Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

I’m a big fan of RSM: Real Simple Mexican. (I’m also a big fan of acronyms. Patrick and I normally call our cat, Fish Taco, FT. Marianne says Fish Taco may have some issues about his name, but we discussed that the acronym automatically makes him cool. Cool football player-type guys always go by their initials–like JT or JR or JP or some other letter accompanied by a J.) But I digress…

I love throwing together some beans and tortillas and peppers and making a meal that’s tasty and fulfills all of the important food group requirements. So here’s one of my favorite dinner staples, which I think also qualifies as an ETD (Extra Tasty Dinner). Instead of noodles, I use corn tortillas, which also makes it safe for anyone with a gluten allergy. And FYI, while I expect these Monika-made acronyms to be followed by groans, this meal is sure to be groan-free.

8-10 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Mexican-style cheese

For the Filling
2 cans kidney beans
1 can Mexi-corn (frozen corn can be substituted)
1 white onion, diced
1 can chili-ready diced tomatoes
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 can black olives, sliced (optional)
2-3 teaspoons taco seasoning (a mixture of salt, paprika, garlic powder and cumin)

Sour cream
Green onions, sliced
Avocado, cubed

Slice the tortillas in half and make a single layer or them across the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish. I like to put the flat ends of the tortilla against the edge of the dish so there are no holes in the “crust.” Mix together the filling in a bowl, and spread roughly half of it over the tortillas. Top with half the cheese and then place the second layer of tortillas over that. Top with remaining filling and cheese and garnish with olives. Bake covered at 375 for about 45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the casserole is cooked through.

‘Tis the Season… Or Something

Today, little less than three months out from Christmas, I’m thinking about the holiday season and filled with nervous excitement. I’m not usually ahead of schedule with these things, but this year, I’m planning on getting my holiday cards done early. It may be that I’m just ready to go home and see my family…

Last year, I didn’t mail out many cards because I was on a budget… and a little lazy, honestly. This year, I think it would be nice to let my friends and family all over the country know that I’m thinking of them… just in case they’ve forgotten me way out here in the lonely Lone Star State.

Holiday cards are one of those annual rituals I used to watch my parents complete with admiration. How do they know so many people? Don’t their hands hurt from all those signatures? Aren’t they tired of licking stamps (this was before the sticker-stamp)? And each year, our living room would fill up with colorful cards and photos of families I’d never met.

In an age where the impersonal has become personal, it’s nice to send (and receive) something palpable that says “I’m thinking of you.” I enjoy having trinkets to display on my mantle (if I had a mantle), and you can’t put scotch tape on your Facebook wall posts and hang them on your refrigerator.

I think this year, I’ll design my own card. Usually, I raid the TJ Maxx bins for their “Last Season” stock of holiday wonders. I’d like something nature-y this year, something neutral and non-denominational. The design is only half the work though. In addition to the frenzy associated with picking a printing website, I’m already anxious about my list of recipients. What if I forget someone? Who should be added? Who should be removed (I have people on the list who probably don’t remember me anymore)? Don’t even get me started on the subsequent gift purchasing. WHY DOES CHRISTMAS HAVE TO BE SO NERVE-WRACKING?!

I know I’m crazy to already be thinking about the holidays, but my amazing friend Brooke is already listening to Christmas music, and I figure, it’s never too early to think about telling the people who matter in your life that you care. Plus, maybe if I put the word out there now, I’ll get some extra use out of my scotch tape this year.

Morning Questions

How did I somehow buy toothpaste that tastes like cough drops?

Why does Simba always, every morning, without fail bust in on me in the bathroom? (She’s one of the cats, for anyone uninitiated.)

Will today be better than yesterday? My recipe post last night was my way of avoiding complaining about a bad day, but bring it, Tuesday!

Is breakfast quinoa better for you than steel cut oats? Part of my diet means less cereal.

Why is it so much easier to be hard on ourselves than forgiving?

Will Patrick remember to return my camera to me today?

Why do sweaters always make me itch, even so-called “soft fabrics” like cashmere or angora?

On that note: rejoice, it’s sweater season!

Tofu and Wild Rice Salad

I’m without my camera tonight, but I’ll make this salad again and will be sure to take photos. Patrick and I are dieting, which means my Fat-Free Vegetarian cookbook is my new best friend. I was skeptical when I made this salad, particularly since I had to modify it, but it turned out to be light and delicious. The recipe initially called for harissa, a North African chili paste, but since I didn’t have any, I opted for sriracha/rooster sauce instead. The spiciness of the rooster sauce pairs nicely with the honey and the fresh parsley is great with diced green chili peppers.

1 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 fresh chili, seeded and finely chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp rooster sauce
salt and ground pepper

Marinate the tofu in roughly half of the dressing for about 45 minutes.

Cook the basmati rice and the wild rice in separate pans according to package directions until tender. The basmati rice will take 15-20 minutes to cook, and the wild rice will take 45-50 minutes. Allow both to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet and fry the tofu until is lightly browned. You may need a little oil in the pan to prevent the tofu from sticking. Let cool slightly.

Mix the rest of the dressing into the rice and stir in the parsley and chili pepper. Gently fold in the tofu and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

A Saturday Morning Post

Because I’m up early (for me…).

Because I didn’t post yesterday.

Because I want to go for a run since I ate way, way too many carbs last night. Thanks, Italian dinner.

Because I really should swing in this hammock sometime. Or at least, take pictures of it in the morning sun.

Because you must strike when inspiration’s hot.

Because you can start a sentence with “because.”

But I must go now…

Because the cats are hungry.