Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mexican Cornbread Casserole

Mexican food's great, but it's essentially all the same ingredients, so there's a way you'd have to deal with all these stupid questions. "What is nachos?" "...Nachos? It's tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables." "Oh, well then what is a burrito?" "Tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables." "Well then what is a tostada?" "Tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables." "Well then what is a...."  Jim Gaffigan

Do you remember those JIff boxes of blueberry and apple muffins, assorted cakes, and cornbread sold in the bakery aisle right next to the flour?  When my kids were growing up, I regularly included these in our food budgets to make little treats for them. Back in the day, I could purchase a Jiff box for $0.33 per box plus a little water and maybe an egg.  My kids thought they were delicious.  I loved the convenience and ease of using them in a variety of ways to make our meals more interesting.  Hence, today's recipe of Mexican Cornbread Casserole.  It is a yummy, delicious, vegetarian meal with Mexican flavoring and convenience of a Jiff cornbread box.  In our house, this casserole does not last long.

1 clove garlic
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small can green chilies, chopped
4 cups canned kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and mashed
1 6.5 ounce package cornbread mix (think Jiff, though any will work)
1 small can peas, drained or a handful of frozen peas, thawed
I can Enchilada sauce
1 can cream of celery coup
Olive oil


Very convenient to use this little gadget!
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  If using fresh corn, cut kernels using a small, sharp knife or a corn kernel cutter for lack of a better name.  Set aside. ( Check out the above pictured corn kernel cutter from Pampered Chef.).  As an aside, if you are eating fresh corn on the cob, you can always cut the kernels off any uneaten cobs and freeze to use for recipes later.  Very Kitchen Economical.

3.  In a small bowl mix enchilada sauce and soup til blended well.

4. In a large skillet over medium heat add two tablespoons olive oil, onion and garlic.  Cook until the onion and garlic are softened, stirring occasionally-about 4-6 minutes.  Add the corn bell pepper, green chilies, and peas.  Cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

Mashed Beans
5. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the mashed beans.  Stir in the enchilada mix.  Heat thoroughly for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. While the bean mixture is heating, prepare the cornbread mix according to package instructions.

7. Pour the bean mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.  Spread the cornbread mixture over the beans.  

8.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cornbread is golden.  Check frequently after 20 minutes so as not to burn the cornbread.  Cut into squares to serve.  You may serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on the side to garnish.  Serve with a large green salad with homemade croutons.   Enjoy!

Serves:  4-6
Cost per serving:  $1.85

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jewell of a Pasta Salad

"They want to have their pasta, but they're willing to eat a sensible portion with lots of vegetables."
Keith Ayoob

"Life is too short, and I'm Italian.  I'd much rather eat pasta and drink wine, than be a size zero."  Sophia Bush

When you start to write a food blog, you find that you are always on the look-out for recipes that you can tweak to your own style.  So it was that I found myself sitting at my hair stylist waiting for the color to set and doing some heavy reading from one of my journals, aka People magazine, when her cell phone rang.  She took the call and I heard her rattle off some ingredients, which seemed to be pantry staples, and offered a few cooking suggestions.  When she finished her call, I told her that I was not eavesdropping, but happened to have overheard her conversation and asked her about the recipe she had just shared.  She told me that at every family event she is asked to bring this pasta salad because no one else can make it the way she does.  After a few shared tricks of the recipe I figured this could be a vegetarian pasta salad bonanza with just a little tweaking.  I have already served it several times with rave reviews.  So next time you need to bring a dish to a family event or would like a light, vegetarian pasta salad to serve your family on a hot, summer night do not hesitate to hook yourself up with this delicious, simple, inexpensive, yummy vegetarian food!


1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 package cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 green onions, white and green parts sliced thin
1/3 green pepper, diced
1 can large black olives, sliced in half
1/4 head broccoli, chopped
1/2 package frozen corn
1/2 package frozen peas

1 box tri-colored rotini, cooked to package directions
1 bottle Ranch dressing, lite ore regular
1 package Ranch DIP packet
2 soy Italian Sausages, cooked according to package and sliced thinly

1/4 cup shredded cheese

1.  Slice and Chop veggies according to ingredient instruction.

2.  Prepare noodles according to package directions.  After cooking, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process.

3.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Season to taste.  Sprinkle top with cheese.
"I wonder if anyone ever successfully mixed anti-past with normal pasta.  I bet the reward for that would be huge, possibly interdimensional."  Joel Zimmerman

*Note, you can use any combination of vegetables you may have on hand.
**Be sure the packet is for Ranch Dip, not Ranch dressing as it will affect the final taste.
***Recipe adapted from Angela Jewell of Mango Bay Spa.  She is the greatest hairstylist in the world and she makes an awesome pasta salad!

Preparation Time:  30 minutes
Servings:  4-6
Cost Per Serving:  $1.80

Cheesy Potatoes and Sausage

"My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with."  Oprah Winfrey

My twenty-one year old son recently told me told me that he missed my good ole' fashion cheesy potatoes.  It got me to thinking about comfort food, those recipes that are made in traditional ways and filled with nostalgia.  We often turn to comfort foods when we are yearning for a time gone by, something in our past.  Comfort foods are often flavorful and of a softer consistency and frequently filled with higher  levels of fat and less fiber.  Apple pie, macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, potato salad, cheesy potatoes.....  

"Also, with men, there's a preference toward comfort food that's a little more healthy, like meat, pasta, and potatoes.
Women choose things like chips, cookies, chocolate and cake."  Brian Wansink
So I thought about cheesy potatoes and decided it was time to turn it vegetarian and make it a meal.  The result was this delicious combination of comfort food with a vegetarian twist.  A new standard for comfort food in our house.  It is yummy, delicious vegetarian fare.

"Comfort food is absolutely moving upscale."  Danny Meyer


4 large potatoes, cubed into bite size pieces
2 onions, chopped into bite size pieces
3 ribs celery, sliced thinly
3 carrots, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
handful of mushrooms, halved

1 fresh bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

6 Veggie Italian Sausage Links

1.  Place olive oil in a large heavy skillet.  Saute onions, celery, carrots, green pepper, garlic and herbs til they are soft and fragrant.

2.  Add potatoes to skillet and cook til they are soft and heated through, folding potaoes frequently.

3.  Combine mushroom soup and milk in a small bowl.  Add soup mixture to potatoes, folding in gently.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms and heat thoroughly, folding gently.

4.  Salt and Pepper to taste.

5.  Heat veggie Italian sausage links in a small pan until heated through.

6.  Place potato mixture in an oven proof pan.  Set sausages on top of potatoes.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Broil a couple of minutes to melt and brown cheese.  Watch carefully when potatoes are under the broiler so as not to burn them.
"This recipe came to me like a lightning bolt out of the blue.  I think it is a great way to enjoy well-known comfort foods with a unique and interesting twist."  Ann Ginsberg

Servings:  4-6
Preparation Time:  30 minutes
Cost Per Serving:  $1.86