Cooking On A Budget: Cheesy Taco Bake

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cheesy Taco Bake


We were on our way back from Salem, Massachusetts this morning after having Thanksgiving with our son and his finance's family when my husband posed the question: "What's for dinner tonight?" Seeing that we had an absolutely full breakfast 20 minutes earlier at an IHop close to where they live, I found myself wondering how he could even be thinking of another meal.

While continuing the over two hour drive, my mind began to race remembering what we had in our pantry and refrigerator. Well what I came up with making  is this Cheesy Taco Bake. The creative process was affirmed in my mind. I knew how this dish was going to come together and that a trip out to the grocery store would be in order.

You know the time change has really messed up bloggers like myself that don't own super fancy cameras or have professional lighting or light boxes. We have to try and photograph the food in natural lighting so that means I often have something made way before the normal supper hours. This dish is one though that will warm up nicely in a low oven or even can be warmed in the microwave.

It took be about 40 minutes to put the whole dish together and with another 20 minutes of oven time, this tasty southwestern flavored dinner is ready. Having made most of the recipe in a deep oven proof skillet I had makes clean up easy. No need to transfer to a casserole dish. Easy, well you know by now I like easy. I also like tasty and this recipe delivers flavors on so many levels. You get a nice tingle from the taco seasoning but it is not so hot that you can't stand it. It's that warm sensation without it being to much even for a young palette.
  • 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 lbs. ground chuck beef
  • 1/2 box elbow macaroni
  • 2 - 8 oz. bars of pepper jack cheese(shred 1 3/4 of the bars)
  • 1/2 large onion - medium dice
  • 3 small cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 - 16 oz. jar salsa
  • 1 - 4.5 oz. can chopped green chilies
  • 1 1/2 cups Frito's (original) chips
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Get a pot of salted water boiling and add a half a box of elbow macaroni and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Over medium high heat, heat up a large and deep skillet. When the pan is hot add in the ground beef and brown it, breaking it down as you go.
  3. Once the beef is browned, don't drain the fat. Add in the garlic and onion and stir and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. To that add in the salsa and green chilies. Stir. Add in the cooked pasta and 1/2 of the shredded pepper jack cheese.
  5. Take 2 cups of Frito's and crush them with a rolling pin in a zip lock bag. Place the crushed Frito's in a bowl and add in the remainder of the shredded cheese. Mix well.
  6. Top the whole thing with the Frito and cheese mixture.
  7. Bake in a 375° oven for 20 minutes. Once it stops bubbling serve it.

This tasty casserole feeds 6-8 people depending on ages and size of appetites. It's a filling meal. I can't say this was a super low cost meal but rather it is a meal stretcher instead. The fact that you can get eight portions and the cost per person is $2.88 and for six portions $3.84 is good. As a matter of fact a family of four could eat this for dinner and take portions for work or warm it again for another meal.

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