One of the ways we make dinner easier is by cooking in advance and putting things in the freezer. The title is a bit misleading, because we don’t actually eat tacos from the freezer. We have Taco Casserole, or Taco Lasagna. It is one of those super easy meals to make in advance and put in the freezer. When I make this I generally make three or four casseroles (yes, we have a lot of freezer space), cook one and then freeze the others. When my friend Andrea (you may remember her from other entries, like Felony Milk) shared this idea with me I was very excited. And then I thought that I couldn’t make it because the recipe included one envelope of taco seasoning. Did you ever read the ingredient list on that stuff? NO way I could put that in anything I make. As I was walking home, I thought, DUH, I’ll make my own. Creating your own spice mixes and having them on hand is really simple and makes your cooking life that much easier. Awhile back, I shared a recipe for Seafood Seasoning that is akin to an “Aged Inlet” since I don’t want to get into any corporate trouble. Here’s another one. I actually mix this up by the pint, because we use is frequently. In addition to seasoning meat for tacos, it is great mixed with yogurt or sour cream for dip.
In a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, put the following ingredients:
- 2 T chile powder (we use Ancho Chili Powder)
- 2 t garlic powder
- 1 T onion powder
- 2 t red pepper flakes (more or less– adjust to how hot you like things)
- 2 t oregano
- 2 t paprika
- 3 t cumin
- 2t salt
- 2 t black pepper
Put the lid on and shake to blend. I use about 2 tablespoons per pound of meat. If you prefer this to be more like commercial seasoning, you should crumble the oregano very fine.
Purchasing spices in bulk really saves a lot of money. Check out Frontier Co-op and Penzey Spices to read up and get informed. Both of these sites are stores, so they want you to buy, but they also both have a lot of information.
Now, Taco Casserole
For each casserole:
- 1 package of corn tortillas
- 1 pint jar of Salsa
- 1/2 lb. Colby cheese, shredded (1/2 C reserved)
- 1/2 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1/2 C reserved)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 1 lb. ground meat (we generally use beef, but any ground meat will work)
- 2 -3 T taco seasoning mix (above), divided in half
- In a large skillet, heat about 1T of fat — just enough to brown the garlic and onions. Saute the garlic and onions until golden brown. Add 1/2 of the taco seasoning and stir around until it smells like tacos.
- Add the ground meat. stir frequently to break up the chunks. The meat should be in little pieces for this.
- Cook until the meat is all brown and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the rest of the taco seasoning and stir to mix thoroughly.
- While the meat is browning, oil the bottom of your casserole dish. Put in a layer of tortillas to cover the bottom. They will overlap and there will be some “bare spots.”
- Spoon in enough meat mixture to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Smooth on some salsa and then a layer of each of the cheese. Repeat the layering, ending with tortillas. Cover with foil.
- If you are freezing it, put the reserved cheeses in a freezer bag and cover the casserole with foil.
- To bake: put the cheese on the counter to defrost. Put the cold casserole in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350F and back for 45 minutes. Remove the foil cover and add the cheese. Put it back in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
I get foil pans and make this casserole in the disposable pans. I understand that this isn’t the most ecologically sound thing to do, but it makes clean-up fast and easy. And let’s face it, part of why we eat out or get take-out or delivery is not only do we not feel like cooking, we don’t feel like cleaning up, either!