Taco Bake- the easiest Mexican you’ll ever make

*Note* If you look at the date of this post and read the post itself you may be confused. I posted this around the holidays (the post’s original date was 12-14-11) and have moved it here from Blogger. Hence the discrepancy. Sorry for any confusion*
One of my favorite things to do while grocery shopping has always been to walk the aisles looking for prepackaged foods I can make better myself. In fact my husband makes a point of looking for prepackaged foods that look really good in the picture and letting me know so I can recreate them for him with results that will NEVER come out of the box at the store. This paid off big time about 10 years ago in the form of my Taco Bake. I walked into the “ethnic” section and found, advertised in an obnoxious box, a Taco Bell meal kit for a kind of taco casserole. I thought “I cannot believe anyone would pay that much for this crap. I can do that WAY better and much cheaper”. As it turns out I say that at least 2 or 3 times every time I walk into a grocery store. However, I digress. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made in the 17 years I’ve been cooking. It’s almost as easy as making a PB&J sandwich so anyone can do it- seriously. That being the case I realized this morning while I was putting it together for Ron to put in the oven this afternoon while I’m gone that this is a great recipe for the holiday season. No- not for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table, but for the dinner table on those nights that you’re exhausted from all the holiday hubbub. Those holiday times where you’ve just baked 12 dozen cookies and don’t want to spend more than an extra 30 minutes in the kitchen making dinner. Or those days that you’ve spent the last 6 hours battling other shoppers for the items on your Christmas list and just want to come home & do the least amount of prep possible but still enjoy a hot, filling, wonderful dinner. Those are the days this casserole is best for. You can even make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge or freezer to pop in the oven. This is also one of those times that I told you about that I will use canned, prepared ingredients to make something wonderful :.) You can also add whatever you like to it. You like black olives? Throw in some sliced black olives. Green chiles? Sure! (But be careful because you’ve already got the salsa and the Salsa Con Queso.) Corn kernels? Sounds lovely! I make the plain version because that’s what we like for this dish. But feel free to jazz it up however you like.
Now, the idea of this dish being good for the holiday season occurred to me while I was already in the assembly process so I don’t have that great of a shot of the ingredients but I did my best.
The empty baking pan is in this shot to remind me to tell you that you HAVE to spray, grease, or otherwise lubricate the baking dish before you assemble everything. If you don’t you will NEVER get the food out of the dish. It will stick so bad you may have to contemplate just throwing the baking dish away. I know this from experience. Trust me. So when you think you have enough cooking spray in the dish, spray it a little more & move on to assembly. And in the bowl is a mixture of refried beans and salsa. Once again, sorry- I didn’t think of blogging this particular recipe until I was ready to put everything together in the pan.
Spread 2 of the tortillas with enough cheese sauce to create an even layer- about 2 tablespoons. Spread 1/3 of the bean/salsa mixture over that. Sprinkle 1/3 of your taco meat over the beans and finish with about half to 3/4 of a cup of cheese. There should be a decent layer of cheese but you should be able to clearly see the ingredients below it. I like cheese as much as the next person but this is a lasagna. If you put too much cheese between the layers you’ll just end up with a mess when you go to serve it. Now, make 2 more layers like this one and you’re done. That’s it. It’s ready to go in the oven. It really is the easiest Mexican you’ll ever make. And after about half an hour in the oven this is what you’ll end up with…
Oh-and a house that smells absolutely AMAZING! And the leftovers taste just as good as when it came out of the oven. I’ve actually made this just to have the leftovers in the fridge for lunches. It’s THAT good!
The recipe
6 Large Flour Tortillas (you can use any flavor you like but I just use the plain ones I buy at Sam’s)
About half a jar of Salsa Con Queso (you may not need that much but make sure you have it)
1 Can Refried Beans (any fat content you like. Any variety works)
3/4 C Salsa (any kind you like)
One 1-pound batch of prepared Taco Meat (I use the reduced sodium seasoning mix)
2 1/4 C Shredded Cheese (any kind you like. I use the Mexican Blend for just about everything)
The Method
*Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish.
*Spread 2 of the tortillas with about 2 T on each of the Salsa Con Queso, place in the bottom of the dish.
*Spread 1/3 of the bean & salsa mixture over the tortillas.
*Sprinkle 1/3 of the taco meat over the beans.
*Sprinkle about 3/4 C of the cheese over that.
*Repeat, making 2 more layers, 3 total.
*Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the bean mixture is bubbly and cheese is starting to brown on top.
*Let sit for at least 10 minutes before you serve or you may end up with burns to the mouth!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years! I’m hoping to get our Christmas cookie recipes on here before Christmas but it may or may not happen. So if not, may you have a beautiful, blessed Christmas!

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