Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Last Minute Company Dinner! (Mexican Casserole, Fresh Margaritas, Bananas Foster a la Becky)

Years ago, my friend Liz Higgs wrote a little book of humor and I'll never forget one of her recipes, because I myself use it so often. As close as I can remember it went something like this:

Busy Day Casserole
Take leftovers on the left side of the fridge.
Combine with leftovers on the right side of the fridge.
Sprinkle with cheese & potato chips and bake at 350.

I had a long writing day, when a call came in from one of our favorite couples desirous of a little Greg & Becky TLC, a hot meal and our "comfy couches." (This is what we call our livingroom couches which are, I have to say, about the biggest, fluffiest, most comfortable couches we've ever seen. People joke about calling ahead to reserve a napping spot on them.)

So, I looked in the fridge and found seasoned ground beef, beans, Mexican crema (which is a non-sour cream... delish), a bit of rice, picante sauce and cheese. I whirled a can of tomatoes with some picante sauce, chili powder and spices, mixed it with the ground beef and layered all of the above with tortillas, topping it with cheese. Baked it for 40 minutes (it was huge!), garnishing with crema, crushed tortilla chips, tomatoes, green onions and avocados.

Served it with corn on cob, watermelon and carrots & cucumber sticks with vegie dip.

It was good; but even if it didn't win any prizes for being the best thing I've ever concocted, the fresh margaritas that I served with it certainly helped raise the overall dining experience. (My feeling is that if you serve a nice cocktail and end with a good dessert, what happens in between isn't nearly as important.)

Here's the margarita recipe which our guest said was the best I've ever made!

Becky's Fresh Margaritas

Fill blender 2/3 with ice cubes.
Add about 1/3 to 1/2 c. freshly squeezed lime juice. (You can also add the juice of an orange if you are shy of lime juice)
2/3 c to 1 c. good, clear tequila (it doesn't cause hangovers like the darker verson)
1/2 c to 1 c. limeaid, lemonade or margarita mix
1/4 c. Triple Sec

Blend, taste. If too sour, add simple syrup or agave nectar until it is too your liking.

To serve pour in salt-rimmed glasses and top off with just a little squeeze from a fresh orange or tangerine, floating atop the drink.

Serves 6 to 8 drinks.

Finally, I looked around to see what I might create for a quick & easy dessert. I spotted vanilla ice cream, two bananas, some walnuts and formed a plan in my head. Here's the results, and I have to say, this was really scrumptious. I'd definately serve it again.

Bananas Foster with a Becky Twist

In small sauce pan melt 2 T. butter with 1/4 c. brown sugar. Squeeze 1/2 an orange and just a little fresh lemon juice into the pan. Cook until bubbly and thick. Add handful of pecans or walnuts. Slice 2 bananas into the pan and stir until bananas and nuts are warm and well coated.
(If you like, you could add a little sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg as well. I didn't. But feel free.)
Serve immediately over bowls of ice cream and top off with 1 T. of your favorite liqueur. I love Amaretto, and Greg likes Kahlua.

I had enough casserole leftover to freeze 1/2 of it and share with another family this week.

My friend, Noelle, mother of six, says she loves the challenge and creativity involved "re-purposing leftovers" for her big family. I agree, it's kind of fun, and in these tighten-the-belt economic times, it's becoming a real necessity!


  1. When you learn to drive... you can reward yourself by coming to dinner at the Johnsons! :)