Friday, September 30, 2011

Taco Salad Casserole

This sounds like it could have been taken from some outdated cookbook featuring a woman on the cover wearing a fifties-style dress and a spotless apron while holding up a casserole dish and smiling at the reader. 

Or perhaps it would come from a fabulously retro food delivery pair here in Austin like the Casserole Queens. (They've been featured on the Food Network a couple times.  How snazzy is that?  Or sizzly )

But no.  It came from my brain.  (Please, try to control your awe.)  and...IT'S HEALTHY.  (Now you can applaud.)

I've always loved the idea of 7-layer dip (despite the fact that there is rarely a chip that has the heft required for dipping into such a thing).  So, I figured, how can I make a healthier version and maybe even a full-meal version? 

  • Browned ground turkey (in place of ground beef)
    • This is an instance when you can actually go for a lower fat content since it's going to be with a bunch of other items that will give it some moisture.  When using it in other applications, I typically use 93/7 (7% fat), but for this one, you can use 97/3 or 99/1.  
  • Black beans
    • Black beans are the best ingredient, ever.  I typically like to use Kuner's beans with lime and jalapenos in this recipe, but I actually strain out the jalapenos - just using the black beans without rinsing them includes enough heat for most people.
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
    • Use this instead of sour cream.  Seriously.  I promise in this application, you really won't taste any difference.  If you're unsure, don't put it as the top layer.  When it's mixed in there you definitely won't be aware of it. Fage is the best out there.  I buy a big tub of the stuff for all sorts of uses just about every week.
  • Guacamole
    • The fat in this one is good fat...leave it as is.  If the avocados look good to me and area  reasonable price (oddly infrequent even here in TX), I'll make my own with lime juice, garlic, and jalapenos.  However, in the other cases, I use Wholly Guacamole.  It's great in a pinch.  I'd also suggest not putting this one as the top layer as it will brown as it oxidizes.
  • Brown rice
    • I know that rice isn't necessarily a typical addition in the 7-layer dips that are out there.  I suppose this is what makes this a casserole (more of a full meal) rather than just a dip.  Brown rice adds some fiber to the dish (along with what the beans bring to the table).  I often use Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, but can't find the exact flavor here.
  • Salsa
  • Low-fat cheese
    • This is certainly a nice-to-have not a must-have.  It used to be that low-fat or fat-free cheeses weren't worth the packaging they came in, but the past few years have seen advances in the taste of low-fat cheeses, so this can be a decent addition without adding too much fat.
Some other potential additions are corn, roasted chicken, or chili.  Also, add some cumin in there.  It's potentially the best spice out there.

So there you have it.   I like to compile it in a glass Pyrex dish so the people eating it can see each layer they're about to taste.