September 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
Between starting a writing project (which I’ve had approximately five minutes to work on in the last week, so it mainly still just lives in my head), a trip we are planning (which takes up 95% of any remaining brain activity), the obnoxiously large pile of clothes that is staring at me from across the room, waiting for me to bust out the iron (WHERE does it all come from??), a newly minted sixth grader (who told me a few days ago she needs to donate all of the shirts in her closet because none of them represent her style anymore), and the beginning of the new school schedule on top of everything else, the energy around here lately has been a little, um, frenetic.
Of all of these things – and more, but I’m sure you have better things to do than read my to-do lists – my main focus is Jade. Sixth grade, as it turns out, is a big deal. I can already tell it will be a year of many changes – and not just because of the fact that in addition to the new shirt collection we apparently need to buy, Jade has also requested a pair of leather pants, you know, to give her look an “edge.” Someone please send help.
You know what, though? Like everyone else, I take it day by day. One thing at a time. It’s really the only way to cope when there’s just so many things to do each day, and people asking you to do even more, and kids changing and growing up before your very eyes from one minute to the next (and all the things that come with that), and traffic to sit in, and endless appointments and obligations on top of trying to have some semblance of a social life, oh, and a married life, and oh my goodness, can I please just take a nap?
When it comes to food – specifically, dinner – the less I have to do, the better. Dinner is not exactly my forte. By the point in the day when it’s time to cook dinner, I just want to zone out. Occasionally I do, and I tell my family they’ll have to forage in the pantry for food, which they luckily do without complaining. This is why when I do cook dinner – and I’m sure I’ve said this too many times – I like meals that require few pots and pans (ideally, just one), and dinners that can be stretched into two, or even three, meals. The less time I have to spend at the stove or doing dishes is more time I have to check homework and nag gently remind Jade to pick up her shoes and put her clothes away (ahem, never mind my ironing pile). You know, quality time.
This recipe is adapted from a wonderful cookbook I just picked up, The Best One Dish Suppers, from Cook’s Illustrated. The “One Dish” in the title drew me in because, as I said, I hate dirtying a ton of pots and pans when I cook dinner. Also, nearly every recipe in the book can be stretched into two meals for us, so this book is a huge boon for me. This casserole, actually titled ‘Beef Taco Bake ‘ in the book – but I didn’t like the way that sounds, sorry, plus I used turkey instead of beef – is the first and only thing I’ve tried so far and we loved it.* Not the most attractive meal, but meals that aren’t are often the most tasty. Besides, the more it looks like dog food, the more Beau will love it (his words, not mine, but it’s true). I knew we would all love this meal because we make tacos frequently (and the ingredients for the meat/spices in this dish are very similar to the one I use for our regular taco meat), and we love canned refried beans, so this dressed up version of those things went over very well with us.
Note: I fried my own corn tortillas to make the topping, but that’s totally not necessary. It added about an extra 30 minutes to the dinner making process, so I probably won’t ever do that again. Also, regardless of whether you make your own or use store bought, the tortilla topping will be a little soggy when reheated as leftovers (but we ate it anyway).
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
2 (10 ounce) cans Ro-Tel tomations, drained; 1/2 cup juice reserved
1/4 cup minced cilantro, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Tapatio)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1½ pounds 90 percent lean ground beef (I used 1¼ pounds ground turkey)
12 taco shells, broken into bite-sized pieces
2 scallions, sliced thin
Preheat oven to 475ºF.
Mix refried beans, one can of the drained Ro-Tel, 1/4 cup cilantro, and hot sauce together, then spread on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over the beans.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until the onion softens, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices, and cook 1 minutes. Stir in the beef (or turkey) and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining can of drained Ro-Tel and reserved juice, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the mixture thickens and most of the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the meat mixture over beans/cheese in the baking dish, and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Scatter the taco shells evenly over the top, then top with the last of the cheese.
Bake until the filling is bubbling and top begins to brown in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool for ten minutes, the top with extra cilantro and scallions (I forgot the scallions – oops).
The recipe notes that this can be made ahead; prepare recipe up through the cooked meat, then cool the meat to room temperature before continuing to assemble the casserole. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days. Remove plastic and bake as directed, adding an extra five minutes to baking time.
*Update: I also made the manicotti a few nights ago and we loved it! That recipe will definitely be coming soon. Jade has requested it for her birthday dinner, so I will take pictures and post then.