WOW ‘EM WITH MEXICAN LASAGNA

If you have company coming for Thanksgiving, it’s going to be a long holiday.  You can’t eat turkey all weekend.  After the leftovers have been exhausted,  serve this festive  make-ahead recipe on Friday or Saturday night.  Wow ’em with Mexican Lasagna!

It’s going to be a long holiday weekend with company coming. Serve Mexican Lasagna on Saturday after Thanksgiving.

MEXICAN LASAGNA

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (15 oz) can enchilada sauce

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

1  (2 ½ oz) can sliced ripe olives, drained

½ teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, finely chopped or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup small curd cottage cheese

1 egg

½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, thin sliced

8 (8 inch) , corn tortillas, halved

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown beef and onion in a large skillet. Drain. Stir in enchilada sauce, olives, tomatoes, salt, garlic and pepper. Simmer, uncovered,  for 20 minutes. Combine cottage cheese and egg in a small bowl; set aside. Spread one third of the meat sauce in a greased 13 in X 9 in X 2 in baking dish. Top with half the Monterey Jack cheese, half the cottage cheese mixture and half the tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with meat sauce. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake ten more minutes. Makes 6-8 servings.

This dish is much easier to prepare than Italian Lasagna.  Because you’re using tortillas, there are no noodles to boil and drain separately.  It really cuts down on a lot of time and messy pans.

You might offer to make this dish at home and bring it to an overworked relative or friend who is hosting the big Thanksgiving meal.   It will surely be appreciated!

NOSTALGIC 60’s CHICKEN DIVAN RECIPE

If a woman had small children back  in the 1960’s, she was probably a stay at home mom.  At the time, I lived in a Chicago suburb,  surrounded by women who did not work outside the home.   They had coffee klatches and bridge parties, and entertained  on the weekends.  The mainstay of any dinner party was usually some type of make ahead casserole, never mind the calories. Now that the weather is turning cool,   you might want to try this nostalgic 60’S Chicken Divan recipe.

The recipe for Chicken Divan had two stages:  The day before, you stewed the bird,  cleaned it off the bone, chopped it up, and saved the broth. This procedure was described in the 1942 edition of the Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book:

STEWED CHICKEN:

Wash the the bird and place it whole in a heavy kettle.  Add cleaned giblets if desired. Cover with water (about 6 cups).  For flavor, add a small carrot, an onion, a stalk of celery.  A small amount of thyme or marjoram may be added, along with a bay leaf.

Cover and simmer gently over low heat 2 hours or until the chicken is tender and meat begins to loosen from the bones. Remove from heat & let it cool breast side down in the stock. While still lukewarm,  skim off fat and remove chicken. Discard skin and bones; slice or dice the meat.  StraIn the stock to use in gravy, sauces, etc. Store chicken and stock in the refrigerator until ready for use.

The next morning after stewing the chicken,   the  60’s housewife cleaned her house and polished her good silver.  Now she was ready to prepare the casserole for the dinner party that evening.  It could be made ahead and kept in the frig until baking after the guests arrived.

CHICKEN DIVAN:

1 stewed chicken, cut in slices..

2  10 oz packages frozen broccoli

2  cans condensed cream of chicken soup

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon  curry powder

1 cup shredded cheese

1 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon melted margarine.

Cook and slice chicken. Cook broccoli until tender; drain. Arrange broccoli in 11 ½ X 7 l/2 X l 1/2 inch baking pan; place chicken on broccoli. Combine soup, mayonnaise, curry powder and cheese; pour over chicken. Combine bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  Makes 6 -8 servings.  If desired, a side dish of your favorite  rice makes a good accompaniment.

Or, if you’re planning to do it ahead,  put the casserole in the refrigerator  until ready to bake.. It may take a few minutes longer to cook before it reaches 160  degrees and is ready to serve.

If you’re a  21st century, working mom, you can simplify this recipe by  substituting  4  poached chicken breasts and cutting them into bite sized pieces. Or, you can use 3 cups of diced, leftover turkey or chicken.

Nostalgic Chicken Divan made with stewed chicken is  still one of the tastiest, easiest, least expensive  recipes you will find.  Stewed chicken also makes delicious chicken and noodles.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR TOMATO PIE

Don’t you love all the fresh tomatoes available at this time of year?  There’s nothing like a ripe, homegrown tomato.  My mouth waters just thinking of how yummy they are. My favorites are the yellow and orange varieties, which have a different flavor.  But no matter what the color, now is the time for easy peasy tomato pie.

Homegrown tomatoes are plentiful. It is time to make tomato pie.
Make this easy peasy tomato pie with luscious, homegrown tomatoes

Since l love yellow and my husband prefers red. I mix the two when I make this recipe, although most will probably just stick to red.  I’ve fooled around with two or three tomato pie recipes, and have come up with the combination that I like best. You can make your own pie crust. If that’s what you prefer.  But packaged pastry  from the supermarket Is much easier.

 

EASY PEASY TOMATO PIE

Pastry for a 1 crust pie, unbaked.

3 large ripe tomatoes

½ cup chopped onion

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil  or 1 teaspoon dried

½ cup  mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, chopped

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

¼ cup dry bread or cracker crumbs.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  To prepare the crust, line a 9 inch pie  pan with pastry.  Prick the side and bottom with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove to a rack, and leave the oven on.

Slice the tomatoes and overlap them in the pie shell. Sprinkle with onion, salt and basil. Stir mayonnaise, garlic, Parmesan and Cheddar together in a small bowl. Spread the mixture over the onions,  and sprinkle with bread or cracker crumbs.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until  golden brown.  Allow pie to cool 10 minutes before serving.  Some prefer it served cold.

Makes 6 servings. About 400 calories per serving.

HOW TO PLEASE A VEGAN

Having grown up in the post depression years, I was taught to eat what was set before me.  Money was scarce, and my parents struggled to put food on the table for their 4 children.  We learned to eat “variety meats” such as hearts, liver, and kidneys.  I still have a fondness for those meats, even though I wouldn’t dare serve them to anyone in my family. But, the times, they are a changing.  Vegans are  sprouting up everywhere, from ages 9 to 90. What should you do when they come to dinner? How to please a vegan?

First, you will have to find out what type of vegetarian you’re talking about.  Strict vegans eat nothing that comes from a mother—including butter, honey and cheese.  Those are the toughest to cook for if you don’t understand that basic rule.  Easier to please vegans are those who will eat eggs, cheese and fish. It’s important to know what their diet allows.

Balck bean, corn & avocado salad is a dish vegetarians enjoy
Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Salad will please vegans.

If you’re cooking for a strict vegan who lives with you, it means you’re going for the long term.  You will have to find ways of providing  plenty of good protein for growth and maintenance of body tissues.  These will come from grains, nuts and legumes. 

Now, what should we old folks do about all of this?  Our own parents would have been horrified at the idea of indulging a vegan child , grandchild., or even a friend coming to dinner.   But as a dietitian, I can’t adopt that attitude.  I know that a vegan diet is a healthy choice, which will lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It won’t necessarily keep your weight down since  vegan diets include lots of carbohydrates in the form of fruits, breads, etc.  But I respect a vegan’s choices. After all,  they are taking responsibility for their own health..

I went on a vegan diet a few years ago, after visiting a cattle feed lot in Nebraska.   When I saw a cow lying dead  from heat exhaustion, I was nauseated with the thought of eating an animal. It was months before I could stand the sight of beef on my plate. But then, my old meat  addiction kicked in, and I started ordering steak at restaurants once again. However,  that experience gave me a new understanding of the vegetarian mindset.

I served this easy recipe at a family gathering that included just one strict vegan. But guess what?  Everyone at the table had seconds!

 

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 (15 1/2 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8.75 oz) can whole kernel sweet corn

1 medium avocado, chopped

6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/4 cup chopped onion

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  (The lime juice helps keep the avocado from turning brown) Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.

 

DESPERATELY SEEKING SWEET CORN

This July was  a bummer for sweet corn in Indiana.     Just a couple years ago, there were farm stands all over the city, with piles of corn just picked that morning. You didn’t have to wonder if it was fresh, because you knew the guy who sold it, and trusted his college age kids who were bagging it and ringing up your sale.

It’s been a bad year for Hoosier farmers.   It rained so long and hard that they  weren’t able to plant corn in May.  Even at the first of June, the ground was still too wet.  They were finally  able to plant in the middle of June, but this was not good news for corn lovers.  The grocery stores had sweet corn over  the 4th of July,  but they imported  it from someplace else, and it was old and starchy.

Seet corn should be fresh picked and cooked for 10 minutes
Serving good sweet corn starts with choosing fresh ears, then cooking to perfection

Serving a delicious ear of corn  on the cob is a two step process.  First, and most important, is making sure that the corn you buy is fresh.  If it’s not, don’t even bother putting it in your basket. I’m always surprised at supermarkets that  sell sweet corn with dried husks and moldy tassels.  More surprisingly is that people will buy it.  Do they not know how good sweet corn should look, and taste?  You don’t just buy sweet corn, you choose it.  The husks should be green and almost damp to the touch, not dry, shriveled, or slightly yellow.

Fresh sweet corn is a heavenly treat, especially when cooked to perfection and slathered with honey butter.  Once you’ve purchased your ears of corn, you must know how to cook it. Over boiling will make it hard and starchy, so it pays to use a timer.  Boil  between 4 and 10 minutes.  

 Sweet corn on the cob is a perfect accompaniment to any entrée—especially salmon.  And it’s easy on the cook.  No peeling of potatoes or steaming of rice.  It’s one of the best things about summer.

HELP! I’M ADDICTED TO WHIPPED TOPPING.

Last night, as I was dishing up strawberries while watching the fireworks, I hit the panic button.  We’re almost out of whipped topping.  If I don’t get to the store today,  we will be watching “Washington Week In Review” tonight with unadorned ice cream or fruit.  Help! I’m addicted to whipped topping.

OLD FASHIONED MILK BOTTLES HAD CREAM AT THE TOP

It all started many years ago, when  milk was delivered to our door with a layer of cream at the top. My parents used it for their coffee, but there was plenty left over for whipped cream.  We had it on pudding, mostly, because that was cheap and easy . And we always had whipped  cream on pie.  I was skinny then, and so was my hard working mother.  But later, it caught up with her, and my older sister, too. The introduction of Dream Whip in 1957 gave them hope.  Dream Whip had only 10 calories in a serving  as compared to 50 calories in whipped cream.

By then, we were buying our milk at the store, and didn’t have the  extra cream, anyway.  My mother was thrilled to have this low calorie substitute.  In addition to using it as a topping,  she had recipes for cheese cake and cream pies and many other desserts. Still, it required some effort to get out the massive mix master and dirty up the bowl and beaters just so we could enjoy ersatz whipped cream.

The best thing that happened for dessert lovers  was the introduction of Cool Whip in 1966. .  No mix master required.  In fact, no mixing at all.  Just scoop it out of the container and enjoy.  A bowl of fresh berries  tasted so much better covered with a cloud of whipped topping. It wasn’t quite as calorie saving as dream whip, but it was low fat, with half the calories of whipped cream.  Now, we have lite whipped topping, which tastes just as good. It dresses up a plain old bowl of sugar free ice cream, even if you’re out of fresh berries.

Whipped topping It’s great for icing cakes, too.   My daughter loves this recipe for pistachio cake, using whipped topping for the frosting.

Pistachio Frosting made with whipped topping is easy and delicious
Pistachio Cake frosted with pistachio whipped topping is easy and delicious

Pistachio cake

1 package yellow cake mix

1 small  (3/4 oz) package instant pistachio pudding mix

4 eggs

1 ¼ cup water

¼ cup oil

½ teaspoon almond extract

7 drops green food coloring.

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased Bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees, 45-50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack.  Frost  with pistachio whipped topping right before serving.

Pistachio Frosting:

1 small package (3/4 oz)instant pistachio pudding mix

½ cup cold milk

1 8 oz. container whipped topping

Mix the pudding mix and cold milk together in a mixing bowl.  Be sure the mix is dissolved in the milk before adding the whipped topping; ; otherwise the frosting will be gritty.

This frosting is great for holidays.   Sprinkle it with red sugar at Christmas.  Make it pink at Easter with some red food coloring.  Or serve it just plain green on St. Patrick’s day.

Hooray for whipped topping!

MAMA LUCIA’S SPAGHETTI SAUCE

Back in the 60’s, I was a full time housewife in suburban Chicago.   I drove my husband to the commuter train each morning with the kids in the back seat, then returned home to take care of my children and keep house.  There weren’t many working wives in those days.  Needless to say, I did much more cooking from scratch.   But even after I became a working mom, I still fixed batches of spaghetti sauce on the weekends and stored what was left in the freezer.  It only needed an hour of simmering, but I liked the way it filled the house with a delicious fragrance, so I kept it on the stove for 2 hours or more.  Here is my  recipe for Mama Lucia’s Spaghetti Sauce.

You could make it with ground chuck, but I prefer using very lean ground beef.  It’s a  bit more expensive, but the low fat health benefits are worth the cost.  What gives the sauce its special flavors are the red wine and a pinch of cinnamon.

MAMA LUCIA’S  RED WINE SPAGHETTI SAUCE

One batch of this spaghetti sauce will make three or four meals
Red wine and a pinch of cinnamon makes this Spaghetti Sauce special

INGREDIENTS:

1  lb.  94% lean ground beef

¼ cup olive oil

1 half  onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon oregano

2 Tablespoons  basil

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes

2 6 oz cans tomato paste

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 bay leaf

½ cup red wine

Crumble the ground beef into small pieces while you saute in olive oil with garlic and onion.  Add rest of ingredients, and simmer 1-4 hours.

If you simmer the sauce longer than 2 hours, it may begin to thicken too much.  If that happens, stir in a little water to thin it down.

Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving over cooked pasta. .

There will be a lot of leftover sauce..  Spoon it  into quart zip lock freezer bags and ,lay them flat so that you can stack them neatly after frozen.   Now, you have 3 or 4 quick meals to pull out of the freezer on busy days.

Once you taste this heart healthy recipe,  you will never buy bottled spaghetti sauce again.