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I am a mom to twin boys, full-time employee of a telecommunications company and wife to a professional musician. I work, do yoga, cook and try to squeeze in DIY projects and spending time with friends.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gracias Casserole, as prepared by my child

The recipe here is an old standby of mine. The kids love it, and its made with food that's always in the house. Its also a great way to use leftovers, another goal of mine. Last night at dinner, the kids asked if we could have Gracias Casserole the next night. Knowing that we had leftover cooked chicken waiting impatiently in the fridge, I thought it was a great idea and agreed.
Fast forward to that afternoon... dinner minus two hours. I'm working from home, and the kids are home from camp, totally getting on each others nerves. Mr. Unwired offers to take one on an errand, which leaves me to entertain the other while still working. Hmmm... Not a recipe for success, pun definitely intended.
As with all moms, occasionally I have a truly brilliant idea... This was one of those star-crossed moments. I explain to the other child that he, and he alone will be making dinner. He is amazed and excited at the prospect.  The catch is that he needs to entertain himself while I finish up my work. Lego or math workbook?  He chooses math and gets busy at the kitchen table. I retreat to the LR couch and my last conference call of the day.
By the time I'm done, Mr. Unwired and the other kid are home, so I reiterate that the one who waited patiently will be cooking solo. The other kid pulls up a chair to watch the action, and we get to work.
Gracias Casserole is like a seven layer dip for dinner. The recipe accommodates many substitutions to account for what you have on hand, what your family eats, etc. I even make a veggie version for a GF veggie friend. I'm also flattered to report that Aviva Goldfarb loved my recipe, calling it Fiery Texican Casserole and used it in her Six O'Clock Scramble meal planning service (insert a photo of my glowing smiling face here).
The recipe is below. If you want your kid to make it, prep the ingredients, get out of the way and wait for yummy perfection. Or not perfection...  it's different but good every time.  Depending on the age of the kid, you might want to handle the oven part of the cooking event.

Gracias Casserole
I seldom make this from scratch-- it's a great dish to make with leftovers.  It's lighter than enchiladas as it doesn't have the tortillas.  Add sour cream to the bottom cheese layer if your diet allows; for a vegetarian dish, substitute 1 cup vegetarian refried beans for the meat.  I've also added 1/2 cup corn, to the bean layer, especially when I know the kids will be hungry.

This can be made with plain rice, although it's better with mexican rice.  I get a small portion from my favorite restaurant-- for $3, it really improves the flavor of this casserole.  Or make your own mexican rice and freeze it in 1 cup containers to use in this recipe.

1 cup rice, cooked
1 cup black beans (rinsed)
1 cup chicken, ground beef or steak, cooked
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend, divided
1/2 cup sour cream, optional
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup tortilla chips, crushed

1. In a two-quart casserole, spread rice across the bottom, and sprinkle the beans on top.  Spread one cup of cheese on top, If you are using sour cream, add it now.  Add the meat, then spoon salsa over the meat.  Mix the remaining cheese with the crushed chips, and top the casserole with that.

2. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees covered for 20 minutes or until it's heated through, then remove the foil and bake 10 or so minutes, so that the cheese on top is bubbling.

3. If you wish to serve it later, freeze before baking.  Defrost 24-48 hours in the fridge, then bake as directed.


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