Nacho Pot Pie with or without Chicken

Nacho Pot Pie ourwaytoeat

It has been bitterly cold and snowy in Minnesota.  I am at once craving variety and comforting, old-school Midwestern staples.  These individual Nacho “Pot Pies” are comforting, easy to make for meat eaters and vegetarians, and are also a tasty departure from everyday chicken pot pies.  I kept the calorie count under control using fat-free Greek yogurt in the creamy pot pie filling instead of cream or half n’ half, and topped them with a small serving of multigrain chips instead of a buttery crust.  We thought the texture and flavor were perfect.  When served, each person can add nacho toppings as judiciously as they desire.  These mini-casseroles aren’t as “fancy” as Day After Thanksgiving Individual Pot Pies with or without turkey, but they are a guaranteed happy meal for a dreary winter week night or a main course at a Superbowl Party.

Nacho Pot Pies ourwaytoeat

Nacho Pot Pies, yield 4 Individual Pies, easily doubled


1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 a Red Pepper, chopped

1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeds removed and minced—add an extra pepper for more heat.

1/2 an Onion, chopped

1-14 ounce can of Black Beans, rinsed

3/4 cup of frozen Corn, thawed

1.5 Tablespoons of Taco Seasoning I use Home-Made Taco Seasoning following the Girl Who Ate Everything’s recipe.

2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

1 Cup Vegetable or Chicken Stock

1/2 Cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt

2 Scallions, white parts and just the beginning of the green, diced fine

Tortilla Chips–I used multigrain

Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese to top each Pot Pie

Olive Oil

Optional:  cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks, 1/3 cup per dish

Method:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat individual 5-inch baking dishes, or a small casserole dish or glass pie plate with cooking spray or oil.

Nacho Pot Pie Fixings 2 ourwaytoeat

Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent, add chopped red pepper and cook 2 minutes.  Add garlic and jalapeno, cook one minute until fragrant.  Sprinkle taco seasoning and flour, blend together and cook 1 minute.  Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in Greek yogurt, most of the black beans and corn.

Chopped Chicken and Black Beans ourwaytoeat

Add chicken, or a few extra spoonfuls of baked beans into each dish.  Divide filling between individual baking dishes.

Assembling Nacho Pot Pies ourwaytoeatTop with tortilla chips, scallions and shredded cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees, 18-22 minutes until golden.

Nacho Pot Pies topped with cheese ourwaytoeat

Serve with traditional nacho/taco accompaniments:  shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, sour cream, sliced avocado, lime wedges and salsa.  These are Nacho Grandma’s Pot Pies.


Taco Soup for the Superbowl

If you are ready to take a break from Chili, Chicken Wings or Pizza as your Superbowl staple next year, you might want to try Taco Soup.   I made a crock this year and it was tasty, and so easy.  This is a meal that you can easily adapt for omnivores as well as the vegetarians in your crowd.  You can make this meal and have time to enjoy your day if you are capable of visiting the grocery store and using a can opener.  The ingredients pictured below include Two 14 ounce cans of Stewed Tomatoes, Two 14 ounce cans of Diced Tomatoes, One small can of chopped green chilies, One 14 ounce can of Pinto Beans (I used Chili Beans which are seasoned Pinto Beans), One 14 ounce can of Kidney Beans and One 14 ounce can of Golden Hominy, which you can find in the grocery store near the canned beans.

Not pictured:

  • One medium yellow onion, chopped and sautéed;
  • An envelope of low sodium Taco Seasoning or your favorite homemade mix of spicy seasonings, mixed according to preference, which should probably include, Cumin, Mexican Chili Powder, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Oregano, Salt and Pepper.
  • An envelope of Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or onion powder, dry dill, and a shot of low-fat Buttermilk, added 10 minutes before serving;
  • 1 pound of ground beef, browned for the omnivore-version; and
  • If you wish, you can add Vegetarian taco crumbles, prepared according to package directions for the vegetarian version.  If you do opt for Vegetarian Taco crumbles, I like Taco Filling by Fantastic Foods.

I put everything into the crock except for the meat, and set the heat to high because game time was only a few hours away.  You can make this on the stove in your favorite soup pan or dutch oven just as successfully as the crock pot, but I love the “fix it and forget it” aspect of cooking in the crock pot.  After the beans, hominy, seasonings and onions had a good hour and a half to get warm and combined, I ladled a vegetarian portion into a separate sauce pan and put it in the fridge.  I recommend giving the ground beef version more time in the crock, and separating out the veggie version into a separate pan as needed.  The beef needs time to gather up the flavors in the pot, and is less likely to get dried out than the vegetarian version.  Next, I added the browned ground beef to the crock.  Then, all I had to do was keep the crock cooking until game time, which gave the flavors time to combine.  This is where certain celebrity chefs who regularly appear on the Food Network who will remain unnamed would say that constant heat and time will allow the flavors to “marry.”  I like the thought of distinct ingredients of a the soup spending time together, falling in love and then hanging out long enough to allow the distinct characteristics of each element to meld together and become a unified as a whole.  But the Food Network has overworked the marriage of flavors descriptor a tad, so I’m trying to leave it on the shelf for now so that perhaps someday, that term can be revived into common use.

When it was close to game time, I took the saucepan of vegetarian Taco Soup out of the fridge and reheated it on the stove over medium heat.  This is where the fun part of taco soup comes in:  the toppings.  I assembled a small array of some of our favorite taco toppings to serve along with the soup.  Today we had shredded lettuce, crumbled corn tostadas, sliced jalapenos, light sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced black olives and radishes.  Avocado, diced cucumber, chopped green onions or diced red onion and pepitos would also be great toppings for Taco Soup.  Scoop chips are great for scooping up the soup and toppings from your bowl, regular tortilla chips or crackers would also be great to serve with the soup.

I served the soup in wide, shallow bowls.  I wanted there to be enough surface space for us to add toppings.  We each topped our bowl of soup the way we wanted, and then headed to the couch for kickoff.

Taco soup was the main dish for us on Superbowl Sunday, but it would also work well at a potluck, served in smaller bowls or cups.  Also, you sure don’t have to have an important sporting event on TV to make this for supper.  As a dish for the Superbowl, it is essential that you can eat it while seated on the couch.  I will report that the shallow bowls were a good call because they did, in fact allow us to top the soup generously without making a mess, and the soup is thick enough to work just fine even with an ottoman as a dinner table.

This soup works because once you bring the crock pot and the right cans into the kitchen, it practically makes itself.  It is hearty, and the toppings add variety and make for a fun and casual meal.  Taco Soup also reheats wonderfully, so we both had a delicious bowl today for lunch.  If it sounds good to you, give it a whirl!

Baked Chips Fit for Superbowl Sunday

This Sunday, people across the country will gather around the television to evaluate the entertainment value of the newly-released beer commercials and eat chicken wings* and cheesy dips.  Many of those people will watch the accompanying football game.  Whether you are really into the game or just the commercials and other fanfare, isn’t Superbowl Sunday at least partly about the food?  I am not one to begrudge myself or others their favorite snacks at a Superbowl Party.  They are All-American comfort food.  A typical menu is inspired by Stadium Food, Backyard BBQs and Tailgating favorites, but prepared indoors and served in a manner fit for eating at the couch.  I don’t know about you, but my Superbowl Sunday is also Super-Sedentary Sunday.  When people around me who are watching the game cheer because the right team has scored, I leap off the couch to high-five/fist-pump/bump chests on cue.  That is the only exercise I get the whole day.  Even if I am just not that into sports, I enjoy this day and all of the fun it has to offer.  The challenge I’ve given myself this year is to make food that completely is worthy of the celebration, and doesn’t send my caloric intake for the day over the top of the high-end of the recommended range for an adult male.  I am not saying I am swearing off nacho cheese for life.  No, no, no.  This is the thing:  I have seen those darned, heartwarming Dominos commercials about how they are improving their pizzas and I’m as susceptible to the marketing of convenience and processed snacks as the next person.  I have just realized that falling for that message limits the potential for enjoying good, simple food without guilt.  Are you with me?  Without further adieu, my version of Oven Baked Potato Chips, a snack fit to eat this Sunday.

To make:  scrub a couple of Russet Potatoes.  I sliced 3 potatoes and made plenty of chips for the food testers [Meghan and Bjorn].  You can increase or decrease the number of potatoes you use depending on the size of your crowd and how many other awesome dishes you are preparing.

I like to slice the potatoes very thin.  I used my brand new OXO Softworks Mandoline to slice the potatoes .  The Mandoline was a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law.  He is a die-hard sports fan, so it is totally appropriate that the Mandoline’s first use is to test a Superbowl Snack.  If you have a Madonline, please be very, very careful.  This is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment you can keep in the house, if you ask me.  If you use it with extreme care though, the food chopping results are pretty cool.  If you don’t have a Mandoline, you could use a sharp knife, or the long blade part of your cheese grater if it is still sharp.  I will slice the potato just a little thicker than I did this time on game day.  My slices were fine, but as you can see, they had some tattered edges and they got pretty crispy upon baking.  Crispy is great, but a little less crispy might be even better.  I went for round rippled chips this time, but next time I might do shoestrings, waffle fries, or regular French Fries.  The recipe is the same no matter how you slice ’em.  Just be aware that when potatoes are baked with little or no oil, the bigger chunks don’t crisp up the same way they do when deep-fried.  You have to try it out and see what shape and size you like.

I soaked the sliced potatoes in cold water for a while before baking them.  This helps release some of the starch from the potatoes, which helps them get crispier when baked. Once the potatoes had a good soak, I dried them off on paper towels and put them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil which was sprayed thoroughly with cooking spray.  You could toss the potatoes in olive oil before this step, or drizzle them with a small amount of olive oil when they are in the pan, but that is optional.  I didn’t and I was totally happy with our crispy baked chips.

I sprinkled the thinly sliced potatoes with seasoning.  Today I used an envelope of Spicy Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, oops, I guess I did go ahead and use a processed convenience food. I had it in the cupboard I thought “what the heck?!  I’ll use it.”  It was good, but I’d be totally happy with a bunch of herbs.  I love the combination of herbs in a jar of Poultry Seasoning, or a good shake of 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s; if you don’t use a mix, Paprika, Onion Powder, Garlic, Chili Powder and Thyme would also be good… Seasoning is another part of this recipe to adjust to your own personal taste.  The seasonings you love will taste good.  Notice that I didn’t say anything about salt.  I think its best to let everyone salt their own chips according to taste so I put out the shaker when the chips were served.  I threw the baking sheets in the oven at 425° for somewhere between  30-45 minutes, tossing the chips once, half way through.  I like crispy tatos, so I let them go to the done side and made them extra crisp by finishing the baking briefly under the broiler.  Depending on preference, you can bake them until they reach a “tender-crisp” level of doneness.

While the chips were cooking, I whipped up a little bowl of “Skinny” Garlic Aioli.  All credit for the Aioli goes to the wonderful blog Gina’s Skinny Recipes.  My recipe for “Oven Chips” is also heavily adapted from Gina’s recipe for Baked Seasoned Fries which accompanies the Garlic Aioli recipe.  The Aioli is made with 2 Tablespoons of Light Mayo, 2 Tablespoons Fat Free Greek Yogurt, 2 finely minced Cloves of Garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  This Aioli is a seriously garlicky and kicky condiment.  I topped the bowl of Aioli with a little bit of flat-leaf parsley.  I think almost everything looks and tastes better when it is topped with fresh herbs.

When the fries were ready, I served them on a platter.  I set out ketchup, shakers of salt and pepper, and tarragon vinegar.  I always serve chips with vinegar.  I’m Canadian, so vinegar is a must.  Malt vinegar is traditional, but I love using other flavor-infused vinegars to make dressings and cook and flavor food.  They add zero calories, you know.

We probably eat potatoes once a month or so, and when we do, we often have oven baked chips or fries.  They are fit for your Superbowl Party, or any old Thursday night.  Try it!

*I read that the National Chicken Council estimates that a 100 million pounds of chicken wings will be consumed over the weekend.  Holey Moley.  That’s a lotta wings.