Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mexican Fiesta Casserole

I'll be honest. I hate tomatoes. Always have and probably always will. I'm fine with ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa and an occasional chunk that I didn't pick off my Taco Bell chalupa. Other than that, I avoid them. Johnny is generally not fond of them either, so they're something we never have on hand.

Johnny's mom loves fresh produce. We're over there every Sunday and it's like a farm stand set up shop in her kitchen. Before each of us leaves we take an empty plastic bag (or two) and fill with various fruits, vegetables and fresh eggs from the chickens she keeps on their property. She also keeps goats for milk, but I am insanely weird about milk regardless, so I won't even go there.

Somehow or another last weekend Johnny was talked into taking two tomatoes. His mom was laughing at the silliness of somebody only needing two tomatoes and what in the world would we do with two tomatoes? I was thinking the same thing to myself, but from the opposite standpoint. Use two whole tomatoes?? In our house?

The first tomato was sliced really thin for Johnny to put on his burger. He forgot to put it on his burger until the almost last bite, though. He ate a little bit with his celery slaw, but the rest was thrown out.

Then there was one.

This lone tomato taunted me. I had it sitting on the base of our banana hook, at room temperature on the counter. Every time I was in the kitchen I saw this bright red tomato and wondered what in the world I could make to use it before it rotted?

Then I remembered!!! I had made a Mexican casserole a few months back that both Johnny and I loved and it required tomato! I dug out my Betty Crocker's Hamburger Cookbook and found the recipe on page 40.

I love this cookbook because it is so specific. I'm thawing hamburger meat - where do I turn to for inspiration? The Hamburger Cookbook! It's perfect to not have to leaf through fancy recipes or tiny "beef" sections of other cookbooks. Plus, it's "dated." The inside cover says second printing, 1974. I find old cookbooks comforting. Something about a time when moms stayed home and cooked really wholesome meals for their kids from scratch. There aren't weird ingredients, brand name specific, like Parkay butter substitute or Campbell's cream of soup. It's just real ingredients from the food pyramid. This particular book I bought at a thrift store for $3. Kind of pricey for a thrift store, but it's hardcover and somebody else was looking at it so that frantic eBay last minute bidder gotta-have-it feeling took over me and I snatched it up.

After reading over the recipe I realized we had all ingredients on hand. That's all the go-ahead I needed! After a quick prep time it was assembled and popped in the oven. The casserole turned out great and is easy to clean up afterwards because so few pots and pans are used. Extra bonus.

I'll post the original recipe in case you want to follow verbatim, with my adjustments in red.

Mexican Fiesta Casserole - Betty Crocker's Hamburger Cookbook page 40

1 pound ground beef (I used ground sirloin for the 95/5 benefit)
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (fat free/low fat option used)
1 cup dairy sour cream (fat free/low fat option used)
2/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing (fat free/low fat option used)
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 cups biscuit baking mix (Bisquick brand because Jiffy has whey)
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced (I use only one tomato and it's fine)
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
paprika (optional)

Heat oven to 375°. Cook and stir meat in skillet until brown. Drain off fat. (My mom puts her ground beef in a collander and runs it under warm water to rinse off even more of the fat) Season meat with salt and pepper; set aside. Mix cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and onion; set aside.

Stir baking mix and water until a soft dough forms. (I made the dough first so I could re-use the same bowl to make the topping) With floured fingers, pat dough in greased baking pan, 13X9X2 inches, pressing dough 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Layer meat, tomato slices and green pepper on dough. Spoon sour cream mixture over top and sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered until edges of dough are light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into squares. Makes 5 or 6 servings. (More like 4 in our house!)


Nowheymama said...

Congrats on your new blog, and thanks for the compliments!

So, Johnny can eat cheese and sour cream? Can you explain more about his allergy?

Christina said...

From what I can understand:

Whey is in most dairy products naturally. It's the pasteurizing and messing around with whey protein he seems to be allergic to.

If you see whey specifically listed as an ingredient (instead of milk product, etc.) it means it's the whey protein that was somehow enhanced for it's protein power.

He is fine with milk, sour cream, and most cheeses. Ricotta, cottage, and parmesan he can't have. He's also fine with yogurt and butter (although I've switched us to Smart Balance).

All other things he cannot eat list whey on the ingredients. They seem to mainly be canned and boxed foods where I believe they are adding whey to either "beef up" their product for nutritional value or maybe b/c it has a long shelf life?

Apparently it's a rising allergy, but not a lot of recognition is given to it yet. If we know we're going to eat at a certain restaurant or visit a certain place (for say, ice cream) we try to research ahead, but the information isn't always there. They will list common allergen information such as milk, eggs, nuts, etc. on websites but not whey specific yet.

He's an infamous doctor avoider. Not for fear of going, but he just always puts off making the appointments and taking the time to go. I'm hoping one of these days he'll listen to me and go to an allergen or gastro type doctor to figure this out. For all we know there could be some kind of medicine or it might be even more specific in its diagnosis of our self-eliminating to find the culprit.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the food blog world! Looking forward to seeing your posts!

Nowheymama said...

Thanks for explaining--very interesting.