View from the Suburbs: A Great Fall Weekend, Just To Put You in the Mood for Corn Tortilla Pie

 

Corn Tortilla Pie–It’s an easy comfort dish just right for a fall supper.

This has been one of those perfect fall weekends–nothing out of the ordinary, but every aspect enjoyable.

The mornings have been fresh, so Annie and I went to the dog park both mornings.  Yesterday, we both got shots–bordetella and flu.  (You can guess who got which.)  I took Annie to our new veterinary–Hearthstone Animal Clinic.  The staff is  very accommodating and friendly, and the clinic is bright and clean.  We were in and out so fast that Annie didn’t even seem to realize she had been to the vet.

I did a good bit of gardening both days.  I’m starting to amend my vegetable garden, so I went to Lowe’s and got more bags of cow manure.  (It’s already decomposed–no smell.)  The okra is about to play out, but even so, I canned another pint of them with a few of the peppers, which are just coming into their own here late in the fall.  I’ve already put up 28 pints of pickled okra;  I think they should be called artisanal pickles, because I’ve only canned a few pints at a time, the most was 4 pints when the okra was in its prime.  (“Put up”–I hope this usage isn’t losing its meaning.)  I’ve already tried a jar of the early ones.  Tasty!

After our jaunt to the dog park, the morning was still so refreshing that we stopped off at Bear Creek Park and took a walk by the animal pens.  The park is only a few miles down the road from my house, but since I moved here almost a year ago, I had only driven by.  Today before stopping, we drove through the expansive picnic areas, playing fields, and the golf course, and then through part that is just natural reserve full of pines and other trees.  The most exotic animals there are the rheas from South America, but there are also buffalo, deer, burros, emus, turkeys, pot-bellied pigs, goats, and a white reindeer.  Annie was none too interested in the animals, but one turkey seemed to be infatuated with her.

Now that it’s a bit cooler, I feel like using the oven more.  Here’s casserole dish of my own creation that I have made several times.  I like Mexican food, but I know that I can’t compete with the authentic dishes, so this recipe is easy to put together and satisfies that hankering for that Mexican taste.  I call it “Corn Tortilla Pie”.

Corn Tortilla Pie

1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey (or lean ground beef or pork)

1 large onion chopped

1 clove garlic finely minced or pressed

olive oil

1 tsp. chili powder

Salt and pepper

1 can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes

3/4 cup ketchup

2 cups frozen corn or 1 can chili-style beans

1 package (approximately 2 cups) Kraft Mexican Style Shredded Four Cheese

1 small can whole green chiles

22-24 corn tortillas

Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet.  Add the chopped onions, cooking until translucent.  Add the garlic, and let cook a few seconds more.  Add the ground meat, and cook until just done.  If you use ground beef, drain off any grease.  Add the chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then add the stewed tomatoes and ketchup.  (You can use salsa or hot sauce to make this dish more picante.)  Turn up the heat and cook until the liquids start to bubble and thicken just a bit.

While the meat is cooking, turn on the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large flat baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 glass one), add a splash of olive oil.  Use one of the corn tortillas to spread the oil onto the bottom and sides of the dish.  Line the bottom and sides with approximately 8 tortillas so that the dish is covered.  Spread half of the mixture over the bottom tortillas.  Then cover the meat with all of the frozen corn (or beans).  Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese on top.  Cover with another layer of tortillas (approximately 8).  Spread the remaining meat mixture on the tortillas.  Tear the green chiles in half and arrange them over the meat, and sprinkle with another 3/4 cup of the cheese.  Cover with the last 6 tortillas and sprinkle them with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the tortillas on top are crispy and the cheese is golden.

Take out of the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Use a knife to cut through and a spatula to lift to the plate.  Serve with a salad, and you have supper!  This makes 8 good-sized portions.

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View from the Suburbs: The Flag, Pink Bougainvillea, and Even More Okra Recipes

 

Waiting for the breeze.

I put my flag out this morning for the  Labor Day holiday and took it down this evening.  This is the first Labor Day in my house, and just like other national holidays, I’ve put out the flag.  My Georgian-style house looks great with the flag hanging out from it.

Anyone who says liberals are unpatriotic have definitely got it wrong.  Even though the flag is just a symbol, if we don’t respect the flag, we don’t have much respect for all that it represents.  I have never liked that businesses and other places put flags up and don’t take them down until they are deteriorated almost beyond recognition.  I also miss the time when it was a daily ritual for school custodians to raise the flag in the morning and take it down and neatly fold it up at the end of the school day.

I know the Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that it’s a First Amendment right to desecrate the flag, but those who disrespect the flag really are showing no respect for the country that gives them that very right.

There’s a house in the neighborhood, which has cars parked in the drive with bumper stickers saying, “I’m proud of my U.S. Marine son.”  Yet wound around a pole jutting out from the house is a U.S. flag so faded and tattered, it looks more like a rag someone used for washing the car.

Then there are people like the notorious Phelps clan, of Topeka, Kansas.  They continue to trample and show complete disrespect for the flag at protests across the country, especially at funerals for soldiers who have died fighting for the flag and the very freedoms which give these people the right to  protest.   This entire family has never grown up.  It’s like the 15-year-old who calls her mother “a bitch.”  Give that same girl another couple of years and she’ll know better.  The Phelps have never grown up enough to understand the freedoms the flag gives them.  Or maybe they do, and they’re just using it to work the system.

This pink bougainvillea has found the right spot.

On a brighter note, while summer is still here there’s a promise of the fall to come in the air.  Each morning when I take out Annie for her “go”, the air is just a bit fresher.  Some of the flowering plants are now coming into their own.  The bougainvillea I bought in the spring is now covered in blossoms.  Each bloom goes through a wonderful transformation of colors, starting with the palest of apple greens, finally ending in almost a hot pink.

What’s left of the vegetable garden is still trying.  The okra continue to produce and even the pepper plants that would bloom without any peppers setting on are finally getting a few.  I’ve canned almost 20 pints of pickled okra.  I’ve even tried cooking it some new ways.  The results were definitely tasty.

Grilled Okra

Brush olive oil onto whole okra pods.

Arrange on a medium to medium-high grill.

Let cook about 3 minutes on each side for about 10-12 minutes total.

Okra should get nice grill marks on all sides and be sizzling when cooked.

Serve with garlic butter or just salt and pepper.  Great finger food!

 

Cast iron skillet works best for frying okra.

Battered Fried Okra

12-16 okra pods

1 egg

1/4 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive or vegetable oil.  While the oil is heating to almost sizzling, beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Cut the okra–about 1/2 inch slices–into the egg mixture and toss with the fork.  Put the dry ingredients into a paper or zip-lock plastic bag and shake well.  Add the egg-covered okra into the bag a few at a time, shaking until all the okra are coated.  Add a bit more flour if the okra are not coated to your liking.

Put the battered okra into the hot skillet, spreading them out evenly.  Let them cook until golden on the bottom.  Then turn with a pancake turner.  Cook until done.  (Okra changes to a darker green when it is cooked.)

If you love okra, this recipe is enough to serve 2 people 1 helping.  You might like this with a dollop of ketchup on the side.

On the Road Home: Pickled Okra, Prop. 8, and Lt. Dan Choi

With the red jalapeño peppers, these pickled okra should have a bite!

Maybe it’s the summer heat, but lately I’ve been having trouble getting any posts written.  The work week evenings just don’t seem long enough, and weekends require getting accomplished all the to-do items that have accumulated through the week.

My best thinking time these days takes place after work as I make the 45-minute or a bit more commute home from downtown Houston out to my corner of the “burbs”.   Though I know my posts can be long-winded,  I thought instead of trying to write longer posts on just one topic, I’d start a new series of posts called “On the Road Home” and give a word or two about several of the topics that are on my mind.  (Keeping it to “a word or two” might be difficult.)  So here goes.

Okra is about all that’s left doing anything in the garden, and more of the plants are starting to produce, so I’ve had nice messes to eat for a couple weeks now.  Now that there are more to gather, I decided to try my hand at making some pickled okra.  With two days’ worth of okra, I have enough for a 1-pint jar.  There have been some trials and errors, but I’m hoping for good results after they’ve set for about 6 weeks.

The judge in California disallowed the ban on gay marriage that was passed in the elections of 2008.  The judge seems to have written a strong decision against the ban, but I’m sure we’re going to hear all kinds of screaming about activist judges and a lot of conservative candidates are going to try to use the ruling as fodder in this fall’s elections.  Rachel Maddow had a good recap on her show this evening.  She had a lot of interesting excerpts from Judge Walker’s decision.  Link to the entire decision here.

Actually, the raison d’etre for this new series of posts was what I caught on the radio this evening “On the Road Home.”  Usually, I switch around on the 6 eclectic stations I’ve got locked in, and tonight after making one of the switches,  I caught Democracy Now interviewing Lt. Dan Choi, the army officer, who has just been kicked out of the army based on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for admitting that he is gay.  I was totally impressed by his elequence and convictions.  Also, this interview shows him from quite a few different angles, not just an activist.  I was listening, but click here for the article and video of the interview, starting about the 9-minute point.