Friday, April 29, 2022

Shredded Beef Enchilada Casserole

  


It can be a challenge to put together a Cinco de Mayo celebration dinner when the holiday falls on a weekday. This Shredded Beef Enchilada Casserole is a tasty solution. You can assemble it this weekend and have it ready to pop in the oven on May 5th. 

I first made this casserole for my niece and her family. They loved it so much she’s requested it two more times. I even gave her a pan as a Christmas gift! Of course, I made a smaller pan full of goodness as well for Mom and me to enjoy. 

The beef is what puts this recipe over the top. A meaty chuck roast slow cooks until it’s fall-apart delicious. I typically prepare the meat a day before assembling the casserole, and I make more than I’ll need for the recipe to have extra shredded beef for tacos, burrito bowls, and barbecue sandwiches.


As I said, you can make this entire casserole a day or two ahead of time. Just assemble, cover, and store in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. (If frozen, unthaw the casserole before baking.) 




Also, here’s a link to recipes I got while in Mexico for Mango Margarita, Guacamole, and Drunken Salsa to complete the meal.


Divertirse!





Shredded Beef Enchilada Casserole

Serves 8

For the beef:

3-pound chuck roast

1 10-ounce can Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups beef broth.

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 28-ounce can red enchilada sauce

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the casserole:

18 6-inch corn tortillas

3 cups grated cheddar cheese, or cheese of choice

To prepare the beef:

The day before serving, place the beef into a slow cooker. Add the Rotel, cumin, onion, and beef broth. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the meat can be shredded. When the meat is fully cooked, remove it from the slow cooker into a bowl. Using two forks, shred the beef. Strain the tomatoes and onions from the broth in the slow cooker and stir them into the beef. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To prepare the sauce:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and allow it to cook for 1 minute. Pour in the enchilada sauce and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add salt and pepper if needed, and keep the sauce warm while assembling the casserole.

To assemble:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1/2-cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, and then lay 6 of the tortillas over the sauce. Next, add a layer of the meat mixture and a layer of shredded cheese. Repeat with another layer of sauce, tortillas, meat, cheese, and sauce. Add the final 6 tortillas on top. Cover with a layer of sauce and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Note: I make the beef in a slow cooker a day or more ahead of time. Also, defrost a frozen casserole before baking. You may need to add some extra baking time to make sure the dish is heated all the way through. 



Monday, April 11, 2022

Foods at the Last Supper

 


As Christians worldwide enter Holy Week, our thoughts turn to those last days of Jesus’s life. Have you ever wondered what was served at the Last Supper? Recently I taught a Sunday School class on the topic. We all know bread and wine made an appearance, which Christ transformed into the Holy Eucharist. But there was more food served at the meal.

Scholars debate about whether or not the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. While verses found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about the meal taking place on the first day of Unleavened Bread, the Book of John seems to depict the meal and Jesus’s crucifixion occurring before the start of Passover. 

The book The Origins of the Seder: The Passover Rite and Early Rabbinic Judaism, written by Baruch Bokser, says scholars disagree on the answer. It notes, “The current state of scholarship tends to argue against the identification of the Last Supper as a Seder.”

An article in The Jerusalem Post published on 4/13/2014 notes, "The truth may be that though the last supper took place shortly before Passover, it was not a seder at all but a talk-feast, a meeting of the fellowship – the havurah – which Jesus constituted with his disciples. The participants would have said the regular blessings over bread and wine, as well as the grace after meals, like devout Jews at any meal: important elements, to be sure, but on their own they do not add up to a Seder."

So, just what did Jesus and the disciples eat at the meal? In 2015, archaeologists Generoso Urciuoli and Marta Berogno released a study that concluded the Last Supper would have consisted of:

  • Cholent, a stew of beans, potatoes, and beef, is started on Friday afternoon and allowed to cook overnight to be eaten at noon on the Sabbath. Jews still eat versions of this today. (Check out this recipe from the New York Times.)
  • Bitter herbs, which symbolize the bitterness and harshness of the slavery that the Hebrews endured in Egypt.
  • Charoset, also known as haroseth, a chunky fruit and nut paste. 
  • Unleavened bread and wine, of course.

One thing missing was lamb. In 2007, Pope Benedict XV stated lamb was not served at the Last Supper since the meal took place before the ritual sacrifice of the paschal lambs. Jesus took the place of the lambs. This announcement lends credence to the idea the dinner wasn’t a Passover seder. 

There were two things about the Last Supper menu I found intriguing. One was the charoset. I saw many recipes online made with apples, but since only crabapples were common in the first-century Mediterranean area, I adapted a recipe made with dried fruit. Most also used Mederia or dry sherry, but I went with lemon juice. The result is a mixture similar to a chunky jam. It was a hit in my household! The charoset also tastes great on buttered toast and in peanut butter sandwiches.


I was also curious about unleavened bread. I know it is common for Jews to celebrate Passover with matzah (also spelled matzo and matza), an unleavened flatbread you can find in most grocery stores. However, I wanted to try making it myself.



The unleavened bread doesn’t have much flavor, which makes sense when you consider it was used in Jesus’s time as a utensil to scoop food out of bowls. It would be the perfect accompaniment to cholent, and it tasted great slathered with charoset. 





As we approach the Easter celebration, I hope this information brings more meaning and insight to your Holy Week devotions.  

Unleavened Bread

Serves 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup water

Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook attachment, mix until the dough comes together and is kneaded until smooth, 4-6 minutes total. (Or knead together by hand until dough forms a smooth ball.) Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece flat into an oblong shape that is 1/8 to 1/4-inches thick. When all the pieces are rolled out, cover with a clean kitchen towel so they don’t dry out.

Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Place a flattened piece of dough into the hot skillet. Allow to cook until it starts to brown and puff up. Flip and brown the other side. Place on a rack to cool. 

Charoset

Serves 8

4 ounces raisins

4 ounces dried apricots, cut in half

4 ounces dried figs, cut in half

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons lemon juice (or Madeira or dry sherry)

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (almonds or pistachios also work)

Place the dried fruit into a medium bowl and cover it entirely with water. Allow the fruit to soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain off the water and then place the fruit into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except for the walnuts. Pulse until the fruit is coarsely chopped. Add the nuts and pulse a few more times to combine. 

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 




Thursday, March 10, 2022

Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal

  


I know a recipe is a keeper when my 80-year-old mom asks, “Are you going to make it again anytime soon?”

The one she requested this week was for Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal. 


Do you horde fresh cranberries during the holidays? I do. Bags of those little red flavor bombs are primarily stored in the freezer to make my favorite Cranberry Orange Walnut Bread well beyond Christmas.



One cold morning in January, I wondered if I could take those same flavors and put them in baked oatmeal, which is one of our favorite breakfast dishes. After a couple of tries, I came up with this version. I enjoy it with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt on the side.

Don’t have a stash of fresh cranberries? No worries. This dish tastes lovely using either fresh or dried cranberries. 




Don’t like cranberries? No problem. Earlier this week, I made the recipe by swapping out the cranberries for blueberries and the orange zest and juice for lemon. The result was equally tasty! 






Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

2 large eggs

Zest from one large orange

Juice from 1/2 large orange (2-3 tablespoons)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk of choice (I use unsweetened almond milk)

1 cup fresh cranberries or 3/4 cup dried cranberries

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the inside of a casserole dish with about half of the melted butter. Set the remaining butter aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and milk. Stir in the cranberries, oatmeal, and nuts. Finally, mix in the remaining melted butter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes until the surface is lightly golden brown and the center is set. Serve warm and refrigerate any leftovers. 

Option: Swap out cranberries for blueberries and orange zest/juice for lemon. 


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Biblical Multigrain Bread

 



How’s 2022 treating you so far? Sorry I’ve been AWOL for the past few weeks. I had surgery on my wrist, which made cooking and writing a challenge. The wound has now healed and I’m ready to get back at it! 

In December, I taught an adult forum class at my church, Grace Episcopal Cathedral in Topeka, Kansas, on three essential foods of the first-century Mediterranean diet and how they tie into the holidays. The focus of week one was bread.


Do you still eat bread? I’ll be brave and admit I love it! Especially homemade, warm, and slathered with butter. Mmmm… But I know that bread is on many people’s do-not-consume list, with the low-carb craze still going strong. 

Did you know bread was a dietary mainstay during the time of Jesus? It was the most essential component of the first-century Mediterranean diet, made every day and served every meal. 

One person was assigned to bake the bread, usually a female family member or a slave in wealthy families. The bread baker would awaken well before everyone else. Her schedule went something like this:

1. Light the fire in the bread oven. 

2. Grind the wheat into flour. It would take three hours of grinding to make enough flour for bread for five to six people. 

3. Make the dough with a bit of dough saved from the day before for leavening, much like we do today with sourdough bread. 

4. Sweep out the coals from the oven, which at this point would be about 800 degrees. 

5. Bake the bread, saving some of the dough for the next day. 

Bread in that era was indeed the staff of life. Sometimes it was all the poor had to eat. As long as you had bread, you would be okay, which may be why the line in the Lord’s Prayer of “give us this day our daily bread” had such significance. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” it was a powerful message to those listening.


I used the book The Food and Feasts of Jesus by Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh for part of my research, and it includes a wonderful multigrain bread recipe. Instead of adding many different grains, the recipe uses Bob’s Red Mill’s 10 Grain Cereal. I ordered a package online, but you can often find it in natural food stores and some grocery stores.



 

This bread was a big hit in my household, and the students from my class who made it gave it rave reviews. It’s an easy recipe since a mixer does most of the work. I enjoyed slices of this grainy bread with soup, for sandwiches, and toasted for breakfast. 


Biblical Multigrain Bread

Makes 4 small round loaves

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 cup warm water (approx. 110 degrees)

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft or melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 cup whole milk

In the bowl of a mixer, place the yeast and warm water. Let stand for 15 minutes so activate the yeast. Then add the remaining ingredients.

Mix with a dough hook on low-medium speed for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 15 minutes, and then mix again for another 5 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky and springy. Add flour by the tablespoon if too wet, and water by the tablespoon is too dry.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat the top with oil. Cover with a towel and set aside to rise until double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch down. Knead for about 1 minute, then divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into flat, round loaves about 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick in the middle. Place the loaves onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. Cover with floured towels and let rise for 1 hour. After 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. (You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. The center of the bread should be 190 degrees F.) Place them on racks and allow them to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing. 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

 

One evening, while I was escaping the doom-and-gloom news during the pandemic by streaming a British mystery series (I think it was Shakespeare and Hathaway), my ears perked up when someone was offered a Jammie Dodger. What a cool name! But what is it? 

I immediately Googled the term on my phone and discovered it’s a cookie—or biscuit in the U.K. Specifically, it’s a vanilla sandwich cookie filled with raspberry jam. I ordered some from a nearby British goods shop (Brits in Lawrence) and liked them very much, though I will admit the “jam” in the middle was more “gummy” than “jammie.” 

Then in a recent email newsletter from The Happy Foodie (put out by Penguin Books in the U.K.), there was a recipe for Jammie Dodger Blondies from the cookbook Finch Bakery by Lauren and Rachel Finch. Of course, I had to make them! 


Amazon provided me with the mini Jammie Dodgers called for in the recipe. I followed the Finch version precisely, which involved under baking the blondies. The recipe said to bake “until the edges are golden brown and the middle still wobbles.” Once cooled, the blondies are chilled in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving, I assumed to firm up the middle. 


I learned a few lessons from that first try. One, the blondies were more flavorful at room temperature than chilled. By adding 5 minutes to the baking time on my next attempt, the bars cooked through but were not too over-done—no chilling necessary.  Also, while the mini Jammie Dodgers on top were cute, they didn’t add to the flavor. Since most of us here in the U.S. don’t keep these cookies in the pantry, I left them off. I also added almond extract to the batter to enhance the white chocolate flavor.


Trust me when I say these blondies are addictive! Mom and I went through a pan in just a few days! The raspberry jam helps to balance the sweetness of the dense, chewy bar. 

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies will fit right in on a holiday dessert table or as a lovely sweet any time of the year.


Have you ever tried a Jammie Dodger? What did you think? 



Yield: Makes 15 to 18 squares
Author: Linda Ditch
Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

A dense, chewy cookie bar with swirls of raspberry jam and filled with white chocolate chips. The recipe was inspired by Jammie Dodger cookies (biscuits) found in the U.K. and a recipe by Lauren and Rachel Finch.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 ounces white chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup (or honey)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon (15 g) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 ounces (150 g) white chocolate chips (Again, I use Ghirardelli)
  • Topping:
  • 5 ounces (150 g) raspberry jam (I used Bonne Maman)
  • 1 3/4 ounces (50 g) white chocolate chips
  • 12-15 mini Jammie Dodgers (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8 x 12-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. (An 11x7-inch pan would work, though you may need to adjust the cooking tip a bit.)
  2. In a small microwave-safe dish, melt the butter and chocolate. (Mine took 60 seconds) Stir together to combine, and then set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Pour the granular and brown sugars into a mixer bowl, and then add the melted butter/chocolate combination. Mix at medium speed for about 1 minute until well combined and smooth. In a separate dish, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk, and then add to the mixer, along with the golden syrup (or honey), vanilla, and almond extract, and mix into the sugar mixture at low speed until combined.
  5. With the mixer still at low speed, slowly pour in the flour mixture. Stir in until just combined (don’t over mix), and then mix in the white chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Spoon the jam into a piping bag (or plastic zippered bag). Pipe 6 vertical, evenly-spaced lines on top of the batter. Then using the tip of a knife or a skewer, swirl the jam into the top of the batter. Sprinkle the white chocolate chips over the top, and place the mini Jammie Dodgers over the top (if using.)
  7. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the middle seems just set. (The middle may seem slightly underdone.) Place on a rack to cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Chewiest Oatmeal Cookies

  

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when everything started to close and my fears were at their highest, I discovered two delicious things. The first was the chef and author David Lebovitz live streaming cocktail hour from his Pairs apartment each evening (early afternoon here in Kansas) on Instagram. Soon I was hooked on his posts and stories, especially the ones where he unpacked his purchases after trips to the market, complete with details of what was happening on the Paris streets during the lockdown. As he pulled cheese, apricots, plumbs, lettuces, and herbs from their paper bags, I dreamed of experiencing life and eating like a true Parisian.

My daily visits to Chef Lebovitz’s posts lead to my second discovery—his recipe for Cranzac Cookies. I love cookies so full of goodness you can justify eating them for breakfast. Oatmeal, coconut, and dried cranberries tossed with flour and dark brown sugar and then held together with a little (for a cookie) melted butter and golden syrup. Lovely!
 
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made these cookies. I also mix things up by using raisins, dried blueberries or dried cherries instead of dried cranberries. Sometimes a mixture of all three. Mini chocolate chips were also an excellent addition. 

You can find David Lebovitz’s Cranzac Cookie recipe here.  

While I was more than happy with the recipe, I knew many of my friends and family wouldn’t like the coconut. As an experiment, I decided to leave it out and double the amount of oatmeal instead. 

Eureka! The perfect, chewy oatmeal cookie! I went with traditional raisins and added chopped walnuts. I also decreased the amount of brown sugar by 1/4 because the original amount made the cookies a little too sweet for my tastes. 

This all-oatmeal version is now my go-to cookie recipe. The ingredients are pantry staples in my house. No mixer is needed, and the dough comes together in minutes.  Humm, I wonder how diced dried apple would taste? Or maybe dried apricots and pecans? There are so many possibilities… 





Yield: 22 to 24 cookies
Author: Linda Ditch
The Chewiest Oatmeal Cookies

The Chewiest Oatmeal Cookies

This is an all-oatmeal version of David Lebovitz's Cranzac Cookies. While the recipe calls for raisins and walnuts, you can use any dried fruits and nuts you like.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (190 g) old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup (185 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup (175 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) chopped walnuts
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Mix to combine, breaking up any clumps of sugar. Toss in the raisins and walnuts. Add the melted butter, golden syrup, and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir until combined, adding more water to moisten the dough so it holds together when scooped. (I typically use 5 to 6 tablespoons.)
  3. Scoop out about 1 1/2-inch ball of dough (approximately 2 tablespoons) onto the prepared baking sheets. (I use a spring-loaded cookie scoop that looks like a miniature ice cream version.) Since the cookies don’t spread a lot, I can get 12 on a sheet about 1-inch apart. Then use your hand to flatten each scoop of dough about halfway down.
  4. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 14 to 16 minutes, making sure you rotate the pan halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling. The cookies will keep for 5 to 7 days in an airtight container. (I use a gallon zippered plastic bag.)

Notes:

I use Lyles Golden Syrup, also known as light or golden treacle in the UK. Chef Lebovitz’s original Cranzac Cookie recipe suggests substituting with 2 tablespoons agave nectar, rice syrup, or mild-flavored honey, noting it would change the flavor somewhat. I would go with honey since the consistency is very much like golden syrup. However, you can find golden syrup in the import food section of some grocery stores. I buy mine on Amazon.


Note #2: I measured my dry ingredients with a food scale instead of measuring cups.  While I give amounts for both methods, I highly recommend using the scale for the best accuracy. Oxo makes my favorite scale.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Easy Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

 

While tomatoes mean summer to me, tomato soup has been a cold-weather favorite ever since my college roommate introduced me to the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich combo after a day skiing. Whether you enjoy this soup with a sandwich or not, it is a flavorful way to warm up on a chilly day.



Have I told you I share a house with my 80-year-old mom? She moved to Topeka in 2018, so we could be roomies! I love having her here, and we have a deal: I cook, and she empties the dishwasher. LOL One of our favorite meals is soup, which I make no matter the season. Minestrone and chicken-noodle are my typical go-to recipes, but this one for Tomato Basil Soup may jump to the top of the list.







I adapted this recipe from one I found in Autumn by Susan Branch, who I’ve mentioned as one of my favorite authors in a past blog post. I was drawn to this soup because it is soooo easy! It’s the perfect recipe because, once you make it a couple of times, you’ll be able to do so again and again without looking at the recipe because it’s that easy to remember. 








One important tip: Use the highest quality crushed tomatoes possible. I like the flavor of the Cento brand. While cheaper brands are available, you won’t regret spending a few extra cents since the tomatoes take center stage in this soup.






Yield: 4
Author: Linda Ditch
Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup

This luscious soup, adapted from a recipe in Autumn by Susan Branch, is one of those perfect recipes because, once you make it a couple of times, you’ll be able to do so again and again without looking at the recipe. It's that easy...and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I use Cento brand)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Pour the olive oil into a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 to 60 seconds, and then add the remaining ingredients except for the half and half. Bring to simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the half and half, and then add salt and pepper, to taste.