Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: Enchilada Casserole Lasagna Thingy Surprise

Okay, so it's not really recipe Wednesday, as that would imply I'll post a recipe every Wednesday. I just don't know how to make that many things, people, seriously. It would be cool to aspire to create new things once a week, but no way on Earth am I going to put undue pressure on myself and disturb my lazy groove.

So this isn't really an invention, just my version. There are a million recipes for enchilada casseroles out there. However, this is my recipe, since it is called Enchilada Casserole Lasagna Thingy Surprise, and you would be hard pressed to find a recipe on the Internet also called by this name. Don't recipes sound so intriguing if you tack a "surprise" onto the end? Yes, I think so, too.

I am sharing this with you people for two reasons. First of all, it's super easy and I think you will find it tasty. Second of all, I am afraid I'll forget how I made it, so if I write about it now maybe I can make it again!

Enchilada Casserole Lasagna Thingy Surprise

First thing in the morning OR the day before, make the crockpot salsa chicken. I kinda think I've posted that easy recipe before, but if not, all you need to do is take some chicken (for this I used the frozen chicken breasts in a bag that I purchased at Target). I used two of the breasts. Cover them with your favorite salsa (I used the green and medium red Herdez varieties). Set the crockpot on low and cook for 7 hours. Once the chicken is cool, you can use two forks to shred it up, and it will be incredibly easy to do. For this recipe I actually did mine the day before and shredded the chicken the next day, and that seemed to make it even easier. You can totally use more chicken if you want your casserole meatier, totally up to you.

With that shredded chicken (and at least the next day, the chicken had absorbed most of the salsa, so it wasn't really soupy at all, but it was still plenty moist; get it as salsa-y as you like, I don't think it will matter too much for this recipe) I mixed in about half a cup of chopped onion. The salsa already has onion, of course, but I had the onion, I like onion, and it sounded good to mix in there.

Oh, once you've got the chicken shredded you might as well turn your oven on. I started at 325 degrees, because I found an enchilada casserole recipe that used that temp, and it seemed to work well.

Okay, get a 13 x 9 pan (I used glass) and spray it up with cooking spray. Next pour some green enchilada sauce (I used Target brand) over the bottom. Just enough to cover the bottom, not sure I used the whole can. Next, tear up some corn tortillas (flour would work, I happen to like corn, and I think their sturdiness is good for a recipe like this). Like, I grabbed maybe 3 of them and ripped them... not into bite-sized pieces, but like into 6 or 8 pieces or so? Then I spread those pieces on top of the sauce so that the sauce was mostly covered.

Next spread a layer of chicken. It's a little tricky, because the salsa makes binds it up, so you kind of have to smoosh it around a bit, if that makes sense.

The next layer will be cheese, enough to cover the chicken. Use your favorite. I used mozzarella and the Target brand Mexican blend (yes, I got to Target A LOT), because that's what I had in my fridge. Next time I'd try a pepper jack (thanks for that suggestion, Ang!) and maybe a sharp white cheddar, because I like bite and I'm an I'm on a sharp white cheddar kick (TJ's has a good inexpensive white cheddar that's super yum).

On top of the cheese, more shredded tortillas, and then I poured Target brand red enchilada sauce over the top. I doctor up the sauce with just a little cinnamon and garlic powder. The cinnamon I think I got from a recipe I saw a long time ago for homemade enchilada sauce. I like what it adds to the sauce. Again, not too much, just a few shakes maybe. And as far as how much sauce, you're just wanting to make sure you cover all of the tortillas. I think ultimately I wound up using 2 1/2 cans total of sauce. So after the sauce, more chicken, and more cheese.

Lastly, because I'd run out of chicken, I did tortillas, sauce, and cheese. For the whole dish I wound up using 8 tortillas. It's not an exact science, obviously, since I'm giving you no measurements or anything. But all you're doing is acting like it's a lasagna, but instead of noodles you've got tortillas, and your meat and your sauce are separate, pretty much.

I threw it in the oven covered with foil and baked it for 30 minutes. Then I took off the foil, turned the heat up to 350, and before it even reached 350 just threw it back in for 10 minutes. When it was done it looked like that picture up there.

I wound up cooking it, putting it in the fridge, and then my dear friend, Sarah, took care of heating it up for me at Steph's house. I'm not sure at what temp or for how long, as I was busy drinking beer. But you know, probably like 325 for 20 minutes? That sounds about right. You won't even need to know that unless you wind up reheating, which isn't a bad idea, as you will have given the flavors more time to meld. I had this for breakfast this morning and I thought it was tastier than it was last night!
So give this a whirl and tell me how you like it. If you like enchiladas, I know you will like it, and this is even easier, so go make some right now!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I am filled with regret right now. I write this so that maybe I save one of you from feeling the same way.

A friend of mine passed away the other day. She was a very interesting person with a great sense of humor. I hadn't seen her in... probably two years. She was living in an assisted living facility and though it was in the same town in which I live, I hadn't been to visit her.

Why? Any number of reasons that don't make any difference now. I just know now, too late, that I should have taken the time to see her.

I would give anything to hear one more story from her youth or about the way things used to be at the police department. Or have a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed her company during those few dinners or lunches we shared. Or that time she entertained me while we endured the mundane task of watches boxes and boxes of old records get put in a gigantic shredder. I would tell her I wished she hadn't had to have dealt with some of the strife she endured. I wish her life had been easier, and I wish I'd not said to myself countless times, "One of these days I'll go and visit her."

I do this with many things in my life. One of these days I'll deal with the boxes that have sat unpacked in my garage for the past year. Or I'll fill out those divorce papers. Or I'll really get this house so organized that there is a place for everything and everything's in its place.

And those things will get done. But I won't get one more story from Topsy. So if there's someone you've been meaning to see or call, just do it. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crock Pot Love Affair

I heart my crock pot, I really, really do.

It's hard to remember when my love affair started, but I know that several years ago I found a recipe for crockpot cheesy chicken, or something like that, on RecipeZaar. That has become one of my standbys because it so easy and I don't have to look up a recipe.

boneless skinless chicken breasts - however much you want, I think the recipe was like for 2 lbs, and I ALWAYS use ice glazed chicken breats, the kind you find in the bag at Trader Joe's or the grocery store, but they seem to be cheaper at Trader Joe's
2 cans of cheddar cheese soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
garlic powder
salt and pepper

So maybe it's 2 cans of cream of chicken and 1 can of cheddar cheese, I can never remember and I've probably done it both ways. But all you do is throw that chicken in the crock pot (when you're using the ice glazed chicken there is no prep involved), and then mix up the other stuff (the salt, pepper, and garlic powder are to taste), and then you dump that over the chicken. Turn your crockpot on low for about 7 hours and you are done. Chop it or shread it and serve it over egg noodles or a baked potato or rice, whatever. You could also jazz it up with other spices. It's just simple, easy comfort food.

Several months ago Super and I went to Sarah's house for dinner. She made us chicken enchiladas. I was like, this chicken is so yummy and flavorful and moist, how'd you cook it? She tells us she just threw chicken in the crock pot and threw a jar of green salsa over it. After 7 hours it's ready to shred.

What the? Who the? How the? No way, it could not be that easy! But sure enough it was. And since then I have made that stuff many, many, many times. I've used green salsa (Herdez is my personal favorite), red salsa, and at various times added jalapenos or green chili or onion. I also throw a little garlic powder on top because I always think some garlic powder's a good idea. Once you shred it up you can use it for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salad, whatever. Too easy.

Yesterday I did a variation on this and topped the chicken with a jar of spaghetti sauce. I used the Puttanesca sauce from Trader Joe's. Wowza. Just had some over a baked potato topped with some of Vanessa's Homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing, and dang... that was delicious and filling and fabulous.

It's all about low investment, high reward. I am all about this concept in cooking and in life.

Don't get me wrong, some things are hard work and rightly so, and have amazing results. But some things shouldn't feel hard. For example, if you work hard to hook up with a friend only to find you don't have any fun when you hang out with them, or worse, they annoy you, then I suggest you don't hang out with that friend any longer, or at least not often. Life's too short for that. Look around and see if there are any places you can crockpoterize (that's a new word, yes, I just made that up) your life.

And if you have any crock pot recipe ideas, send them my way!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fair is Fair

The last few days I've been feeling like a raving bitch.

I had some discord in my life, and I've been feeling like a spoiled-ass brat. Am I really getting so mad about this, I wondered? What the hell is wrong with me?

But now that I have gotten the issue resolved, and it happened to come out the way I wanted, I realized that I wasn't getting mad because I wasn't getting my way. I was getting mad because it wasn't fair.

Stuff not being fair kicks my ass. In the grand scheme of things, I am super lucky. Like, to have my kid, my family, my friends, my job - I should shut the bleep up and never complain.

But there's this whole big lump of "not-fairness" that I have in my life, and I've pretty much resolved myself to knowing, well, shoot, when it comes to this situation, Jen, you kinda got screwed, you'll continue to get screwed, you can't change that, so move on. I get through this situation of unfairness by looking at all I have in the rest of my life and thinking hey, I'm still way ahead of the game.

But when this one little situation came up recently, I was incensed. It was like okay, I've already figured out the rest of that stuff sort of sucks, but now, really, this is too much. And it wasn't a big thing, but the unfairness of it was big. The lack of give and take. That whole human thing of expecting people to give back what they get. Give and take. Fairness. That was huge.

So after finally being able to get this across, I feel much better. And even now I feel like, is it because I got my way? And it's like no, it's because fair is fair. I do for you, you do for me. That's how it should be. When it can't be like that, that's one thing. But when it can be, so help me it had better be that way or deal with my wrath (I am totally picturing that thing that Samuel L. Jackson's character would say in Pulp Fiction before he capped someone... ).

Anyway, tension is flowing away as I type. I hope all of you get some fairness today. You deserve it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Post About the Phobic Thing

Let's set the scene. Fall of 1982. Math Building, Juan Crespi Junior High, El Sobrante (El Sob, #1), California. The final school bell rings and students are pouring out of the hallway, free to go about their business for the day until they are once again imprisoned within these walls.

A tall, awkward girl with regretfully large '80's hair and big eyebrows is unknowingly suffering from a bit of the stomach flu. She exits the building and pukes her guts out (mostly hamburger and Rice-A-Roni, the previous night's dinner, which will forever become the Meal She Will Not Eat), just outside the building, as several students pass by.

She doesn't at remember if any of the students said anything, but come on, it was junior high. There was probably some pointing and staring and laughing, because let's face it, junior high school students are, by and large, idiots. She does remember a nice teacher named Ms. O'Connor or Ms. O'Conner (or was she a Miss or Mrs?) checking on her to make sure she was okay. She'd never had her for a teacher but she would always remember her kindness.

And this my friends, this seemingly insignificant unfortunate incident would be one that would shape the life of the puker for at least the next 10 plus years. And if you're thinking that the puker is me, well, of course you're right, since this is my blog and all, it only makes sense that this would be my story.

Had this happened to one of my more normal, confident, secure fellow students (some of whom I am today lucky enough to cherish as friends), it would have been embarrassing, sure. But it probably wouldn't have altered their lives. But when it happened to me, not only was I just starting the 7th grade, busting out with hormones, and incredibly shy, it turns out my wiring was such that this made me a little crazy. Well, not crazy exactly (though I totally am not ashamed to say that yes, I am a little nuts, and this is a pretty well-known fact). It made me afraid. I was scared to go to school (yep, that's why I missed so much of junior high and high school) and ultimately to be in any situation in which I felt like I couldn't easily get out. I always hoped for the seat in class next to a door; otherwise I'd be preoccupied about "what if... " What if I get sick? What if I can't make it to the bathroom? What if it all happens again?

And the crazy thing is that I was hardly ever sick. I mean, I'd not feel well, but I hard ever actually vomited as kid or a teenager. So to spend years being afraid of it was pretty ironic.

It got to the point where I refused to go to the mall. Going to the movies I could handle okay, because at least I could say I liked to sit near the back on an aisle and not look like a weirdo. I never shared any of this sort of thing with anyone. I couldn't say, I can't do this or that because I'm afraid I'm going to puke. I don't know that I ever even verbalized it that way to my best friend or to my mom.

My breaking point came in 1992, Easter Sunday. I was at Raley's on San Pablo Dam Road. I filled the shopping cart with items. I went to stand in line and panicked when I saw that all of the lines were long. My cheeks started to feel... puckery. I hadn't been sick or anything, but if my cheeks felt like that, oh boy, maybe that meant something was going to happen. I went over to the far side of the store, parked my full cart, and left.

That was the end.

I went and saw a psychologist at Richmond Kaiser. I was so nervous to go and tell my story. I felt at that time like the craziest person on the planet and so ashamed. I will never forget two things. One, she told me I was not crazy, but I was phobic, and she referred me to a program at Kaiser in Vallejo called Phobease. Number two, I thought she was dumping me after only 10 minutes because I was too crazy and I really couldn't be helped.

I went to this Phobease meeting, run by this guy named Dr. Harold Leibgold. My best friend Kim, who I'm lucky enough to still call my best friend, went with me as my support person. At this meeting were several other people, who like me, were afraid of something. Snakes, planes, bridges, open spaces, closed spaces, you name it. And they were all grown-ups. At the age of 22 and still living at home, I really didn't feel at all like a grown-up.

So Kim and I went for however many weeks... 8? 10? I don't remember, it seems like a lifetime ago. It was all about desensitization. And relaxation. He told us not drink caffeine or watch the news on TV (because that's not good for sensitive folks). It was all about reprogramming our brains, working against the wiring that was in there that made us afraid. It was all about taking little steps. The first assignment I think gave myself was to go to Hilltop Mall, park where the old theaters used to be on the lower level, and walk halfway up that first hallway. That was it. Once I could do that with little to no anxiety, I was able to make it all the way to end of the hall. And so on and so forth.

It was a process. And little by little, day by day, I felt less scared and more "normal." Whatever that means. Essentially, Dr. Leibgold saved my life. And I've never even thanked him, what a rat I am! I think I'll see if I can send him a message and a link to this post...

I think one of the reasons I share this is because I never want anyone to feel ashamed if they need help. I feel like I spent more than 10 years only half-living, and I wouldn't want anyone else to do that. Would I change it? Absolutely not. Those years made me who I am, and maybe they make me appreciate life as much as I do. What if I hadn't wound up dropping out of college at the age of 21? I wouldn't have wound up finishing my degree at Cal State Hayward and having such an awesome college experience filled with amazing teachers and classes that I didn't appreciate when I was 18.

Most importantly, every step we take puts us in the direction we're going... I'm here now because of all the stuff that worked and didn't work, and I wouldn't rather be any other place.

So live and enjoy and love and laugh and entertain and be entertained. And don't be afraid. But if you are, know that you're not alone.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Year So Far

So far I'm giving 2010 a thumbs up. Definitely better than 2009. Granted, in 2009 I ended a marriage and lost a house so it's not like the first 8 (almost 9, I guess) days of 2010 would have to be stellar to put it ahead of 2009.

So what's better about it? Well, for starters, it's an even-numbered year. I tend to think those are better for some reason. For example, I was born in 1970, my parents bought their house in Hilltop Green in 1978, 10th and 12th grades were okay as far as school goes, while the 9th and 11th not so much. I started my job at the West County Times in 1990, and while it was a low-paying dead-end sort of job, I made friends there that I will have for life. Started one of my least favorite jobs in 1999. Got together with my ex-husband in '97, but got married in '02. My kid was due in January of 2006... but she showed up in December of 2005...

Okay, so the whole even-numbered year thing doesn't hold much water, but still. There is a certain sturdiness to 2010 that I appreciate. And like hey, we have made it through an entire decade of the 21st century! And want to know what's weird? Years from now, assuming the world as we know it still exists, the people around in the year 2090 will be talking about how WE lived in the olden days, back in 2010, like we talk about the people who were around during the big quake of 1906! Whoa. That's trippy. But as usual, I digress.

I suppose my favorite thing about 2010 is that I started my new year's resolution before the year started. After celebrating a wonderful Christmas with my family, followed up two days later by Kayla's 4th birthday, to say I was super duper fat would be a HUGE, and I do mean huge, understatement. As my dear Spook said that time we ate at Strings so many years ago, as we were finishing up our shared dessert, "I'm so fat I can't turn my head." Yes, it was like that. And sadly, I had been feeling like that for quite some time, oh, I'd say at least since 2006.

At least while I was pregnant and fat, that was okay, because, you know, I was pregnant. But when instead of losing weight after I got pregnant I kept gaining... and gaining... apparently due to eating to combat stress... and eating because I was bored... and eating because there was some food over there, you know, within reach... and not exercising... like, almost ever. See, all of that will make you fat!

Throw in being in your late '30's and well, you're pretty much screwed.

Oh, so yes, the new year's resolution was to put down the fork and get off my ass. I think I can say ass because this is my very own blog, and if you read this, you probably know me, and if you know me, you know I like bad words. A lot.

So on the get off my ass front, I have done some sort of exercise every day for the past 13 days. I have decided I must become as I once was, in the late '90's, that person who MUST exercise every day. I swear to God, that was me. Not only that, but I took weight training classes at Contra Costa College, and at my leanest, I actually went to Jazzercize class in a sports bra and tight little matching shorts. And looked good. I'm not kidding.

And no, I will never have that body again. If for no other reason than I'm damn near 40, not 29, and I am pretty sure that having a baby live inside my body for several months actually stretched my bones. At least it sounds good in theory.

On the put down the fork front, that has been harder BUT I have had amazing accomplishments such as not having a single Red Onion french fry yesterday when I was smelling that most wonderful aroma for close to an hour, and not taking a single one of the chocolate chip crack cookies that Super brought in, and really, they are crackrrific. Granted, it's always going to be a struggle because I've always loved food and always eaten when I'm not hungry, but I'm trying really hard to be mindful of what's I'm my fork and trying to keep in mind that what I've been doing DOES NOT WORK.

Does my new mindset (because really, it's new, I haven't exercised 13 days in a row since... ummm... the late '90's?) have anything to with turning 40 in June? I did not think about that consciously but I'm pretty sure it does. I'm not freaking out about it so much as that number might as well be a sign that says, STOP F#%KING AROUND, JEN! Like, really, this is the only life and the only body I'm getting. Do I want to wear cute clothing? Yes. Do I want to be healthier for my kid and for me? Of course. Do I want to have to fend off guys at the bar? Weeeellllll, that part not so much, that would be annoying. I do like the invisibility that this fat suit can sometimes give me!

I am so hoping I don't write in 2 weeks about how I went back to my old, non-working ways. That would be a real bummer. I don't know... I'm thinking I will still be liking me and 2010.