Category Archives: Casserole

Easy Salsa Chicken Tortilla Casserole Featuring Pam’s Salsa

I started doing the cooking demos at the Wakefield Farmers Market last season (summer of 2016) and continued doing them for most of the subsequent Melrose-Wakefield Winter Farmers Market season as well. While the major goal has been to highlight veggies and fruits from our produce farmers, I do like to
incorporate the offerings of other vendors when I can. (Due to Board of Health safety constraints, I have to stick to vegetarian/ non PHF (potentially hazardous foods) ingredients in the demos, which means I can’t share just any recipe at the market if I want to offer samples.) While salsa is indeed vegetarian,  I have yet to use Pam’s Salsa in a cooking demo. To make up for that, I found the perfect way to highlight this amazing fresh and delicious salsa in a recipe that is quick and easy, suitable for even the most busy household.

Easy Salsa Chicken Tortilla
Casserole Featuring Pam’s Salsa

1 – 1 ¼ pound boneless skinless chicken breast
1 pint Pam’s Salsa, separated if using a 1.5 quart slow cooker
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup or so:
chopped onion
chopped bell pepper
grated carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup tomato plain tomato sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
6 flour tortillas (10 inch)
6 ounces shredded cheese, Mexican blend if available

Put chicken and 1 cup (or the entire pint if using a 3.5 quart slow cooker) salsa in a slow cooker and cook 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a 10” fry or sauté pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper until just starting to get soft.
Stir the hot sauce into the tomato sauce and add to the veggies, along with remaining salsa if applicable.
Use two forks to shred the salsa-cooked chicken and mix into to the veggie-sauce mix.
Place two tortillas, overlapping as necessary, in the bottom of a greased 13×9-inch baking dish.
Cover with half the chicken mixture and one-third of the cheese. Add another layer of two tortillas, the other half of the chicken mixture, and another third of the cheese.
Place the remaining two tortillas on top and cover with the remaining third of the cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and a bit browned.

Top with sour cream and or whatever toppings suit your fancy.  And, of course, add anything else such as black olives, chunks of fresh tomatoes, more hot sauce, more cheese, or substitute enchilada sauce or adapt however will make this perfect for you.

NOTES: I used a 1.5-quart slow cooker. If using a 3.5-quart slow cooker, put the whole pint of salsa into the slow cooker with the chicken rather than adding the other cup to the chicken mix after sautéing with the veggies and tomato sauce.

Using Pam’s Salsa makes this so deliciously easy with the perfect “so fresh” taste. But, in a pinch, use one cup of a regular salsa of your choice and add a cup of frozen corn to replace the 2nd cup of salsa – or use your imagination. My suggestion is based on the Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken recipe I found HERE. (Scroll down a bit once you get to the page.) But, Pam’s Salsa really made this recipe pop, that’s for sure!

Makes six servings.

Skillet Tamale Pie: Great as is, but with endless possibilities!

I was on the Cook’s Illustrated website looking for equipment reviews of skillets and this recipe for Skillet Tamale Pie came up in the process.  Since I am always looking for meals that are quick to prepare and hold well on warm in the oven, I made sure to put this on my “Try soon” list.  And try it soon I did.  🙂

tamale pie

Back for seconds already!

For a change, I followed the recipe exactly as written except for using whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose (refined/white) flour since, as happens most of the time, I had no white flour on hand.

To access the recipe on the America’s Test Kitchen Cook’s Illustrated site, you need to be a subscriber, but I’ll copy it here with the understanding that this is a sample to encourage you to become a subscriber yourself. 🙂 While I am copying things, (hopefully within fair-use limits!) I am going to be lazy also repeat the instructions verbatim.  The picture are really mine, though.  <grin>

Tamale Filling

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion , minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin (lean)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans , drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese , shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Ground black pepper

Cornbread Topping

  • 3/4cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (3 3/4 ounces)
  •  3tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
For the tamale filling: Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the ground sirloin, beans, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.

Stir the cheddar and cilantro into the filling and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the cornbread topping: Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until uniform. Stir in the butter until just combined.
One more caveat from the original recipe – I used an instant buttermilk powered that you keep in the fridge, so I mixed the powder with the dry ingredients and mixed  just the water to reconstitute with the egg.

Close up to show texture and consistency

Dollop the cornbread batter evenly over the filling and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cornbread is cooked through in the center, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.

Dolloped and ready for the oven


One more caveat from the original recipe – I used an instant buttermilk powered that you keep in the fridge, so I mixed the powder with the dry ingredients and mixed  just the water to reconstitute with the egg.

This dish is truly a winner! Not only was it really tasty, it was really easy to make. And, even better, it lends itself to all sorts of variations.  Instead of the ground beef, you can use any kind of ground meat or poultry, cube or shred pultry, beef, or pork, use up leftover cook meats, or go vegetarian with more beans, tofu, or lots of extra vegetables.  And, with meat or not, you can add  or substitute corn, green beens, bell pepper, or whatever other veggies strike your fancy.

And, I suppose, you could have a topping of tortillas or corn chips and cheese rather than the corn bread, but that would be vering off into a different, albeit also tasty recipe.

One last point in favor of this dish is that this holds well in the oven on warm, so if you are not sure of the dinner hour, you can make it early and it will be ready when you are. BUT, if you do that, beware of the hot handle on the fry pan and be sure to take precautions if your memory is anything like mine.

And leave that potholder on there!

Enjoy…safely.  <grin>

Pork, Sweet Potato, and Cabbage Casserole on Soba Noodles

I have not posted for ages, but I was determined to document this concoction since it is  an experiment that worked.  🙂   Yes, I did start with a recipe, but I  adapted it so as to use up a few leftovers from my New Year’s Day open house, as well as some pork that was in the freezer,  some stray sweet potatoes, and a shallot.  In addition, as noted toward the end, it can also be easily adapted to fit a vegetarian diet.

Here is what I had: a pork sirloin mini roast (1.17 lbs) that I sliced an inch or a bit under thick, apple chutney that I had made but forgotten to put out on New Year’s Day, chopped cabbage that I had forgotten to add to the sweet and sour beef soup I made for and served on New Year’s Day, and two sweet potatoes and a shallot that I had on hand.


The major ingredients

Here is the link to original recipe from which I was working:
Pork Chop Casserole Recipe with Sweet Potatoes

Obviously, I was not using chops, and this recipe calls for more than 1 lb or so of meat; also, it does not specify boned or bone-in. Given I had a smaller amount of meat, it worked out fine that I had only two small sweet potatoes, and I used about two cups of Apple Chutney (Click HERE for the recipe – it is buried in the pulled pork recipe but it is worth deciphering it out, so to speak) to replace the OJ, brown sugar, and spices.

I also did everything in an ovenproof skillet.  Note to self: Do Not forget to use a pot holder when taking the skillet out of the oven…)

Anyway, I started by lightly browning the pork in a bit of olive oil to help seal in moisture in the pork and to give a nice flavor base for the rest of the ingredients.

In the middle of browning the pork

After removing the pork and setting it aside, I added a bit more olive oil and lightly sauteed thinly sliced shallot and a few stems of fresh thyme until the shallot was soft and the thyme quite fragrant.

getting stated with the shallot and fresh thyme

I then removed the shallot and thyme, added yet a bit more olive oil, and put the onion (one medium, sliced) in the pan.

Next, the onions

Once the onion was starting to get soft, I added about 3 cups of chopped savoy cabbage. (I am sure any type of cabbage would do – in fact, the red kind would make for a REALLY colorful dish!)

Then, add the cabbage to the onions

Once the cabbage cooked down a bit (after maybe 5 minutes or so), I stirred in the sliced sweet potato and the pork, including the juices, and then arranged the shallot and thyme on top. Finally, I put the lid on the pan, and into the oven preheated to 350 degrees it went.

Ready for the oven!

sensual close-up shot 🙂

After 50 minutes, the potatoes were just tender and the meat was still moist, so I put the pan with the cover on it back in the oven on the “keep warm” setting (170 dgrees) since we were not quite ready to eat. If I had wanted to serve sooner, I probably would have put it back in at the 350 degrees for another 5-10 minutes.


If I had had more sweet potatoes on hand, or a few white potatoes to add to the mix, this could very well have been a one-dish meal.  Or, I could have added some extra liquid and rice, or cooked rice separately and serve the pork and veggies over it. But, since it was a cold and stormy night, I thought soba noodles, made from the hearty buckwheat (often cited as good food for cold weather) would be the perfect match.  And, it was!

on a bed of soba noodles

This turned out to be quite tasty.  Upon reading the reviews of the original recipe, I think that it would fine as written, but both the original and my version would benefit from the sauce being thickened a bit, perhaps with cornstarch, and, in my version, I think a little more sweetness to counter the tart chutney would be nice.  But overall, I think the dish works well as written, as adapted by me, and as a base for further adaptations.  One note about the soba noodles:  They do not expand as much as regular pasta, so you may not have as much leftover as you would have thought.


If you don’t care to eat meat, this recipe can easily be adapted to suit a vegetarian diet.  If you want a concentrated protein source to serve as does the pork, then I  think tempeh would work wonderfully with this recipe. Tofu and seitan may work, also, albeit the textures of tofu and the usual tamari-based flavor of seitan would give a  different slant. This recipe could also inspire the creation of a rice, sweet potato, and cabbage (or other vegetable) casserole. Or, add edamame to replace the pork and still serve over the soba.

So, that’s it for now.  I really need to get back to blogging here on a more regular basis.  I have drafts and photos of various dishes and meals that I hope to document on this blog one of these days, but one the one ingredient I seem to always be low on is time, something for which thyme is no substitute…  <grin>