Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gravity is never really that far away and neither is the Taco Casserole ....

Here in Maryland, the nights have gradually become more nippy. It's officially FALL. Apples, pumpkins, squashes, roasted cabbage and potatoes, cinnamon and spices, hot apple cider, and Halloween. Okay, one cannot technically eat Halloween, but it's good excuse as any to eat chocolate and candy. It's a reminder that this nasty, brain-boiling worthy hot summer is behind us and winter is upon us (oh, goody [sarcasm]). My favorite part of Fall and Winter is coming home to two cranky guineas and tormenting their warm, cozy lil' bodies with cold, freezing hands :)

Apparently, I need to take life more in stride and stop trying to prove that gravity does - and will always - win. Three weeks back, my back bike tire skidded out on some gravel coming down off a hill and I took the full brunt of the fall with my right (re: good) knee and my chin. I think I skidded a few feet because, as I pointed out earlier, I was going down the hill. On a windy day, to boot, and cycling as fast as my legs could go so that I could get to CVS before 6 PM. The good news is that I made it to CVS pharmacy just as they were closing and, thanks to shock, the pain held off until I got into line. The manager called 911, I was cleaned up, I tied an ice bag to my knee, the manager straightened out my handle bars, and I limped home with some asphalt for a souvenir. Some nice dude walking his dog took my bike up three flights of stairs. After popping a few pain killers and one rough night, I limped to the Urgent Care Center the next day and have been proudly on crutches since. And it only took me a week to be able to move my knee, another two days to be able to straightened out my leg, and a few more days to be able to bend my knee enough to put a sock on my foot! The coffee-cup sized color-changing bruise (I mean there was colors in this bruise that I've never seen before!)bout on my left thigh only took two weeks to heal and is (almost) not even visible. The bruises on my right knee came in about a week after the inflammation went down and are still there, four weeks later. I have bruises from my knee to mid-shin bone and I still can't kneel on it (but I can squat!!!). I should be off the damn crutches (aka Thing 1 and Thing 2) either this week or next (depending on the bad leg that got worse due to the injured leg heh). Luckily for me, no broken bones or ligaments and the orthopedist doesn't have to amputate :) That was the bad kind of fall, not the good kind of Fall with apples and pumpkins and Halloween.

Since I haven't been able to stand for long periods of time without either the injured or bad leg becoming cranky and/or throbbing with pain, I've sort of become more creative and flexible with meals. Which meant I spent more money the first week on frozen gluten free goodies for lunches and dinner and spent a wee bit more than I wished on taxis. To made up for some of the costs, I adapted a recipe for Taco Casserole my mom gave me and then dumped some chicken (on sale via Peapod - woot to ordering groceries online!) with a jar of Alfredo sauce in one crockpot and then dumped cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, molasses, red wine vinegar, a dash of onion powder/salt/pepper, and weeks-old mushrooms into the other crockpot to roast them (even better with cheese!). The chicken Alfredo is very verstaile - dump it on rice, noodles (gluten free or otherwise) and a side of broccoli or veggie - or even just by itself with a side of roasted veggies and warm chopped apples with cinnamon and butter - and it is one very flexible dish! Both the roasted cabbage and potatoes and chicken Alfredo dishes (aka lazy chicken) are adapted from the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook by Stephanie O'Dea (I found a copy at my local library - squeal of excitement!). But, the Taco Casserole cannot be beat. It'll feed an army and then some and, lucky for me, freezes well AND goes well with broccoli (it's been on sale lately and is ubber cheap at Giant's ... I'd say I'm almost getting sick of frozen broccoli except I found that Benny will eat it, even warm).

Taco Casserole

Baking dish (mine is 9 by 13, I think)
Package of refrigerated croissants or ingredients needed for the pizza crust on the gluten-free (or regular) Bisquick mix [for the gluten-free version, this means 1 and 1/3 cup of Bisquick Gluten Free mix, 1/2 cup of water, 1/3 cup oil - I used olive oil, but any oil should work, provided it's not oil meant for cars heh - 2 eggs, beaten]
Package of ground meat (turkey, hamburger, road kill - whatever floats your boat)
Taco seasoning, homemade or otherwise
8 oz tomato sauce, salt free or salt-load
Doritos, crushed (I used regular tortilla chips)
Package of shredded cheese, any flavor that you prefer (you'll need about two cups)
Sour cream
Salsa (optional)
Olives or whatever other toppings that float your boat (optional)


Turn the stove on to 350 degrees.

Ground meat (turkey seems to be on sale a lot lately)
Two tablespoons of taco seasoning [NOT the whole package - luckily for me, I called my mom again and she caught me just before I dumped the entirety of my taco seasoning mix into the meat!]
8 oz tomato sauce [I used salt free because of the salt in the Bisquick mix but use whatever you prefer.]

Brown the ground meat. Drain the meat. Yell at youngest guinea that you're busy cooking and cannot stop every-single-thing to feed him right this very minute, cave, and then almost burn the meat while serving said guinea some goodies from the fridge. Place the meat back into the pan, add the two tablespoons of taco seasoning and the tomato sauce, and stir together. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the majority of the liquids is soaked up.

While the meat is doing its thing, create the bottom layer. My mom called for those refrigerated, gluten-worthy croissants smooshed flat to cover the entire baking dish. I used the pizza recipe on the Gluten-free Bisquick box and that worked most awesomely. Never dried out and froze even better!

To the bottom layer you will add a layer of crushed tortilla chips. Then add a layer of meat, a layer of sour cream (I only had Greek yogurt on hand and used that), a layer of salsa (optional - I did because I have salsa on hand), and a layer of cheese (I used pre-shredded Mexican cheese). Continue layering ingredients until you've used them up. Since I love olives, I topped mine with sliced olives and some more cheese.

Pop the baking dish into a 350 degree pre-heated oven and let cook for 25 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and the bottom crust layer is done. Cool (if you can wait that long!), serve with guacamole, sour cream and/or your favorite toppings and enjoy!

What are you go-to meals when your injured or ill?

Until then, may your guineas not bite your hands whilst you attempt to warm your hands by wrapping them around their warm, cozy lil' bodies!

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