Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stacked Enchiladas for a cold day

Stacked Enchiladas
Stacked Enchiladas ready for the oven

I have a friend who will soon deliver a new baby - her second child. Liz is also a lively writer and a great cook. She has combined these two skills to make one of the few blogs I regularly read - Carpe Season - "Living seasonally in an under seasoned world." Right now she is trying to prepare her family for an event she knows will change their lives in ways she, well, it is hard to accurately predict what life is going to look like on the other side of second baby, isn't it? I remember someone telling me it's the third one that either makes or breaks you - after that it doesn't matter. She had seven children. I didn't know whether to be relieved or frightened. Even now with adult children I can't say whether that is true or not.
Liz came up with an idea to help her family eat well even as they transit from three to four. She called on some of her friends to send their favorite make-ahead and freeze main dish meals. She plans to make one now and freeze one for later.
I was inspired to send her a family favorite that dates back to our New Mexico days when we lived next door to a Hispanic family. Their Nana made the world's best flour tortillas. Fresh every day. Like it was nothing. Like me toasting a piece of bread. I wish she was still my neighbor. It surprised me that they often made the following dish that was considered lazy, fast, and unauthentic Mexican food. I RARELY, rarely use Campbells cream of anything soup, but for this - I break my rule, unless I have some good leftover chicken broth. This delicious dish can easily be made gluten-free, especially if you make your own cream soup.
This is not difficult to whip up and the ingredients are easily kept on hand for a cold fall day. When served with a side of refried beans, fresh salsa and a simple fruit salad - this is comfort food. Around here, anyway.

Stacked Enchiladas
1 pound ground beef, browned and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas
12 oz grated mild cheddar cheese
1 can green chiles (optional to use more)
1 small onion diced
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can milk
Butter two small casserole dishes to make two main dishes that will make three servings each. One to eat now. One to freeze. Or use a larger baking dish to make a main dish that serves approximately five and eat it all at once. Number of servings vary according to appetites. (A cast iron skillet also works well for this recipe.)
Brown the ground beef, set aside. Mix soup and milk in a largish shallow bowl. Grate cheese, set aside. Chop onion, set aside.
To assemble casserole: dip a tortilla in the soup mix so each side is drenched. Place in bottom of dish. Sprinkle a bit of ground beef, 1 T raw onion, 1 T green chile, a little sprinkling of cheese. Repeat layers until the tortillas are used. (In a large casserole dish use 1 1/2 or 2 tortillas. Tear them to fit the shape of bottom.) Pour any remaining soup and a generous amount of cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it bubbles.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There are Chickadees

One thing I've always wished I could experience is to have a wild bird eat from my hand. I've always loved chickadees - they are so small and cheerful. I've heard they aren't too difficult to entice, just stand outside until your hands and feet are frozen stiff and hypothermia followed by rigor mortis sets in.
Last week I did it. I stood on the deck of the cabin. Waiting, waiting. Waiting for them to overcome their fear of me. There was a flock of them flitting about because they'd already been careening in and snatching from little piles of black sunflower seeds I'd scattered on the railing. When they were nearly gone, I posted with my hands cupped, those seeds a little siren song seducing them.
I was about to give up when, to my surprise, the nuthatches came! Hopping along the rail, making little chirrups, clutching my fingers with their tiny feet, sorting the seeds,with their needle-nosed beaks, tossing away several before finding the exactly right one. I was enthralled. Finally, a brave chickadee skidded to a stop about six inches away. She arched her head, eye-balled a seed, hopped on my thumb, grabbed it and arced away. I could feel the tiny draft of her wings as she pulled up. They kept coming. I tried not to laugh for the joy of them.
I just heard about a woman with four young children who has Stage IV breast cancer. As we know, "there is no Stage V." Her heart bursts and breaks with love and longing for her children and her spouse. She strives to remain in Christ during her long sleepless nights.
So, I wonder. Why am I blessed with chickadees and nuthatches? There is no short answer to this. It seems that as long as I live I will need to review questions about suffering and persevering. I read C.S. Lewis. Edith Schaeffer. J.I. Packer. Others. And am temporarily satisfied, but is it my memory that has so many holes in it that I must return again and again to be reminded? I think so. And, I also turn Scriptures that assure me that God "prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies." (Ps. 23) And further, "goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." So, God, please bring comfort to that young woman. Prepare a table for her that sustains her through the valley of death. And thanks for the birds you brought to my hands - they were goodness, a kind of evidence that you have not abandoned us or your creation.
Handfuls of goodness