Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken Wonton Cups

Thankfully, things are looking better than expected with the flood in Fargo-Moorhead. The weather ended up being colder than predicted, which slowed the rise of the Red River and helped keep the river level quite a bit lower than forecasted.

The river still did set a new crest record, however, and our communities are certainly not out of danger yet. Everyone is diligently watching the levees and dikes for any breaches, and some leaks can’t be contained until they’ve done considerable damage. To add insult to injury, we’re supposed to get another 8 to 12 inches of snow in the next few days.

We’ve been exceptionally fortunate. Almost everyone we know is still high and dry, which seems miraculous. And I am so proud of the people in our communities. Not surprised, but proud. The hubby was listening to a press conference today in which our city’s mayor said that FEMA was strongly urging him to evacuate the entire city. The major responded by saying (and I’m paraphrasing here, so bear with me), that it’s not necessary because the people of Fargo-Moorhead don’t give up, and they’re not going to stop helping each other. And that has proven true.

The hubby and I moved quite a few things out of our basement, as a precaution, and we still have bags packed and ready to grab on a moment’s notice in case anything happens. I have to admit, I was tempted to flee town. I didn’t want to wait until the point when we couldn’t bring our animals with us.

I could never leave these guys behind.

They love me more than anyone else does. It's addicting.

OK, so I could never leave her behind, either.

Even though most of the time, she could really give a rat’s patootie that I’m around.

But it’s looking like it won’t come to that, for which we’re eternally grateful.

That being said, everyone is ex-haus-ted. From sandbagging, moving belongings, even just dealing with the tension and stress. Even now, when we’re in “wait and see mode,” it’s difficult to relax. Last night our friends Dave and Sarah invited us over for supper. Might as well watch and wait with friends, right?

Sarah asked me to bring an appetizer, and I was hungry for something light and Asian, so I made some chicken wonton cups. The wonton wrappers are baked in mini muffin tins, making them the perfect receptacle for a variety of fillings. And perfect for munching while the main course is cooking.

Chicken Wonton Cups
Makes 4 dozen

Cooking spray
48 wonton wrappers
2½ c. chopped cooked chicken
Salt and pepper
1 c. coleslaw mix, chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1½ Tbsp. brown sugar
1½ tsp. dark sesame oil
1½ tsp. sriracha (chile paste)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
¾ c. chicken broth
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray, and place one wonton wrapper in each cup, forming a little bowl.

2. Spray wrappers with additional cooking spray, and bake 5-7 minutes.

3. Remove wonton wrappers from tins and place upside-down on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray.

4. Bake an additional 5 minutes, until cups are crisp and golden. Remove from baking sheet and let cool.

5. Combine chicken, salt and pepper, coleslaw mix, and green onions in a bowl.

6. In a small saucepan, combine dressing ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until dressing is slightly reduced. Add to chicken mixture. (I didn’t use quite all of my dressing.) Stir in sesame seeds.

7. Spoon a teaspoon or two of filling into each wonton cup. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flood update

For those who haven't heard, Fargo and other parts of North Dakota and Minnesota are under a flood warning. We're expecting the highest river levels in recorded history, which is a pretty frightening thought. Everyone is pitching in -- several schools and universities have even canceled classes so the students can help. (If you'd like to see more local information, visit the in-forum site. For some ongoing flood photos, see the award-winning photojournalism at

I feel useless because I'm not even allowed to look cross-eyed at a sandbag, let alone fill or carry one. So I'm doing my best to stay busy taking care of things around the homestead, and helping my sister-in-law. She's on the other side of the river, and quite close to it. (Not to mention that the heavy rainfalls are wreaking havoc with her basement.)

So expect postings to be infrequent this week, and please keep us all in your prayers. At this point, we're all just crossing our fingers that the dikes and levees will be high and strong enough to contain the rivers.

I spent most of my evening attempting to clear out a portion of our basement, one light basketful at a time. And then the hubby and I photographed the contents of our house. Just in case.

And then I photographed the contents of my plate.

The reward for my hard work was a glorious piece of fudge truffle cheesecake.

So cruel, I know. If you'd like to help clear out my basement, you can have some, too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mandarin Salad

What a weird day.

The hubby and I slept in – in, in, in – this morning, which is unusual. But I had an especially strong tension headache last night and I kept both of us awake with my tossing and turning. And possibly whining. I’m pretty sure there was whining involved. (Mine, not his.)

So we got up today just in time to start lunch. Which the hubby graciously made, because I was too busy eating Tylenol.

And then my dad called. T’was not a social call.

My dad is one of those Really Good People who devotes his time to helping others. Specifically, he works with kids to help them make safe and healthy lifestyle choices. He does this full-time – if 80-100 hours per week is full-time – and spends about half his time on the road. We miss him, but we know he’s doing something important and making a difference.

Which is why it’s so hard to say no when he asks a favor of us. Even though we’re not nearly as kind as he is. Today, he happened to call while I was sick and still in my jammies (with no plans to leave them), and asked if we could pick up one of his keynote speakers at the airport and drive her 90 miles to his organization’s state conference. I said yes because I love my daddy, even though I’m horrendously shy and still obey the No Talking to Strangers rule.

But it all worked out. The hubby offered to drive (rather than having his sick, pregnant, non-medicated narcoleptic wife doing so), the speaker was friendly and gracious, and no one minded that I slept most of the trip.

So we left Fargo – where we’re in a flood warning – and drove through heavy rains and dense fog to Jamestown (which couldn’t receive any flights due to high winds), and discovered that there is a blizzard watch in the western portion of the state, so my dad was stressing about getting his kids home safely before then. North Dakota weather certainly keeps us on our toes.

We didn’t get home until a few hours after supper, and the hubby immediately went to his sister’s to help with the water she’s getting in her basement. So his long day is not yet over. (I’m snuggled on the couch, back in my jammies.)

This busy day did have its high points:
  • I helped make my dad’s day a little less stressed, and I got to unexpectedly see him, my brother, and my cousin Ethan.
  • Our brand-spankin’-new sump pump works like a charm. Every two or three minutes, in fact.
  • I ate fudge truffle cheesecake (it cures what ails you) and mandarin salad, the latter of which is a lightly dressed, healthy Asian salad that reminds me that summer is just around the corner.

Mandarin Salad
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar or sugar substitute (such as Splenda or Equal)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

10 oz. chopped romaine lettuce
1 cucumber, thinly sliced (and peeled, if desired)
1 carrot, peeled, then thinly sliced using a vegetable peeler
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

1. Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Combined vegetables and oranges in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

I woke up this morning hungry for actual food. Not just some weird combination, like granola bars and celery. Or my orange foods, which have been my staples as of late (navel oranges, baby carrots, Cheetos, and Frosted Mini-Wheats – the ones in the orange box). But an honest to God, actual meal with meat and vegetables.

Except any sort of cooked green vegetable. O spinach, why hast thou forsaken me? We were having supper with our friends Jay and Donna the other night, and the hubby had some sort of ravioli with spinach and asparagus. I almost moved to another table. This blog is now spinach- and asparagus-free for the foreseeable future.

So back to the shawarma. I had some chicken thawed in the fridge this morning, and in about 10 minutes I had it sliced and marinating in a tangy, slightly spicy yogurt sauce, ready to be thrown on the grill or in the broiler when I got home from work. And by the time the hubby arrived home, a lovely meal would be awaiting him and we could enjoy our meal while watching some basketball. (Yes, I’m a romantic.)

This was a good plan. Except that I couldn’t get the grill started. (There are like three tricks to doing so.) I got rusty in the grilling off-season. So when the hubby got home, there was a cutting board full of raw veggies awaiting him, some raw chicken on the grill, and a stomping-mad wife determined to go find a new grill RIGHT NOW.

The hubby is so sweet. He fixed the grill, waited patiently for supper, told me the shawarma was very good, and then did the dishes and cleaned my kitchen.

And now, he’s cleaning my bathroom. While I watch basketball. I'm swooning.

Grilled Chicken Shawarma
Makes 8 sandwiches

1 c. plain yogurt (I use fat-free)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely minced onion
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Dash of ground nutmeg
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
8 pita breads
½ c. plain yogurt
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl or resealable bag. Add chicken. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

2. Remove chicken from marinade and grill in grill pan over medium-high heat (or broil) about 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Get all your veggies laid out for piling.

4. Heat pita bread on both sides on grill or in a dry frying pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. You just want the bread to warm through and get slightly toasty.

About the pita bread: Buy the good stuff. I’ve said before, but it’s important. My local supermarket carries a brand called Pita Bakery that I’m obsessed with. Find some pitas that obsess you, too.

5. Spread about 1 Tbsp. yogurt on the pita, and top with veggies and chicken.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I’ve been a slacker

My postings have been sporadic at best these days, and I apologize. The hubby and I have been cooking, although not quite as often as usual, and we’ve been making some of our favorites rather than trying a lot of new things.

You see, we are going to be having a wee one. A bebe.

We feel pretty lucky. It’s the culmination of more than five years of attempting. We tried everything. We had seemingly every procedure and test under the sun, and even needed a surgery. And in between, we waited.

And then last fall, we were finally at the point where we could attempt in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for the first time. Since the day after Christmas, I’ve had 14 prescriptions, 16 doctor appointments, and 138 shots – most of them in my derriere, administered by the hubby.

The hubby’s a pro. He practices on turkeys.

Seriously, look at that technique. And yes, my syringes are almost that big.

In the end, surprisingly – miraculously – it worked. (And we’re only having one, not eight.) We’ve decided that science is indeed very, very cool.

Now, the down side to all this is that I’m having some issues with food. I haven’t really liked it so much the past few months. On any given day, there might be two or three foods that don’t make me think “blech.” One day it might be fresh pineapple, Milk Duds, and an Arby’s roast beef sandwich. The next day, I will politely decline the hubby’s offer of scampi because I MUST have a chili cheese burrito from Taco Bell.

It’s meal-planning Hell, I say.

My appetite is definitely starting to return, but my issue now is that I don’t like the smell of food. At all. So it’s difficult to cook when, by the time I’m done making the dish, the smell has so turned me off that I can’t even think of ingesting it.

Which is disappointing, because this is kind of my free pass to eat anything, or so I hear.

So I’m hoping that this phase ends soon, because I’m so hungry most days that the hubby is inquiring as to the possibility of hooking me up to a solid-food IV.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Storm update

The big storm is over, and I think everyone might be finished digging out. And we're looking forward to a week of 45-degree weather to help melt the snow in our yard. Our four-foot fences are buried.

I wanted to post a quick update, because I've been receiving questions about how my family -- especially Cory -- fared. Your concern is touching.

Dad was stranded in Bismarck for two days, then he was stuck in Jamestown until the Interstate opened Wednesday afternoon. He finally got home after 4. He endured well. Every time I spoke with him, he said, "Hi hon, we just got back from eating."

Mom was stuck at home for three days, with only her cats to keep her company. I checked on her a few times, but she was pretty quiet. I'm not sure what went down at the house during that time, but I can picture her pacing in front of the cats, screaming, "They can take my husband. They can take my son. But they can never take my eBay!!!"

Cory did survive, although his tale is one of sacrifice and determination. Here are some snippets from the journal he kept during this harrowing experience:

Tuesday, 2:00 PM: Day 2 looms before me like an abyss. There is no sound quite as lonely as that of the howling wind, and I have nothing but the stench of my own filth to keep me company. Cool, my girlfriend's on Skype!

5:00 PM: The wind continues to blow, and the snow drifts continue to pile up. I need to do my best to conserve my energy and my body heat. After I go take pics of my car.

6:00 PM: My food stores are running very low. After eating my last frozen pizza for lunch, I am savoring the last of my Stop 'n' Go sandwiches for supper. All that is left of my provisions is a bag of microwave popcorn, which I must carefully ration in order to see my way through this ordeal.

7:00 PM: Awesome, North Dakota State is playing on ESPN2. Gotta make some popcorn!

Wednesday, 3:00 AM: After a long day of video production work, my mind and body grow weary. I'll just curl up again on my office floor, using my jacket as a pillow. I'm thankful that narcolepsy runs in my family.

8:15 AM: Woo-hoo, first one at the office again today. Take that, suckas! Speaking of suckers, I just found a Tootsie Pop for breakfast!

The hubby eventually showed up to help shovel him out and get his car unstuck. Cory stayed at the office until "normal time," at which point I'd like to believe he went home and immediately jumped in the shower.

I'd like to believe it, but I don't.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Almost everything in the area was shut down today for the blizzard, so the hubby and I were both at home. One of us was still able to work, while the other played DragonQuest on the Nintendo DS. I’ll let you guess who did what.

I was hungry for lasagna today but didn’t have much time for assembly, nor did I have any fresh mozzarella on hand. And I NEED fresh mozzarella in my lasagna. Like a fish needs water.

So I decided to assemble my lasagna in the slow cooker. It’s a bit easier to throw together, and it could just cook away all day while the hubby and I worked and completed heroic missions.

All in all, the lasagna was quite good. It didn’t have the same texture as traditional lasagna – and was decidedly less structured – but still had the same flavor. Although the next time I make this, I’m still using the fresh mozzarella.

My life was so empty before I discovered fresh mozzarella.

Slow-Cooker Lasagna
Serves 8-10

1 lb. hamburger
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt
2 26-oz. jars spaghetti sauce
1 22-oz. container cottage cheese
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
½ tsp. dried oregano
8-10 lasagna noodles (uncooked)
2 c. shredded mozzarella or 8 oz. sliced fresh mozzarella

1. Brown hamburger over medium-high heat, seasoning with salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt. Add spaghetti sauce and heat through.

2. Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, and dried oregano.

Speaking of my favorite red bowls, here’s a nice little feel-good tidbit. So I got these Zak bowls for Christmas from my dear mom, and I love them. Plus, they’re eco-friendly. About a month ago, a freak accident occurred. I was getting a cookie container out of the pantry cupboard, and a Rubbermaid cake container fell off the top shelf, bounced off my head, and knocked my nested bowls off the counter. (Yes, that old excuse.) And one of the bowls shattered on the floor.

I bawled. For like an hour. And attempted to find a replacement bowl online. No dice, you can only buy the set. So I contacted the company and asked if I could purchase a single replacement bowl, as mine was lying on the ceramic tile in several pieces.

The representative asked for my address, and sent me a brand-new replacement SET of bowls. Free of charge. Because she felt bad. Isn’t that the nicest thing ever?

But I digress. Where was I? Ah, right. Lasagna.

3. Ladle about a cup of sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker, and top with 1/3 the noodles. (You’ll probably have to break them and arrange them awkwardly; it’s freeform art.) Top with 1/3 the remaining sauce, ½ the cottage cheese, and 1 c. mozzarella.

4. Top with another 1/3 of the noodles and sauce, and the remaining cottage cheese and mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles, and pour remaining sauce over the top.

5. Cover and cook on low about 6 hours, or until noodles are tender. (You can top with some additional mozzarella shortly before it’s done, as well.)

6. Let cool slightly before serving.

See what I mean by free-form? Like a regular lasagna tipped. But it still tastes the same.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

We have ourselves a lovely storm here in the north country. Today was our winter weather advisory, with snow all day and a lot of wind. The interstate is already closed. And tomorrow is our actual blizzard warning.

Whenever bad weather sits in, my family and the hubby’s family checks on each other, just to make sure everyone got home safe and sound. Just the usual, “Hey, did you make both make it home OK? And you’ve got food? And your snowblower’s running? OK, stay home and stay warm.” No big deal. We like each other ‘n’ stuff.

And we’re all used to North Dakota winters, so we don’t generally engage in risky behavior – like “driving” or “leaving the house” – when we know bad weather is on its way.

Except my dad. I called him this morning and he was on the road to Bismarck (about four hours to the west), and said he HAD to make it back home today. Yeah, he'll be there until Wednesday.

And then there’s Cory, my little brother. He didn’t venture quite as far – just the half-mile or so to his office, which he shares with the hubby and my dad. And, while the hubby made it the 40 miles home this afternoon, Cory is stranded at the office. Likely until Wednesday.

My mother is fretting. She wants him to call the police because she’s afraid he’ll starve or freeze or die of loneliness. (Or maybe she’s afraid that SHE will starve or freeze or die of loneliness).

Cory will have to somehow make do with what he’s got – a pizza oven, popcorn machine, computer, phone, TV, working toilet, stocked fridge, stash of candy bars, and 24-hour convenience store next door. Seriously, it’s like Survivor: Hillsboro.

He might even find a volleyball to befriend. The only thing he doesn’t have is a shower. But let’s be honest. It’s not like neglecting to bathe for a few days will be a break from the routine. (Ooh, snap! A big sis never forgets her little brother’s fourth-grade hygiene habits.)

I hope Cory makes it until Wednesday. I'm overcome with worry. I mean, if not for his occasional Facebook status updates, I wouldn’t even know he’s alive. Hang in there, Cor.

Meanwhile, let’s make cookies!

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

1 c. butter-flavored shortening
1½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1½ c. flour
2 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
1 bag Guittard milk chocolate chips (or other chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Using a mixer, beat together shortening and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.

3. Add salt, baking soda, and flour, and mix until combined. Add oats and mix thoroughly.

4. Stir in chocolate chips. (I love the Guittard chocolate chips. They’re ginormous and yummy.)

5. Take heaping tablespoons of dough and form them into flattened balls. Place on a cookie sheet.

Yes, my cookie sheets are ancient. And I love ‘em.

6. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let sit on pan five minutes, and then remove to cooling racks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Do you ever get a hankering for something you’ve never actually eaten, but that you’re absolutely sure will be wonderful, and it’s so good that you can almost taste it, and you will, if you can just figure out how to make it?

No? We’ll just pretend that was a rhetorical question.

This happens to me a lot. I get hungry for bits and pieces of various recipes, but combined in new ways. Last week I was absolutely starving for chicken pot pie soup. Which I’ve never eaten. But I HAD to have some. We were out of town visiting my mother-in-law, so today was my first chance to try it.

I know the concept of chicken pot pie soup is pretty well known. You’ve got your soup that tastes like chicken pot pie filling, and then some sort of topping – biscuits, puff pastry, pie crust, etc.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m picky about soups – chicken soups, in particular. Likewise, I’m picky about pot pies. (I know, I know. I’m too picky for a foodie. I’m only human.) I insist on only white meat chicken, and I like a soup or filling that is thicker, but not creamy. (Although you can certainly add milk or cream if that’s your thing; I just like the brothier, lower-fat version.) I wanted a soup that tasted sort of like chicken and dumplings, so I used that as a starting point.

The crust has always been my favorite part of a pot pie, so using traditional pie crust was a must for me. Although I didn't want to deal with an actual crust. So I cut pie crust dough into small pieces and baked them, and kind of used these little dippers like crackers. (Yummy goodness in every bite!)

Lastly, the hubby lives in a pea-free world. Go ahead and throw in a cup of frozen peas if you so desire.

The verdict? One of my favorite. Soups. Ever. No kidding. The hubby heard me say this approximately 37 times during supper.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Serves 4

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
½ medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 Tbsp. butter
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
¼ c. flour1 quart (32 oz.) chicken broth
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut in small chunks
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
1 pie crust dough (can use storebought)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add butter, veggies, and bay leaf. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Add flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes.

4. Add broth to pan, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken and stir. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Cover, and cook 15 minutes or so, or until chicken is cooked through, potatoes and carrots are tender, and soup is thickened.

5. Stir in parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

6. Meanwhile, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut pie crust into small pieces and bake about 8-10 minutes, or until golden.

7. Serve soup with pie crust dippers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beef with Green Peppers

For supper tonight, the hubby and I tried a modified version of a recipe that we tasted during a Chinese cooking class last fall. It’s a pretty simple and mild beef stir-fry with green peppers, nice and light.

This is an excellent weeknight recipe because it comes together quickly. It cooks very fast, however, so as with most stir-fry recipes, you want to prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking. (You’ll only have about five minutes from start to finish with the cooking time.)

The flavor of the garlic, ginger, and sesame oil really pop out in this stir-fry. Use the dark sesame oil, because the flavor and fragrance is so much more intense. As I was preparing my ingredients, I told the hubby how much I love the smell of sesame oil. About a half-hour later, he leaned over to talk to me, and I noticed he’d slathered some on.

I do love a man in dark sesame oil.

Beef with Green Peppers
Serves 4

2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1¼ lb. steak, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 large green bell peppers, seeded and cubed
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ c. water

1. Combine marinade ingredients. Add to beef and marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until brown.

3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Push beef to sides of wok and add garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until brown, about 30 seconds.

4. Add peppers and stir-fry 2-3 minutes, or until peppers are crisp-tender.

5. Meanwhile, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Add to wok and cook about 1 minute.

6. Combine cornstarch and water. Add to wok and cook until sauce thickens (which should be almost right away).

7. Remove from heat, and serve stir-fry with rice.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beef Enchiladas

The hubby was craving General Tso’s for supper tonight. I really wanted enchiladas. The hubby’s into coddling me these days, so I won. (Am I mean? I feel mean.) Although, I did offer to cook AND clean up the kitchen.

I love enchiladas, and I probably order them 90% of the time when we go out to Mexican restaurants. My favorites are beef and cheese, and I try to order one of each because the beef always seems a bit too beefy, and the cheese is too cheesy. But if you combine them, it’s perfect.

I’m also rather picky about my enchilada sauce. The red stuff that you can buy in a can is okay, and I use it on occasion in other recipes. But I don’t like it on my enchiladas. (I’m weird. On so many levels.)

A Mexican restaurant in town – Guadalajara, for the locals – has one of the best enchilada sauces I’ve ever tasted. It’s a lot beefier and thinner than most, and has this yummy, salty, flavor. The restaurant seems to move around a lot, and it also seem to be closed for employment violations on a regular basis, but if you can manage to find it when it’s open, give it a try.

This sauce combines a more traditional red enchilada sauce with that beefier, saltier flavor. I thought it would go really well with the beef and cheese filling, because it still has enough tomato flavor to complement the beef.

I made these a bit spicy to please the hubby, who’s usually not much of an enchilada man. (They got the thumbs-up.) Feel free to omit the crushed red pepper flakes and the cayenne if you want things a bit milder.

Beef Enchiladas
Serves 4-6

1 lb. hamburger
Salt and pepper
1 pkg. spicy taco seasoning, or 1 pkg. regular taco seasoning and ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

½ Tbsp. butter
3 tsp. flour
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
2 c. beef broth
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tsp. chili powder
1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. taco seasoning (or 1 additional tsp. cumin)
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

10-12 7” flour or corn tortillas (I prefer flour)
2 c. shredded Colby-Jack or cheddar cheese
Assorted toppings for serving, such as lettuce tomato, sour cream, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Ask someone else to add the hamburger to a frying pan. I asked the hubby.

3. Brown hamburger and season with salt and pepper. Combine with taco seasoning according to package directions, and add crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

4. Meanwhile, heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in flour to form a roux. (This will slightly thicken the sauce.)

5. Add beef broth, stirring with a whisk to remove any lumps. Add tomato sauce and seasonings. Simmer over medium heat for a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer.

6. Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. (I used a smaller dish because I was only making a half-batch this evening.)

7. Heat a tortilla in the microwave for about 10 seconds. (You could instead dip them in warm oil briefly to soften them, but this method is faster, cleaner, and healthier.)

8. Add a few tablespoons of beef and cheese, and roll tightly. Place seam-side down in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

9. Cover with a few ladles of sauce, and then bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with additional sauce, and sprinkle with cheese.

10. Serve nude.

Or dressed up.