Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Easy Apricot Jam

Today amid driver’s ed and housecleaning and dealing with kid ‘tudes and hosting an afternoon swim attended by 15 cousins, I also managed to can 24 pints of apricot jam. I say this not to brag, but to encourage those of you who are thinking about trying canning.

Canning is NOT hard. It so isn’t.

I got my apricots for free from a relative– gotta love that. This time of year many people with apricot trees find themselves swimming in apricots. If you ask around, you may score some for free too.

Mary’s Truly Easy Apricot Jam

4-1/2 cups apricot puree (use food processer)
1/2 cup lemon juice (or vinegar, which is what I used– this keeps the apricots a good safe acidity)
1 box Sure-Jell pectin (or similar brand)
6 cups sugar

Wash and sort the apricots. It is OK to use apricots with small soft spots as long as they aren’t discolored or (duh) moldy. My 3 and 6 year old daughters helped me sort, and did a good job at it. Tear the apricots in halves to remove the pits. My 10 year old sons did this for me. Fill food processer with apricot chunks and puree for a minute or so. Repeat until you have enough puree.

Wash 5 pint sized canning jars and rings. Fill a boiling water canner half full of water and bring to a boil on the stove. Dip each jar in and out of the boiling water. If you do not have a canner, you can use a very large pot, something tall enough that your jars can be fully submerged in water during processing.

Measure your puree carefully and pour into a big pot on the stove. Immediately mix in the pectin using a wire whisk. Heat mixture to a full rolling boil, first stirring occasionally and then more frequently as mixture heats up.

Once the mixture has reached a full rolling boiling, add sugar a couple cups at a time, stirring continuously. When all sugar is added and mixture has returned to a full rolling boiling, cook for one minute.

Pour mixture quickly into jars leaving 1/4 inch of ‘headspace’, or airspace at the top of the jar. Wipe edges of jars clean. Set on lids and screw rings on tightly. Process in boiling water water bath for 15 minutes. Remove jars carefully and set on a towel on the counter to cool overnight.

Once cool, lids should seal down tightly so that you cannot push them further down when you press the center of the cap. If any of your jars do not seal, simply set them in the fridge and use within a couple weeks.

One batch of jam will probably take you an hour–more if you have an infant, and less if you have a kid or two over the age of 5 who is willing to give you a hand. And it is so darned pretty to look at when you’re done. One of the things I love about canning is that it is one of the few jobs that it doesn’t get UNdone immediately. Unlike laundry or vacuuming or dishes!

I’d love to hear if you decide to try your hand at this– it truly isn’t hard.


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This week Shannon’s Works for Me is featuring easy recipes. Actually, recipes that take 5 ingredients or less. This recipe can have more than that, but it is a fun way to get kids to eat their greens and so I am sharing it anyway.

Thai Chard Wraps
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves:6 or more

a big bunch of chard (or spinach, or lettuce)- probably a pound or so
2 carrots
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
Slosh of fish sauce (or soy sauce is OK if you don’t have fish sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: any other veggie, minced
Can also add a cup or two of rice, which is how I made it in the above picture.

Wash chard or lettuce leaves, shake off, and set aside in a bowl. Shred carrot, onion, garlic, and any other veggie that you desire using a food processor. Cook ground meat in a large skillet with a little slosh of sesame oil, if you have it. If you are using ground turkey, you will probably need a tablespoon or two of oil as you cook it.

Once meat is cooked, remove from pan and cook chopped veggies in the remaining oil until soft. Return hamburger to pan and mix with veggies and a good slosh of fish sauce or soy sauce (probably around 1/4 cup). Add a cup or two of cooked rice, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for a few more minutes, til ingredients are well mixed and heated.

Serve by wrapping leaves of chard or lettuce around several tablespoons of meat. Let people take their own lettuce and their own serving of meat/veggies and wrap right on their plate. If your family is like mine, you will be amazed at the amount of chard/spinach/lettuce they will consume at one meal.

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Usually by this time of year we are DONE planting. But the other day I bought half a dozen more seed packets and this morning the big boys and I were moving compost while my husband set up new sprinkler lines in preparation for just a bit more garden space.

The seeds I bought? Parsnips. Turnips. Kohlrabi. Salsify. I’ll be honest: we’ve never even tried some of these foods. But this summer I happened upon a book called Root Cellaring and got inspired. For years John has talked about digging a root cellar to store some of our garden produce a little longer. I wasn’t sold on the idea til I bought the book. Now he and I are both looking at various areas of our property with a critical eye, trying to figure out where the best place would be for a nice cool hole in the ground.

We may not love every veggie we try. But I figure I can use most of it in a nice winter soup, and with a little experimentation we can find other ways to do different veggies too. We are really hoping to discover some good new veggies that will be happy in a root cellar for a couple months, thus decreasing our dependence on grocery store food.

In the book ‘Farmer Boy’ there’s some great description of their family’s root cellar. It was quite inspirational to read how the family with careful management was able to save all sorts of food through the winter using only the natural cooling powers of underground storage.

We could definitely use more ‘fridge’ space. In good years we harvest 12-15 bushels of apples. We routinely get bushels of onions for free. The cabbage tends to come on all at once, leaving us trying to use it all up fast, to regain fridge space. We always have lots of pumpkins. And there are lots of other winter-keeper type veggies that we haven’t even tried.

The other day I grabbed a couple of unusual things from the grocery store to try: a long white daikon radish and 3 ‘bulbs’ (??) of kohlrabi. When I grabbed the radish, a lady next to me asked me what I was going to do with it. “I dunno,” I said. “I’m experimenting. I’ll probably put it in a stirfry.”

“Me too,” she said, holding up her bag of kohlrabi with a smile. “I’m growing this for the first time in my garden and I wanted to taste it.”

At home with my vegetable bounty, I contemplated what to do. Google a recipe? Nah, too easy. Besides, I was starting to envision some kind of veggie/skewer/beef recipe on the grill. I peeled and cubed the radish. Then I chopped the long leafy ‘legs’ (tops?) off the kohlrabi. (My hubby looked suspicious and said it looked like Martian vegetables.) While trimming the kohlrabi, I discovered that the outside of it seemed woody. I trimmed all the skin off which revealed a greenish white interior that seemed much more tender. I cubed it like the radish, and then got out some brussel sprouts and cubed some carrots and potatoes so my brave food explorers poor children would have something familiar at dinner. I already had some cubed stew beef that I cut into fairly small pieces just in case it was tough.

My skewered-food-on-the-grill idea went out the window when I discovered I only had one skewer and it had last been used to unclog a bathroom sink drain. Hmm… Since it was hot outside and I wasn’t anxious to heat my house, I still wanted to try the grill. But i wasn’t sure if I could get the veggies to cook evenly. I put a pot of water on to boil and added the veggies in gradually. First the hardest veggies: radish and carrots, then kohlrabi and brussel sprouts, and finally the potatoes. Ten minutes for the firmer stuff and only 5 for the potatoes. I just wanted them to be partly cooked. The grill would finish the rest.

I tossed the meat with a little steak sauce and garlic salt, then spread it on an oiled cookie sheet which covered half my grill. Then I tossed the remaining veggies with a bit more steak sauce and salt and put it on a second oiled cookie sheet on the other side of the grill. The oil on this sheet was fairly generous– about 1/4 a cup, since I didn’t want the veggies to stick.

The veggie pan was very full– I’d put too many veggies on to cook well, and I had to stir gingerly so as not to lose anything into the fire (medium heat, btw). But the 2-1/2 lbs of beef was spread in single layer on the pan, and was soon cooking merrily. I stirred it a couple times. It browned nicely, smelled great, and was cooked through in 10 minutes. At that point I took it off with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving some good meat juice and a little oil on the pan. Then I was able to put half my cooking veggies onto the cookie sheet from which I’d just removed the meat.

The veggies cooked my more efficiently spread out like that, and soon all the veggies had some nicely browned surfaces. Once everything was cooked, I mixed the meat and vegetables together and served it all over rice.

The radish turned out to be rather sharp-tasting; none of us liked it that much and I don’t think we’ll be growing radishes any time soon. The familiar veggies: potatoes, carrots, and brussel sprouts were happily eaten, though next time I’ll add the brussel sprouts to the boiling water sooner. They would have benefitted from a bit more cooking. The surprise hit was the kohlrabi. It had a mild sweet flavor that reminded me somewhat of a squash, but with a firmer texture than squash. It was very nice and we are definitely adding it to our garden line-up.

The whole meal was gobbled quite happily with people coming back for more. My hubby said, “I would never have guessed that kohlrabi is that good.”

Hmmm….what to try next? Anyone know what to do with salsify?

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Today’s NYT article Putting Meat in its Place captured my philosophy on meat perfectly. We don’t NEED huge slabs of meat on our dinner plates every day!

In that spirit, here’s a recipe several people have requested. We only make this a couple times a month– it is NOT low fat– but everyone loves it when we do!

Affordable Hamburger Stroganoff

Serves 6

1 (16 ounce) package egg noodles
3/4 pound lean ground beef
2 cups milk
2 T. flour
2 T. butter
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 of an 8 oz package of cream cheese
1/2 of an 8 ounce container of sour cream
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms, optional (or canned, if you must)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef until no pink shows; drain and set aside. If you are using fresh mushrooms, fry for 1-2 min in same skillet that you used for the hamburger. Set aside.

Again in the same skillet, melt butter on medium high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute. Then add flour. Whisk well to break up any clumps of flour. Add milk and heat till bubbly and starting to thicken.

Add cream cheese, ketchup, and sour cream. Whisk til smooth and heated through. Add hamburger and mushrooms back into skillet. Blend hamburger mixture with pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once you’ve made this recipe a few times, you’ll probably be able to get the whole thing on the table in 30 minutes. It is a quick, easy and very delicious meal. We serve the mushrooms on the side, since not all our kids like mushrooms.

(Note that this recipe does not call for canned soup, which helps make the recipe more affordable. If you want to save a few calories and even more money, you can also delete the cream cheese. It is not essential, but it sure is yummy.)

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Our strawberries are in full swing and we have a pretty decent patch of them== probably about 50 plants. But we’ve been eating them so quickly (and happily) that I was starting to wonder if I’d ever have enough to make jam. So this morning I made a pre-emptive strike (meaning I got there before any kids did) and picked as many as I could. Then I picked some rhubarb and by combining the two items, I was able to get 9 jars of jam. Here’s the recipe in case you are interested.
strawberries and rhubarb
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

4 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced
2 T. lemon juice
4 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced
10 cups of sugar
2 packages of fruit pectin
1/2 t. butter (keeps jam from getting too foamy)

In large kettle combine all ingredients except sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil. Add sugar and keep stirring till sugar is fully dissolved. Return to boil and boil for one minute. Keep stirring. Remove from the burner and skim off the foam with a spoon.

Spoon the hot jam into hot pint or half-pint canning jars. I like to pour the jam into a glass 4-cup glass measuring cup first, then pour into jars, as this makes jam easier to pour into jars. Leave 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe jar rims clean and screw lids on firmly. Place the jars in boiling-water canner on high. When water begins to boil, set timer and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from canner and cool on racks. Try not to disturb jam til it is cool. It may take several hours to set.

This should make about 12 half-pint jars.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

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Because I am about to fall over from exhaustion, I’m linking instead of writing tonight.
Yummy-looking green bean recipe
Adorable EASY market bags
Marian finally started a blog! You go, Girl!
To my surprise a CNN story quoting me. (Thanks to Melanie and others for the heads up!)
And for any new readers who’ve strolled over from CNN- some of my frugal recipes

Oh, and a question. I’m planning to move my blog to my own domain one of these days, and am looking for a webbie person who can do that for me. I’ll be using the installed wordpress, and would like someone able to do a few tweaks to customize my site. Any recommendations?

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Here’s another of the meals that I featured on my Frugal Cooking Carnival

Beef Dumpling Stew

Beef stew with dumplings

Serves 8


2 lbs hamburger or sausage
2 T. oil (olive or vegetable)
2 c. sliced carrots
2 c. minced onion
4 T. flour
8 c. beef broth (make this with beef bouillon if you don’t have beef broth on hand)
4 c. pureed tomatoes (or 3 c. tomato sauce and 1 c. water)
1/2 c. milk
1 c. corn
1 c. slivered cabbage
3 c. potatoes, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

3 c. flour
2 T. baking powder
1-1/2 t. salt
1 T. paprika
1-1/2 c. milk
2 T. butter

Soup: Sautee hamburger or sausage in a deep heavy pot until browned. Remove from pan and pour rendered fat in a small bowl. Sautee carrots and onion in olive oil in same pot. Once the onion is translucent, mix in flour. Cook for a few minutes, then add beef broth. Scrape the pan to get any bits off the bottom of the pan. Add milk, water, tomato, cubed potatoes, cabbage, and meat. Let come to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Mix flour, baking powder, paprika, and salt. Warm milk and butter in microwave. Pour the warm mixture over the flour and stir together.

Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste. Now spoon the dumpling mixture on top of the soup in little blobs (about 2 T. per dumpling). Cover with a lid, and let the dumplings simmer on medium-low for 7-8 minutes. Break a dumpling apart with a fork to make sure dumplings are cooked through. Serve.

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Or breakfast. Or lunch.

This evening around midnight I was writing away, but getting increasingly sidetracked by hunger pangs. I kept telling myself that I just ought to go to bed, but the quiet of the night lured me to keep writing. And besides, there was that rumbling in my stomach. No wonder. Dinner had been at 5, on the way to soccer practice.

An egg, I thought. And toast?

Oops. No bread.

Pasta? But that would take so long….

I got out my trusty cast-iron skillet, dropped on a bit of butter, and thought. And peeked into the fridge.

I discovered an opened package of egg roll wrappers, and realized that one square would make a perfect single serving of pasta.

Onto the stove went a pot with an inch of water so it would boil quickly. I fried my egg, leaving it just a little yolky in the middle, then slid it onto a dessert plate. I sliced two mushrooms, and fried them too.

By then the water was boiling. My egg roll wrapper went in, just for a couple minutes. I pulled it out with a fork, draped it across my egg and topped it with mushrooms.

Now there’s a snack.

Or breakfast.

Or dinner.

I think now I’d better do some aerobic typing to make up for the calories.

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Welcome to the Frugal Cooking Carnival! I hope you’re all set to share three days worth of menus, costs, pictures, and recipes. Guidelines can be found here. But even the recipes from one or two meals will be helpful, so please participate at whatever level you feel able. Before I share my own three days worth of food, I want to get Mr. Linky up so that those of you who are raring to share can get your own link posted first. Once you’ve signed in with the EXACT link to your post, you can scroll on down and see how the three days of cooking went at my house.  And just a note– you have to actually CLICK on the Mr. Linky to see the links that people have posted.  

(Update: Here are the actual links of the people who participated, since it seems Mr. Linkie is not showing up in some browsers)

1. Keren ($20 Menu, Shopping List, and Recipes)
2. Untraditional home
3. Linds
4. Anne (vegetarian)
5. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
6. daycare girl
7. Amy@Experience Imagination
8. Joanne
9. Tina
10. Carrien@She Laughs at the Days
11. Melissa Darling (A Darling Life)
12. Shana
13. Sonya
14. Another Oatmeal Idea
15. Ali BG (vegetarian)

(Lynn, diane, and Suzyq: Please resubmit your links– they didn’t show up on Mr. Linkie)

3 Days of Food
This first picture shows most of what I bought to use over the three days. A few odds and ends are missing, and there are a few things there that I didn’t end up using. But the picture gives you a pretty decent idea of what I used over those days. I will be adding recipes in the next day or two. This post has taken a ridiculous amount of time to write– I want to thank all of you who decided to join me in this effort, because it really has been a lot of work.

migas and toast

Breakfast on day one was migas, toast, orange juice and coffee. I used 18 eggs, but since I found eggs for $1.50 a dozen, it wasn’t too expensive. I only give the kids coffee once a week or so, in tiny Ethiopian cups, and when I do, they really enjoy the treat. The whole meal with juice and toast cost about $6.50, which came out to about $0.65/person. This is a favorite breakfast at our house.

Beef stew with dumplings
Tuesday for lunch we had a nice vegetable beef stew with dumplings. The stew was very hearty– I could have used a bit more liquid, I think. It contained hamburger, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and canned tomatoes. The thing the kids liked best was the big dumplings on top.Next time I’ll make more stew, since the stew ran out while there were still plenty of dumplings. I served this with orange halves and a slice of banana bread for dessert. This meal came out to about $6.00 or $0.55 per person.

Peanut chicken and rice

Tuesday’s dinner was another favorite. West African Peanut Chicken is a dish that we discovered a year or so ago, and now make a couple times a month. I used the meat from 3 chicken breasts that I’d bought for $0.98/lb, so this also was a fairly affordable dish. I made the sauce with plenty of homegrown pureed tomato and pureed onion (the kids like onions just fine when I puree them) and served it over rice with fresh broccoli and orange slices. Total cost for the meal was $6.25, which came to about $0.57/person.

cold cereal
Wednesday’s breakfast was as easy as you can get– cereal, milk, juice and fruit. I generally don’t pay more than $1.50 a box for cereal, but Albertsons had a great deal a few weeks ago. A sale combined with ‘preferred customer rewards’, store coupons and manufacturers coupons brought the cereal down to $0.60 a box. I bought 10 boxes. With half a gallon of milk, half a gallon of juice, and a couple pounds of bananas, the total cost of the breakfast was about $4.60, which is about $0.42/person.

Fried rice and egg rolls
This lunch was particularly yummy: fried rice, egg rolls, apples, and peanut butter cookies for dessert. I made the fried rice using leftover rice from yesterday’s dinner and leftover migas from yesterday’s breakfast. I also added a bit of chopped-up pepperoni, onion, garlic and carrot. I fried it all in a few tablespoons of sesame/canola oil. Near the end of cooking, I added about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. The egg rolls were filled with cabbage, grated carrot, fresh ginger, minced onion and garlic, then fried in oil– ya know, you can’t beat deep fried food for taste! With that fat content it was a good thing the meal was practically vegetarian! We rounded out the meal with apple slices and homemade peanut butter cookies for dessert. Total estimated cost for this meal was $7.50, or about $0.68/person.

Beef Stroganoff
Wednesday’s dinner was an old standby at our house: beef stroganoff. Usually I make it with egg noodles, but tonight I just had macaroni and that was fine. I served it with mushrooms on the side since many of the kids aren’t thrilled with mushrooms. For side dishes we did some frozen corn from last year’s garden, fresh broccoli with salad dressing, and a cookie for dessert. (Cookies don’t last long at our house!) This meal cost about $7.50, which was about $0.68/person.

Oatmeal and ice cream
Thursday morning’s breakfast idea came from some friends of ours. Oatmeal is the ultimate in affordable breakfasts, but it can be a little dull taste-wise. Unless you top it with ice cream, that is. Even kids who aren’t in love with oatmeal will eat it happily if you top it with a scoop of strawberry ripple ice cream. One other tip: we cook our oatmeal in our rice cooker, which totally avoids the ol’ boil-over problem we always used to have with oatmeal. It requires absolutely no watching, which is a plus on busy mornings. Just pop in your regular amount of oats along with twice that amount of water, turn the cooker on, and walk away. The rice cooker turns off automatically, and keeps it warm til you get to the table. We served this breakfast with a link of sausage, toast, and orange juice, for a cost of about $6.00 altogether, or $0.55/person.

Our third lunch was another easy meal: leftovers from previous days. At least once a week we have a leftovers meal at our house, which consists of pulling everything from the last few days out of the fridge and letting kids go through picking what they want then microwaving it. This time around we have leftover peanut chicken, dumplings from the beef stew, and fried rice. Since I already added the costs of those items into the previous meals, the only ‘new’ costs were for the oranges and carrot sticks we served on the side, which cost about $1.25.

Chicken enchiladasOur final meal for the three days was chicken enchilada casserole. While I was making one casserole, I went ahead and doubled the amounts so I could have another casserole to stick in the freezer for a different day. Along with the enchiladas, we had a green salad made with swiss chard from my husband’s greenhouse, and the last bit of cabbage. The younger kids turned their noses up at the chard– it does have a slightly sharp taste– but I really liked it, and so did most of the bigger kids. The enchiladas turned out great and were met with rave reviews. I’m really glad I made two! For dessert we had more cookies– I’m afraid this batch is almost gone. The total on this meal was a little higher than some: meat AND cheese, you know! It was around $11.50 for everything, which comes out to about $1.05/person, and we even had some leftovers for my husband to pack next time he goes to work.

The grand total, for 9 meals for 11 people? $57.10. That’s 99 meals for about 58 cents a meal.

I am so glad I’m done with this post. I am now going to bed as my hubby is literally tugging me by the hand. I’ll be back with more recipes tomorrow, people! So come back, OK? Welcome to the people visiting after seeing the mention here and then on CNN this morning. If you look in my sidebar under ‘Techie Stuff’ you’ll see several different ways to subscribe to this blog. I hope you’ll all be back and please feel free to leave a comment!

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( This is just one recipe in my Frugal Cookin’ Carnival
Click on the above link to see what else I cooked during my three days.)

Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe is a favorite at our house. It is sooooo easy to make a second one to freeze while you are at it that I went ahead and listed amounts for two 9×12 casseroles. This freezes beautifully and is also great as leftovers. Even if your family will only eat half a 9×12 dish at a meal, remember that you can serve it again in a day or two.

4 lbs boneless chicken
2 T. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic
3 cups corn
1 minced onion
4 c. pureed tomato
2 packets of taco seasoning
20 flour tortillas
5 cups grated cheddar

Start by chopping 4 lbs of chicken. I used boneless thighs that cost $1.19/lb. Cook that in a large skillet on medium high with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Don’t stir the meat until it gets a nice lovely brown color on one side. Then stir and cook the rest of the way. Once the meat is mostly cooked, add 4 cloves of garlic, 3 cups of corn, and one minced onion. Continue to cook a few minutes til onions are soft.

Now you are going to need about 4 cups of pureed tomato. You can puree fresh whole tomatoes in the blender, or if you’d rather just use regular tomato sauce, you’ll need about 3 cups of tomato sauce mixed with a cup of water. Once you’ve done that, pour 1/2 cup of sauce into each of two casserole pans and spread it around to coat the whole bottom of each pan. At that point you should still have three cups of sauce remaining.

Dump the rest of the tomatoes into your skillet full of cooking chicken (I told you that skillet needed to be large, right? Add 2 packets of taco seasoning and let it simmer for a few minutes.

While that mixture simmers, put a double layer of flour tortilla into the bottom of each of your casserole pans. Tear the tortillas as needed to make them fully cover the bottom of each pan. Once your chicken has simmered for a few minutes, layer 1/4 of the mixture into each of the two casserole dishes. Sprinkle each dish with about a cup of grated cheddar cheese, then put on another layer of flour tortillas. (20 tortillas should be plenty for two casserole dishes.) Divide the remaining chicken mix between the two dishes, and top each dish with 1 or 1-1/2 more cups of cheese.

You’ve just made two meals and spent probably only five extra minutes for that second meal. Cover one casserole tightly with foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Cook the other casserole at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and more salsa if you wish.

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