Fantastic Taco Casserole. Photo courtesy of the writer.
Jordan Houdeshell

Jordan Houdeshell is a senior studying Elementary Education and Spanish at the University from Maine. She is from Ledyard, Conn. and has been working for the Maine Campus since fall 2014. She is the current Editor in Chief.

“Fantastic Taco Casserole”

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground beef
1 (1 1/4 ounce) package taco seasoning
1 (15 ounce) can refried beans
2 cups monterey jack cheese, divided (or mixed cheddar, jack etc.)
1 cup salsa
2 green onions, chopped
1 (2 1/3 ounce) can sliced black olives
1 tomato, chopped
2 cups corn chips (coarsely crushed or chopped)

DIRECTIONS
1. Brown ground beef and drain.
2. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions, adding proper amount of water.
3. Put corn chips on bottom of 8-inch by 8-inch dish.
4. Cook refried beans on stove until hot.
5. Add 1 cup cheese and 1 cup salsa. Stir until combined.
6. Pour beans over corn chips in dish.
7. Add beef on top of beans.
8. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
9. Sprinkle green onions and black olives over cheese.
10. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the cheese is sufficiently melted.
11. Take out of oven and sprinkle chopped tomatoes on top. Wait 1-2 minutes and then serve.

Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines. I could practically live on chips and salsa. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to sustain someone, so I decided to switch it up for in favor of something that would actually provide some type of nutrients. After searching online for easy Mexican food, I found this taco casserole recipe on the Genius Kitchen website. Although I used this recipe, I left out the black olives and tomatoes. Even without these ingredients the recipe was delicious. I also used medium salsa instead of the mild salsa the recipe recommended.

This dish was fairly simple to make, requiring me to get all the ingredients ready and then layer them into the pan. Despite this simplicity, I did run into some difficulties with preparing those ingredients.

One of the first problems I ran into with this recipe was finding refried beans at the grocery store. Having never cooked refried beans before, it was challenging to figure out how to cook them once I located them at the store. I tried looking on the can, but there were no directions. Even when I looked it up online, it was difficult to find exactly what I was supposed to do. Finally, I just decided to heat them up in a pot on the stove and that seemed to work pretty well. After all this trouble of figuring it out, the beans didn’t spread very well over the chips, leaving me with an uneven bean layer. Despite the refried beans giving the dish texture, their purpose doesn’t seem to too important, leaving me wondering if next time I should just use regular black beans.

Heating the salad up in the oven was the perfect cherry on top of this dish. The salsa and cheese that were mixed together had a delicious flavor and was just warm enough, but not too warm. The dish wasn’t too hot to eat, but it also wasn’t cold either. Reheating it, though, posed a challenge to heat the entire entree consistently. If I got the meat warm enough, the salsa was too hot to eat, and if I got it just warm enough for the beans, the meat was still cold. This would probably be a better dish to bring to an event or somewhere that it would be eaten all at once.

The recipe gives no serving directions or suggestions of what it might go well with. Even though there are already chips in the dish, I ate it a couple times using chips as scoops. This way got a little too salty for me and I ended up eating it plain with a fork most of the following times.
The spice of this dish gave it an awesome kick. I could eat a whole serving without any problems, but a glass of water definitely helped make it more enjoyable. This being said, with the mild salsa, the dish would probably have been not spicy enough. The taco seasoning that was mixed with the meat was also a good seasoning giving also gave this dish an amazing flavor.

Fantastic Taco Casserole. Photo courtesy of the writer.

Next time this dish might be improved with some peppers or corn to make it taste a little more authentic. It also would be good to mix in lettuce to make an actual salad out of it. I did enjoy mixing it with ranch, so going the salad route, dressing could also be added.

If you are looking for something that fulfills your Mexican cravings and has actual substance, then the Fantastic Taco Casserole may be the dish for you. This taco salad has amazing flavoring and is not too complicated to make — assuming you know how to cook refried beans.