Pantry Cooking: Mexican Food!


We frugal foodies have unique challenges that normal shoppers don’t.  This little segment aims to help by offering:

  • Stockpile-cooking ideas
  • Clever Casseroles in which to hide your leftovers from the hubby & kids
  • Kitchen tips & tricks
  • Freezer-cooking recipes & planning
  • And really, everything but the kitchen sink!

Our very own “Deal Detective Kim” has generously offered to take the lead on this one (aspiring food writer that she is) – but start thinking up a recipe YOU often turn to, because we’ll be asking for some contributions to keep this new weekly segment running! 
And now, I’ll turn it over to you Kim!

Mexican Food

Jamie promised you a Mexican-themed column, and I couldn’t think of anything for mine this week, so I blatantly STOLE her idea and beat her to the sangri…uh, punch!
I’m starting with one of my favorite go-to dinners, Chicken Enchiladas.  The original came from one of those recipe-a-day email sites, but I changed it here and there, and now it’s pretty much mine.

Chicken Enchiladas:

Once again, I must apologize for my seat-of-my-pants style cooking, because there ARE no real measurements–I taste as I go and add depending on how it tastes.  So the amounts are very much approximate, and as always, feel free to adjust based on your family’s likes and dislikes.  It is easy to adust for family size, too, which I like in a recipe.
  • A couple of cups of cooked, shredded chicken–use what you have, it doesn’t matter what part of the chicken it came from.
  • Sour cream–about a cup
  • Shredded cheese–about 2 cups, divided.  If you like it mild, one of the Mexican blend is good, I like to use Pepper Jack inside & mild Mexican blend on the top.
  • Diced onion, 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  If you want them really soft, cook it for a couple of minutes in a skillet with some oil.
  • Chili powder, cumin, and dried cilantro–about a tablespoon EACH. (Or you could substitute one of those envelopes of taco seasoning!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • A package of tortillas–I prefer the flour ones for this but it’s your food
  • A can or jar of enchilada sauce.  (These vary widely in taste and thickness.  Find what you like and stick with it.)
Preheat oven to 375.  Mix chicken, sour cream, cheese, onion and seasonings in a bowl until well-mixed–it should look kind of like chicken salad.  Take a tortilla, spoon chicken mixture into the center of the tortilla.  Roll it up and place seam-side down in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Repeat until you run out of filling or tortillas.  Pour enchilada sauce evenly over enchiladas.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, and put back in oven, uncovered, until cheese melts.
**Notes: I can’t STAND black olives, but if you like them, I’m sure they’d be good in this.  If you like your food hotter, you could chop up some hot peppers and add those in.  You could also use beans instead of chicken for a tasty vegetarian option, or use browned ground beef if you prefer.  The possibilities are endless!

Make-Your-Own Taco Stand:

Have picky eaters, or maybe just one in your bunch?  (Whine: I don’t like sour cream…I don’t like my food touching…I hate black olives…)  Did you ever think of making a Taco Bar (instead of a Salad Bar) and letting everyone fix his/her own?  (Little kids will probably need help, but bigger kids will have fun with this.)  Take a soft taco dinner kit, a crunchy taco dinner kit, some cheese, some salsa, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, whatever you like/have and line it up on the counter for everyone to serve themselves.  I bought my mom a set of Tortilla Bowl molds and she makes her own Taco Salads at home!  How cool is that?  This could make for a really fun Family Movie Night starter.  And by baking the tortilla bowls, you save a lot of fat and calories (not to mention money!) over the fast food variety, which are generally fried.  If you found a really good buy on tortilla chips, you could make chili and have a Nachos Bar instead.  My Chili recipe is here and Jamie’s Rotel Cheese Dip is here: (can’t find link).

Mexican Lasagna:

Doesn’t this sound good?  Here’s the blueprint:
  • Brown 1 lb. ground beef and 1 medium onion, chopped, in a skillet.
  • Drain off any excess grease
  • add an envelope of taco seasoning mix, and whatever amount of water the envelope calls for
  • Cook it down as you would for tacos.  Meanwhile, spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line the bottom of the dish with tortillas; you can either overlap them or cut to fit.
  • When the meat and taco seasoning is cooked down, add a DRAINED can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and stir.
  • Spoon half the mixture on top of the tortillas, drizzle taco sauce over it, then shredded cheese–either a Mexican blend, some cheddar, whatever you like/have.
  • Repeat the layers and bake until it’s hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes or so.
  • The following are optionals you could put in: guacamole, beans, black olives, jalapeno slices.  You could crunch up some tortilla chips right under the top layer of cheese.
That’s what I like about cooking–it’s very easy to make do with what you have if you know what flavors go together and aren’t afraid to improvise.  My Mom always says the garbageman doesn’t tell on you and it’s ok to have the dog keep a secret or two now and then, as well!!
**Tip alert!!  I keep saying this, but it’s so huge I can’t stress it enough.  The manufacturers pay people to come up with recipes using their products. If you have something you want to use, search for recipes using it on swagbucks and see what you find.  If it’s good, be sure to share!  I went to www.bettycrocker.com and they have a search function–type in one or more ingredients you have on hand and it will FIND things for you to cook with it!!  How awesome is it that Betty’s got our back like that?  I typed in “taco seasoning” and got over 200 recipes!!  (Since Jamie’s deal scenario means we all have plenty!)  I also found this: prizewinning Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie Recipe, since I don’t have a Mexican dessert of my own.   This was a 2007 contest using Betty Crocker cookie mix (how many of THOSE do you have laying around your pantry?) and they had 15 winners and gave away over $10,000!!!   So if you have a really good original recipe that you made up yourself, think about entering one of these contests.  Somebody’s got to win, it might as well be you, right?  I searched Swagbucks for “cooking contest” and found this list of contests and deadlines.  One is even an essay contest, so if you’re literate but culinary challenged, you can still win!  Just imagine yourself standing on a stage somewhere, being handed a check for doing something you do all the time…
I’m still hoping to do a “readers write back” column in the near future, but you guys have to WRITE me something before I can do that!    DealDetectiveKim at gmail dot com
Until next time….



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