Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I cooked again! This time, I even have a recipe to share. But first let's talk about my day off. I usually have Saturdays off, but I had Friday this week. So today, I had planned on getting up early, going to the New Kent Winery, then driving back down Rt. 60 and hitting every thrift store/antique store/second-hand shop along the way. Wellll, I slept a lot later than I intended to, and then this huge storm hit and everything got a little screwed up. But. I did make it to New Kent Winery in New Kent, VA.

It's a gorgeous building, and there are pretty extensive vineyards all around it. I got there right after a tour had ended, and the next one wasn't for 45 minutes, so I just did a tasting. For $6, I got to try 10 wines and keep the wine glass. Not too shabby. I ended up buying a Vidal Blanc and a White Merlot. I fell in love with the White Merlot at Victoria Valley Vineyards when I was in South Carolina, and this one is almost identical. I'll definitely be stocking up on it!

After the winery, I headed back down 60, and that's when the storms hit, so I didn't stop at every antique store that I saw, or any for that matter. I did stop at the Williamsburg Pottery Factory, though, as well as the Yankee Candle Village. I wrapped up the day with some Carside-to-Go from Applebee's, coming home to eat, and watching the movie Waitress, which turned out to be pretty good. It turned out to be a decent day off, and I found a fantastic winery that isn't too far away!

Now on to my new recipe. It's adapted from the Chicken Enchilada Pasta recipe from Taste of Home. There was a lot that I didn't like about their version, though, so here's my own Chicken Enchilada Casserole:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

12 oz. pkg. of pasta (I used mini shell macaroni)
1 lg. sweet red bell pepper - seeded and finely chopped
1 lg. green bell pepper - seeded and finely chopped
1 C. finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 - 5 oz. cans chunk white chicken, drained
15 oz. can refried beans
1/2 of a packet of taco seasoning mix
16 oz. jar of enchilada sauce, divided
8 oz. package of Mexican or taco-blend shredded cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Rinse, and drain again. Set aside. You'll want to stir it every 5-10 minutes while it sits, so it doesn't congeal into a big pasta blob. Trust me. It happens.

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped peppers and onion, as well as about a 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until vegetables are tender, 5-8 minutes.

- To the vegetable mixture, stir in the chicken, refried beans, hot sauce, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 C. of the enchilada sauce. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. In a large bowl or pot, fold together the chicken mixture and the pasta. Fold in half of the shredded cheese, until melted and well incorporated.

- Take a 3-qt. casserole dish. Spray it with nonstick cooking spray, then spread half of the remaining enchilada sauce on the bottom. Spoon in the pasta mixture evenly on top of the sauce. Drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce on top.

- Cover the whole thing with foil and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. After the half hour, uncover it and sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

- Spoon out onto plates and serve with crumbled tortilla chips sprinkled on top, and a dollop of sour cream!

It's delicious. You can use more or less hot sauce, depending on your taste. If you don't have the time or patience to let it bake for 35 minutes, you could always skip the pasta, just make the chicken mixture and eat it in flour tortillas. Then you're just cutting out the casserole part and having chicken enchilada wraps.... You could also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of canned chicken. Just cook it up and shred it. Canned chicken is just cheaper, faster, and easier. (Read: I'm lazy.)

It's such a great recipe to play around with. You can make it as complicated or simple as you like and substitute/add/subtract ingredients. It's super versatile, and can be made to fit anyone's tastes. So have at it!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Random Thoughts

I cooked tonight! Not a new recipe, though... or a recipe at all for that matter.... I fried up a piece of ham, sprinkled it with some black pepper, and drizzled it with some honey. I steamed some veggies, and baked some sweet potato fries. It was fast and easy, yet delicious. Plus, the whole meal cost about $3.50.

Besides my scrumptious supper, I had a few random thoughts and quotes that I wanted to share. I recently started subscribing to Whole Living magazine. It's totally aimed at women, but I was hoping to get some healthy recipes and advice out of them. While I haven't actually found any worthwhile recipes yet, there's a page in each issue with 10 Thoughts. They're just random little quotes and pearls of wisdom. I'm not going to post all of them, but I want to share some that really struck me.

June Issue:
#3 - Think about the places or environments that bring out the best in you. Now figure out a way to visit them more often.
#7 - Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time.
#9 - The upside to grand failures: they make great stories.

July Issue:
#2 - When our life stories start to sound predictable, it's time for a rewrite.
#4 - Summer tomatoes: the universe's way of reminding us that good-for-you food tends to be delicious. (While I don't like tomatoes, I like the idea. Just substitute "peaches" or "strawberries" for "tomatoes".)
#7 - Perpetually good advice from James Brown: "Get up offa that thing and dance 'til you feel better!"

The July issue also had a Summer Bucket List of 30 things to do this summer. Again, I'm not going to re-post the whole thing, you'll have to go out and buy the magazine if you want it. I will post some of the things that I think you should go out and do, though!

#1 - Prep all of your meals for a day without using a stove or oven.
#4 - Run through a meadow, a la The Sound of Music.
#6 - Be the first one at the farmer's market.
#7 - Take more pictures, without feeling weird and self-conscious.
#8 - Re-read your favorite novel.
#9 - Get caught in the rain and like it. Dance in it, even!
#10 - Take a road trip.
#14 - Nap so hard and long that you can't remember where you are when you wake up.
#18 - Smell like salt-water all day long.
#20 - Build a campfire.
#22 - Grow something green.
#24 - Hike to the summit of a mountain.
#25 - Stargaze.
#27 - Eat all the plums, peaches, cherries, and watermelon that you possibly can.
#28 - Watch a sunrise and a sunset. And it doesn't count if you do it just to post pictures on Facebook.
#30 - Keep a journal, collect seashells, or do something else to remember how much fun you're having.

So there are your random thoughts for the day. Just a few things that I really liked and thought that I would share. Make the best out of your summer!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My New Life

Wow.... Three weeks since my last post. That is just unacceptable. I feel like all I do anymore is sleep and work. I'm really going to try to get back into cooking and baking and all that jazz. Lately, I've been doing a lot of PB&J's, Easy Mac, and buying supper at work. I'm going to attempt to start trying one new recipe a week and blog about it. Ideally, I'd be doing two or three posts a week, but come on. At this point in my job, that won't happen. One post a week is a heck of a lot better than one post a month, right?!

It's not even that I'm working 12-hour days or anything... well, most days. I'm scheduled till midnight, 6 days a week, but some nights there's nothing to deal with and the park clears quickly and I get out at 11PM. Some nights there are major things to fix or the park takes forever to empty, so I don't get out till 2 or 3AM. The whole issue is that no matter what time I get done, I end up sleeping till noon or later the next day, and I have to start getting ready for work around 2PM, so there's just no time to spend in the kitchen. Hence the lack of recipe-sharing. I do have a Christmas project that I've been working on that I'll share once I'm finished. (I know it's July. Shut up.)

So until I make myself get on as normal a sleep schedule as possible, and get back in the kitchen, I thought I'd share some stuff that I've been doing. My mom and her friend came down to visit me for a few days and we went and saw some sights on my day off and in the mornings before I had to work.

On Saturday, when I had the whole day off, we visited some wineries in Yorktown. The Vintner's Cellar Winery and River Fruit Tropical Wines. They were just wine shops, not vineyards, but we got to taste about 25 different wines at Vintner's for $10, and we got a free tasting of as many as we wanted at River Fruit. I ended up getting a Pineapple Riesling at the first one and a Florida Grapefruit wine at the second. I'll definitely be going back to River Fruit. They had a Banana wine that tasted like Laffy Taffy and a Kiwi wine that I need in my life.

In Yorktown, we walked along the river for awhile and checked out some shops.

It's beautiful there. There are little shops, restaurants, museums, coffee shops, the winery, and a beach along the river. It's just a little ways from colonial Yorktown. I'll definitely be going back there to poke around. The day we were there, it was over 100 degrees, so maybe I'll go back when it's not so boiling.

The rest of their trip, we went shopping, tried some new restaurants, and went to the Lee Hall Mansion.

It's an old plantation that was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War. I'm not a big Civil War buff, or big on the whole history thing, but I love old houses and stuff like this. It was pretty great! The basement is kind of a walk through the war and what was going on in the area and with the soldiers who occupied the house. The top two floors are a restoration of what the house might have looked like, so there's reproduction wallpaper and period furniture and it's all set up like it might have been at the time. It's definitely worth a look if you ever happen to be in Newport News and looking for something to do!

My mom is coming back down in August with my cousin, so I'll have to start looking for more stuff to check out. Anyone familiar with the Newport News/Williamsburg/Yorktown area and have any suggestions??