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.


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. 


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.