Thursday, January 9, 2014

How To Make a Mexican Dinner with What's in the Pantry

Wow, it's been awhile! I think my last post was in October. I've been a bit...occupied...with other things! More on that later. ;)

My favorite way of cooking it throwing things together. No recipe required!

And that is exactly how I made dinner last night. 

I had a little inspiration from from a pin on Pinterest for oven baked tacos. 

I think this fact right here is why I prefer cooking over baking: you can take almost any recipe and modify it based on what you have on hand at the moment. I feel this is especially true for Mexican-American dishes. (I throw in American because I could not imagine my Guatemalan mother-in-law making ANY of these things. She'd probably laugh!)

Anywho, I originally wanted to make those yummy looking tacos, but I didn't have the right stuff in the pantry. 

So then I started making things up. 

I had a pound of cooked ground beef in the freezer, so I started by thawing that quick and adding water and taco seasoning and simmering that on the stove for awhile. 

Meanwhile, I found a can of refried beans, a jar of salsa, and a fun creamy chipotle sauce in the fridge. After the water level in the meat had reduced a bit, I added the salsa and chipotle sauce. Maybe a cup of salsa and a few tablespoons of the chipotle sauce. I brought it all up to heat and simmered that for a bit. Then, I added the can of refried beans and stirred it until everything was all creamy. 

I added about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or "shred chedd" as I write it on my grocery list) and this became the filling. 

If you don't have those ingredients, here are some things you could easily substitute:

Taco sauce
Tomato sauce
Diced tomatoes
Pinto beans
Black beans
Enchilada sauce

You could even add things that I did not, like:

Canned green chilies

You could even omit the beans or omit the beef for a veggie version! Whatever you'd like.

I had burrito-sized tortillas in the fridge, so I decided to make burritos instead of tacos. I filled each tortilla with the beef and bean mixture and laid them out in a baking dish. I realized that they should have some sort of sauce on them to keep the outside moist while baking. 

This is where you can get really creative!

I decided to make a cheese sauce. I have some knowledge of how to start any cheese sauce: make a roux (pronounced "roo"). 

It's very simple. You need equal parts butter and flour. I did half a stick of butter, melted in a pot on the stove on medium heat, and then I stirred in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook this for a minute, stirring constantly. Then slowly pour in milk (I did maybe 2 cups? I didn't measure) and whisk together. The more fat in the milk, the thicker it will turn out. I had 2% in the fridge. Worked perfectly. You want the milk mixture to become thick and just start to be bubbly and then you can add your cheese. 

Any kind you want. 

Except for maybe Parmesan. It doesn't melt to a creamy texture. 

I used cheddar and Monterrey Jack. I also chose to put in some jalapeno cream cheese I had in the fridge. Unfortunately, the container was almost empty, so it ended up being like 2 or 3 spoonfuls. But hey, at least I was using up leftover items in the fridge!

You have to babysit this pot of hot milk; it can scald if you heat too high too quickly, so keep it on medium heat. Even if you're tired of waiting for it to bubble. You should be stirring it very frequently. Once you have achieved "thick and bubbly" status, the cheese can be stirred in.

Now go ahead and pour it on top of your burritos!

I put it in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until heated through and slightly bubbly. 

I served mine with some rice. 

It was pretty good. The husband and I agreed that the sauce was a little bland. But I think it would be a great sauce for a Mac and cheese! I probably should have added some salsa or taco seasoning to it to spice it up. 

Have fun making your own Mexican dish based on your kitchen!

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