Friday, March 26, 2010

Comfort Food

I have a friend who's currently going through a lot of things right now, so I took Wednesday off (one of the benefits of the work I do is a wonderfully flexible schedule), and spent the day with her. Food, of course, was part of my plan from the get-go.

There's something wonderful about giving and receiving food. When my dad passed away, I was deeply appreciative of everything everyone sent, but two things were the most helpful. My brother's best friend's family made a lasagna that lasted for two days; no one had to cook. And another very good work friend of mine sent a fruit basket, which also fed us for days. When you're grieving - or even going through major life changes - receiving food is a very tangible show of love. Even if you love to cook, it's effort… and sometimes you only have enough energy to make it through the day. You can cook later, when you need to be busy and you need that kind of personal therapy.

But in the moment of difficulty, someone providing for one of the most basic needs of the human condition - nourishment - means an awful lot.

Lasagna is my mother's favorite food of all time, and both my brother and I do try to eat healthy - so the choices also make a difference.

For my friend, I know she likes more unusual foods - and spicy foods. I had an idea of Mexican Lasagna in my head, and when I asked her about it, she sounded very excited, so I knew I was on the right track. I really didn't know what I was going to do until I got to the night before and hadn't a chance to do much shopping… but didn't want to do a lot of cooking at her house. So, I did one of those kitchen inventories, found I had chicken in the freezer, a can of chipotles, beans, and salsa - so that became my plan for the meat filling. The rest… I kinda figured out as I went along. The result, no leftovers to bring home to the Husband-of-Awesome, and requests for the recipe.

So, here goes:

Meat filling

1 lb chicken tenders or breast meat roughly chopped
1 4 - 6 oz can of chipotles (confession, I wasn't paying attention, but the can most stores sell them in).
approx 6 oz medium heat salsa (I used up what was a little under half of a 16 oz jar in the fridge… one 8-oz jar probably would be fine)
1 14 oz can of black beans
1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
1-2 tbsp dark chili powder
1-2 tbsps cumin
1 heaping tbsps of minced garlic
1-2 tbsps garlic powder

(Potential additions: You can probably make this vegan by doing all beans and adding some corn and canned chiles)

Throw all that in the crock pot overnight on low. Use the chipotle can and the salsa jar to add any extra liquid (and utilize all the yumminess while cleaning them to be recycled). Liquid should cover just above the chicken.

In the morning, tear apart any leftover large chunks of chicken. Let cool and put aside for when you're going to use it.

Cheesy-Avocado Filling:

4 oz goat cheese
1 small pkg of mild spreadable cheese with chipotle or Mexican flavoring (I used Rondole)

(My original intent was to use a soft Mexican farmer's cheese called Campesino, but I couldn't find it anywhere)

2 really ripe avocadoes

Smoosh all these ingredients together in one beautiful mess. Do this just before you make the lasagna. If you want to do it ahead of time, add the juice of one lime to keep the avocado from turning.

The rest:

1 pkg of 8 burrito size tortillas
1 pkg shredded "Mexican Blend" or "Taco Blend" cheese
1-2 green peppers, sliced
1 small bottle of either recaito or smooth green taco/enchilada sauce

Shake/spoon 2-3 large tbsps of the green sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan.
Layer three tortillas across the bottom.
Spoon on your pre-cooked chicken mixture.
Give a fine sprinkle of the shredded cheeses
Layer three more tortillas across
Layer the slices of green pepper
Smooth the cheese across the top of the peppers
Layer on the last 2 tortillas
Spread another 3 or more tbsps of the green sauce
Spread more of the shredded cheese to your preference over the top.
Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until nice, warm and bubbly.



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