Those who know Linda Kettinger may be shocked by what she’s selecting for a cook’s corner feature.

“I’m a dessert lady,” said Kettinger, of Bowling Green.

Just ask her family, which was surrounding her at the kitchen table last week and was asked to name their favorite recipe.

Husband Jim Kettinger and her granddaughters ticked off dozens of desserts: Cookie dough brownies, eclair cake, cream puffs, chocolate-chip cookies and pumpkin muffins. And then there’s the pies: Pecan, pumpkin, blueberry, apple, Boston cream and chocolate pudding.

But Kettinger passed on the treats and decided to share Mexican Layered Casserole, a comfort food that she said just speaks to the times of staying at home and cooking more, due to coronavirus.

It’s a great recipe to make with family and share with family.

“It’s a good, easy, hardy meal,” she said.

The casserole she made last week was going to one of her five sons for dinner. The Kettingers also have a daughter and four grandchildren.

It’s delicious the way the recipe is laid out, Kettinger said, adding that it’s also gluten free. But it can be changed up in a variety of ways, she said.

Top it with lettuce, tomato, salsa, tortilla chips and/or sour cream. Leave the meat out and add more beans for a vegetarian option. Swap out the ground beef for shredded chicken.

The fresh corn on the cob could be substituted with frozen corn, if crunched for time, Kettinger said.

It may be difficult to find Mexican oregano in the stores, although it can be ordered online, she said. She used marjoram and oregano.

“And cilantro makes anything good,” Kettinger said.

She doesn’t prefer one brand over another and tends to use the store brands. However, she is picky about her beef and usually selects ground chuck.

The layering of the dish reminded Kettinger of a popular restaurant.

“It’s basically Chipotle in a casserole,” she said. “You can eat it on its own, roll it up in a taco, eat it as an appetizer.”

Kettinger got the recipe from a friend and only started making it a couple weeks ago.

“This is only the second time I’ve made it,” she said. “I wish I’d known about it 10 years ago.”

Kettinger learned to cook from her mom, but it wasn’t a hands-on experience.

“I just used to stand beside her. I watched her for years,” she said. “My grandfather was a baker. He owned a bakery in Defiance.”

His nickname was Cookie.

Her recipe collection is decades old. She has a book from college and her popular pumpkin muffins are from a recipe she found at a bread and breakfast.

Kettinger was a preschool aide at St. Aloysius when coronavirus closed schools. Teaching is not her training, though.

“In my other life, I was a registered nurse,” she said.

She met Jim at a party on the Andersons family compound on New Year’s Eve. They’ve been married for 39 years. When his doctor career took off and the kids started arriving, she quit her nursing career. She’s a graduate of the University of Toledo and grew up in Toledo.

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