Mexican Casserole

Casseroles are just so much fun in my opinion.  You throw a bunch of stuff together, and as long as you put ingredients in that go well together, you have a wonderful one dish meal.  I used to try and make up a different casserole every week.  Then, I got tired of casseroles – they started all tasting the same, even though I used different ingredients.  Now I try and make a casserole about once a month, maybe twice, but not more than that.  I have to say though, when I make one, usually I have plenty of time to do other things…and I am not trying to coordinate multiple dishes being done at the same time.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and immediately starting thinking about how I could change it to be more to my liking.  I decided instead of beans, to substitute cilantro lime rice.  Instead of meatless crumbles, I would use extra lean ground beef.  I also thought that adding some peppers would be good – and intead of plum tomatoes, how about diced tomatoes with green chiles.  The outcome, a casserole that was not only easy – but actually tasted great!  Now I am starting to think I should make casseroles more often…

Ingredients

  • 4  teaspoons  olive oil, divided
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped red/green bell pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
  • 1  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  lb. leanest ground beef
  • 48  baked tortilla chips
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups white rice, cooked
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 2  tablespoons  minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2  tablespoons  fat-free sour cream
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped green onions
  • 1/4  cup  sliced ripe olives
  • salsa

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell peppers to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and jalapeño (if you want more heat); cook 1 minute. Add ground beef and break up into crumbs – until nicely browned.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, black pepper; cook 3 minutes. Arrange half of tortilla chips in an 9 x 9 –inch (or 11 X 7 inch) baking dish coated with cooking spray; top evenly with ground beef mixture.

Mix rice with cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Layer rice mixture on top of the beef mixture, then top with the tomatoes and chiles. Top with remaining tortilla chips, pressing to slightly crush. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 375° for 13 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Cut casserole into 6 equal pieces; top each serving with 1 teaspoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon onions, and 2 teaspoons olives.  Serve with salsa.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Mexican Casserole

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