Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ronda from~ The Family Table, brings us "Taco Casserole"

Mexican food is an absolute favorite in our house. I love to set up a hearty taco bar with lots of fixings. But talk about wasted leftovers! I may have one or two shells, lots of cheese, a few onions, chopped lettuce, a tomato or two, some beans, then a variable amount of meat. Maybe one person can have a snack of it but then the rest of those goodies will sit in the fridge untouched. This turns a pretty economical meal into a money waster which is no bueno in my book.
Last week, I came across a recipe for Taco Casserole that looked pretty darn amazing. The recipe was basic with room to customize as desired. Boy did this recipe knock our socks off. Not sure how such a simple casserole could be so tasty, but all of the kids asked for seconds which immediately put it to five stars in my eyes. Leftovers the next day were equally as delicious if not better!
Taco Casserole
adapted from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

1 lb leanest ground grass fed beef, chicken or turkey
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 envelope taco seasoning (without msg and preservatives)
8 oz tomato sauce
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
1 bag low salt tortilla chips
2 cups shredded colby jack or monterey jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown beef. Add onion, garlic powder, taco seasoning, tomato sauce. Mix well and set aside. In separate bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese and set aside. Spray a 2 quart casserole dish. Put a layer of crushed tortilla chips to cover the bottom of the casserole dish by 1/2 inch. Add 1/2 of the meat mixture over the chips. Spread 1/2 of sour cream mixture over the meat. Add 1 cup shredded cheese over the sour cream mixture. Repeat layers; add crushed chips, meat, sour cream mixture, and shredded cheese. Bake covered 30-35 minutes until hot and bubbly.

This basic recipe is delicious just as stated, but now let’s talk variations. You could add freshly cooked pinto beans, drained, about 1 cup, after the meat mixture and before the sour cream mixture. I’d only put one layer of the beans and leave it out of the second layer. You could also add a cup of cooked mexican rice to the second layer. If you are adding the two extra cups of filling, you would need a larger casserole dish. 
Are you a vegetarian? Why not eliminate the meat and add drained beans in place of the meat? Add the tomato sauce and spices as stated. What about green peppers, jalapenos, olives? This recipe could and should be customized to what you like to eat so feel free to get creative!
To serve, take a scoop of casserole and top with chopped lettuce and salsa. Serve with sliced avocados and freshly made pinto beans. (Note* The taco chips are not meant to stay crispy, some may with the initial baking, but leftovers will be soft like a corn tortilla.)
Need a freezer meal? Layer casserole without chips. Freeze. Bake when needed and serve over tortilla chips. 
Surfing food blogs and Pinterest is a great way to find new recipes; especially if you are in a cooking slump. :) I don’t know about you, but all those glossy pictures and great reviews make we want to get in the kitchen and cook! 
And remember, whenever time and patience permit, have your kids in the kitchen with you! I promise you will not regret such special moments together!
Love and blessings from Ronda at ....The Family Table

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