Nacho Casserole

This is a recipe I’ve had in my cookbook since sometime before 1997. Its previous title never inspired me, but tonight I decided finally to make it, to see whether I’d keep it or rip it out. The result: I’m keeping it.

I have renamed it Nacho Casserole because it really is that good — though it’s much healthier than that name implies. It takes about half an hour to make and half an hour to bake.

Serves 6

1 11-oz. package corn tortillas
1 Tbsp. margarine
3 Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of ground pepper
1 10-oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles
1 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Place tortillas on baking sheets in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they’re crispy. Let cool, then break them apart and reserve. Leave the oven on.

Melt the margarine in a pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Do not brown. Add the chicken stock and milk and, using a whisk, stir until it comes to a boil. Add the seasonings and diced tomatoes, mixing well. Set aside.

In a skillet, brown the turkey and chopped onions. Drain well.

When everything is cooked, lay half the tortilla chips at the bottom of a 2-quart casserole. Spread the turkey over the tortillas, add the chicken stock mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Top with remaining tortilla chips and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Five-Spice Chinese Marinade

I made this with some chicken tonight and everyone loved it. It was easy, fragrant, and delicious, bite after bite.

I adapted the recipe from one I found at Epicurious.

2/3 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup dry Sherry
2 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and add sliced chicken (or beef). Cover and refrigerate, marinating between one and three hours before cooking.

When ready to cook, heat a small amount of oil in a pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry over medium heat until cooked through. At that point, you can serve it straight over white rice or Asian noodles, or add it to vegetables that you stir-fry until warmed through.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

This southwestern chicken salad won my cook-off at home last night. It looks and tastes like a main-dish salad at a restaurant — big, delicious, with bite-size pieces and plenty of crunch. The recipe calls for cooked chicken, which makes this a great way to use up leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers to use, I recommend placing some chicken pieces in boiling water until cooked through, then chopping or shredding it as desired.

Serves 4-5 as main dish

6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
4 oz. corn tortilla chips, crushed by hand, with a few whole chips saved for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. chili sauce (use a thick opaque one — I like Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken meat (from roughly 4 chicken breast halves)
5 green onions, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and rained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced into thin wedges, then halved
2 tomatoes, cut into think wedges, then halved

Line plates or pasta bowls with lettuce, then top with chips. In small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce. Pour into larger mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients, tossing to make sure everything is coated. Place the mixture on top of the chips and Romaine, then garnish with a few whole chips.

For best presentation, pull out some tomato or avocado pieces from the mixture and lay them on top.

Skinny Parmesan Turkey Burgers

This recipe won my turkey burger cookoff in the summer of 2008. They can be grilled or broiled — the directions below are for the oven.

Makes 4 burgers

1 lb. ground turkey (mince)
1 egg white
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the broiler.

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Shape into four patties and flatten between your palms.

When the broiler is hot enough, place the burgers on a greased cookie sheet and broil. Test for doneness before removing from oven; mine took about 10 minutes. You can flip the burgers halfway through cooking if desired.

Stuffed Peppers, Two Ways

In doing a cook-off a while back with stuffed peppers, I came up with two winners, each with a different taste. One has more of a Mexican flavor and the other one is more Italian. I couldn’t decide which to keep, so I kept them both.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Adjust the hot seasonings as you like — you could even add chopped green chilis for an extra kick.

Serves 6

6 large bell peppers
1 lb. ground (minced) beef or turkey
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 8-oz. jar mild Mexican salsa
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (cheddar or hard mozzarella are good substitutes)
Fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cut the tops off the peppers and reserve. Remove the membrane and seeds from inside the peppers.

Put the oil in a pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent. Add turkey, crumble and brown. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Spoon mixture into peppers and cap with pepper tops. Place in a baking pan filled with 1/2 inch of water and bake for 35-40 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

If you prefer, you could replace the sausage with another half-pound of ground beef or turkey.

Makes 4 servings

4 large green bell peppers
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb. ground (minced) beef or turkey
1/2 lb. Italian sausage meat
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 generous tsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Cut off the tops of the peppers but keep them to one side. Remove all membrane and seeds from inside the peppers.

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook through. Remove from heat and stir in herbs, salt, and pepper.

Stuff peppers with meat mixture and cover with tops. Place in ovenproof dish and bake for about 1 hour.

Just before the peppers finish baking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. When peppers are done, pour the sauce over the insides of the peppers and serve.

Turkey Stuffing

It’s way too early to think about Thanksgiving or Christmas, I know. But this, a recipe for the stuffing inside your holiday bird, really is delicious at any time of year — and it’s a great way to use that bit of French baguette you didn’t eat the other day. Frugal cooks, here’s one for you.

You can use it either as stuffing or dressing — the term for stuffing that you cook and serve on its own. And as a dressing, it works great alongside many types of meat, from turkey cutlets to pork sausages.

1 chicken bouillon cube
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 short *stale* French baguettes (in America, you can use 1 bag Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing) — or use the equivalent in stale bread
1 tsp. each sage, oregano, ginger, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, white pepper, and celery seed
2 eggs

If making this as a dressing, preheat oven to 350F/175C.
Dissolve bouillon cube in 1 1/2 cups water and set aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Saute onion and celery until onion is transparent. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put celery mixture in large bowl and add bread and herbs. Combine with wooden spoon. Add eggs.

Add the chicken broth a small amount at a time. Make sure the mixture doesn’t “glop” together; rather, make sure the stuffing still separates when mixed. (You may not need to use all of the broth.)

To serve as turkey dressing, place mixture in casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. To serve as stuffing, place inside bird.