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Hello once again my friends. It seems like it was just yesterday we were talking about hummus and how growing our food variety can add so many new flavors and tastes into our lives.
I talk a lot, in these articles and in cooking classes I teach about staying out of the food rut. We all tend to get into that rut at one time or another. That place where we are making the same things over and over and nothing seems to taste good. There are of course several ways to get out of that rut when we find ourselves stuck there. One of those ways is to incorporate new foods and new flavors.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been teaching a class somewhere and when I mention a new food or a different recipe, the first thing people say is, “That’s too complicated.” Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that, I would probably have enough dollars to buy a nice meal. Or a few gallons of gas. But seriously, it happens a lot.
We tend to develop preconceived notions of food and of recipes before we’ve ever even tried to make them. Some people saw an article or heard from a friend how bad the experience was and, from that point on, there’s just no way they are ever making that dish. One thing that totally comes to mind here is duck.
Now, I must say, I love duck. Duck or goose for that matter. They both have a wonderful texture, great consistency and a bold flavor. Without fail when I mention duck someone in the crowd will say, “I don’t like duck because it’s oily.” I always say, ‘I’ve never had an oily piece of duck.’
That’s true, I haven’t. Maybe I’ve cooked them a different way, but it has that reputation for being oily and that keeps a lot of people from trying it again.
So that brings me to this week’s article. Mexican foods. Whenever I talk about Mexican foods someone will invariably say, “It’s too spicy,” or “It’s too complicated to make because it takes tons of ingredients.” Actually, it’s neither of those.
Spice levels come from what you add to something. If you don’t like spicy foods, don’t add spicy ingredients. As for it being complicated, it’s far from that.
A few years back I taught an authentic Mexican food class with a friend of mine. I was completely surprised at how much flavor they can get from food using so little ingredients and techniques. They utilize herbs, they keep the process simple and they make sure to incorporate things we might normally throw away. For instance, they would boil some chicken breasts and then use that water to make a sauce. That water is infused with the flavors of the chicken, any herbs they added, salt and pepper and so on. Now, all of that flavor is getting added to the sauce.
We tend to cook differently. I have seen people boil chicken, dump the water, then add canned chicken broth to it. Just a different style of cooking.
So, to prove how easy and delicious this food can be, I’m showing a recipe this week that I developed for a food class I was teaching a couple of years ago.
The great thing about this casserole is that it can be made ahead of time and cooked when you need it. It can even be made and frozen for a great meal a month down the road.
Think of this recipe as an easy Mexican version of lasagna. Don’t be afraid to add your own flair to this dish: add extra cilantro or different cheeses. However you do it, I can promise it will be delicious! Don’t forget to check out my website and my Facebook page to see where I will be appearing. Enjoy and eat well always!
2 pounds of lean ground beef (or other ground meat)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 packets of taco seasoning
½ cup of water
2 cans of enchilada sauce (I like to use one red and one green sauce)
16 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
8 ounces of sliced jalapenos, drained (optional)
Sour cream and tomatoes for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet fry the ground beef and the onions until the beef is no longer pink. Add the taco seasoning and the water. Stir well and continue to cook over medium heat until water is absorbed. Remove from heat. In a round baking dish place a thin layer of the ground beef mixture, and pour over a few tablespoons of the enchilada sauce. Top with a tortilla, then repeat layers. Finish with a layer of meat and cheese.
Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is hot and bubbly.
Shawn Keeton is author of the cookbook, “Keeton in the Kitchen, A Celebration of Family, Friends and Food.” He resides in Carrollton, Ky.