Back to — almost — normal

Whew!
I’m almost glad to be back at my Daily Globe desk after a whirlwind 10 days away, filled with King Turkey Day festivities, class reunion, family reunion, two separate batches of houseguests, helping with wedding preparations for my honorary niece and the wedding itself. I use the word “almost,” because somewhere along the way I came down with a sinus infection and could have used a few more days of recovery time. But it’s good to get back to a normal routine, or what will be normal with the departure of our last houseguest early this morning.
At some point amid all the hustle and bustle of those September doings, I managed to fit in some time for a haircut. Kari Wasmund, my current favorite stylist-in-training at Avalon School of Cosmetology, reminded me that she’d sent me a recipe via Facebook a while back. Kari, who lives in Sibley, Iowa, is very health-conscious and always looking for good low-fat recipes, so we often talk food during my monthly trims. I’ll miss those conversations when she graduates in December, but hope she’ll continue to share her cooking exploits via Facebook.
Kari says this take on the classic tortilla soup is simple to put together and delicious.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Line a slow cooker with 1½ pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Over top of chicken, pour one 15-ounce can whole stewed tomatoes; 1 can corn; 1 can chickpeas; 10 ounces salsa; 1 medium onion, chopped; 4 ounce jar jalapeno peppers with ½ cup of the liquid; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 2 cups water; one 14½-ounce can chicken broth; 1 package low-sodium taco or chili seasoning; ¼ teaspoon black pepper; 1 bay leaf; 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro.
Cook on low setting for at least eight hours.
One hour before serving, remove chicken and shred meat with forks. Return shredded chicken to pot and let cook for remaining hour. Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips and chopped avocado.

In my current stuffy condition, a big bowl of chicken soup sounds good, although it’s not really soup weather quite yet. But the general shift in the weather has me leaning more toward comfort foods on the menus at our house. It’s a sure sign that autumn is on its way when I get the hankering to make up pans of lasagna for the freezer.
My lasagna recipe is an amalgamation of several that DotMom printed over the years. I can usually get two lasagna-size foil pans out of this recipe — one for immediate eating and one for freezing.

Lasagna Mélange
Brown 3 pounds ground beef with 1 medium onion, chopped, and 2 garlic cloves, minced. Add three 8 ounce cans tomato sauce; one 6-ounce can tomato paste; 2 cups sliced mushrooms; 1 tablespoon dried basil; 2 teaspoons oregano; 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste); ½ teaspoon pepper. Simmer this mixture for about 15 minutes.
Combine 2 cups cottage cheese or low-fat ricotta cheese with 2 cups mozzarella cheese and ½ cup grated Parmesan. Grease pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with UNCOOKED lasagna noodles. Cover with a layer of the meat mixture, then a layer of the cheese. Repeat layers until pan is full and meat mixture is used up. I also tuck a couple slices of American cheese into the middle, usually between the noodles and sauce, for extra creaminess. End with sauce on top, then sprinkle with another ½ cup grated Parmesan.
Around the edges of each pan, pour tomato juice, probably about 1 cup per pan, to provide the extra moisture to cook the noodles. Cover with aluminum foil and either freeze or bake at 325 degrees for about 2 hours, removing foil for last 15 minutes.

Calling all comfort food! Please share your favorite recipes for this time of year by emailing brickers@dglobe.com; mailing to Lagniappe, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

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