It was a snowy week here in the Northeast and I’m not a cold weather-loving person. Looking at the snowfall is all well and good, but I prefer to stay inside and do that. It’s not that I’m necessarily scared about driving in bad weather—been there, done that—but everything that goes with said weather adds up to be a royal pain.
Cleaning off the car and walking on ice both suck…
Letting the car windows defrost for what feels like an eternity before it is possible to see clearly to drive anywhere is annoying…
And don’t get me started on what it feels like to be in wet clothes after getting caught in the snow or trudging through feet of it after it’s drifted across the driveway.
Ugh, ugh, and ugh.
As far as I’m concerned, on an icky day nothing beats staying toasty in the house, crafting or playing board games with plenty of time for cooking or baking in between breaks. When nobody has to venture out to get anything for dinner, thanks to leftovers or a well-stocked pantry and freezer, it’s even better.
This is a vegetarian main dish that includes pantry-staples like salsa, tomatoes, and beans, and takes advantage of the oven—which helps to warm up the house on a cold day, too. Feel free to add chicken or cooked ground meat to the vegetable mixture, if you want added protein, and season to a heat level of your liking. As a happy compromise when I’m cooking for most of my friends and family, I sautee jalapeños (seeds and ribs included) with the rest of the vegetables and serve more fresh ones served alongside as an option, since there are different heat preferences ranging from no heat at all to spicy as possible (with myself preferring something towards the upper end of the heat spectrum.)
For the Tex-Mex seasoning, use a store-bought Mexican spice blend or make your own using the recipe that follows. Great with a side of rice and topped with chipotle sour cream; those recipes are at the bottom, too, and couldn’t be simpler to make.
For the filling:
Oil or butter, for sauteing
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
2 bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
1 can (14oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 carrots, julienned (I used a nifty julienne peeler, then cut the strips into thirds)
2 teaspoons Tex-Mex seasoning, homemade or store-bought (see note above)
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the sauce:
2 cups prepared salsa of your choice
1 can (14oz) petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable stock, using more if needed
For the casserole:
3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, such as Sargento or Kraft
Preheat oven to 400* F. Grease or lightly spray a oval casserole dish (mine was this stoneware baker by Le Creuset, 3.5 quart capacity) and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet or saute pan and, once hot, add onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until translucent. Add corn, carrots, black beans, and other prepared vegetables or protein (if using) and saute until tender. Add a little water or stock to the pan and cover to let steam for a few minutes to thoroughly cook the carrots.
While the vegetables are cooking, combine salsa, tomatoes, and water in a small saucepan and let warm through.
To assemble, layer tortillas with sauce, vegetables, and cheese in the prepared casserole dish. Layer as high as your casserole dish will allow without overflowing, ending with a layer of tortillas topped with the remaining sauce and cheese. Place on a baking tray and cover with foil.
Bake until heated through and bubbly, approximately 40 minutes to an hour, depending on your oven. Uncover towards the end of cooking to help brown the cheese, or broil for a few moments right before serving, if desired.
Serve with cilantro-lime rice, sour cream, and guacamole, if desired.
Tex-Mex Spice Blend
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder
Stir all of those spices together and use immediately or store in a small, covered jar in the pantry until needed.
Mini-Recipe: Cilantro-lime Rice
Depending on how many people you are serving, cook up a few cups of your favorite kind of rice using either a rice cooker or the stove top, whichever method works the best for you, following the instructions on the package of rice. Once the rice is finished cooking, fluff with a fork and add a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro, a teaspoon of lime zest, a drizzle of good olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Mini-Recipe: Chipotle Sour Cream
Combine a cup of sour cream with whole chipotles in adobo sauce in a food processor or mini chopper. Depending on your preference for spice, you may alter the amount of chipotle used; I generally go for it and use a couple of chipotles in addition to a few generous tablespoons of the adobo sauce that’s in the can. Pulse until well combined. Add a few squeezes of fresh lime juice and season with salt, to taste.