Last Wednesday, I had an excellent day. As I’m sure you know by now, two of my blog buddies, Matt Armendariz and Deb from Smitten Kitchen were on the Martha Stewart show and I was fortunate to have a ticket to see them live from the studio audience.
Now, what you don’t know is that the last time I saw Martha Stewart’s show live was with my mother three years ago. If you glance over at the archives, you’ll notice that I started this blog in September 2005 but I didn’t post much until the summer of 2006. This is because I spent that period dealing with some awful stuff in my life, which, strangely enough, began the day I last saw Martha Stewart (though it wasn’t her show’s fault I went through a rough period—I swear!).
When I started blogging again in August 2006, I was still a little sad but this blog helped me heal. Not to mention I made a ton of great friends along the way. So while the blog has archives from that period of eleven months, I’ve always felt that my blog’s official birthday was August 2006. I guess you could say it was born prematurely.
But what does this have to do with Martha Stewart? Well, that day three years ago when I was sitting in the studio audience, I had no idea that someday I’d be sitting in the audience again cheering on my friends as they baked alfajores or chattedabout blogging with Martha. Nor did I know that I would have the opportunity to spend the afternoon in the Everyday Food test kitchen. Of course, you never know what the future may hold for you, but the next time I feel a little down I’ll just remember this happy turn of events—there’s always something wonderful on the horizon and everything usually comes full circle.
Enough about me, however—you want to know what it’s like in the Everyday Food kitchen. At the taping, I met one of my Twitter pals—Everday Food editor in chief Deb Puchalla—and she invited me to join some of my fellow bloggers at the test kitchen after the show. We were sworn to secrecy about what they were cooking (did you know that they work almost a year in advance of publication?) but what I can say is that it is one of the most inspiring places I’ve been to in New York City.
Why is it so inspiring? Well, it’s a kitchen the size of my one-bedroom apartment overflowing with light that come from the big, bright windows; it has a wall of bookshelves filled floor to ceiling with cookbooks; it has ample counter space, beautiful stoves and ovens; room for cooling racks and desk space, too. Simply put: it’s paradise for food lovers, writers and photographers.
As Matt cooked his grandmother’s recipe for albondigas, the food editors shared with us some of the dishes they were working on. As mentioned, I can’t say what they shared, but I can say that one of them was for their “Freeze it” column.
Today is the first day of fall, and with the nip in the air I plan on spending more time cooking and baking, though I don’t have time to do that every night. And that’s the brilliance of Everyday Food—it’s designed for the working person who wants to cook but may not have the time, hence homemade frozen meals. I can so relate.
One of my favorite Sunday pastimes in the cooler months is making up big batches of food and then freezing it for future meals. My two stand-bys are my chilis—both red and green—but I also freeze various casseroles, such as King Ranch, lasagna and what I like to call enchilada casserole.
Enchilada casserole is so easy that it can be made the night I’m going to eat it, but there seems to be some inverse law that the shorter the hours of daylight, the longer the hours at work: fall is the return of our busy season. So having a few containers on hand makes for easy lunches and painless dinners. It’s similar to King Ranch casserole in that it involves tortillas, meat and sauce, but this one calls for flour tortillas and can be made with any type of protein. And like all the best casseroles it’s completely adjustable to whatever ingredients you have on hand.
Fall for me marks a time of renewal—a period of fresh change and new beginnings. Last Wednesday may have technically occurred during the summer, but its invigorating spirit was unadulterated autumn, all the way. Thanks to those new friends who added to such a wonderful day. I can’t think of a finer way to begin a new season.
9 six-inch flour tortillas
2 cups protein, such as refried beans, shredded chicken, ground beef, cubed tofu, etc.
4 cups salsa, either red or green
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Pour 1 cup of salsa into a 9×12 pan. Layer 3 tortillas along the bottom (may have to tear one to make it fit).
Add 1 cup of protein, 1 cup of cheese, 1/4 cup each of onion, olives, and cilantro, 1 cup of salsa and 1 cup of cheese.
Layer 3 flour tortillas on top, and again add 1 cup of protein, 1 cup of cheese, cup of salsa and 1/4 cup each of onion, olives and cilantro.
Add last 3 tortillas on top, sprinkle over them last 1 cup of salsa and 1 cup of cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes or until bubbly.
Yield: 8 servings
Note: The nice thing about this is you can add just about anything you like to it: mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or any other vegetable you have taking up space in your refrigerator. You can also add more or less cheese, more or less protein or whatever else you desire.