easy enchiladas

Enchiladas are one of those foods I used to imagine was impossible to make, along with pies, lasagna and chicken parmesan; some things were best left to restaurants. I was terrified of anything that screamed ‘dinner party,’ until I realized that these were no tremendous feat. I found an easy recipe a few years ago that I continue to modify.

I’ll add that the recipe was from a magazine I stole from a doctor’s office (see this post), this is clearly a pattern.

Ingredients

For the bare minimum you’ll need:

Two cooked chicken breasts
12 oz. container of light sour cream
Two cups of shredded cheese
A package of 10 tortillas
A jar of enchilada sauce, red or green

I like to make these a little fancier and add some sauteed veggies and salsa.

Start out by greasing a 9 x 13 baking dish or something close to that. Next, in a mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, one cup of shredded cheese, the cooked chicken (diced) and any cooked veggies, mix well.

Take about a half of a cup of the filling and spread it in a tortilla.Roll up the tortilla and place it seam down in the greased baking dish.

Continue until you’ve filled enough tortillas to fill the dish snugly. Pour the jar of enchilada sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with the remaining cup of shredded cheese.

Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, until all the cheese is melted.

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I have short hair.

Back in July I decided I wanted to grow out my hair and donate it. I was terrified to commit to the 10 inches that Locks of Love requires, but Anna was kind enough to inform me that Pantene Beautiful Lengths only requires eight inches and they make wigs for women with cancer. Eight inches? I can manage that.

I didn’t envision at the time that growing out enough hair so that you can chop it off and not look like a mutant is harder than it sounds.

Toward the end of this journey I started to feel like a horse, and I had a complete lack of style to my hair. Over the last few months I’d been paying 10 bucks for a trim at Great Clips instead of visiting my wonderful hair dresser, Shelby at Mood Swings. I couldn’t rationalize shelling out $55 a for a haircut that was just going to be hacked off.

Tonight I gave in and made the chop. I ended up losing about nine inches that I’ll mail off to Pantene this weekend.

I read it takes the hair of six people to make one wig, so if anyone out there wants to jump on this bandwagon, maybe our hair can retire together?

A dramatic change, but nothing compared to a woman facing cancer.

The reality of getting older: frozen yogurt

In college, going out was a big, huge, giant deal. It didn’t matter where you went or who accompanied you, as long as you were out. I distinctly remember rearranging my class schedule my senior year at ASU so that I didn’t have class on Fridays, because that meant one more night of going out. In retrospect, the time my girlfriends and I spent deciding where we’d go, who would come with us and what we’d wear could likely have been put toward a more noble cause, but at the time, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

All of this gradually begins to change when you get older, finish school, start a real job and begin to become an adult. I tried to avoid the transformation for a few years after college, but soon learned that it was nearly impossible to maintain the best of both worlds.

That said, it wasn’t that the desire to go out had diminished; it was just too difficult to drink and stay out until 2 a.m. and function at a job the next day. What a tremendous rite of passage that realization was. Still makes me shudder just a little.

As I continue to – dare I say – mature? My girlfriends and I have realized that we can in fact get together and have fun but it doesn’t need to involve alcohol, and it doesn’t have to be a late night. We’ve taken to having lots of barbecues and started hosting wine nights at our place. Oh and I can’t forget to give a shout out to my favorite non-bar outing: bless you, trendy frozen yogurt shops, for giving girls in their mid-twenties a place to venture out to when we need interaction.

Last week I met Katie and Ben at MoJo Frozen Yogurt at the Biltmore. Also last week I met Nicki at Mojo on Mill Ave while our boyfriends walked down the street to get a beer (starting to see the trend)?

When Nicki and I finished our yogurt* we left to meet the boys at the bar they were at, which couldn’t have seemed like a more inappropriate fit. We were dressed in frumpy cold weather clothes and were all-in-all not prepared for the barrage of scantily clad women, behemoth bouncers, blasting music and free shots.

Nevertheless, we were troopers, and took those Bacardi Blueberry shots like a college sophomore. Getting older isn’t a bad thing, just an adjustment.

*Mojo has a sign that says their yogurt is certified gluten free, magic to Nicki’s ears. However, when she inquired if even the cookie flavor was gluten free, the girl working behind he counter responded, “Gluten’s the same thing as fat, right?” Nicki made sure to stay clear of any questionable flavors.

Cafe Lalibela

Anna introduced me to a fantastic new restaurant today, Cafe Lalibela in Tempe. I was unfamiliar with Ethiopian food but knew she wouldn’t lead me astray.

It’s an interesting experience to order off of a menu where you have to look up every item on a legend, but I found a combination that sounded incredible.

This ended up being a perfect restaurant for the two of us, with Anna being a lifelong vegetarian, and me being one on and off for about three weeks – we had plenty of choices that didn’t involve beef or lamb.

I opted for the Chef’s Combination – spicy chicken stew, something similar to collard greens, salad and home made cheese, all served with injera bread.The menu describes this as A combination of doro wat, gomen and ayeb served with selata.

The best part of the meal was getting to use the bread as a utensil. I was somewhat fascinated with this spongy crepe-like bread. Here’s what wikipedia yielded:

The most valued grain used to make injera is from the tiny, iron-rich teff. However, its production is limited to certain middle elevations and regions with adequate rainfall, so it is relatively expensive for the average household. Because the overwhelming majority of highland Ethiopians are poor farming households that grow their own subsistence grain, wheat, barley, corn, and/or rice flour are sometimes used to replace some or all of the teff content. There are also different varieties of injera in Ethiopia, such as nech (white), kay (red) and tikur (black).

In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a slight sour taste. The injera is then ready to bake into large flat pancakes, done either on a specialized electric stove or, more commonly, on a clay plate (mogogo) placed over a fire. In terms of shape, Injera compares to the French crepe and the South Indian dosa as a flatbread cooked in a circle and used as a base for other foods. The taste and texture, however, are quite unique and unlike the crepe and dosa.

Anna ordered the Vegetarian Combination “a combination of misir wat, gomen, tikil gomen and fosolia served with selata.” In English this meant red lentils, cabbage and lots of other veggies.

Neither of us came close to finishing out meal and left fully content. Thank you for the experience Banana!

baking weather

In Arizona we don’t get a lot of wintery weather. This past week was a crazy exception when we were deluged with what seemed to be the pent up wrath of the rain gods. It’s been raining non-stop all week – we even had tornado warnings last night. This is big news for desert dwellers as demonstrated by the incessant coverage on every local news station.

Something about being stuck indoors during gloomy weather always makes me want to bake. Last night I decided to improvise with ingredients we had at home. One of my favorite desserts is baked fruit and I’m constantly experimenting with new variations of recipes. One of my favorite parts of making this type of dessert is that no measuring is required – bliss for a non-mathematical person like myself.

Last night’s version involved strawberries and apples.

I melted some butter in a bowl and tossed the fruit in it. Next I added some spoonfuls of flour and a sprinkling of sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until all the fruit was coated.

I threw it all into a greased pie pan and baked it at 350 for 25 minutes. Serving it with ice cream takes away from the healthiness but is exactly what it needs.

dead mouse walking

You may recall that just a few weeks ago we had a teensy tiny issue with a stinky dead rodent in our attic. It was pretty disgusting and not something I hope to experience ever again.

I thought we might be in the clear, but yesterday we learned that we are apparently rodent magnets.

Let me set the scene:

I got home from work amid a huge downpour. It had rained all day – a rarity in the desert – and it was all I could do to get home, in heels, without landing on my face.

I hopped on the elliptical and got a workout in before I had to head to my neighborhood book club. As I got off the machine I saw something small and dark scurry down the hallway. Within ten seconds of witnessing this I had four simultaneous thoughts:

1. As much as I hate cockroaches I really hope that was a roach and not a mouse.
2. Did I completely imagine that?
3. If I ignore it, does it make it go away?
4. Can the dogs fix this?

At any rate, I made a swift leap onto the safety of my bed (reminiscent of the hot lava monster game of childhood when you couldn’t touch the floor) and called Jim in a panic.

In hindsight, I can’t blame him for laughing at me, but in that moment I needed someone to be as hysterical as I was. A MOUSE. In our house. A MOUSE! Fievel, Mickey, Mighty MOUSE.

As luck would have it Jim couldn’t leave work to save me, so I called my next lifeline, Zoee. I immediately announced to my favorite realtor that it was time for me to move. I could not possibly live in a house with mice. Zoee also found my situation purely hysterical, but agreed to come to my aid despite torrential rain.

My heart rate had now been raised to cardiac arrest level for about 10 minutes. I could’ve lifted a car with all that adrenaline.

Zoee arrived and with the courage of a valiant knight surveyed the house for a mouse (found none) and blocked all the doors with towels to keep the little bastards confined.

At this point I was more than ready to vacate the premises and head to book club. I enjoyed a wonderful evening with some fabulous ladies despite a lack of electricity. Fortunately Emily keeps a large stash of candles and wine on hand.
What’s also fortunate is that Jim doesn’t seem to possess one ounce of my rodent fear. He’s been a trooper setting traps and ‘removing the goods.’ We’ve caught three mice so far and are continuing our efforts with a vengeance. Stuff like this definitely makes me miss the days of renting and having a landlord who was obligated to fix everything. On the other hand, I suppose one day this will be funny. When that day comes I’ll be sure to let you know.

Did I mention that the roof started leaking during all of this? Right.

Switch!

If we were playing word association games and you shouted the word ‘switch’ at me, I’d respond with ‘Will Smith.’ If you don’t remember his 2005 segue into almost real-ish hip hop I suggest you look it up. You’ll be singing it all day. It was a solid hit Will, I give you that.

I am going somewhere with this.

Tonight we ate at a restaurant called Switch, and not only was it amazing, but I have been singing that stupid song ever since.

I’d never heard of Switch before tonight, but came across it in a magazine that I blatantly stole from my chiropractor’s office. Sorry Dr. Cas: you make me wait, I steal magazines. It was the most recent edition of Phoenix Magazine and the cover story was the 21 best sandwiches in the Valley. While a sandwich is not my go-to, Jim lives and breathes for a good one and I knew this mag would come in handy. I conveniently slipped it into my purse on my way out. (Once a clepto, always a clepto, that’s for another post).

I was so excited with my booty* that I called Jim on my drive home to tell him. In hindsight, I was acting with a sense of euphoria that would have made you think that in a million years neither of us could ever possess the $3.95 required to have our own copy of a real magazine. Once I got home we poured over the amazing photos of sandwiches and decided there was no way we weren’t indulging tonight. We picked Switch based on location and the photo below. Hello, beautiful:

I was thrilled to learn upon arriving here that it’s owned by the same folks who’ve brought us FEZ and Ticoz, two fantastic dining establishments. The atmosphere is what my brother calls hot and chic. Basically, a place with fancy high top tables, trendy light fixtures and weird unisex bathrooms, among other criteria. There was a pretty decent crowd for a Wednesday night so I looked past the hotandchicness and ordered with an open mind.

We started with the bruschetta appetizer and it was hands down the best bruschetta I’ve ever had. Yes, even better than Postino. Here’s their description: “Grilled baguette with sliced tomato, roasted onion, EVOO and balsamic (3) and parmesan, white bean spread, sopresetta ham and roasted red peppers (3).”

For dinner I had to go with the sandwich featured in the mag: The Murano. “…It starts with an excellent, crusty, artisanal roll, piled high with just the right proportion of mild roasted chicken and salty prosciutto. A layer of gouda cheese brings a little tang to the party, and chopped Greek olives, ripe tomato and a slick of aioli finish it off for $9.95.” Not sure why this baby shares it’s name with a Nissan SUV but I’m okay with it.

Jim ordered the french dip** which is something you’d never, ever see me order, but it was really, really, really good. Both sandwiches came with a side Caesar salad which I really appreciated over fries.

Fyi to all you Phoenicians, this place is just off the Light Rail, and I hear people are wearing pants on the trains again so it’s safe.


* I’m not sure if it’s ever really appropriate to use the word booty when not referring to the body part. Still deciding.

** I was going to capitalize the word ‘french’ in french dip since I capitalized Greek olives, but after recently reading Sarah’s Key I am not so fond of the French at the moment.