Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taco Salad

Taco Tuesday has become a big thing around my house, but recently I wanted to change it just a bit – to make something that I adored growing up: Taco Salad. How tasty! How tidy! How similar to nachos, but somehow without the guilt…

I found a recipe for Taco Salad in my 1980 cookbook from the Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, called “Cooking is Our Bag” (and YES it is mine too, thank you very much!) and was overjoyed to see that it called for the favored food of my dear friend, Karen: Taco Flavored Doritos! (Note: In addition to loving Doritos, Karen also sells Tupperware, and here you can find yourself a nice container to transport your very own Taco Salad!)

Taco Salad was a big treat for me growing up, so I got out THE actual CatherineHolm serving bowl and Dansk bowls my mom used to serve her own Taco Salad in, and whipped some up. Sorry, Karen, I used plain chips, though I do like to indulge in Doritos as you know! I also added corn and avocado to make it just a little more “salad”. My mom made hers with beans, heating up a can of pinto beans and adding a can of stewed tomatoes which provided the “dressing” for the salad, which is just the perfect finish, whichever type of chips you select.

Taco Salad

1 lb ground beef, cooked
¼ tsp cumin
Half head of lettuce, shredded
2 onions, chopped
1 ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 ½ cup chopped, peeled tomatoes
12 sliced ripe olives
Taco-flavored tortilla chips, broken
7 ½ oz mild taco sauce

Mix ground beef with cumin and salt, chill. Toss with all other ingredients. If layered ahead, add lettuce, tortilla chips and taco sauce just before tossing to serve.

Serves 6-8

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cheddar-Topped Apples

When asked to bring a dessert to a Tupperware party recently, I naturally reached for my copy of their own cookbook from 1986, “Quick and Easy Cooking with Tupperware”. In the section entitled “Cabinet Cuisine”, I learned that “the secret to off-the-shelf success is stocking the right foods”, and sure enough, I had all these items at hand, so I deiced to make their Cheddar-Topped Apples and transport them in, what else, vintage Tupperware.

Now I will admit I was in a bit of a hurry when I first read over the recipe, because I got the WRONG IMPRESSION ENTIRELY about what the dish was going to be. Somehow, I envisioned apple slices with a topping sprinkled over them, such as might be served on a tray as finger-food. However, these are in fact, nothing like that. At all. Not that I’m saying they aren’t good, they just are NOT what I thought they would be. Nor, in fact, are they very attractive, so they turned out to be NOT IDEAL for a party. But, where would I be without the failures along the way, right?

So if for some reason you are really in the mood for apple pie filling, and you like that topped with cheddar cheese (a big thing, I know, I know!) but you also do NOT want to suffer the added enjoyment of a crust, this dish might be for you. Or, I thought, possibly it could be made in individual ramekins – but to be honest, just plain baked apples with cinnamon would seem tastier, and easier. This was tasty enough, just not quite… RIGHT. Read on and see what you think!

Cheddar-Topped Apples

3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 medium baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup raisins (NOTE: I left those out because I can’t stand raisins!)
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 oz)
¼ cup broken walnuts

In the Ultra 21 1-Quart Casserole (NOTE: just use Pyrex if you don’t have Tupperware / don’t want to cook in plastic!) combine the sugar, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the water and lemon juice. Add the sliced baking apples and raisins; stir to coat.

Bake, covered with the vent closed, in a 350 oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender. Uncover, sprinkle with the shredded cheddar cheese and the broken walnuts. Let stand, covered with the vent closed, for 2 to 4 minutes or till the cheese is melted. Serves 6.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jell-O Pretzel Salad

I am sure you’re all SHOCKED to read yet ANOTHER post from me on Jell-O, right? Well this one is quite possibly the most important of all. Not only was it taught to me by my dear friend Kim Mejia as an indispensable element of every 4th of July, but it is one of those dishes that sounds horrible but is actually delicious. OK let’s be honest – it is rather obscene, but take one bite and you’ll grab the whole tray and a fork and run off for some Alone Time. Honest.

The other fantastic thing about this dish is that I found it in my 1986 [comedy] gem of a cookbook, “Cooking with Country Music Stars”, as given by none other than the Oak Ridge Boys! Come on, do you mean to tell me they really fixed this up and brought it to a pot luck? THAT is something I’d pay to see (note 1973 photo of them looking smooooth!) “Elvira – hey guys, get in here and help me with this cream cheese!” Umm, yeahhhhh…..

I must point out that the version Kim makes is the one I used, so compared to the one below, you make a few changes, as follows: use whole pretzels and melt an entire cup of butter over them as the first layer (no sugar needed). Bake for 10 min at 400 degrees, then cool. DO NOT add the cool whip to the sugar and cream cheese mixture – these are two separate layers under the Jell-O! Finally, just mix up the Jell-O as you would normally, no pineapple juice needed. You can add fruit, but it isn’t necessary. Finally, you won’t be able to serve this in nice little squares – just let people scoop blobs out for themselves, and forget the lettuce leaves. Like this is a salad, oh PLEASE!

Don’t forget that if this is for an Independence Day Party, you need to work the canned whipped cream into stripes over the red Jell-O base, and you can use blueberries for the blue part with the stars. Or just go crazy and spray the whipped cream everywhere. Heck, it’s a party, right?

The Oak Ridge Boys’ Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 8-oz carton Cool Whip
2 cups pineapple juice
2 3-oz packages strawberry Jell-O
2 10-oz packages frozen strawberries
Lettuce leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix pretzels, melted butter and sugar and press firmly into 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Bake 6 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Blend cream cheese and sugar in bowl. Add Cool Whip. Spread mixture over cooled pretzel crust.

In saucepan, heat pineapple juice to boiling. Add Jell-O. Stir until dissolved. Add frozen berries. Stir. Pour over cheese mixture and let set in refrigerator. Cut into squares. Serve on bed of lettuce if desired.

Makes 12 servings.