Being Real

Meghan is up in Alaska, where right now it gets light out at 11am and then the sun goes down around 2 pm. Her husband is in the military and is getting set to deploy soon, which means he will be gone for a year or so while she and their infant son keep things rolling at home. She has recently decided to take up cooking and baking, and is really quite good at it.

Susan struggles with dementia and is worried that her “mind is erasing itself,” as she put it the other day. She is sad she can’t remember the history shared with her husband, and listens to him tell her stories about when they were younger, smiling at pictures of them, not recognizing herself. Back in the day, she was an exceptional cook, and is distressed because she can’t remember how to make a  Thanksgiving dinner anymore. It was delivered to her home this year, which makes her feel both happy and sad.

Tom is a shuttle driver for a car dealership and faults himself for his own misfortune. He looks back and admits he was lazy and never did what he needed to succeed. It is a hard realization. Now, at 50 years old, his mother drives him to work each day so he won’t get robbed on the bus. He needs another paycheck in his pocket to afford a car of his own, though that will have to wait if he needs to buy groceries before the end of the week. His mother still cooks him dinner, which he feels lucky about, because she can make the long day’s work melt away with the smell of dinner in her oven.

Jocelyn is a teen who goes home every day to her grandmother’s house, where she helps her grandmother prepare the evening meal for her entire family. Her parents live there as well, both on long term disability for various reasons. Her brother was unable to get into the military (as he’d always dreamed of) because of a head injury that caused permanent damage. He helps Jocelyn make dinner from time to time, though he is very messy in the kitchen and she only lets him chop the vegetables.

At the end of each day, these four people all sit down to a meal with their families. They are all from different parts of the world, they all have realities that take courage and strength. And for a short time late each afternoon, the troubles of the day are forgotten. Laughter replaces worry, smiles light up the room. Warm food, uninterrupted time together, and remembering that despite any difficulty, there is much to be thankful for are just a few beautiful details of family dinners.

Share a meal with the people you love. It changes your world.

Enchiladas from the Home Plate

1 lb ground beef (cooked and drained)
2 – 14 oz cans black beans (rinsed and drained)
½ red pepper diced into small pieces
1 can sliced black olives (either 2.25 oz or 3.8 oz)
2 – 10 oz cans of hot red chile enchilada sauce (sometimes I use green/mild, but the hot is better. I like La Preferida brand, but have used many different kinds – all good)
¾ cup frozen corn
3 cups shredded cheddar, divided (1 cup + 2 cups)
1 medium fresh tomato, diced into small pieces
6 large (or xl) flour tortilla shells

Add some taco seasoning (1 packet or 3 Tablespoons) and a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper

*a couple of notes here – I have also mixed in things like ½ block cream cheese, ½ cup salsa verde (or any salsa), and other types of peppers. You can really add anything – you can also substitute the ground beef for shredded chicken or shredded pork, but I like ground beef best

In a glass baking dish (like what you’d cook lasagne in), spray the bottom with cooking spray. Make sure you shake up the first can of enchilada sauce, then pour half of one can into the bottom of the dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked ground beef, the remaining half of the first can of enchilada sauce, both cans of beans, red pepper, olives, frozen corn, 1 cup of shredded cheddar, tomato, taco seasoning and cayenne pepper.

Make sure you divide out the mixture evenly into six portions (the more times you make it, the easier it is to eyeball it). Lay out one tortilla at a time and spread one portion evenly down the middle, then wrap it up with open ends (into a burrito shape – but with open ends). As you wrap each one up, lay it in the pan on top of the layer of sauce you put in there. Squish them all into the pan next to each other, then shake up the second can of enchilada sauce and pour it evenly over the top of each enchilada, using up the whole can.

Spread two cups of shredded cheddar over the top of the enchiladas, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then take the foil off. Make sure all the cheese on the top is melted before removing it from the oven.

*another note: I sometimes make this in the morning, all the way up to covering it with foil. Then BEFORE baking it, I put it in the fridge for the day and let it just soak all together. That makes them extra amazing. The tortillas are really good then. But even if you make it just ahead of baking it (with no refrigeration), it’s still amazing.


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