Thursday, March 31, 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salsa Dip


I tend to reserve dips and other “party” foods for get-togethers or when I need to take a snack somewhere.  It occurred to me that my family often misses out on some of the “fun” food that I share with others.  So, in the name of keeping it fair and real, a Saturday afternoon lunch was the perfect opportunity to splurge a bit! 
This one is so super easy, you’re going to love me for it.  You’re welcome!

Corn and Black Bean Salsa Dip

1-2 bricks of cream cheese, softened (depending on how much you want!)
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained (save remainder for something else!)
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups salsa, your favorite variety
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an 8x8 baking dish, spread soften cream cheese on the bottom of dish. In a separate bowl, gently combine black beans, corn, and salsa. Pour on top of cream cheese. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta

I have had some requests for meatless meals from a couple of readers.  This is one of my favorites!  I love how simple this is, and how the flavors and texture of each vegetable shines through.  Other than chopping some veggies, boiling some water, and oven-roasting the veggies, this is a simple meal to pull together.  (Admit it, chopping is a stress-reliever!)

My husband delared ("officially," mind you) at the conclusion of this meal that he just doesn't care for eggplant.  I respectfully accepted his submission, but I don't think it will eliminate this veggie from my meal-planning.  I really like it!

Just a Note:  The roasting of the veggies in this meal overlap, so make you you have a mental handle on your timing so you don't overcook or undercook any of the veggies.  In the end, it really does make it a bit easier and everything will be done at the same time.  You're making your oven work for you!

What about you?  Do you like eggplant?  What is your favorite way of preparing it?

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta
Adapted from Rachael Ray

1 head of garlic
olive oil for drizzling
1 medium eggplant, ends removed, peeled, and cut into small chunks
2-3 zucchini, ends removed, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into small chunks (my zucchini was less-than-desirable, so I omitted it this time around)
2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into small chunks
2 small heads of fresh broccoli
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
freshly ground black pepper
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh baby asparagus
1 pound pasta (I used penne; you can also use whole wheat pasta)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a large pot of water over medium heat; bring to boil.

To roast the garlic, cut the top off the head of garlic to expose the cloves.  Place on a small sheet of foil, drizzle olive oil over the top, wrap up the foil around the garlic, and twist to close.  Place garlic on a small baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, until garlic is soft and tender.  When finished roasting, remove from oven and open the foil to allow the garlic to cool.

Place chopped eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, onion, and thyme leaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and using your hands, toss gently to coat.  Once garlic has been roasting about 15 minutes, add the baking sheet of chopped veggies to the oven.  Roast them until they are tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Once the veggies have been in the oven about 20 minutes, add the tomatoes and asparagus to the top.  Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if they are looking dry.  Finish roasting about 10-15 minutes more, until tomatoes start to burst and asparagus is tender.

At this point, salt the pot of boiling water, and add the pasta.  Cook until al dente, about 9-10 minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta in a large colander.  Transfer the cooked pasta to a serving bowl.

Once the garlic is done roasting, allow it to get cool enough to handle, then hold the head in your hand and squeeze out the softened roasted garlic cloves into the serving bowl with the pasta.  Add the reserved pasta water.  Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and add to the serving bowl.  Toss gently to combine.

Add the chopped parsley on top of the pasta, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Muffins

Spring is on its way!!!  Good news, right?!  After blizzards and simmering pots of winter chili for the past couple months, it is extremely refreshing to see bright red, juicy strawberries at the store.  I had to have some!  I don't know if you're like me, but I get all excited to see them in the store, plop them in the cart, whisk them away to my refrigerator, and then I save them.  Because I think I must.  Then I forget about them.  Before I know it, my juicy strawberries are no longer juicy, but are in need of a last ditch effort to save them and redeem them.

Not this time.  This time, I had a plan.  Strawberry muffins.  A taste of spring.  A bite of juicy things still to come!  Boo-ya, winter!  

I'll add another picture, just to keep encouraging spring to come along!

Fresh Strawberry Muffins
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
Streusel Topping here

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Position rack in center of oven. Butter or spray with a non stick cooking spray a 12-cup muffin pan. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently fold in the berries. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

Fill each muffin cup almost full of batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Top with a teaspoon of streusel topping.  Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ham and Cheese Sliders

I am in the throes of raising little kids, which means lots of grilled cheese, apple slices, and the occasional box of macaroni and cheese are frequently prepared in my kitchen.  Sometimes, I get bored with making the same kid-friendly food over and over.  Sometimes it is fun to have party food for a family meal.  Sometimes sliders just need to be the main dish!  (Think grilled cheese meets major steroids!)  My family loves these and we love to add sliced tomato to our grilled cheese.  So simple and so easy, these sliders would make a great addition to a birthday party spread or any get-together.

Ham and Cheese Sliders
Adapted from Annie's Eats

12 slider rolls
24 slices honey ham
12 small slices Swiss cheese (I have used smoked swiss....yum!)
1 Roma tomato, sliced thinly into 12slices

For the sauce:
1½ tbsp. yellow mustard
8 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. finely minced onion (or 2 tsp. dried minced onion)
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Split the slider rolls and spread the insides lightly with mayonnaise.  Fold a slice of ham to fit on each slider bun, and top with a slice of Swiss cheese.  Replace the top bun to assemble the sandwiches.  Place the sandwiches in a 9x13 baking dish.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients except the poppy seeds in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Drizzle the sauce over the tops of the slider buns.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Remove the foil and bake 2 minutes longer.  Serve warm.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bacon and Cheese Spread


I am excited to share this recipe with you.  You see, I am pretty sure I grew up on this stuff.  My mom made it all the time when we had company over as kids—the adults and kids alike loved it!  Other than the Sunday breakfasts that my dad would make, this is the other major memory that I have of bacon.  How I loved it when my mom made this!

 A couple of weeks ago, El Hub and I were invited to join several other couples from our church for a “guys game and girls scrapbook night.”  Being that we have ZERO social life, we worked it out for the sweet little darlings to spend the night at the grandparents’ house and I set to work (relatively, speaking) to whip this up to take.  Just as I expected, it was a huge hit!  I mean, how does one not love bacon and cheese and crackers?!

Bacon and Cheese Spread
Source: my mom

1 8-oz. brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 green onions (scallions), sliced thin
8 crisply cooked slices of bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cream cheese and mayo until well blended. Add cheese and onion, mix well. Combine bacon and cracker crumbs in a zip bag.

Spread cream cheese mixture in the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Top with crumbled bacon/cracker mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve with crackers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cappuccino Cookies

Coffee in a cookie?  Um, yes please!  This cookie hardly needs an introduction, but if you are of the camp that doesn't really care for coffee, this cookie reminds me of a gingersnap or a molasses cookies, just less spicy.  So, break out the espresso powder!  These cookies are yummy!

Cappuccino Cookies
Source:  Joy the Baker

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 cup white chocolate chunks

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and instant espresso powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the butter mixture with a spatula.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients, all at once to the butter mixture.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Stop the mixer, add the chocolate chunks and fold together with a  spatula until well combined.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Scoop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store cookies in an airtight container.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cappuccino Muffins

I'm kind of an "all or nothing" kind of girl.  Like, either I will eat none of the cookies, or I will eat them all.  Oh, ok, just kidding about that part.  Kind of.  Anyway, I finally found and bought espresso power the other week.  Since then, I have baked 4 different items with it!  Seriously, how have I ever survived without this ingredient in my kitchen!

These muffins were described to me as "cinnamon mocha."  Yum.  They are dense like a muffin, but are "springy" (don't you just love the way my friend has with words?!).  And the streusel topping....such a good streusel!  I made these mini, and they were the perfect little popper for a simple brunch.

Cappuccino Muffins
Source:  Made with Love, by Diane Steury

1 1/2 cup milk, divided
2 tbl. instant espresso powder
3 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbl. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
9 tbl. butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 tbl. vanilla

Streusel topping:
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbl. white sugar
6 tbl. butter, cut into chunks
1 cup walnuts or pecans, optional

Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugars.  Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in the nuts if desired.  (If you have a food processor, toss it all in the workbowl and pulse until crumbly).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Scald 1/2 cup milk an stir in espresso powder.  Pour into a medium-size bowl, add the remaining 1 cup milk and cool completely. When cooled, whisk the melted butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, eggs and vanilla into the coffee-flavored milk.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and white sugar. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, add the chocolate chips, and stir together to form a batter.

Spray mini muffin pan lightly with cooking spray or use mini muffin liners.  Divide the batter among the cups in mini-muffin pans (or regular sized ones!), filling each cup 3/4 full.  Lightly press 1/4 tsp. of streusel topping onto the top of mini muffins (1/2 tsp. for regular sized).

Bake for 10-12 minutues or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean.  For regular sized muffins, bake 15-17 minutes.  Cool completely.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Chip Cookies

You know, I am just perpetually on the hunt for the "best" chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I have several versions on this blog, even.  And they're all good.  I think that the odds of finding the "perfect" cookie might be a bit stacked against me since chocolate chip cookies aren't really even my favorite cookie.  After trying several versions, I think that I am convinced that there might possibly be no such thing as a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Why, you might ask?  Well, because some people prefer thin and crispy cookies.  Others, thick and chewy.  Still others like theirs super-soft and others prefer a bit crunchier which makes for a better milk-dunking cookie.  Maybe only you can determine your personal degree of perfection!

All that being said, this was a fabulous cookie!  I loved the texture, not too thin, not too thick.  Soft and chewy, yet crispy on the edges.  Of all the kinds I've tried, I liked this one the best!  I think I just might have scored a winner here!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Chip Cookies
Adapted from The New Best Recipe

2 cups plus 2 tbl. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbl. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until just warm
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heave the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. (I personally prefer parchment paper).

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended.  Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.  Stir in chips.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball.  Holding the dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull the dough apart into two equal halves.  Rotate each half 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at the base, again forming a single ball, careful to not smooth the dough's uneven surface.  Place formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, the outer edges start to harden, and the centers are still soft and puffy, 15-18 minutes.  Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Cool the cookies on the sheets.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Project Love Day Results

It was an incredible opportunity to host and sponsor Project Love Day and I am so glad that you partnered with me!  Thank you for all your pageviews and clicks!  Thank you to those who linked up on Facebook or on your own blog.  I am amazed at your willingness to spread the word about this issue.  This could not have happened the same way without you!

Will you allow me to me authentic and honest with you for a moment?

  • I have wept countless times over the past month and a half.  
  • I have grappled with God on the injustice of this.  
  • I have prayed for these girls whose names only God knows--for safety, for protection, for rescue, for healing, restoration, for justice, for the hope that can only be found in Jesus.
  • I have had to come to an fresh understanding of God's sovereignty while looking at the truth of His character through the lens of this horrifying victimization.
  • I have wondered how the little I have can possibly make any sort of difference.
  • I have wondered what else I can do.
I am humbled at how God has so personally met with me during this time of reading, learning, and praying.  Through His Word--powerful, unchanging, and alive--He has shown me (yet again!) that He alone is sovereign, that He is working out His eternal purposes in all of His creation, He sees and knows all, and not one injustice goes unnoticed by His watchful eye.  His Son is a tender shepherd who gently cares for those who hurt, and His Son is mighty to save.  God's purpose for all is for redemption and restoration.  As I have seen all these characteristics of God through the lens of my heartbreak over human trafficking, I have wept.  And I can trust that God is absolutely in control of all.  I don't understand, but I trust Him to work His good in the way that only He can according to His perfect purposes. 

As I began tracking my blog pageviews and saw the end result for January, I battled a bit of discouragement.  Though the numbers were higher than they ever had been before, it generated so little in the way of money.  I surrendered this entire project back to the Lord.  He reminded me of the boy in John 8 who had a small lunch to share and the widow in Mark 12 who gave her last two coins and Jesus commended her faith to His disciples.  When Jesus' hand is upon something, it doesn't matter how large or small the offering.  He will use it in such an abundant way that is a testimony to His power and His glory.

This made me stop and consider that maybe Project Love Day wasn't really about raising a sum of money.  Maybe it was really about me being obedient to respond to a burden that God has placed upon my heart.  Putting some action to my faith.  I'm not sure.  And honestly, I'm not sure I will ever see the full scope and spectrum of my small part on this side of Heaven.  I'm not sure what my next step is from here.  The burden certainly hasn't diminished, and the need certainly isn't less.  One thing I know, there are a lot more of you who know about this global crisis now than you did 2 months ago.  God has a purpose in that awareness.  Again, thank you for being on board with me in this.

I know that you are anxious to know the results of Project Love Day.  Thank you for hearing my heart and allowing me to share a glimpse of what this has been for me personally.  Here are the results (please know that there is a bit of discrepency between Blogger's stats, my SiteMeter stats, and the numbers that Foodbuzz bases their income disbursement on).
January Pageviews:  1,598               Foodbuzz income:  $3.17
February Pageviews: 2,258              Foodbuzz income:  $3.69
Average was 93 pageviews per day

Here is an excerpt from World Vision's catalog:  " 'She lied to me that I was going to a house to babysit.  Instead, she sold me to a brothel.' "  --Phhoung, age 13, Cambodia.  "Girls like Phhoung are held captive in a brothel and often forced to serve 8-12 "clients" every day.  By God's grace, some are rescued and cared for in a World Vision shelter.  About 2 million children--most of them girls--are enslaved in the global sex trade today.  They're often drugged and beaten if they don't obey.  Your gift will help restore physical, emotional, and spiritual health to rescued girls by providing things like safe shelter, medical care, nutritious food, vocational training, compassionate counseling, and where possible, reintegration with a loving family."

My gift of $50 will be donated toward Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls through World Vision.  May God use this small offering to accomplish His perfect purpose in the lives of the girls whom He has created and loves so much.

If you would like to donate directly to World Vision, please visit them here.  There are many ways to help with your giving.
"You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in {her} distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat."  Isaiah 25:4

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spicy Chicken and Caramelized Onion Flautas with Monterey Jack Cheese

Do you know what happens when you start cooking homemade and from scratch?  Well, a couple things.
  • You discover that cooking is fun. 
  • You discover that often you can make homemade better-tasting than pre-made or eating out. 
  • You find that when you do eat out, it isn't nearly as good as what you could have made at home.
  • You discover that your own cooking style kinda becomes your standard.  It happens.
Case in point:  these flautas.  Now, there is a bit of a discrepency about the name:  they are more like faux-flautas, since they are open ended.  Yet, they're not taquitos since they are made with flour tortillas instead of corn.  Technicalities, schmecnicalites....

Back to my point.  These are amazing.  Delicious.  Perhaps, even better than your favorite Mexican restaurant.  I know.  Bold statement.  But these wowed us.  While El Hub and I were settling our full stomachs by doing the aftermath dishes, he predicted that at that moment, I couldn't wait to make these again.  He knows me so well!  These are definitely making it into the my dinner rotation on a regular basis!

Spicy Chicken and Caramelized Onion Flautas with Monterey Jack Cheese
Inspired by and adapted from For the Love of Cooking

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed, trimmed, and diced
3 onions, sliced into rings
2 garlic cloves, pressed
olive oil for sauteeing
1 tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 flour tortillas
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, pour olive oil to cover most of the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium heat; add diced chicken and cook until no longer pink, but not until dry.  While there is still liquid from the chicken in the skillet, add chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, coriander, cilantro, and cayenne.  Stir gently to coat chicken and incorporate the spices.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking over medium heat until the majority of the liquid has evaporated.  Check the doneness of the chicken; it should be cooked through, yet still tender.

At the same time in another skillet or large sauce pan, drizzle it with olive oil to cover the bottom.  Add the sliced onion rings and cook over medium-low heat until onions become tender and slightly browned, 10-15 minutes, stirring often to keep from sticking to the bottom and burning.  Once onions are soft and caramel-colored, add the pressed garlic, stir to incorporate, 30 seconds, and off the heat. 

In between 2 sheets of wax paper, microwave the flour tortillas for 30 seconds to soften them.

To assemble the flautas, spread Monterey Jack cheese down the middle of the tortilla.  Top with some of the caramelized onions, then finish off with some of the chicken (keep in mind that you are making 6, so divide your cheese, onions, and chicken accordingly).  Roll tightly and place flauta on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Spray the top of each rolled tortilla with cooking spray.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Turn each tortilla, spray again, and bake for another 6-7 minutes, until cheese is melted and the edges of the tortillas are light golden and slightly crispy.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Easy Beef Enchilada Casserole with Easy Enchilada Sauce

How do you approach menu-planning, dinner prep, and cooking?  Do you plan out your meals and shop for the necessary ingredients?  Do you stock up on pantry and refrigerator staples and decide what to make for dinner based on what you have?

I recently did a FB poll (you know how "scientific" those are!) about using recipes or concocting.  Most of those who participated use recipes.  So do I, though I am not afraid to tweak or add or change as I go.

I also menu plan every two weeks and shop off a list that incorporates the ingredients needed to support my menu.  My sister has declared this stressful to her!

So, when bad snowy weather coupled with my laziness resulted in avoiding a trip to the grocery, I took my sister's challenge to just "wing it."  This is what I came up with, no trip to the store necessary!  For me, I had  cooked ground beef in the freezer, as well as homemade enchilada sauce.  I will do a future post on how to have some staple items prepped and ready to go for any given weeknight meal.  For this, if possible, buy double the amount of meat and double the enchilada sauce.  In separate freezer bags, freeze half of each for a future meal.

Easy Beef Enchilada Casserole
Source:  A Karla original

1 pound ground beef, browned, crumbled, and drained
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups easy enchilada sauce, divided 3 ways  (recipe follows)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced fine
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
6-8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream, for serving

Easy Enchilada Sauce
1 tbl. canola or olive oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbl. chili powder
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. sugar
2 (8-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar.  Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Slightly crush the tomatoes as the sauce simmers.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for casserole:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  On top of a piece of foil, brush one side of each corn tortillas with olive oil.  Stack, wrap with foil, and bake in oven for 15 minutes.  When done, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, until no longer pink, breaking into small crumbles as you cook.  Add the diced onion and saute until onion is tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drain excess grease.  Add 1 cup of enchilada sauce, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, diced chipotle peppers, and cilantro.  Mix to combine.

In a medium sized round casserole, spoon one cup of enchilada sauce on bottom.  Layer a corn tortilla, top with meat mixture, and repeat, using remaining tortillas and meat.  End with a corn tortilla on top.  Spoon remaining cup of enchilada sauce on top and top with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.

Bake covered for 30 minutes, until heated through.  Remove cover (lid or foil, whichever you used) and bake for 5 more minutes until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden.  Let stand for a couple minutes before serving.