Hi gang. This is my busiest time of the year at my job, so I’ve farmed out my blog to my good friend, Tiff, for a day. We cook the same in a lot of ways, healthy, local, seasonable and sustainable. She’s got a great Mexican meal on tap for you, in case you want to take a trip south of the border to escape this seemingly endless winter.
The idea for this Mexican Lasagna came many years ago from Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals. (Check out her recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/mexican-lasagna-recipe.html ) Since I first started making it, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit, and it’s always different depending on what I have in the fridge. I have added zucchini in the summer or frozen corn when there were no fresh veggies to be found. It’s a very forgiving recipe that is a hit with my family. I am always looking for ways to make our favorites better for us, and this dish is great for hiding lots of veggies. I used locally raised lean burger browned with shredded carrots, onions, and red peppers for the taco filling. A half of a pound of beef goes a long way because I add so many veggies. I added some Pomi chopped tomatoes. I order them from amazon when I am out of canned tomatoes from my garden. They come in a box, so you avoid the acidic tomatoes reacting with the BPA lining of a can. After the meat is browned and the veggies are soft I add taco seasoning. The ingredients recommended at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/ are a nice guideline. I never measure them and it tastes pretty good just by eyeballing it.
I don’t eat meat, so on the side I had a skillet with all of the same ingredients except substituting black beans for the burger. I have also added lentils and quinoa before; both were delicious. I use a glass baking dish. Pour some taco sauce on the bottom and add a layer tortillas. I love the Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas. They don’t hold up well for wraps, but they are perfect for this dish. They are hearty and super healthy. I top the tortillas with filling (just beans for me and a little bit of both for the rest of the crew) and some shredded taco cheese. Repeating the layers until it’s near the top of the pan. Place tortillas on top and cover with salsa, cheese, diced green onions, and jalapeños. Bake at 350° until hot and bubbly.
We eat it with Greek yogurt, salsa, and more jalapeños. My five year old likes to pile his into a hard taco shell. We had this for lunch with a couple friends on Sunday, and the entire dish was nearly devoured.
Now for my recent fixation and the world’s deadliest dessert: Flan.
My husband orders flan regularly at the Mexican restaurant and oohs and aahs about how awesome it is. The last time he ordered it I googled a recipe, and I decided to make it for him. I used a simple recipe that calls for sugar, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla. This dish is nothing like I usually make. With the exception of the farm eggs, it’s horrible for you. (Here’s the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spanish-flan/ ) The first flan was almost perfect. It looked beautiful, but was lacking a little in consistency.
I did a little bit of research and found recommendations for baking in a hot water bath. Just a couple days later and it was time for round two. The worst part of making a flan is melting the sugar. The dry method of just sticking a cup of sugar in the pan and stirring until it melted was time consuming, so I mixed it with water this time. The wet method wasn’t much better. The sugar started to crystallize around the edges of the pan. As I tried to pry those crystals off, I splashed melted sugar over my thumb. I ended up with a horrible burn, but my husband took over and this flan turned out even better. The consistency was definitely getting there, so the hot water bath was a step in the right direction.
Bound and determined to make it perfect, we decided to make another one. My husband had figured out a trick for caramelizing the sugar. Place the sugar in the pan you’re going to bake it in and instead of heating on low, you heat on high for just a minute. We’ve been baking in glass, and he placed it on the stovetop. Holy hell! We should have known better. This resulted in an explosion of glass and melted sugar all over the kitchen. Thankfully, we no one was injured, but it was a massive mess.
I actually cannot even remember if we made another flan that day or not. But we did try again; the flan wouldn’t get the best of us. I was making the Mexican lasagna for lunch with our friends, and we figured it was a perfect time for flan. My husband used a metal baking dish on the stove top and followed the same recipe. Heating on high is definitely the way to caramelize the sugar. It resulted in a very similar taste in about 3 minutes instead of 30. The taste was awesome, but once again the consistency of the custard was just a little off. I had to google some more tips on flan and custard consistency and found recommendations for running through a sieve. I also think I beat the eggs a bit too much. I guess I am still on my quest for making the perfect flan, so if any of you delicious potager readers have tips, then send them my way.
Now, I’m intrigued. I’ve never made flan before, but I’m gonna have to try that method for making it. Thanks so much, Tiff, for taking over for a day.