Enchilada Pasta Casserole

Last night I tried a new recipe. It sounds a bit weird, but was actually pretty tasty! I had it again tonight and I would argue that it was almost better as leftovers than as the original dish! My one alteration I would make is to add a little bit more cream cheese and sour cream – the dish has a little kick to it, but felt a little dry. Enjoy!

Enchilada Pasta Casserole
Enchilada Pasta Casserole

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef

½ tsp. chili powder

¼ tsp. cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

5 ounces cream cheese

¼ cup light sour cream

1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese, divided

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles

12 ounces egg noodles

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, bring water to boil and cook egg noodles according to package instructions.In the meantime, in a very large skillet, brown your ground beef then drain the fat. Then add the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Add in the cream cheese until melted and combined.

In a large bowl, combine sour cream, enchilada sauce, half the cheddar cheese, half the monterey jack cheese, corn kernels, and diced green chiles. Stir to combine. Pour mixture over the beef and let simmer for 2-3 minutes. In the meantime, drain your pasta. After you’ve drained it, add the pasta to the beef mixture. Make sure everything is coated in the sauce.

In a large casserole dish, pour in the pasta mixture and top with the remaining cheese.Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has completely melted.

Source: Table for Two

Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

I like to try to share new recipes as often as I’m motivated… today’s recipe is one I had to try when Mike was not home for dinner. You see, we share an aversion to stinky cheeses (discovered after the horrific Gruyère on french onion soup experience several years back). However, Parmesan cheese falls into this category for him, while it’s on my yummy list. That and he doesn’t like asparagus, which is a staple in this dish. About halfway through cooking (the part where you simmer the balsamic vinegar) I got a bit skeptical, but this turned out very nicely. It’s a fairly quick and easy meal (took me about 30 minutes, which you could trim down to about 20) and tasted delicious!

Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter
Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1 pound penne

1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

I Couldn’t Forget If I Tried

September 11th 2001 should have been like any other day. Actually, I take that back – it should have been harder. I had just seen my boyfriend, Troy, off the night before to an overseas deployment with the Marines. I had cried my eyes out all night and was exhausted. Sometime just after 6am, the phone rang in the apartment that I shared with three friends from college. I’m not gonna lie, I was mad, asking myself who would be calling this early in the morning. I remember laying in bed for a few minutes longer and then storming out to the living room to yell at whoever it was. It was then that I saw my roommate sitting in shock on the sofa in front of the TV. Her family had called from New Jersey to let her know they were ok. For the next few hours we sat in front of the TV watching the devastation unfold. At just twenty years old, I couldn’t believe that sort of evil existed in the world. My previous experiences had only been with natural disasters (the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) – never had I been exposed to this level of hate.

Why, you ask, is she rambling about her experience, which in comparison to so many others is completely benign?

Without a doubt, September 11th had a profound impact on who I am today. I think it’s no great coincidence that I’ve surrounded myself with firefighters and first responders. Or that my volunteer work is centered completely around educating the public about disaster preparedness and helping others.

In the days that followed September 11th, I watched America band together. I finally understood what my Grandpa had told me growing up – that this country is amazing and that it’s worth fighting for. I learned what it means to honor those who died by pressing on. I learned how proud I am to be American. The “Star Spangled Banner” means more to me, as does our beautiful flag.

Every year I dedicate my sole Facebook update for the day to some sort of memory – this year is a picture of the three firefighters raising the flag, made even more poignant now that I’m married to a firefighter. And there’s always the requisite “never forget” – I couldn’t forget if I tried. I will continue to dedicate my life to helping others, regardless of race, color, religion, or creed. That’s how I won’t forget.

Birds of Prey

A while back my mom and I took advantage of a Groupon to take a falconry lesson. We had a blast and for my parents’ birthday, my mom decided to take my dad. I wanted to go again, but due to our crazy busy lives, we didn’t get around to it until this weekend. 

Falconry (for those of you wondering) is hunting with a trained bird of prey. It dates way back to 2000 BC and was super popular in medieval Europe. 

We headed out to West Coast Falconry, in Marysville, bright an early. As with the first lesson we took, it was a blast. Jana and Shawna were our instructors and provide just the right mix of educational information and fun. They taught us the basics and then everyone had the opportunity to call and send the bird. 

Dad Calling Diego
Dad Calling Diego
Don Diego Alejandro Santiago Saragossa Inigo Montoya Del Gato
Don Diego Alejandro Santiago Saragossa Inigo Montoya Del Gato

After that, they taught us a little more about how you actually train a bird of prey… after all, if I took my cute little budgies outside right now, I doubt I’d ever see them again. There’s definitely a lot that goes into training, including focusing on the birds natural instinct and prey drive. The whole process really is fascinating, and at the end we got to pose with the birds:

Me & Diego
Me & Diego

If you’re at all interested in learning more about falconry or taking your family out for a fun event (the basic class is only about an hour long), I definitely recommend West Coast Falconry!