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Menu Monday 4: Easy Mexican

November 22, 2010
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The holidays are approaching at a breakneck pace, and I think we all could use a simple menu to keep our families happy.  This is not a showstopper in the sense that it may not be one to bring out for a dinner party.  But it is tasty, easy, and a well-balanced meal.  It also happens to include my husband’s very favorite food, cheese enchiladas.

The menu looks like this:

On a more ambitious day, I would make my own enchilada sauce.  But for this simple and quick menu, I admit I used the canned stuff.  For the beans, though, I went for the real thing and cooked my own.  You can, of course, substitute canned pinto beans.  On the side is the simplest side dish ever, sliced avocado spritzed with lime juice and sprinkled with salt.  If you feel like making guacamole, please do, but there is something wonderful about simple sliced avocado.  I like to put it on top of the enchiladas as I eat them so I get a little bit with every bite.

As usual, these portions serve four, or two with leftovers!

First Course: Cheese Enchiladas

These really don’t need a recipe, but it is a simpler and healthier method than the typical, so I will share what I did.  This is more of an enchilada casserole than genuine enchiladas, as there is no frying of the tortillas or rolling of the enchiladas.

  • cooking spray
  • one 15 oz. can of red enchilada sauce (or about two cups of home made)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (reduced fat is good, but do NOT go for nonfat – yuck)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 scallion, green parts only, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly coat the bottom of a 7 x 11 (or similarly sized) baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour about 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the dish.   Lay two tortillas on top of the sauce, overlapping slightly in the middle.  Sprinkle about 1/4 of the cheese and 1/4 of the diced jalapeno on top.  Drizzle with more of the enchilada sauce (use your judgment on quantity, you don’t want to drown them, just make sure they have a thin layer of sauce.  This is not an exact science.)

Repeat with another two tortillas, followed by 1/4 of the cheese and jalapeno, and another drizzle of sauce.  Repeat again with two more tortillas, cheese, jalapeno, and sauce.  Place the last two tortillas on top and this time pour the rest of the sauce on first, followed by the remaining cheese, jalapenos, and the scallion.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tortillas are soaked with sauce, and the cheese is completely melted.  Everything should be bubbly and sizzling when you get the dish out of the oven.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Second Course:  Pinto Beans

Pinto beans go beautifully with these enchiladas.  If you are using canned, just rinse and drain them, then warm them in a pot with a bit of olive oil and season with the spices below.  If you are using dried beans, use the following method.

  • 1/2 lb. dried pinto beans, soaked for at least a few hours and then drained
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Put the pinto beans in a stockpot or Dutch oven and fill with cold water so that the water is at least two inches above the top of the beans.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then put a lid on and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes undisturbed, or longer if the beans aren’t tender yet.  Drain and return to the pot, then season with salt, olive oil, cumin, and cayenne.  Serve.

Third Course: Sliced Avocado with Lime

It’s a bit silly to call this a “course”, but I’m trying to stick to the usual theme!  You could flesh this out into a proper salad if you like, by placing the avocado slices on a bed of lettuce or arugula, and drizzling with olive oil.   The only “recipe” here is to thinly slice an avocado, squeeze the juice of a lime over it, and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.  Voila.

For dessert, some simple fruit would work wonders.

This is definitely a cheater’s menu, but your family will most likely gobble it up and enjoy it just the same.  And it will be a nice respite for you before all the craziness of the holidays!

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