Having a fussy eater can be challenging at times. Which is not to say that my little guy is one of those “will only eat chicken nuggets” types. I have seen him cheerfully tuck into a bowl of smoked salmon chirashi because he knew that he liked all of the components (smoked salmon, julienne carrots, sesame seeds, rice, soy sauce), but for some reason we have been having difficulties with lunch. He just doesn’t want to eat it unless it involves getting in the car and driving through someplace. I think it might be less about the eating and more about the going (I cannot play with him non-stop and he takes it personally).

But obviously we cannot go out every, single day so I really needed to come up with a solution. After multiple rejections of food items I decided to take a radical approach and ask him what he would eat every day for lunch. He pondered this and said “Squishy bean quesadilla.”

This kid is a bean maniac. He has not met a bean that he did not like. It started off with black beans but we then went to a Mexican place that did not have black beans but instead served him the more traditional refried pinto beans. These have been officially dubbed “squishy beans” and are now in the rotation as well as being his preferred filling for quesadillas.

The internet seems to think that it is perfectly fine to freeze quesadillas so I figured I would do a bit of batch cooking to save some time and money. The money part comes in not throwing away a partial can of refried beans. Historically we have cracked open a can and kept it in the ‘fridge to use as we went; but it has consistently gone bad before we manage to use the whole can. It gets shoved around and hides behind the mango juice and then we have this crusty mess that goes directly into the gar-bahge. By making as many quesadillas as the can can handle (heh, can can) we will be avoiding that waste.

Large batch quesadilla making for the freezer

Cooling their heels

Refried Bean Quesadillas

The Hardware: sauce pan, griddle or large frying pan, offset spatula or butter knife, cooling rack

The Software:
1 can Refried Beans
8 Whole Wheat tortillas (soft taco size)
1 8 oz bag Quesadilla Cheese
Cumin and garlic powders
Oil or butter for browning

Set up both a staging area and a cooling area to make assembly line production easy.

Crack open the can of beans and scrape them into your sauce pan, they will fight you but you must be strong. Marvel at their ability to maintain a can shape and then stir them up on medium low heat. Add cumin and garlic powder to taste and stir until they are heated up and easy to spread. Remove from heat and place at the beginning of your assembly line along with your cheese and tortillas.

Now, I love my electric griddle and when it dies it will receive  a proper sending off just before we get a new one. It is perfect for making pancakes, french toast, grilled peanut butter & cheese sandwiches (separately, not peanut butter & cheese in the same sandwich shudder), hamburgers … you get the picture. And I cannot imagine tackling batch cooking like this using only a single skillet. But if that is what you have then go for it.

Heat up your cooking implement of choice and grease it up with a bit of oil. I used a folded paper towel with oil to re-oil between quesadillas. Take each tortilla and spread 1/8th of the beans on 1/2 of the tortilla. We are making folded quesadillas and this will make things easier. Place as many 1/2 beaned tortillas on your cooking surface as possible and then sprinkle your cheese on the non-beaned half of the tortilla. Allow to cook until the cheese starts to melt a bit and then fold in half.

Arrange the folded quesadillas so that they are taking up less space and add another 1/2 beaned tortilla to the griddle. Put cheese on it and check the folded ones. As they become brown on one side, flip them to the other. When both sides are well browned, remove them to a cooling rack. Continue folding, rearranging and removing quesadillas until you have added cheese and cooked all of them.

Once fully cooled, place in freezer and freeze until solid. Transfer to a big ziplock bag or something like that. I bet you could wrap them individually in foil too. I haven’t reheated any yet but there are various reheating options. I plan on reheating from frozen in the oven, probably for about 20 minutes at 350F.

The Results:

I will report back after I have served one from frozen. I am pretty confident that it will be quite tasty. If you want you could totally add some other ingredients. I bet sauteed onions would be awesome, or perhaps chicken or another meat. I would add them at the same time I added the cheese.

What do you like in your quesadillas?

 

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The big experiment in my garden last year was tomatillos. Initially I went around looking for tomatillo plants to put in my garden, but every time I asked about them at a garden center I was regarded as if I had two heads. What is this alien to-mah-taho that you are looking for. Eventually I found a package of seeds and decided to take a whirl at starting at square one.

It was quite a steep learning curve. For the non-gardeners out there I will pass over the gory details – but in the end everything came out all right. Better than all right in fact, because I ended up canning many, many jars of Salsa Verde. It was a fairly painful process finding the best recipe to yield the results I desired – but there were no, true, failures. And as per usual, I ended up modifying to get my own.

A baby Tomatillo in my Garden

One of the most disappointing recipes was the one from the University of New Mexico – I thought that if anyone would get it right it would be them, but it was a no go. The flavor was fine, but the end texture wasn’t particularly salsa like. Imagine taking a super chunky salsa, dumping it into a strainer over your sink and allowing it to drain for about 15 minutes – that is the textural quality of the UNM recipe. While it didn’t fly as a salsa – I did use it to great success as a green chili starter. Chuck a jar of it plus a jar of water or stock into a saucepan (or crockpot) along with a can of beans and meat of your choice and you have some delicious chili.

The UNM recipe was the second one I tried – and it turns out the first one was much more successful. From Married with Dinner this Salsa Verde was much closer to what I was looking for – although I can handle much less heat. So for my third try I went back to this recipe and tinkered with it until I produced something I wanted to eat directly from the jar with a spoon. With apologies to the lovely MWD couple – I like mine better.

All of this left me with jars and jars of Salsa Verde for the “off season” months – their consumption a chore to which I applied my most willing efforts. Hence the subject of this “Using It”.

Taco with Tomatillo Salsa

So very much better than Moe's.

Taco Verde

The husband was out of town, but I still felt like busting out the tortilla press and comal to make my own tortillas – because they are simply that much better than store bought. Starting with leftover, shredded chicken in a small saucepan I stirred in enough Salsa Verde to make it saucy and reheated. While that was coming to temp I made the tortillas and from there it was a simple matter of assembly. Tortilla + chicken verde + cojita cheese + Flashy Trout Back baby Romain from my mother’s garden. Wonderfully delicious with a balanced tangy, salty flavor on a corn tortilla that actually tastes like corn. I know my mother probably thought that the tortilla press I asked for for Christmas was going to go into the pile ‘o gadgets-that-looked-like-fun-but-are-actually-a-pain-in-the-butt-and-will-be-in-my-next-yard-sale, but it didn’t. I have been using and loving it since January.

Salsa Verde (You totally thought I was being a tease, didn’t you?)

The Hardware: see The Canning Thing, a food mill, food processor (or a knife you know), 3 to 4 pint jars, paper bag.

The Software:
3 – 3 1/2 lbs of Tomatillos
1 1/2 C Onions, chopped
1 Aneheim Chilie
1 Poblano Chilie
1 T Chopped Jalepeno
6 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 T Cilantro, finely chopped
1T + 1t Cumin
1t Salt
1/8 C Lime Juice
3/8 C Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat your broiler to High. Peel the husks off of your tomatillos and wash off all of the icky sticky stuff – I use a vegetable brush. Also wash your peppers. Remove their stems and cut the tomatillos in half across the equator, place cut side down on a foil lined cookie sheet. Cut the peppers in half longitudinally and remove stems and seeds, place cut side down on the cookie sheet also – you will most likely need 2 cookie sheets, or do two batches. Whichever floats your boat.

Place under the broiler for about 7 minutes, until they start turning a little bit black/brown on the top. Remove from the roaster and place the chilies into a paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. Drain the liquid from the cookie sheet into a saucepan and dump the tomatillos into a food processor and then chopity chop – don’t puree, but get down to smallish pieces. Dump tomatillios into saucepan. Remove the chilies from the steaming device and remove skin. Chop these puppies up also and put them in the saucepan.

Put everything else except the cilantro into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and then pass through a food mill with the big hole setting – do not discard the stuff that won’t go through the mill. Return everything (even the chunkies) to the pot and bring to a simmer, add cilantro and adjust seasonings to taste. The do the canning thing. Leave 1/2 inch headspace and boiling water bath for 15 minutes adjusted for your altitude (here in Atlanta I add another 5 min).

Conclusion:

When I adjusted the seasonings I added some garlic powder and additional lime juice – you can always add more acid to taste, but don’t reduce. Having this in my larder has been a menu changing event. We eat it as frequently as we can, but always keeping an eye on the remaining quantity because we don’t want to run out.

Other uses have included smearing it on the first tortilla into the pan when we make quesadillas, enchiladas and various salsa like applications such as tacos, taco salads and consumption with chips. If you have any other ideas what I can put this on, please let me know!

I make no claims to authenticity for this dish. It was thrown together from things out of my pantry, and I must say it was very tasty. I had dinner early and when the hubby came home late to eat his I was sorely tempted to have a second bowl. Pantry meals are essential to anyone’s repertoire, and sometimes you rely on some pre-packaged items to cut down on time.

Of course you could use a can of diced tomatoes – or even chop up a tomato or two. Then you could add a can of diced chilies – or roast and dice your own fresh chilies. I am sure it would add significantly to the flavor. But I, being a good southern girl, always have a couple of cans of Rotel in the pantry and it gives me the tomatoes, chilies and some additional spices in one convenient package. Turn your nose up if you will – but it makes life easier for me.

I totally forgot to put the cheese on - you can imagine it yourself.

Easy Mexican Chicken Soup

The Hardware: large saucepan, spoon, can opener.

The Software:
1 Onion
2 t Chopped Garlic
1 can Rotel (I used mild because I am a wussy – use whatever you can handle)
2 T Lizano Sauce
2 C Shredded Chicken (had it in the ‘fridge, you could use rotisserie if that’s your thang)
2 pinches Oregano (dried)
2 pinches Cumin
1 T Lime Juice
1 Qt Chicken Stock (I used home-made, you do whatever you want)
1 C Frozen Corn
3 T Masa
pinches of Salt, Pepper and Granulated garlic to taste
2 C cooked rice or a couple of handfuls of  tortilla strips

Slice onions into half rounds and saute in a large saucepan in a couple of tablespoons of oil until the onions are soft. When they start getting brownish add the garlic and saute for about a minute – don’ t let the garlic burn. Add the Rotel, Lizano & chicken and stir around a bit, bring to a simmer. Add stock, lime juice, oregano & cumin and bring back up to almost a simmer. Then sprinkle in the Masa and curse when it forms dumpling-like globules.

Seek and destroy Masa globules by squashing them against the wall of the saucepan with the back of your spoon. Or you could be smart and measure out the Masa into a small bowl and add some of the not-yet-hot stock to it to form one of them there fancy pants “slurries”  before you add it to the pot.

Bring everything up to a simmer and then add the corn. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and scorches. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper & granulated garlic until you are happy. If you are using rice, divide it between your bowls and then serve the soup over top. If you are using tortilla strips put the soup in first and then top with crunchies.

It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle some cheese on top. But really – can’t you say that about just about anything?

Potential Hacks:

This could easily go vegetarian. Replace the chicken stock with veg stock and replace the chicken with a can or two of beans, poofy violia – vegetarian. Actually, the beans would be good as an add on if you wanted to bulk it up more. Skip the cheese and dairy and I believe this would be vegan – but I have limited understanding of vegantology.

If you do not have Masa hanging around (and I am guessing that is a goodly number of people) then you can just crumble up some tortilla chips and let them simmer in the soup. They will disintegrate and serve the same thickening purpose. You know what tortilla chips are made out of? Masa.

This came out a bit spicier than I really cared for, cause I am a wuss, so I wanted to add some sour cream to dial back the heat. But I didn’t have any sour cream. Whipped cream cheese, however, was in my ‘fridge. So I made some little canels out of the cream cheese and, after being stirred in well, it worked fine. Sour cream would have been better.

And of course, there is the Lizano. You really should just keep it in your ‘fridge. It is a wonderful thing. It is delicious in eggs. It can turn regular rice into instant Mexican rice. Stir it into a drained can of beans and you suddenly have super tasty beans. Dribble it onto your tacos or burritos. It is a fantastic ingredient that really has no substitute. If I have not convinced you to seek it out – then you are just going to have to crank up all of the seasonings. Add more cumin, oregano and garlic. Add a little chili powder, but be careful you do not turn the soup into chili.

Considering that the sponsor herself at thursday night smackdown was unable to keep her deadline (for good reasons) I am hoping that my tardiness will not eliminate me from participation. And since I am relying on her good nature (HAHAHA) I am going to confess that not only did I not make this on Tuesday for Hobo Tuesday; I did not even make it for dinner! It was my lunch, today, Thursday.

Whew, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest.

Actually, I don’t know if I would let myself participate, because I didn’t even follow the theme. I don’t do spicy, but I do do things that could be spicy if you wanted them to be. Take this:

Heuvos Rancheros en Cocotte

You got your Mexican in my French! No you got your French in my Mexican!

In a fit of literalness I have decided to call this exactly what it is:

Huevos Rancheros en cocotte from my own demented little mind

Hardware: a cute oven safe ramekin and an oven.

Software:
1/3 C doctored up canned black beans
2 eggs
2 T milk
2 big pinches of shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 C salsa (I use Pace, so sue me)

My beans were left over from burritos a few days ago, I start with a can of black beans and add a bunch of garlic, cumin, oregano and Liazano Salsa until they taste good; hence doctored up. Take your cutsey little ramekin and lube it up with butter (hey, this dish is 1/2 French – gotta work butter in somewhere) and pre-heat the oven to 375 or so.

Put the beans into the ramekin and make two beds for your eggs by pushing things around with a spoon and then carefully crack the eggs into their little troughs. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on them and then drizzle the 2 T of milk over top. Put in oven for about 8 minutes (or until things start to bubble and the whites look opaque) and then pull out and sprinkle the cheese around the bubbling edges and slide it back into the oven for a few more minutes. Take the eggs out when they still look underdone and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Spoon salsa over top and you are done.

Talk about a protein bomb! I guess you could work in some veggies with the beans if you are so inclined – but I thought it was great as is. Now, there are several locations where one could make this spicy. Jalapenos in the beans would be an obvious choice, but more sneaky would be sprinkling some cayenne over the eggs so that it looks like paprika. The hotter the salsa, the hotter the entire dish. I am a wuss, so mild all the way baby!

The Damage:
1/3 can black beans = .30
2 eggs = .42
Milk = .05
Cheese = .15

Everything else is pantry. I feel comfortable including Salsa as a pantry item considering it outstripped Ketchup as the most purchased condiment in the US.

The total comes to .92. I only cooked for one, but my hubby would have loved this had he been here – doubling the cost comes to $1.84 to serve 2 people, actually, to fill my husband we probably would have had to use more beans so lets call it an even $2.00.

Well, new to me anyway. In my quest to actually consume leftovers instead of allowing them to languish in my ‘fridge in a misguided attempt to foster the evolution of new lifeforms I have stumbled on a new casserole technique. Now I am confident that many people reading this (assuming that many people will ever read this, which is a pretty big assumption to make) will receive my revelation with a Pshaw! Pshaw I say.

But having grown up on the Ohio River the concept of a Tamale Pie was about as unfamiliar and exotic as the pink sports-coats and palm trees on Miami Vice. And somehow, I remained blissfully ignorant of the Tamale Pie as my culinary experience grew. Possibly it has to do with the fact that some dishes are not considered classy enough to warrant an entry in a “real” cookbook. But here is where my JLC come in.

In my copy of  Talk About Good published by the Junior League of Lafayette, LA there are several versions of Tamale Pie which I have perused with much interest. When I asked my husband what his opinion of Corn Meal mush was, he made quite the face. I am pretty sure if I had told him we were having polenta for supper he would have thought me quite the gourmand.

Having made a couple of Tamale Pies I now feel fairly comfortable in their construction and can safely say that I feel they are an excellent addition to my arsenal against leftovers. So this isn’t exactly going to be a recipe as much as a technique for you to use. I am afraid you will have to find other resources for your science experiments, because your leftovers will not be hanging about much anymore.

Can you love Leftovers?

Can you love Leftovers?

Cornmeal Leftover Casserole

Basic Cornmeal Mush ratio: this makes enough to top a basic 8 x 8 casserole. Increase the amount based on your casserole size. I would say your standard 9 x 11 would start with 3 C dry cornmeal and increase everything else appropriately.

1 C Cornmeal
2 1/2 C Water or Stock
2 T Vegetable Shortening (other fats might work – I just haven’t tried them)
Seasonings to taste*

Put 1 1/2 C of water, shortening and seasonings in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix the remaining 1 C of water with the 1 C of cornmeal. When the water has reached boiling, add the cornmeal and stir. Reduce the heat and stir, cooking for about 10 minutes. You will have to stir pretty much the whole time, if it gets lumpy discipline it with a wisk.

*Because all of my leftovers for this afternoon were Tex-Mex I used the following seasoning:
1 1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Sugar
1/4 t each Chili Powder and Black Pepper

Before I started the cornmeal mush I assembled the leftovers in a small, greased casserole. Dinner last night consisted of burritos made with black beans and ground turkey taco meat. I mixed a can of diced tomatoes in with the beans and added garlic, Lizano sauce, salt & cumin then dumped it in as the bottom layer. The next layer was some chopped onion and I topped it with the ground turkey taco meat. For some added yumminess I scattered a layer of cheddar cheese on the meat.

And then you pour on the cornmeal mush and spread it all over the top to seal in the goodness. Bake in a pre-heated 350 oven for about 30 minutes and then hit the top with your broiler until it is nice and crispy. Voila! A brand new dish that kinda tastes like last night, but not really. And man will it stretch your servings of meat.

Potential Hacks:

Kinda pointless, I know, seeing that this entire “recipe” is pretty much a hack. But I was thinking about the whole “polenta” thing and it occured to me I could use this to make a casserole from leftover Italian flavored components. Put some Italian Herbs in the cornmeal instead of the chili powder and you could use it to top off … say … a leftover batch of meat sauce layered with mushrooms and mozzerella cheese. Or maybe leftover Italian sausage and peppers … it could get interesting.

note: A true Tamale Pie has cornmeal as both the bottom and top layer, to do this you will simply have to increase the amount of mush make proportionately. The positive part of this is the fact that cornmeal is CHEAP. It is an excellent method of making it possible to have large servings that fill you up – while not breaking the bank.

If you watch cooking competition shows you will be familiar with the tendency to call any food item constructed in a  (bread/pastry base, something edible, another layer of bread/pastry, something else edible topped of with a third layer of bread/pastry) fashion a “Napoleon”. Any actual resemblance to the food item that originally bore the moniker has been practically eliminated and the pastry/food/pastry/food/pastry format has been co-opted as a technique, with the technique defining the dish as opposed to the constituent elements. Interestingly enough, by this definition, the Big Mac is a Napoleon. But I digress.

I have brought this up because I am calling this dish Tomatillo Gumbo because of how it is served. It is a tasty stew-like mixture served over a bed of rice – just like gumbo. Any further resemblance is non-existent. A second point is that I have absolutely no Texan or Mexican background at all. So in reality this doesn’t have any basis in that cuisine either. One could call it Tex-Mex/New Orleans fusion – but that would imply that I had much familiarity with either cuisine.

I’ll just call it tasty.

Hardware:

Saucepan w/lid and Blender.

The Software:

8 oz Ground Pork
1 lb Tomatillos
1 Small Poblano Pepper
1 Onion
1 Bunch Cilantro
2 t Garlic
1 1/4 t Cumin
Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Cayenne & Garlic Powder to taste.
1 t Apple Cider Vinegar (optional)

1) Remove husks from tomatillos and wash the sticky stuff off. Wash poblano and cut top off. Cut poblano in half and remove seeds and ribs, keep 1/2 for some other nefarious purposes and cut the other 1/2 into 1/4’s. Place poblano pieces and tomatillos in large saucepan and just cover with water.

2) Now, I just learned how to cook with tomatillos and I want to share some tips I have learned.

A – They float, so I am not really sure how you are supposed to “cover with water” when the little buggers keep rising to the top. I put enough water into the pot so that they float enough to not touch the bottom.

B – You are supposed to bring them to a boil and then simmer for 2 – 5 minutes or until they change color. This confused me – what color are they going to change to? How will I know? Will they explode? Well, I gotcha back on this one. I took pictures:

Ooooh, magic.

Ooooh, magic.

The one on the left is before the boil and the other is after the mysterious “Color change”. I cook them for 5 minutes and call it done.

3) While the tomatillos are cooking, peel your onion and cut it in half. Take 1/2 and chop coarsely and chop the other 1/2 a normal kind of chop. Also, wash and trim the cilantro. I usually just leave the rubberband/tie thingie on the bunch and cut all of the stems below it off.

3) Remove the tomatillos and pepper from the water and place into your blender, add

1/2 C of the cooking water and push the button a few times until they are busted up.

4) Add the coarsely chopped 1/2 of the onion, 1/2 C of Cilantro, 2 t Garlic and 1 t salt to the blender and really puree the heck out of it. Make sure to take off that center bit on the lid and hold a towel over it or else it might explode.

Really, I am not kidding.

Set the blender aside for later.

5) Sautee the other 1/2 of the onion in some olive oil until it has taken on some color and then remove it from the pan. Put the ground pork into the pan and cook it most the way then return the onions to the pan.

6) Pour sauce into pan and add cumin. Then add a pinch each of chili powder and cayenne. Simmer for 10 minutes and then salt and pepper to taste.

7) At this point realize that you have no idea how you are going to serve this. It isn’t really a taco filling like you thought it was going to be, nor is it exactly a chili that you would want to eat straight out of a bowl. Decide that you need to make rice. Cover the pot with a lid and start making rice.

8 ) After the rice is made reheat the sauce/stew stuff you made. Realize that you have lost a little bit of the brightness that you had and add 1 t of Apple Cider Vinegar. That works! Decide you need more garlic so add some powder and a little more salt and a little more pepper. If you, unlike myself, had the foresight to have the rice at the ready then you could probably skip the AC Vinegar step and simply season to taste.

9) Serve in bowls over rice and garnish with additional fresh cilantro.

Mmm, Green.

Mmm, Green.

My husband and I debated what I should call this. He is from Louisiana and has some definite … opinions … about gumbo. But in the end he agreed that we could call it tasty.

Let’s get things started right. I have been working on this dish for awhile, fine tuning it to my family’s taste and I think it is ready for prime time!  It is a true pantry/freezer meal, the only things in it that have to come out of the ‘fridge are the shredded cheese and the Lizano. Everything else can be stored in the pantry. It is composed of inexpensive food items so you can buy quality ingredients without breaking the bank – the only thing you need is time. And the time is mostly hands off time, so no biggie there.

Hardware:
First off, the hardware. I make this in my 2.8 Liter Oval Souffle dish with a glass lid. It really needs to be cooked in something fairly deep as opposed to one of those large rectangular casserole dishes. A medium Dutch Oven could work, as you can see in the picture the dish ends up being pretty thick so beware anything too shallow.

The Software:

1 can Black Beans, 15 oz
1 C Brown Rice, rinsed
1 C Frozen Corn
1 can Diced Tomatoes, 14.5 oz
1 can Rotel, Mild, 10 oz
1 t Granulated Garlic
1 t Ground Cumin
1/2 t Dried Oregano
2 T Dried Chopped Onions
2 t Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 1/2 T Lizano Sauce
1 1/2 C Water or Stock
1 t Olive Oil
Shredded Cheese, Cheddar or Queso (amount depends on the size of your container)

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Get a piece of heavy-duty foil ready that will cover the pot.

1) Combine tomatoes, Rotel, garlic, cumin, oregano, onions, salt, pepper, Lizano, and Water/Stock in a sauce pan over medium heat – the goal is to bring it to a boil. Take your cooking vessel and spray it with non-stick, measure your corn into the dish with the rinsed rice. Rinse beans gently and add to dish and drizzle with the olive oil, stir gently to combine.

2) Once the tomato mixture has come to a boil, pour into the dish and stir to combine. Cover tightly with the foil and top with lid.

3) Place in oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove foil and stir gently to get the tomatoes distributed but pat the top back out smooth, taste to make sure the rice is done.
If the rice is undercooked replace foil and lid and cook until rice is done unless the rice is really “soupy” then do not cover.

4) When rice is done, sprinkle (ok cover) the surface of the rice with cheese of choice and return to oven uncovered. Remove from oven when cheese is nice and melty and bubbling, can take 5 minutes.

Ingredients/Potential Hacks:

Obviously the mystery ingredient here is the Lizano. If you poke around some of your Hispanic groceries you can find it, it is specifically Costa Rican and if you have a market that caters more to Central Americans than Mexicans you will have better luck.

I haven’t come up with a good substitution, it isn’t a tomatoey sauce but a savory sauce. Kind of like a Costa Rican version of HP sauce. It has Cumin and pureed veggies and odd stuff in it, but it is super tasty. It is worth it to have it in your ‘fridge and see what you can put it on.

Regarding the beans; I have measured a can of beans and it contains roughly 1 3/4 C of cooked beans. So if you wanted to use re-hydrated dried beans that is what you would be aiming for, but I don’t think that simply soaking and then tossing in would work. They would need to be cooked beans.

You can definitely up the heat on this if you wanted to by buying one of the hotter versions of Rotel I am a big ole sissy so I use mild. You could even add some jalapenos if you wanted to be wacky. Another fun variation can be had if you have a Trader Joe’s handy. They sell a frozen “fire roasted” corn that gives a lovely smoky flavor to this dish when you use it in place of plain ole corn.

If you really  wanted to, you could use white rice – but we like it much better with brown. You wouldn’t have to boil the liquid ahead of time and you would use less water/chicken stock – 1 cup should do it. Also your cooking time would most likely be shorter, maybe 45 min to 1 hr. If you try this out please let me know what your cooking time was.

Enjoy!

At the end, this seems like an awful lot of writing for what is really a simple dish. The process is really one step away from “dump it in the casserole and bake” but I wanted to add in all of the little details that have made this a sucessful meal for my family. We eat on the leftovers for days, it reheats in the microwave beautifully and makes a tasty lunch.