The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Phoenix Enchilada Casserole Bake

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Green bell peppers are a good source of vitamins and when in season, very thrifty. | Photo credit: 60 in 3, Flickr.com
Green bell peppers are a good source of vitamins and when in season, very thrifty. | Photo credit: 60 in 3, Flickr.com

Mexican food rules in the Phoenix area of Arizona (it actually rules in a lot of other places, too... deservedly so!) It's one of my favorite cuisines and is a wonderful way to get kids to eat more vegetables without them even realizing it. And it typically is amazingly inexpensive to prepare.

This is another DIY "meat helper" meal. Avoid buying those packaged boxes of "meat helper" meals (minus any actual meat, usually hamburger, sometimes chicken or pork, that you have to buy separately, thus adding to your cash outlay). Those babies are really EXPENSIVE. Check the cost per ounce when you're at the grocery store. About a quarter's worth of ingredients, with a huge markup. It's a staggering amount of money when you realize exactly what you're paying for and that there IS NO MEAT in the box.

Supposedly, these meat-helper products save you time and money... they're suppose to "help" you. That's the spiel, anyway. Don't you EVER believe it, and don't buy them.

They are so non-frugal compared to what you can prepare on your own and take about the same amount of time. Remember, DIY will save you money 99 times out of 100... especially in the kitchen. And using fresh or frozen vegetables in a dish will usually taste better than the dehydrated veggies that are in a meat-helper box.

This Phoenix Enchilada Casserole Bake uses corn tortillas, which can't be found in most meat-helper boxes. You've got to use corn tortillas, which are usually fairly cheap in most regions — I don't recommend that you substitute flour tortillas because they won't impart the same flavors to this dish.

Kids usually love Mexican food, and preparing this tortilla-veggies-chicken baked dish is not only extremely thrifty, nutritious, and fast, but is quite filling. Use any kind of salsa that your family likes, whether homemade or store-bought. You'll definitely get more lower-cost servings from this than with that expensive, manufactured meat-helper stuff.

 

Phoenix Enchilada Casserole Bake Recipe

 

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.

Combine diced chicken, oil or shortening, chopped onion, and chopped bell pepper in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook until onions begin to brown. Stir the salsa, corn, black olives, ground cumin, salt, and black pepper into the mixture. Heat for another minute or two. If you're using cooked leftover chicken, you can add it with the salsa and other ingredients, as it doesn't need to cook as long as raw chicken.

In a 13- x 9-inch baking dish, arrange 6 of the corn tortillas. Spoon and spread half the chicken/vegetable mixture onto the tortillas, then spread half the grated cheese over the chicken mixture. Follow that by spreading half the sour cream over the mixture. Repeat with another layer of chicken/vegetable mixture, grated cheese, and sour cream. Sprinkle paprika over the mixture.

Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 40 min. or until heated through. Remove the foil after 30 minutes, bake remaining 10 minutes without the foil.

When the casserole is done, take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: You can substitute other leftover meats for the chicken; this is a terrific way to use up leftover turkey, pork, or beef. You can be creative and include additional vegetables in it and omit the meat.

 

 

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