Taco Lasagna

Mexican casserole_3CR

After making the Mexican Beef Casserole, I was reminded of this classic that I have made over and over again since  2003 when “Quick Cooking” originally published the recipe.  It was published again in “Taste of Home’s Most Requested Recipes”.  I can see why!  This is a pretty fast and easy dish that is great for a crowd.  If I make this for my family – like many 9×13 casseroles – I split it between two 9″ rounds or two 8×8 pans, then I freeze the second one.

Taco Lasagna
yields about 12 servings

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup water
1 envelope of taco seasoning (or substitute favorite)
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 14.5 oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes, not drained
6 flour tortillas (burrito size, 8″)
1  – 16 oz. can refried beans
3 cups (12 oz.) shredded Mexican cheese or Cheddar cheese
optional:  Garnish with pretty sliced scallions or chopped cilantro for a little color on top.  Sometimes, I sprinkle paprika for a little red color on top.  You could serve this with sour cream and/or salsa.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Over medium heat in a large skillet, cook your beef, green pepper and onion.
2.  Add in the water and seasoning.  Boil and simmer for 2 minutes over medium-low.  Kind of like regular taco meat.
3.  Add in the beans and tomatoes.  Simmer 10 minutes.
4.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, or line with non-stick foil.  Layer 2 tortillas – overlapping in the middle of necessary.  Sometimes if I have enough tortillas, I use 3.
5.  Now spread 1/2 the beef mixture on top.  Spread 1 cup of cheese.  Add 2 or 3 more tortillas.  Spread the rest of the beef mixture.  Spread 1 more cup of cheese.  Add 2-3 more tortillas and the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
6.  Bake covered for 25 minutes.

Mexican Beef Casserole and Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 Mexican Casserole Recipes CR

Happy last day of January!  We have had some hits and misses in the recipe department this week.  I have two Mexican casserole recipes and the second one, Taco Lasagna, will be up on my blog in a couple days.

Reading Update: I found a book referenced in my Positive Psychology class called “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking.”  The book is easy to read and follow along.  The author makes a very good case for what she calls “defensive pessimism” and how that skill can actually help you rather than harm you.

Recipe:  I thought this was fast and easy.  It would make a great freezer meal, too!  Often enough, I do not have enchilada sauce in my pantry.  I made the version in America’s Test Kitchen’s Healthy Family Cookbook and it was AWESOME!  This sauce is definitely a keeper, and I won’t go back to the canned stuff again!

Mexican Beef Casserole
serves 6-8

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic (depending how much you like garlic)
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2- 10 oz. red enchilada sauce (OR recipe below!!)
1 – 15 oz. can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1-2 cups of frozen corn
9 corn tortillas
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, or Mexican cheese

Toppings:  sour cream, cilantro, green onions, salsa, chips, etc.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Spray a 11×7 baking dish with cooking spray.
3.  In skillet on medium heat, cook the beef, onion, and green pepper until the beef is done (no longer pink).  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Drain fat if necessary on some paper towels.
4.  Add 10 oz. (half of the amount) of enchilada sauce, black beans, corn and cumin powder.  Season to taste with salt and better.
5.  Layer 3 tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish.
6.  Cover with 1/3 of the sauce you have left.  Add 1/2 of the beef mix and 1/3 of the cheese.
7.  Add 3 more tortillas, add 1/3 sauce, 1/2 beef and 1/3 cheese.
8.  Add 3 tortillas and the rest of the sauce.  Keep the cheese OFF for now.
9.  Cover with foil (I spray the foil just in case) and bake for 25 minutes.
10.  Take off the foil and add the rest of your cheese.  Bake 5 minutes.
11.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes and then cut.  Add toppings and serve!

Adapted from Food.com

Enchilada Sauce
yield 2.5 cups

1 tsp. oil (olive or vegetable or canola)
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tb. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. sugar
2 – 8oz. cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Add oil to a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
2.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until soft.
3.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar.  Stir for about 30 seconds.
4.  Add tomato sauce and water.
5.  Simmer and cook 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  That’s it!

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen “Healthy Family Cookbook”

Fiesta Chicken Casserole

America’s Test Kitchen does it again and creates a delicious made-from-scratch meal in 30 minutes.  Well, made from scratch except for the Fritos.  🙂  The kids loved this one.  I think it had to do with the Fritos.

If you make this ahead of time, or you know you will have leftovers – leave off part of the Fritos.  The Frito topping gets soggy because it is exposed to air and moisture.  Just hold back on the chips in a small baggie, or include the whole baggie when giving as a meal.

Fiesta Chicken Casserole

yield 5-6 servings

1 Tb. oil (veggie, canola or olive)
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup salsa (I LOVE Jack’s Special Salsa – it is kept fresh in the refrigerator section)
1 cup instant rice*
1 can canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn, thawed
salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Fritos – coarsely crushing is optional

*I used regular brown rice that takes like 20 minutes to cook.  So, I added the rice without the beans and corn.  I clamped the lid on for 20 minutes or whatever the box said and let it cook.  Then, continued with the rest of the recipe.  This takes longer to do – but I had the brown rice that takes longer to cook on hand.  Instant will work, too.  This is just an alternative if you happen to have the cooking rice on hand.

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.  Heat a 12-13″ skillet with oil on medium high.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add brown and salsa.  Simmer.
3.  Add rice*, beans and corn.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour it all into a 8-9″ baking dish or keep it in your skillet if you cooked using a oven-safe skillet.  Bake 10 minutes.
4.  Carefully add chicken and cilantro.  Sprinkle cheddar on top.  Sprinkle with chips.  Bake 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Best 30 Minute Recipe

Pizza Casserole

It is the First Day of School for us and here is something the kids will love!

This one I found through my neighbor friend and their whole family loves this recipe.  We do, too.  Again, I’ve made it several times with different variations to see how bad I could mess it up, I mean how nutritious I could make it without losing flavor.  Why I love this recipe:  relatively inexpensive, feeds a crowd, can split and freeze or split and give to a family in need, comes together quickly and little active work.

The yield and measurements feed our small family of 4.  If you want to eat this for leftovers or make the normal casserole size, then double the ingredients and prepare in a 9×13 dish.  Feel free to add pepperoni on top of the meat layer.  Yum!

Pizza Casserole
yield 6 servings

1/2 Tb. vegetable or olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper or 1 small bell pepper, diced
1 lb. Italian sausage (I used Salsiccia; it may be a St. Louis Italian sausage thing)
1 Tb. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup AP flour or white whole wheat flour (wheat flour will turn darker like in the photo after being in the fridge a while)
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
1/2 cup milk (use a little more if using whole wheat flour since the wheat flour tends to soak up the moisture more)
1 egg
1/2 Tb. olive oil, optional
1 cup (I just grabbed a handful) shredded mozzarella (or Italian cheese)
12 oz. pizza sauce (I had TJ’s marinara and threw in some added oregano)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 11×7 or 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add onion and bell pepper.  Cook until soft, about 7 minutes
3.  Add your sausage and break up into little pieces.  Cook until done (not pinkish).  If you hate grease like me, pour this onto a plate of paper towels and drain.
4.  While that is cooking:  in a small bowl mix Italian seasoning, flour, salt, pepper, milk, egg and olive oil (optional) together.  Set aside.
5.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese into the bottom of the sprayed baking dish.  Add the cooked sausage mixture on top.  Spoon or pour the sauce onto the sausage mixture.
6.  Scoop the flour mixture on top of the sauce and then spread it out over the casserole.
7.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
8.  Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from http://pictureperfectcooking.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/southern-plates-deep-dish-pizza/


My baby and his 9 stitches on the first day of school.  *sniff sniff*

Easy Enchiladas

I forgot how easy enchiladas are really.  They don’t have many ingredients and seem relatively healthy.  The sauce I purchased at Trader Joe’s.  It doesn’t have a heat rating, but I would call it medium heat.  A little hot, but not burning my mouth.  Feel free to double this recipe for a 13×9″ standard pan.

Easy Enchiladas
yield 3 servings

1 lb chicken breast or tenders
1/2 onion, diced
7-8 corn tortillas
1 bottle of Trader Joe’s Enchilada Sauce (or 12 oz. of your favorite sauce)
1 cup cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican blend cheese

1.  Spray a 11×7 pyrex dish or an equivalent with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Cook the chicken with the onion on medium heat until cooked through (165 degrees).  Once cool, shred with a fork.
3.  Take 2 paper towels and wet them.  Place 4 tortillas in between the wet paper towels and microwave on high 30 seconds.  This will keep the tortillas from breaking when you roll them.  Do this for all the tortillas.
4.  Pour a few ounces of the sauce into a shallow dish big enough to hold a tortillas.  Dip both sides in the sauce.  Put some chicken/onion mix and cheese in the middle.  (Maybe some black beans next time?)
5.  Do this for all the tortillas.  Nestle them together.
6.  Pour the rest of the bottle over the tortillas and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Feel free to add some more cheese or cilantro, or red onion on top.

Sausage Penne Bake

Well I might not have many recipes this week.  Apparently, all the books I requested just came into the library all at once.  Here is the list I have:

King Arthur Flour’s Book of Baking All Purpose and the Whole Grain version.  I’m really looking forward to making whole grain versions of every day items and trying the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread.  I’ve put it off b/c it requires potato flakes, OJ and nonfat dry milk all of which I rarely have on hand.
-John Hart’s new book Iron House.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED his first novels.  I found out about him because I wanted something good to read and started with the Edgar Award winners.  He won.  TWICE!
One Yard Fabric Wonders – projects with 1 yard of fabric required
While We’re Far Apart:  this is our book of the month for my club
Bringing Up Bebe:  how the French are so much better at parenting than we are…. not sure if I’ll love or hate this one.
Heart Healthy Miracle Diet:  Pretty much reiterating everything the other nutrition books state (well the non-crazy ones).  I don’t think my love of Costco’s all natural vanilla ice cream will fit in there….

Here is the Recipe….

Why I loved this dish:

1.  It has sausage in it – YUM!
2.  It was easy to double and freeze or give to a person who needs a meal.
3.  Tasted great.
4.  Goes with everything – just add a vegetable.  Potlucks, pasta night, meat night, etc.
5.  I have most of the ingredients on hand.
6.  It reheated well.

Sausage Penne Bake
yield 4-6 servings

1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 and 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into matchstick pieces (yellow pepper also worked well here when I doubled the recipe)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 oz. sweet Italian turkey sausage (take out of casing or buy ground; of course you can use regular Sweet Italian Sausage here)
8 oz. whole wheat penne (or regular)
1 cup shredded mozzerella

1.  Preheat oven to 425 with the rack in the middle.
2.  Spray a 8×8 or 9×9 dish with cooking spray.

3.  In food processor, pulse tomatoes about 5 times.  The tomatoes will be mostly smooth with a few chunks.  (I think a blender might work, too?)

4.  In a big skillet, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add your onion and bell pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes or until soft.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes for another 30 seconds.
5.  Dump in your sausage into the skillet on the veggies and cook until it is brown and not pink – another 5 minutes or so.  Dump in the tomatoes you had in the food processor.   Simmer that until thicker – about 6-8 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.
6.  While the tomato/sausage is simmering, heat up a big pot of water to a boil.  Add the penne pasta and cook until just a little before al dente – remember this stuff is going to cook again in the oven.  Keep 1/4 cup of the cooking water before it goes down the drain to add later.  If you forget and the water goes down the drain – don’t fret!  It won’t ruin the whole meal.
7.   Now combine the cooked pasta with the tomato/sausage.  Put half in the dish.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of your mozzerella on top.  Put the rest of the pasta/sausage on top.  Add the rest of the cheese.
8.  Bake about 15 minutes.  OR let cool and cover and store in the fridge.  To cook it later, put some foil (sprayed) on top and bake 10 minutes.  Take off the foil and bake another 15 minutes.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen “Family Healthy Cookbook”

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