Every evening when I enter the kitchen to make dinner, I set two goals: The first is to keep my workspace organized, and the second is to maintain a schedule so that we don't eat too late. To be candid, I usually fail at both of these goals. As the name of this column implies, I am notorious for creating a disaster zone every time I step into a kitchen. After all these years, I've come to accept this reality. No one's perfect and besides, the end result is usually something quite tasty, if I do say so myself. And I like to think that the mess adds a little charm to my cooking style.
However, on the matter of getting dinner served in a timely fashion, I really am trying to do a better job. I'm tired of my family members' nightly question, "When are we going to eat? I'm starving!"
As is true for most home cooks, the realities of everyday life often conspire against me in my determination to get dinner out in a timely fashion. After all, like most people, I work Monday through Friday. Because I'm my own boss, I'm usually able to sneak out of my office between 4 and 4:30 p.m. If it's my turn to cook, I drive to the store to pick up the ingredients for dinner, and then head home. By then it's after 5 p.m. My husband, Corman, a nurse assigned to the port to combat our island's battle against COVID-19, is usually home by then. After a few minutes rest, he and I (and sometimes our son, Brian) head up to the University of Guam to walk or run for an hour.
By the time we get home and shower, it's usually around 6:30 p.m. I realize this is the time most families eat, and yet we haven't even begun to cook! As a result, the nightly challenge is always to come up with a dinner that can be cooked fast. Unfortunately, I have a nasty habit of underestimating the time it will take to make a given recipe.
For example, I'll plan on making tacos. In my mind, I'm convinced this is a fast dinner that I can have ready in 30 minutes. Yet by time I get done with cooking the meat, chopping the vegetables, heating the corn shells and assembling the tacos, 90 minutes have flown by! It drives my family nuts because we usually don't sit down to dinner until 8 or 8:30 p.m. So I'm always on the search for alternative methods of preparing favorite recipes that cut down on the preparation time.
I'm delighted to tell you about a recent success I had with a taco pie recipe I found on the From Foodie with Love website. In fact, the recipe not only saved some time, it eliminated the need to assemble individual tacos, so there was a lot less mess! You use the same ingredients normally used in preparing tacos, but you assemble all the ingredients together in a 13 x 9 inch pan. The end result tastes just like your favorite tacos, but with a lot less hassle!
Here's the recipe, with a few of my own modifications.
Week 10: Taco Pie
3 cups corn tortilla chips, finely crushed. (I use my food processor).
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Filling and toppings
2 lbs ground beef or turkey
1 cup onion, chopped
5 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup salsa
1 cup refried beans
3/4 cup water
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
2 cups lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup corn
1 avocado, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drizzle the melted butter over the crushed tortilla chips and combine until crumbs are evenly coated with butter. Press into bottom and up the sides of a 13 x 9 inch pan.
Bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees, remove from oven and allow to cool. (It may still be a bit flakey, but that's OK).
Filling and assembly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook onions until translucent (about 4 minutes). Add the ground beef/turkey and cook until meat is browned. Drain the fat and return the pan to the stove.
Add salsa, water, taco seasoning and refried beans to meat and onions. Cook 3-4 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Carefully spoon taco filling evenly into prepared and cooled crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with shredded cheese.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before spreading evenly with sour cream.
Top with lettuce, tomato, corn and avocado (or preferred toppings). You can add additional sour cream and salsa, if desired, and serve with chips and refried beans.