Thursday, December 29, 2011

Southwestern Taco Pie



I've had this recipe for years, and occasionally it comes out of the stack of old standbys.  This Southwestern Taco Pie is a mix of comfort (which often comes wrapped in a flaky pie crust), and excitement (which epitomizes big, bold Mexican flavors in your mouth). I realize that it's not easy to make a "brown in the middle" pie look pretty... but it sure is tasty!

Some of the "holiday" recipes we've had lately have been a bit more work than most of us would like to take on for a regular weeknight meal.  This recipe, on the other hand, could totally be made ahead of time and refrigerated, and popped into the oven to bake when you get home from work.  It's really as easy as 1. combine, 2. layer, 3. bake!  You don't even have to make the pie crust!!

                    Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
1 lb                  lean ground beef
1 Tbsp            vegetable oil (if the beef is very lean)
1 pkg              (1.25-oz) taco seasoning mix
1/3 cup           water
1 lb                  package frozen green, red and yellow peppers and onions*
1 tsp                garlic powder
1 tsp                onion powder
¼ tsp               salt
1/8 tsp            pepper
1          (11-oz) can sweet whole kernel corn, drained
1 can                chopped green chiles
½ cup             salsa of your choice
1 pkg              (15-ounce) refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on package
2 cups            shredded cheese: Colby/Monterrey blend or Mexican blend
Garnish:         Sour cream; Taco Sauce
 * If using fresh peppers and onions, use 1½ cups chopped onions and 2½ cups chopped peppers and increase prep time and stove top cooking time.

Step-by-Step:
Preheat the oven to 400oF.   
Chop the onions and peppers as you desire.  Remember - thawed, frozen onions/peppers will cook down faster than raw ones.   
 Brown ground beef in large skillet over medium-high heat. When the beef is about halfway cooked, add the peppers & onions, cooking until beef is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.  At this point, you may choose to drain any excess fat.  If you used very lean beef, there may not be any to drain.  
Add taco seasoning mix and water; mix until ground beef is well coated.


Add garlic and onion powders, salt, pepper.  Combine salsa, drained corn, and green chiles with the ground beef mixture; mix well.  
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Salt
Pepper

Salsa
Corn

Chopped Green Chiles
Prepare pie crusts as directed on package for 2-crust pie using 9-inch glass or metal pie pan.  (I LOVE using like the Pillsbury roll-out crust in the red box.  It comes out great each time.)

Sprinkle ½ cup of cheese evenly in bottom of crust-lined pan.  Spread ½ of beef mixture evenly in pan over cheese, pat down. Sprinkle ¾ cup cheese in pan and spread evenly with remaining beef mixture, pat down, top with remaining ¾ cup cheese.





Top with second crust and flute; slit in several places. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  If you are making this in advance, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate it at this point.
Cover edge of crust with strips of foil or a pie crust shield after 15 minutes of baking.

Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish as you like.  Some suggestions:  a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, cilantro paste (or fresh cilantro), and a little green onions.  ... endless possibilities! 
 So after a long day at work, you remove the plastic wrap, pop this into the oven, make some good old Mexican flavored rice and there you have dinner!  Flaky crust, bold taco flavors, sweet corn nibblets, some crunchy toppings, and the smooth creamy sour cream and guacamole!  Can you taste it?


Looking for more great recipes?
Please check out my Recipe Index for tons of ideas!  Here are a few to get you started:


Written Method for Southwestern Taco Pie:
Preheat the oven to 400oF.  Chop the onions and peppers as you desire.  Remember - thawed, frozen onions/peppers will cook down faster than raw ones.  Brown ground beef in large skillet over medium-high heat. When the beef is about halfway cooked, add the peppers & onions, cooking until beef is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.  At this point, you may choose to drain any excess fat.  If you used very lean beef, there may not be any to drain.  Add taco seasoning mix and water; mix until ground beef is well coated.  Add garlic and onion powders, salt, pepper.  Combine salsa, drained corn, and green chiles with the ground beef mixture; mix well.  

Prepare pie crusts as directed on package for 2-crust pie using 9-inch glass or metal pie pan.  (I LOVE using like the Pillsbury roll-out crust in the red box.  It comes out great each time.) 

Sprinkle ½ cup of cheese evenly in bottom of crust-lined pan.  Spread ½ of beef mixture evenly in pan over cheese, pat down. Sprinkle ¾ cup cheese in pan and spread evenly with remaining beef mixture, pat down, top with remaining ¾ cup cheese.  Top with second crust and flute; slit in several places. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  If you are making this in advance, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate it at this point.

Cover edge of crust with strips of foil or a pie crust shield after 15 minutes of baking.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish as you like.  Some suggestions:  a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, cilantro paste (or fresh cilantro), and a little green onions.  ... endless possibilities!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bananas Foster Cake



One of my sweet students gave me the new 2011 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook... and the first recipe that caught my eye was this Bananas Foster Cake.  It has all the luscious flavors of the traditional Bananas Foster dessert thanks to a brown sugar rum glaze on each layer.. but this one won't melt right before your eyes.  As a matter of fact, this one is best savored slowly, maybe with a nice cup of coffee.

In addition to the moist cake and brown sugar rum glaze, there are layers of bananas between the layers, and a silky cream cheese frosting on top.  And if THAT isn't enticing enough, it's topped off with pieces of sweet, nutty, Southern pecan pralines!  Can this go wrong?

Now I need to be perfectly honest and tell you that this is a special occasion cake.  It does require quite a few steps; although each of them are simple to perform.  Just give yourself ample time.  I got busy with other duties of the holidays, and ended up making the cake on Christmas Eve and the pralines on Christmas day due to a time crunch.  That was another story entirely, as the recipe calls for "store-bought" pralines.  HA!  Well this was not going to happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  There were none to be found when I needed them, so I ended up having to make my own.  You could shave quite a few of these steps off of the recipe using store-bought pralines... although the extra pralines that I made were very much welcomed by my guests!

                                         Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients for Cake:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray for baking (with added flour)
  • 2 firm ripe bananas, sliced
Ingredients for Brown Sugar Rum Glaze:
  • 6 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 2 (8 oz) packages softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 (16 oz) packages powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 4 tsp vanilla 
  • Garnishes:  cinnamon sticks, pralines
 Ingredients for Classic Southern Pralines:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2.5 cups lightly toasted pecan halves
Step-by-Step:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine sifted flour, salt, and baking soda.
Sifted flour.

Salt

Baking soda
Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
Butter

Granulated sugar

Brown sugar

Eggs
Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low spead until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed.   
Flour mixture alternating with milk into butter mixture.

Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla.
Bananas

Vanilla
Mashed bananas
Stir bananas into batter.
Pour batter into 3 (8") round cake pans coated with cooking spray for baking.  These will generally say "with added flour."  I also like to cut rounds of parchment paper and place these in the bottom of the pans for extra "insurance." 
Pour into prepared pans.
 
Bake.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of pan.  Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
Cool.

Don't forget to remove the parchment paper.

Cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare glaze:  Bring brown sugar, corn syrup, and 3 Tbsp water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring constantly.  Cook, stirring 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.  Stir in butter, rum, and cinnamon.
Brown sugar.

Corn syrup.

Water.

Butter.

Dark rum.

Cinnamon.

Prepare Cream Cheese Frosting:  Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth; stir in milk and vanilla.  *Note - my ingredient list represents a double portion of the frosting suggested by the recipe.  I can never seem to make a "single" portion ice a cake the way I believe it should be.  So I doubled it. 
Cream cheese

Beat until fluffy.

Powdered sugar

Pierce cake layers with a wooden pick (I used a wooden skewer); drizzle with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
Poke holes in the cake.

Pour glaze over cake.

Distribute glaze over cake, allowing it to seep into the holes.

Spread a little Cream Cheese Frosting on 1 cake layer; arrange half of banana slices over frosting.  Repeat procedure with a second cake layer with frosting and remaining half of banana slices. 
Slice the bananas.

Cream cheese frosting.

Add bananas.
Top with the third cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Garnish with praline pieces and cinnamon sticks.  Well that DOES present a problem when there are no pralines to be found, so let's make some.  Skip this part if you have access to some.  If not, then you may need this little tutorial... because they really do make the cake special!

Method for Pralines:

1.Prepare a sheet tray by covering it with waxed paper.
2. Combine brown sugar and cream in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir any more.
Heavy cream and brown sugar.

Stir ONLY until the sugar melts, then not again!

3. Insert candy thermometer and boil until the sugar reaches 240 degrees (soft-ball stage).

Boil (and resist the urge to stir)!

Looking for 240 degrees F.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Continue to stir until mixture thickens and becomes opaque.
5. Stir in all pecans, and drop by teaspoonfuls on prepared sheet tray. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before removing from waxed paper.

Vanilla.

Toasted pecans.

Stir to incorporate.

Drop in small piles with a spoon.

Let them cool completely.
 So.... back to the cake.  Now that we have the pralines, break them into large chunks and use them as garnish.



Now THIS, my friends, is a very special Christmas cake!!  I hope you will agree.  My guests certainly enjoyed it!

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe!  If you are curious as to what else I have up my sleeve, hop on over to my Recipe Index for tons of ideas!  And if you are new to my blog Click here to subscribe to MenuMusings so you won't miss a thing!

Now here are a few "bonus" recipes for you!  Click the links to go there:
Buffalo Chicken Dip

Grilled Zucchini Rolls

Blackberry Jalapeno Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Shrimp and Corn Soup
The Perfect Onion Jam

Food Nerd Notes:
The term praline refers to a confection made from nuts and sugar syrup, whether in whole pieces or a ground powder.  They differ around the world in texture as well as ingredients.  Originally a French recipe, they were made using almonds.  Pecans were native to the New World and thus were originally not ingredients in European pralines. The European chefs typically used almonds as they were available locally and were relatively cheap. 

French settlers brought this recipe to Louisiana, where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. During the 19th century, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans for the original almonds, added cream to thicken the confection, and thus created what became known throughout the American South as the praline. They are usually made by combining brown sugar, butter, and cream in a pot on medium-high heat, and stirring constantly, until most of the water has evaporated and it has reached a thick texture with a brown color. Then it is usually dropped by spoonfuls onto wax paper, and left to cool. Pralines have a creamy consistency, similar to fudge.

Method-

Method for Cake:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine sifted flour, salt, and baking sodaBeat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low spread until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed.   Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla.

Pour batter into 3 (8") round cake pans coated with cooking spray for baking.  These will generally say "with added flour."  I also like to cut rounds of parchment paper and place these in the bottom of the pans for extra "insurance."  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of pan.  Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:  Bring brown sugar, corn syrup, and 3 Tbsp water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring constantly.  Cook, stirring 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.  Stir in butter, rum, and cinnamon.

Prepare Cream Cheese Frosting:  Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth; stir in milk and vanilla.  *Note - my ingredient list represents a double portion of the frosting suggested by the recipe.  I can never seem to make a "single" portion ice a cake the way I believe it should be.  So I doubled it. 

Pierce cake layers with a wooden pick (I used a wooden skewer); drizzle with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes.

Spread a little Cream Cheese Frosting on 1 cake layer; arrange half of banana slices over frosting.  Repeat procedure with a second cake layer with frosting and remaining half of banana slices. Top with the third cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Garnish with praline pieces and cinnamon sticks.

Method for Pralines:
Prepare a sheet tray by covering it with waxed paper.  Combine brown sugar and cream in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir any more.  Insert candy thermometer and boil until the sugar reaches 240 degrees (soft-ball stage).  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Continue to stir until mixture thickens and becomes opaque.  Stir in all pecans, and drop by teaspoonfuls on prepared sheet tray. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before removing from waxed paper.  Now that we have the pralines, break them into large chunks and use them as garnish.

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