived in Ohio, we would have a nice little vegetable garden every summer. By July I was always trying to come up with new ways to use the vegetables that seemed to be taking over every inch of our kitchen. Luckily, I have learned over the years that vegetables are so, so much more than things you just steam and serve along side dinner. Sometimes, even when they are the side dish, they’re the star of the meal.

That’s pretty much how I feel about this casserole, it’s always the star of our dinner. But don’t get caught up on the title, “casserole” fits because the ingredients are bound together and baked with a little sprinkling of cheese. There are no cans of soup or cups of cream in this casserole. There is however a little bit of a surprise ingredient – cottage cheese. Don’t let that scare you. Mixed in with the rice and vegetables it just acts like a binder. Also feel free to play with the vegetables a little bit. I think the zucchini, corn, and tomatoes are a must, but sometimes (like this time) I throw in bell peppers or eggplant.

Summer Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard*
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cup cooked rice (I used short grain brown rice)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 cup zucchini (1 small zucchini), roughly cut into matchsticks or diced
1 ear of corn, cut from the cob or 1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
4 large leaves of fresh basil, chiffonaded

*Sometimes, for an extra kick,  I use 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp whole grain mustard. Just depends on my mood!

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish or pie pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, cottage cheese, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the rice, onion, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, and bell pepper, stir to coat evenly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish or pie pan, use a spatula to evenly distribute in dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Allow to coil for 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh cut basil and serve.

Very slightly adapted from eat love drink

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend Jesse and I took another trip to Hong Kong. We had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t all play time – we went to Hong Kong so that Jesse could officially get his Z Visa, basically a resident visa! It’s weird when things feel like they are such a long time coming, then once they happen it feels like it was all so fast! Who would have thought we would be living in China? Crazy.

We had these Stuffed Peppers early last week before our trip, and I was hoping to get this post up while we were in Hong Kong, but I completely forgot to take my lap top with me! Better late than never, though, because we really loved this dinner. Stuffed Peppers are bright, colorful, filling, and delicious.

 




Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey


One of the problems I have with moving is that I have a LOT of stuff. Especially when it comes to the kitchen. I am not exageratting when I say that half of our storage unit is San Diego is kitchen stuff. Dishes, pots, pans, appliances, cupcake liners, cooking tools, towels, cupcake liners, baking tools, corning ware, cupcake liners…. See what I mean? So. Much. Stuff. But all of that is fine because it can be stored and it can and will all be used again (and I actually get to go through it when we are back in San Diego and pick out some of the more important stuff to bring back to China!) But what wasn’t so fine was the amount of food in my pantry and refrigerator that couldn’t very make it China, but also can’t be stored to wait for our return.

So during my last week in San Diego I was left with arduous task of sorting food. What could I give away to friends? What (if anything!) could be stored? What could I use before I left? What would (sadly) need to be pitched.

In the end I decided to make a box of dry goods that could safely be stored for 2 months and eventually go back to China with me. I also labeled a few bags and set them just outside of the trash area at the apartment complex (I went back and forth about this, but in the end I would see the same few homeless people going through and picking out bottles/cans every morning and I thought maybe they would appreciate a few boxes of [good] snacks and if not it was right there and could go out with the trash. I would have handed them to them myself but my schedule was crazy that last week). I also was able to give some things away to friends and very few things needed to actually be thrown away.

This meal actually started out as just an attempt to use up remaining perishable foods and it turned into something much more memorable. Warm and comforting. Rich and filling. As an added bonus, I really appreciated having the left overs in a time that may have otherwise been filled with fast food, as I did all of my last minute packing and moving.


Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 small-medium onion, diced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped*
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb ground turkey**
3/4 cup frozen vegetables, I used lima beans, corn, and peas
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch (~1/4 tsp) nutmeg
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp cold water
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups mashed potatoes***

* I think that the fresh herbs were what really made this dish shine. You can substitute dry if you need to (adjusting the amounts since dry herbs have a more concentrated flavor) but if you have access to fresh, use them!
**Typically Shepherd’s Pie is made with beef or lamb, but turkey is what I had on hand.
***I had leftover mashed potatoes, but I would guess 4-5 medium or 3-4 large potatoes for this amount of meat, mashed anyway you like, in my case with s&p, garlic, butter, milk, and sour cream.

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh rosemary and thyme cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground turkey, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then cook until the meat has browned and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the frozen vegetables and bring to a simmer. While the broth is coming to a simmer, whisk together the corn starch and cold water then stir into the simmering broth. Cook for 1 minute or until it starts to thicken then reduce the heat to medium-low, add the milk and cook for another minute.

If you were using a skillet, carefully transfer the contents of the skillet to a baking dish, other wise just make sure the mixture is evenly distributed around the bottom of the dutch oven. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes over the mixture (I found it was easiest to drop heaping spoonfuls all over then use the back of the spoon to “meld” the heaps together). Place the baking dish or dutch oven in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes, then turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the peaks of the potatoes start to turn golden brown.

Sunny Side Up original recipe, inspired by the many Shepherd’s Pie I’ve eaten throughout my life