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Beef and Cheese Enchiladas & How to shred lettuce or cabbage

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I often say that I was raised in a “health food only home,” but that isn’t completely true.  If it were, I would have starved to death before I ever started kindergarten.  The sad fact is that as a child, I hated everything healthy and loved everything else.  My Mom still has a note from me, written in third grade, in which I thanked her for being a wonderful Mommy but asked if we could please have pizza sometimes.  LOL!  Needless to say, I went hungry most nights and gorged myself when we were allowed to have spaghetti (this was junk food to us), cheese sandwiches, or Mom made enchiladas.  She didn’t do it often, but it was one of my favorite meals that she made. To this day, enchiladas are my favorite meal.

Mom made them very simply.  She made taco meat and rolled it up with cheddar cheese in corn tortillas.  She made red enchilada sauce from a mix and always stirred in a liberal amount of cilantro.  She dipped each tortilla in the hot sauce before filling them, which made it a very messy procedure.  She poured the leftover sauce over the top, topped with more cheese, and that was it.

I updated the recipe to simplify things, using canned sauce and stirring the cilantro into the beef mixture instead, and decided to top them with lettuce because my husband has always insisted this is the proper way to serve enchiladas.  I fought this for a long time, because Mom knows best and she never served hers with lettuce, but I finally saw the light.  Lettuce really freshens up this cheesy dish.  Even with the changes, these are still very much like my Mom’s enchiladas, which makes me happy.  Don’t we all love foods that remind us of our childhood homes?

Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning (or a packet of store-bought)
½ cup cilantro
2 (8 oz) packages sharp cheddar cheese
16 corn tortillas
2 cans red enchilada sauce
½ head lettuce, shredded
Sour cream to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray, then cover the bottom with a thin layer of enchilada sauce, about half a can. Set aside.

Cook beef and onion together in skillet over medium-high heat until meat is browned. Do not drain. Stir in taco seasoning and cook another minute, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Shred both packages of cheese and set half aside in the refrigerator. Dampen a paper towel and squeeze out water; wrap around a stack of five tortillas and microwave one minute or until hot and pliable. Place stack on a plate. Now you have everything you need to put the enchiladas together.

Place about two tablespoons of cheese down the middle of a tortilla, then top with 3 tablespoons of the beef mixture.  The temptation is always to overfill them, but you must resist.  Overfilled enchiladas means unsightly enchiladas that won’t close, and we want to keep things nice, tidy, and appealing.

Roll tightly and place in prepared dish.

Repeat, heating fresh stacks of tortillas as necessary, until all ingredients are used and dish is full of enchiladas.  I always have to scooch my enchiladas to make them fit, but scooch they will. :)

Pour remaining sauce over the top, then sprinkle on reserved cheese. I was short on cheese but if you follow the recipe, yours will be fairly smothered with cheese.  Which is proper.  This sad amount of cheese is sacrilege.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

After plating, sprinkle with lettuce and add sour cream, if desired.
Devour.

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I’m sure many of you know how to shred lettuce, but I get very basic questions about cooking from time to time, including how to prep veggies, and thought I’d give a quick tutorial on this for those who don’t.  You can also use this method to shred cabbage for coleslaw.

Cut thin slices of lettuce starting from the outside edge, working your way towards the center.  Do not go all the way to the core.

Once you are getting close, turn the lettuce and start from the opposite side.

It is very important that you wear your Tweety bird pajama shorts during this process.  Arg!  I changed my shirt so you guys wouldn’t know I wore my PJ’s all day (it was my day off and I spent it cleaning), and didn’t think that my shorts would show above the table.  On the plus side, I guess I’m taller than I thought I was. :)

Continue until you have sliced away on all sides, then do the top.  Discard the core.

I didn’t cut very much off the core because I didn’t need a ton of lettuce.  Usually I would cut down a lot more.

You should have a row of sliced lettuce.  Chop along the row in 1/2″ increments, or smaller.

Turn your cutting board/sheet and repeat in the perpendicular direction, slicing every 1/2″ or so.

If you want your lettuce shredded even more finely, mix the lettuce with your hands, spread out in a line again, and repeat the cutting in both directions.

Voila!  Shredded lettuce.

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