Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Menu Monday: Mexican Lasagna

I am always looking for something new to try. I have eaten several good Mexican Lasagnas. I have made a couple before that we merely "Ok." But, Friday night, I made this concoction and it was declared to be "really good" by both my hubby and youngest son.

Anyway, last week I saw a recipe on Facebook for Mexican Lasagna that sounded good. But, after reading several reviews I decided to make some massive changes.  As in, so massive it was a totally different recipe.

This link will take you to the recipe which inspired me. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/mexican-lasagna?keycode=ZFB0314&utm_content=buffer43886&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

I like to give credit where it is due. In this case, credit goes to the reviewers.  But, hey, I'm still giving credit.  Read the recipe. Read the reviews. Read my recipe. Then, go cook!! You'll be glad you did.


10 Yellow Corn Tortillas
1 pound extra lean ground beef
Onions, chopped  - fresh OR the dried minced kind
Taco Seasoning - 1 pack OR  2-3 Tbsp. of homemade
1 small can chopped green chilies (I use mild)
2 Tbsp salsa (whatever heat your family likes)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese - OR MORE, I err on the side of more. :)
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed OR black beans, drained and rinsed.
2 cans Green Enchilada Sauce
Chili Powder

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Brown ground beef with onions. 
3.  Sprinkle in about 1/2 - 3/4 of the taco seasoning and green chilis.  Stir.
4.  Add about 1/2 can of enchilada sauce.  Mix well.
5.  Rinse the beans.  Put in a bowl.
6.  Sprinkle the remaining taco seasoning over the beans.  Add some onions and salsa.  Mix.
7.  Put the enchilada sauce in a shallow dish for dunking the tortillas.
8.  Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Dunk 3 tortillas and put on the bottom of the dish, overlapping and covering the bottom of the dish.
9.  Spread half the meat mixture over the tortillas. 
10.  Put 1/3 of the cheese over the meat.
11.  Repeat with another layer of dunked tortillas.
12.  Spread the bean mixture over this layer of tortillas, top with 1/3 of the cheese.
13.   Another layer of dunked tortillas.
14.  Spread the remaining meat mixture.  Spoon the last of the enchilada sauce over the top of the casserole.   
15.  Top with the remaining cheese. 
16.  Cut the last tortilla into tiny strips and spread over the top of the casserole.
17.  Sprinkle with Chili powder.
18.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Casserole is done when cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly around the sides.
19.  Serve with your favorite toppings.  May I recommend chopped tomatoes, green onions, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, extra cheese, etc.

***Some notes for next time.  The family and I agree that next time I make this, I should add fresh chopped cilantro, maybe a couple tablespoons, chopped.  I will update and let you know how wonderful it was.  Or wasn't.  :)  If you aren't a fan of cilantro, don't worry.  It's delicious without it. 

I will probably use black beans next time also.  Actually, that was the plan today, but when I went to the pantry No. Black. Beans.  So, I substituted pintos.

Now, time for a cup of coffee.  Typing all this made me very thirsty....   

Friday, March 28, 2014

How Will You Choose?

This has been a hard week for me.

Nothing in particular has happened to make it  a "bad" one. Just life in general. Well, that and a lack of proper focus brought on by what I call "Social Media-itis." 

I have seen so many people posting on Facebook and Twitter about things I want. Places they are going, things they are doing, special events....and I have been having a pity party for myself. 

All. Week. Long.

Until tonight, that is.

Tonight, I was reading a dear friend's status update where she referenced some things her family has had to deal with over the past few months. Then she mentioned discussing with her children that their response to this was UP TO THEM.

They had a choice.  Were these circumstances going to make them Better Or Bitter?

Oh. Wow.  Can we say "Light Bulb Moment" for Susan?  Because it most certainly was.  I can be bitter about things in my life not being as I wish they were.  Things that are totally and completely out of my control.  I can moan and groan and wish for different outcomes for the ones I do control. 


I can be better.  I can choose to see the positives, the many positives in the things I do have. I can choose to work harder and smarter to achieve my dreams.  I can choose to let my light shine. 

What is your choice today? 

My choice right now, today, is to choose JOY.  I choose to be Better. 

And, I choose to have another cup of coffee. 


As my children's middle school counsellor used to say on the announcements every morning.  "Make it a great day. Or not. The choice is UP TO YOU."

Choose well, my friends. 

Oh, if you are wondering, my friend's children are choosing to be better.  I'm so proud of them. They went with the hard choice. But, the right choice. They are growing and maturing and becoming wonderful Godly people - just like their parents. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cooking 101: How to make delicious Southern Mashed Potatoes

As usual, I am writing Monday's blog on Sunday evening since I have obligations on Monday morning. Plus, I like working ahead of schedule as much as possible to prevent not posting - which happened Friday. I am still not sure why I didn't get around to writing then.

Anyway.... back on topic. Again. Today it is cold and rainy. For dinner I made chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, peppered gravy (from a mix) and biscuits. It was delicious.

Since mashed potatoes are wonderfully easy and great comfort foods, I thought I would share with you how I make mine.  This is my version of my Mother's mashed potatoes. And, as we all know, Southern Moms are the BEST cooks in the world.  Mine in particular. I may or may not be biased.

So, with no further ado, here is how to make perfectly wonderful Southern Mashed Potatoes that are light and fluffy and perfect in every way like these.


Don't they look absolutely delicious.
Makes you want to dip into the screen with a spoon and have a bite, right?
Or is it just me?
Since we are now a family of four at our house, I only used 6 small potatoes.
These are Yukon Gold potatoes.
I prefer them for mashed potatoes.
Wash, peel and quarter them, then put them in a pot, cover them with water, and add salt.
Turn them on, cover and boil.
Just like below.

Once the potatoes have boiled and are nice and soft, it's time to drain off the hot water,
add butter, softened cream cheese and milk.

Looks like the beginnings of wonderful, don't you think?

Now that you have everything in there, put the pot back over low heat.
I like to do this so the butter and cream cheese melt into the potatoes nicely.
It also warms the milk so everything blends together beautifully.
Mash, mix, adding additional milk as necessary until the potatoes
are at your families preferred consistency. 
Salt and pepper.
Put in a bowl and serve.
Susan's Southern Mashed Potatoes
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
1. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water. Add salt (not too much).
2. Boil potatoes until soft. About 20 minutes.
3. Test with a fork.
4. When the potatoes are soft, drain.
5. Return potatoes in the pot back over low heat, add butter, cream cheese and a little milk to the pot.
6. Use a fork and begin to mash the potatoes, mixing in the butter, cheese and milk.
7. Continue mashing and mixing until all lumps are gone.
8. Add more milk as necessary to reach desired consistency.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve and enjoy!!
**Note - Only keep over heat for as long as needed to melt the butter. Otherwise, you are going to burn the potatoes. Not very tasty. So, work relatively quickly or go ahead and turn off the heat. Better safe than sorry. 
Hope your family enjoys these potatoes as much as we do!!
***OOPS!!  Sorry I didn't get Monday's blog out until Wednesday. What can I say, life got in the way. I've barely opened my computer since writing this Sunday. Please forgive?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doggie Days..

Bailey's world has been turned upside down today.

There are two men here working on our new HVAC system.  They are going in and out of the house, using power tools and making lots of noise.

Personally, I am thrilled our landlord decided to replace the system. Hopefully, it will be energy efficient.  Please, let the electric bill be lower this summer... 

Oops, back on topic.

Bailey does not know whether to be glad to see them or upset.  She isn't sure if she should protect me or if she should sit in my lap so I can protect her.  Most of the time she is sitting by me on the couch  as I blog, but when they are working on the front porch, she watches out the window and "talks" to them.

I'm not sure what the growls and barks mean, but I'm hoping it's friendly. She's wagging her tail, so I assume she is using nice doggie language.

Since she is still a puppy and unaccustomed to strangers, I am using this time for some intensive training. Especially the command "Stay."

Sam is also having problems dealing with the work being done. It's almost disturbing his sleep.

If only you could hear him snoring...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Menu Monday - Banana Pudding

Pi/Pie day, also known as March 14, was a good day to make dessert. But, I made a pudding, not a pie. Not just any pudding, my hubby's favorite pudding - banana pudding. 

I will be truthful. His mother makes THE BEST banana pudding in the entire world. Over the years, I have tried to duplicate hers....and failed repeatedly. Mine are good.  They just aren't as good as hers. 

Recipe after recipe has been close, but not quite. Finally, I combined elements of my favorite recipes  to develop this recipe. It is the one my hubby requests now. If I put meringue on top, it would be really close to THE BEST. But, my meringue is awful, so I don't make it. 

We all have our Achilles Heel's.  Meringue is mine.  So I top my banana pudding with Whipped Cream, either from a can (like this) or if I'm really channeling Susie Homemaker, I make my own.

Here is how I make "My Banana Pudding"....
First, I crush vanilla wafers.  Some really tiny and some bigger pieces and put them in the bottom of this bowl.

Next, I thinly slice some bananas. My hubby loves bananas and he loves banana pudding, but he doesn't like a lot of bananas IN his pudding.  Go figure. Anyway, today I sliced 1.5 bananas for the pudding.  If the bananas are small, I slice two.

Next, mix the bananas with the vanilla wafers. It makes it easier later when I stir in the pudding. 

Then, I follow my Grandmother's pudding recipe for the pudding. Well, almost. I rarely have cornstarch. So, I substitute all purpose flour for the cornstarch.  
I would love to tell you where Grandmother got her recipe, but I have no idea.  She had a box of recipes that she used frequently. She pulled them out of cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, etc.  This is a copy of one of those pages.

When I make the pudding, I assemble everything by the stove so I can grab it quickly.  First, mix sugar, flour and salt, add the milk and heat. 

When the mixture starts to thicken, put a spoonful in the beaten eggs to temper them.  Scrambled eggs spoil pudding, so this is the best way to do it.  I add a spoonful at a time, until the eggs are warm.  Then, I stir the egg mixture into the pudding.

Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until it thickens.  Then, remove from heat and add butter and vanilla flavoring. Stir until the butter melts.

Now it's time to pour the pudding over the bananas and wafers.  Sorry for the out of focus picture. It was hard to snap a picture AND pour the pudding at the same time. 

Stir pudding into the mixture, smoothing out the top and cleaning off the sides of the bowl.  Doesn't that look yummy?

Time to finish by placing vanilla wafers on top.  Or, if you prefer, top with meringue and broil until the peaks are golden brown.
Serve and enjoy!!

Here are the step by step directions.
Susan's Banana Pudding
1 cup vanilla wafers, crushed
1.5 medium bananas sliced thin
3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp all purpose flour (or 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
2 slightly beaten egg yolks OR 1 well beaten egg (I use a whole egg)

2 Tbsp butter (Use the real thing, you'll be glad you did.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla wafers for topping
Meringue, optional
Whipped topping, optional

Crush the vanilla wafers and put in bottom of a bowl. Slice the banana and mix with wafers.

Next, prepare the pudding.  In a  saucepan, blend sugar, flour and salt; add milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir 1 Tbsp of hot mixture into eggs, adding 1-2 more Tbsp and stirring to temper the eggs.  Then, stir the egg mixture into the hot mixture. Return to heat and cook 2 minutes. 

Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla.  Stir to combine and melt butter.

Pour over banana and wafer mixture, stir. 

Top with vanilla wafers.  Or, if preferred, top with meringue and broil until golden brown.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Refrigerate left overs.