Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cake and Casserole

My litte boy, Maddox, turned one last week. And being the controlling, I mean creative, person that I am, I decided I wanted to make, from scratch, his very first birthday cake. Very exciting! I had never baked a cake before! I made a basic 2 layer butter cake (recipe courtesy of my fabulous baking friend, Melanie) using strawberry jam between the layers and a YUMMY cream cheese frosting (also from scratch) all over. I really enjoyed this baking project! You can see the finished cake in the pictures below, complete with my elementary icing drawing of The Hungry Caterpillar. :-)

And here's the birthday boy himself... all tired out from eating all that cake!

Onto the next recipe project... Once a month our church holds a big potluck and all the ladies cook all this amazing food! Well, all the ladies except me! Historically, I am awful at cooking for potlucks. Usually around 8:30 p.m. Saturday night I remember that I have to have food together to bring the next morning and we end up running to the store for some chips and salsa, or worse yet, macaroni salad from the deli.

Well, this month I was determined to cook something actually worth eating! If you've ever looked at the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips and wondered what to do with all those tiny pieces that are too small to dip but too big to throw away, read on for a Mexican Casserole recipe! It's the perfect place to dump those tortilla tinies!

Tex Mex Casserole
2 tubes pre-cooked polenta (for this casserole I used sun-dried tomato and garlic)
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced or cubed
1 packet Simply Organic Southwest Taco seasoning
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (don't skimp, use the fresh stuff!)
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 15 oz can of corn
16 oz of your favorite salsa or pico de gallo
All those tortilla tinies from the bottom of the bag
A couple handfuls shredded Mexican blend cheese (Cheddar and Monterey Jack)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Start your chicken cooking on the stove over medium heat. Takes about 10-15 minutes to cook through, depending on how big your chunks are.

2. Open your tube of polenta, slice about half inch slices and layer on the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. You can also do this with freshly cooked polenta. Just spread it to cover the bottom of the dish and allow to firm up (about 15 minutes) before adding the next layer.

3. Coarsely chop your cilantro. (Mmmmmm! I am having a love affair with fresh cilantro right now!) Then layer over polenta.

4. When chicken is cooked through, mix contents of spice packet with 1/2 cup warm water and stir into chicken until it thickens a little. Spread chicken over cilantro.

5. Mix corn and beans and spread over chicken.

6. Spread salsa over corn/bean mix.

7. Here come those tortilla tinies! Spread 'em over the salsa.

8. Finally cover with a couple handfuls of cheese! WOW, this looks good!

9. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese melts and just starts turning golden.

Delicious, healthy (yes, it is!), easy, mexican-inspired dinner!

Happy creating!

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