First time

Welcome back readers! I think we have been on vacation long enough. After coming back from the OBX, I had to roll up my sleeves and get cooking. We had spent all of our money on a wonderful week! Luckily, I love to cook (and we lack many decent places to eat here), so this was not a problem for me.

Food, for me (if you haven’t noticed), is a passion. Cooking is the same way. I had someone recently say to me that cooking is easy when it is in your heart. And I think that’s true. I’m not afraid to try different combinations of ingredients or spices that I think will be good. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are not. I started teaching myself how to cook about four years ago, when my husband and I first got married. And it’s a learning journey that I hope never ends. Yes, I do look up recipes. And when I first started cooking, I followed them pretty closely (including a cookbook that my family made specifically for me). But now I use these mainly for inspiration, and I rarely follow them to the T. I encourage you, in your own kitchen, to do the same. Let the food speak to you, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

In getting creative with ingredients in the house, I came up with a few recipes I would like to share with you. These will appear in no particular order. I also need to warn you that I’m the kind of cook who doesn’t measure things and who doesn’t write things down (I am trying to get better at this because of this blog!). So I included approximate measurements, but please feel free to adjust as you think is necessary.

The first one I would like to share with you is an enchiladas recipe that I made up a few months ago, and have been tinkering with ever since (I did happen to make this on vacation one night also). I believe I have mastered a very good version, but feel free to keep playing with it (and please share what you do!).

Version made on vacation

You will need:

8-12 burrito shells (I prefer whole wheat, but have also used traditional flour ones and they work well also. I say 8-12 because it depends on which ingredients you choose to add and how large the shells are)

1 can of black beans, with the juices (although I just read that canned beans have a very high sodium content. If you are watching your sodium, you can rinse the beans to reduce the sodium by 35% )

1 package of frozen chopped spinach (can use fresh if you prefer)

1 ½ bell peppers of various colors (or one bag of frozen peppers and onion mix, but I prefer fresh) OPTIONAL

1 package pre-cooked chicken strips OR about 1/4 pound of deli turkey, cut into bite sized pieces-OPTIONAL If you want to keep this vegetarian friendly, omit this part

About 1 cup ranch dressing (reduced fat is fine)

1 medium jar of salsa (whichever kind you prefer is fine)

1 package of shredded cheddar cheese

Juice from one fresh lime

3 tablespoons Cayenne pepper (my husband likes spicy foods. I added the ranch to cut down on the spice. You can use less Cayenne pepper if you like less spicy foods)

2 tablespoons of mesquite seasoning (I use McCormick grill mates)

Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 tbs olive oil

Preheat oven to 275.

If using chicken and/or peppers, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add sliced peppers and chicken (or turkey). Mix in 1 tablespoon of mesquite seasoning and juice from half the lime. Toss in pan. Fry until peppers get warm (a few minutes). Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix the spinach, black beans, 3/4 cup of ranch dressing, ½ jar of salsa, ¾ package of cheese, remaining lime juice, cilantro, mesquite seasoning and cayenne pepper. Mix until ingredients are evenly distributed. Then mix in pepper and chicken mixture (if using). Mix until well distributed.

Grease a 9×11 baking dish. Place mixture along the center of each tortilla shell. Fold and place shells, folded side down, in baking dish. Continue this process until mixture is gone. Don’t be afraid to pack the shells tightly in the pan. A 9×11 dish will hold up to 8 shells. If making 12, I use an 8×8 greased baking dish for the other four.

Top the completed shells with the rest of the cheese. Top with remaining salsa. Then drizzle remaining ranch dressing over the top.

Place the dish in the oven, and bake until the ends of the shells start to turn brown (about 45 minutes). A slow bake on a lower heat creates a nice, evenly crunchy shell. A faster bake on a higher heat will suffice if time is an issue, but the shells will not be as evenly crunchy (ends will get crunchy but the middles will be kind of soggy).

Remove from oven, allow to cool a few moments, and enjoy! Shells can be removed for individual servings with a spatula, but I have not yet mastered doing this (especially with the first one) without having the contents come apart. So it might not look as pretty, but trust me, it is DELICIOUS!!

Single Serving

I recently made these for some friends coming over to dinner. I served it with a large salad (I put some fresh cilantro in the salad), corn on the cob, and taco chips with salsa and guacamole. They were a huge hit!

Dinner Party

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have enjoyed creating and eating it! Stay tuned for more creative dishes imagined in my kitchen. Until next time, bon appetit!