Archive for the ‘comfort food’ Category

If you’re like me (and most non-Hispanic Americans), then Cinco de Mayo is probably just an excuse to get out of the house, shake off the winter funk, drink some cervezas, and eat some Americanized Mexican food at your local “On The Border”.  Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated primarily within Mexican-American communities, and while it is not Mexican Independence Day as many assume, it is still a day rich in meaning and tradition.

Sadly, Cinco de Mayo has become the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day here in many parts of the good ol’ USA.

I’m mostly Dutch and Swedish, so I really don’t have a generational reason to enjoy Cinco de Mayo… I just do.  It holds special meaning for Mr. Dish and me, and I quite enjoy good Mexican food.  And tequila.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday for which I have no valid reason to celebrate, I give you the easiest enchilada recipe you’ve ever made.

Enchiladas Americana

6 twelve-inch flour tortillas (unless you can get your paws on some fresh corn tortillas, in which case, go for it!)

1 16oz package of shredded cheddar/monterey jack/mexican blend cheese

2 small cans of enchilada sauce

1 small can of refried beans

1 container of shredded taco-style chicken (I like the Chi-Chi’s brand in the bright yellow tub… But if you’re a glutton for punishment, 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, shredded, and mixed with a packet of taco seasoning and a bit of water will do.)

sour cream, tomatoes and diced green onions to garnish

cooking spray

Spray a glass or ceramic (metal just won’t do for this recipe…it reacts poorly with tomato products) 9″x13″ casserole dish or lasagna pan with cooking spray.  Be sure to coat the corners and sides well.  Pour half of one can of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the dish.  Preheat oven to 350°.

Place tortillas on a plate under a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds or just until they’re flexible.  Lay them out on your prep surface and spread 2 tbsp refried beans onto each.  Top the beans with 3-4 tbsp of chicken mixture and a very generous pinch of cheese.

I like to fold the ends of my tortillas in burrito-style before rolling them up for a less-messy serving process, but it’s not a necessity.  Place the rolled enchilada in the casserole pan.  Repeat with the remaining 5 tortillas.  Pour the remaining can and a half of sauce on top of the enchiladas, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Cover with foil (tenting with toothpicks if necessary to keep the foil from sticking to the cheese), and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

*Tip:  spray the inside of the foil with a bit of cooking spray before the pan goes in the oven… Foil removal will be easier!

Remove enchiladas from oven and allow to stand at least 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with sour cream, green onions, or tomatoes, and serve with rice.




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It’s cool and rainy and I really want to go fishing.  Unfortunately, however, I am stuck in my small suburban apartment complex doing laundry all day while the birds are singing their hearts out and the lilacs are perfuming the spring breeze.

Stupid domesticity.

I grew up in the woods, so playing barefoot in streams and coming home covered in leeches, building forts in trees and coming home covered in sap, and fishing in whatever body of water had living creatures in it was pretty standard for me as a child.  Since it is generally not acceptable for adults to be building forts (especially when said adults live in the city and don’t have children), these days I stick to fishing… when I can.

When I was a very awkward thirteen years old, my parents decided that we should go on a family fishing trip with another family from church.  Said family lived on a lake, and we all lived in the same, very remote Michigan town full of lakes and streams and summer fishing cottages, so it occurred to me more than once that leaving town to go fishing was a bit odd… but I suppose the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

Then again, the destination was Canada.

We left before dawn, having packed ourselves, our gear, our clothes, and our basic necessities for a week into two fifteen-passenger vans like we were on some sort of school field trip.  I had never been to Canada, but I knew that it couldn’t be that far from where we lived in western Michigan.  …right?

Boy was I wrong.

We drove for hours.  And hours.  And hours.  We drove till the roads ran out of pavement.  We drove till the road signs didn’t have names on them anymore, just bear/wolf/moose crossing warnings.

We basically drove till civilization was naught but a fond memory, and then drove further.  Finally we came to a small town called Chapleau, on a river in the middle of GodforsakenNowhere, Ontario, Canada.  They had electricity there, so that was a bonus.  We reveled in the fact that there was a small general store, and bought a bit of candy, thinking that we would be heading out to some cute little cabin in town any time to get settled for the week.

We started unloading our things from the vans… and started loading them into boats.  The horror was beginning to set in.  Our two families got into the boats, and headed off down the river.  We were on the river for at least an hour before we made landfall.

At last!  We disembarked and started unloading… again.  The men picked up the boats and began carrying them inland, and we did the same with all of the minutiae we could carry.  Portaging, I’m told, is when you carry your boat from one body of water, across some land, and put it into another body of water only to resume the trip you thought was over hours ago.  Back into the river (or lake… or Hudson Bay… at this point, who knows where we were…) we went, and traveled another hour before we finally landed on a teeny little island and set up our camp.

The tents went up, the fire was started, the latrine was dug, and the food was in the trees so as not to be attracting bears.  Now, I loved the Little House books when I was a kid, but seriously… what scrawny, bespectacled thirteen-year-old girl enjoys the thought of living outside where she may at any point on her way to the (hole in the earth covered with two logs and a toilet seat that we called a) restroom, encounter a moose, a wolf, or a bear?  Not this one, that’s for sure.

Leeches?  Fine.  Mosquitoes the size of seagulls?  Sure.  Bears?  Nooooo thanks.  “Camping” had just taken on a whole new meaning in my book.

Really though, it wasn’t so bad after that first grueling day of traversing strange Canadian landscapes, and once I became accustomed to the loons screeching through the night, I even slept well.  The fishing was good, and bathing in the lake in my swimsuit with a bar of Ivory was the most awkward thing I had to deal with all week.

The best parts were after the sun went down and we all sat around the fire for dinner.  You can’t bring a lot of perishables with you when you travel such a long way, so the only fresh food we had—other than that which we caught in the lake—was a cooler full of cubed beef, a plethora of canned goods,  and a whole lot of potatoes and carrots.  Toss it all in a big iron pot over the coals, and by the time you’d gathered extra firewood for the night, the Camp Stew was ready.

I might not be camping today, but a quick trip to the grocery store and this rainy spring laundry-day might actually produce a delicious dinner that, while also being nutritious and satisfying, always brings back memories of that trip and simpler times.

Camp Stew (aka “Clean Out Your Fridge” Stew)

2 lbs. of 1-inch cubed beef (kabob or stew style work best)

1 large onion, quartered

2 cloves of garlic, diced, or 2 tbsp of minced garlic

2 cups of diced carrots

3 cups of cubed red potatoes

2 tbsp of butter or olive oil

1 tbsp of flour

2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 cans of beef broth

1 can of cream of mushroom soup


salt, pepper, parsley, sage, thyme, moss, river water, and/or tree bark to taste

optional add-ins:  1 cup of frozen peas/corn/green beans

In a large Dutch Oven, heat butter or oil over medium heat; add the beef a bit at a time and brown thoroughly.  Add onions and garlic and cook till the onions are transparent.  Stir in the flour and cook a minute or two till it turns golden.

Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and carrots; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, cream soup, seasonings, and any optional add-ins.  If water is needed to thin out the mixture, add that as well; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for another hour or until potatoes and carrots are both fork-tender.

Serve with a big chunk of toasted, buttered Amish bread, and enjoy!


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You’ve gotta love Michigan in the spring.  The birds are singing, the trees are blossoming, the road construction is humming along at the speed of molasses…  My favorite part is having to scrape my windows and turn the heat on in my car in the morning, and then cranking the air conditioning on the way home.  I don’t know why Michigan is called “The Wolverine State” when “The Bipolar-Weather State” is so much more accurate.  I mean, have any of you ever actually seen a wolverine?  …Outside of Ann Arbor or the local zoo, I mean.

Anyway, in honor of the unexpected cold snap we’re currently going through, I figured I’d give the oven some exercise and do a little baking.  Now, I love to cook, but I’m not much of a baker, so when I attempt to apply heat to flour and sugar, I try to stick to the basics.

Banana bread is a people-pleaser.  You can whip it up quickly, take it to family gatherings, bring it to work and treat your coworkers, or wrap it up in some foil and ribbon and give it as an inexpensive and delicious housewarming/get-well-soon/congrats-on-the-baby/new job/negative paternity test gift.  Kids love it because kids love bananas, and adults love it because it reminds them of being a kid.  It’s also a great way to use up those over-ripe bananas that you know no one’s going to eat, but you’re too stubborn to just throw out.  My favorite application for banana bread, however, is its use as a vehicle for butter consumption… mmm… butter.

It’s a versatile, simple recipe that everyone should have in their repertoire.

Mom’s Banana Bread

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of margarine, room-temperature

6 very ripe bananas

4 well-beaten eggs

2.5 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of baking soda

(Optional add-ins:  1 cup of walnuts for the traditionalist, or 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips if you want to be the coolest aunt ever next Thanksgiving.)

Cream the sugar and margarine together, and then slowly add the eggs and bananas.  Combine the dry ingredients separately and sift or whisk to incorporate (if you’re adding walnuts or chocolate chips, add them now to coat them with flour so they don’t sink to the bottom of your loaves); add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, folding together till completely combined. 

Do not over-mix!

Divide mixture between two greased loaf pans, or four greased mini-loaf pans.  Bake at 350° for 55 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans and cool on a baking rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.



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I’m not really down with the fungus consumption, but I know plenty of folks who are.  Here in Michigan, late spring is prime time for mushroom hunting.  Although not a fan of eating said fungus, one of my favorite memories of my childhood is that of scouring the forest for the mysterious delicacy known as the morel mushroom with my mom and grandma.

There’s a lot to experience in the woods besides poison ivy… knee-high forests of may apples, the forbidden-to-pick trillium, tiny purple crocuses and violets poking through the carpet of last autumn’s discarded leaves.  You’ll hear the soothing sounds of the cardinals and robins and chickadees, the obnoxious calls of the blue jay, and more than likely, a flock of geese coming home from their winter escape.  If you’re really quiet, you might even get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a mama whitetail and her cute baby Bambi, or a sweet, fuzzy little bunny.

Being a child has its advantages in mushroom hunting… Little ones are closer to the ground, their eyes are better, and even though the young attention span is sometimes lacking, I think there’s a certain focus and patience a child can have when searching for something truly special.

I always outdid my family members in the hunt, but looking back, the baskets of treasure we took home were nothing compared to the memories of those outings that I cherish today.

Grandma Voss’ Sautéed Michigan Morels

2 cups of fresh morels, halved

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 clove of garlic, diced

1 small onion, chopped fine

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan (or better yet, Grandma’s cast iron skillet); add the garlic and onions.  Cook till the onions are almost transparent.  Add the morels and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.  Season, and serve immediately over steak, pasta, rice, fish or chicken.



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