The other day I was sitting in the parking lot of Walmart, knowing I had to go inside and buy some groceries. But I also didn't want to go in without a plan since I'm trying hard to use up stuff from the pantry and freezer. I needed to cook a pot of something that would work for lunches for the rest of the week, but I didn't have any brilliant ideas for what to cook. What to do?
AhHa! I then remembered I have a couple files on my phone (don't you just love smartphones?) and one of those files was a big long list of my favorite "Nikki-Recipes." So I opened the file and started scrolling through until I came to her Taco Casserole. Ooo... great idea!
I used most of the same ingredients with a few tweaks, but the prep is completely different and the way she serves it is different that what I'm doing with mine. So I'll share with you my version of:
Nik's Taco Casserole becomes Pam's Taco Skillet Recipe
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion
1 small zucchini
1 small summer squash
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 cans Rotel (diced tomatoes with chilies)
1 can refried beans
1 cup black beans (I used fresh cooked from dried beans but canned would work too)
1 packet taco seasoning (I actually have a big 24oz jar of taco seasoning that'll last me forever)
Up to 1 cup water (as needed)
Salsa & Sour Cream
Mexican blend shredded cheese
Whole grain tortilla shell
Nik does her Taco Casserole as a true casserole. I made mine 100% on the stovetop and used it as a filling for a taco ... or as a topping for a taco salad. I also wanted to make a big batch so I'd have plenty to freeze for later meals (because I don't have any individual meals left in the freezer, I've eaten them all up!)
In a very large skillet brown the ground beef and turkey together. In the meantime, chop the onion, zucchini and squash into small pieces (I leave the skin on the squashes). Once meat is browned, drain off the fat and rinse under water (this removes excess fat drippings). Add the taco seasoning and about 1/2 cup water and let this cook for a couple minutes. Add the squashes, onion, diced tomatoes, black beans and refried beans to the skillet. Add additional water if you think it needs it. I let it cook for about 15 minutes as some of the liquid evaporates and gets all thick and delicious. Add the chopped cilantro at the very end just before serving.
I've served this two different ways and love both. For those who know me, I'm about to shock your pants off. Because..... Yes, I'm actually recommending iceburg lettuce here. Gasp! I'm such a lettuce snob that I never buy iceburg. Ever. I'm a mixed baby greens type of gal when it comes to salads. But this concoction just seemed to call for shredded iceburg and it really does work well. Also, I'm recommending salsa and sour cream, but you know my rule with salsa... it's not allowed in the house. So I'm going without. Diced fresh tomatoes work great instead.
Serving Option 1 -- as a taco. Using a whole wheat, fajita-size tortilla shell, add the meat/bean mixture to the shell and top with shredded iceburg lettuce and cheese. Add salsa and sour cream if you like.
Serving Option 2 -- as a salad. Using a bed of shredded iceburg lettuce, add the meat/bean mixture to the top of the lettuce bed and sprinkle with cheese. This is how I've been having it at work and it's super easy to transport - lettuce in the bowl I'll eat from with a baggie of cheese tucked inside and the Taco Casserole mix in it's own bowl for heating up, then just assemble and enjoy.
I was able to freeze several portions of the Taco Skillet mixture to use on those days when I don't feel like cooking. If you don't want such a large portion you can obviously cut the recipe in half and it would work just fine. This would be a great meal to serve for a large family gathering or informal dinner party. It'd also be ideal for the centerpiece of a Mexican Taco Bar type buffet dinner.
Thanks Nik for a great recipe! I think this will become one of my new favorites.