Mexican Casserole Variations

When I saw Fannetastic Food’s super easy and adaptable Mexican Chicken Lasagna, I decided to make it as a part of the four course Mexican-inspired meal I was planning to whip up.

I decided to make two different versions of the casserole- one vegetarian and one with chicken. Both had plenty of beans though!

On the big one:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded chicken
  • Chopped red onion
  • Black olives
  • Yellow and green sauteed peppers
  • Salsa
  • Canned green chiles (on half)
  • Chopped jalapenos (on other half)
  • Cheddar cheese

On the smaller one:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped red onion
  • Refried beans
  • Black olives
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Salsa
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Corn (cut off the cob)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Enchilada sauce

I lined both pans with corn tortillas (6 in total)

Next up: refried beans for the smaller one; kidney and black beans for the bigger one

Corn and zucchini for the small one; sauteed yellow and green peppers for the large one

Ready for the oven!

Cover the casseroles with tin foil and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes {until the cheese is melted}. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better!

A sample of both versions served with spiced tomato & chickpea soup and watermelon & feta salad


If I had my choice, I would have used flour tortillas, but the corn tortillas ended up tasting great anyway- and they’re gluten-free.

Pepper jack cheese would be good in addition to or in place of cheddar cheese.

I made the big one with sour cream and the smaller one with plain Greek yogurt- in the future, I would just use Greek yogurt because it’s healthier and you can’t taste a difference!

The chopped jalapenos were a bit intense {even for me!} so I would stick to sauteed jalapenos or the canned green chiles next time.


recipe: cinco de mayo casserole

Nothing says Cinco de Mayo more than cilantro + jalapenos + lime…besides Coronas and margaritas, obviously.

In light of the fact that Cinco de Mayo is my all-time favorite holiday, I whipped up this gluten-free pasta casserole the other day.

Prepare noodles {gluten-free or not} according to the instructions. Caramelize half an onion. In a casserole pan, layer noodles, chopped cilantro, caramelized onions, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped jalapenos, a bit of lime juice, and sliced Al Fresco jalapeno chicken sausages. Cover with mozzarella cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350. 



P.S. Check out my Hosting Ideas board on Pinterest. It’s basically just a compilation of Cinco de Mayo ideas!

on the menu for the week

gluten-free sweet potato or butternut squash mac & cheese

I’ve posted links to sweet potato mac and cheese recipes several times, but I’ve never posted my insanely easy {and gluten-free} version!

I’ve posted this sweet potato mac and cheese and this butternut squash mac and cheese, but I generally make a recipe that’s somewhere in the middle.

I didn’t list measurements because it’s easy to guesstimate as you’re layering the ingredients!

  • Caramelize chopped onions and shallots {combine butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium; throw in onions and shallots; and saute until golden brown, stirring occasionally. You may need to turn the heat down and/or add more butter to prevent burning}
  • Prepare gluten-free pasta according to instructions
  • Grate sweet potato or butternut squash; set aside
  • Grate cheese {you can use cheddar, gruyere, parmesan, gouda, you name it}; set aside
  • In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper

Layer pasta, grated ingredients, and caramelized onions and shallots in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with spice mix and another layer of cheese {you can add ricotta if you’d like!}. Bake covered at 350 until cheese begins to bubble {about 30 minutes}.

Easy as casserole 🙂

Notes: You can add half-and half or broth if you’d like your mac and cheese more moist {I’m in pain writing that word}. You can also sprinkle breadcrumbs {try gluten-free ones!} on top for an added layer of crunchiness. It might be interesting to try sweet potato and butternut squash together! A bit of mustard adds a little more flavor as well.

Source: via Emily on Pinterest

recipe inspiration, chicken edition

After purchasing a big package of chicken tenders from Trader Joe’s, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish all of it before it went bad. Inspiration struck: I placed the chicken tender in separate snack sized Ziploc bags and added a different seasoning or sauce to each bag :

  • 21 Seasoning Salute
  • Italian seasoning {basil + marjoram + oregano + rosemary + thyme} + garlic powder + salt + pepper + dried minced garlic
  • Buffalo sauce
  • Some random experimental combination of cumin + curry powder + things I can’t remember 🙂
Then I zipped up each bag and popped it in the freezer. When I was ready to use it, I just defrosted each piece overnight and prepared using this method {totally failproof}.

Photo credit

Next time I plan to try one of the recipes below:

Coriander Cumin Chicken {via YumSugar}

Ginger Curry Chicken with Lentils & Leeks {via BHG}

Greek-Style Chicken Skillet {via BHG}

Zesty Ginger Tomato Chicken {via BHG}

Or one of my tried-and-true chicken recipes:

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Chicken

Mashed Potato Casserole with Chicken

Healthy Chicken Masala

Tuscan Zucchini Pasta Casserole

P.S. When I searched my blog for “chicken,” a reference to the chicken dance popped up. Haha!

P.P.S. Lesson learned: throwing chicken tenders with salad dressing and chopped zucchini into a Ziploc and freezing it makes a pretty disgusting mushy mess! So freeze chicken separately from vegetables

recipe variations

Rumor has it that variety is the spice of life…and it certainly is the spice of cooking! So what easier way to infuse variety (both literally and figuratively) into your cooking than to make slight alterations to your go to recipes?

Here are a few easy swaps that I often make:

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Chicken: Prepared as outlined but served on a “bed” of mashed potatoes!

Mashed Potato Vegetable Pie: Swapped out feta, added grilled chicken and Garlic & Herbs Alouette Spreadable Cheese; added yellow squash in addition to zucchini

Creative Salad Mixes: Swapped out feta and Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinaigrette for Parmesan cheese and homemade Italian dressing

Spiced Tomato Chickpea Soup: Swapped out chickpeas for potatoes

Pizza Alternatives: Swapped out zucchini boats for green bell peppers or a gluten-free cauliflower crust {that I gotta try}

For more inspiration on versatile ingredients, check out my posts on quinoa bowls and tofu.

What are your recipe staples that you feel comfortable adjusting? 

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4 Continue reading

mashed potato vegetable pie

Photo credit:

Remember when I said this was the best meal of my life? I may have changed my mind. As I searched for a recipe to use up potatoes and zucchini, I stumbled upon this Greek-inspired zucchini potato feta dish. With a few quick changes, it became a simple, delicious, and healthy casserole using the ingredients I had on hand.


Mashed Potato Vegetable Casserole

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 red pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 can of pizza sauce or marinara sauce
  • A teaspoon of minced dried dill
  • A teaspoon of dried parsley
  • A teaspoon of dried minced onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried red chili peppers
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese


Preheat oven to 350°F

Bring peeled and chopped potatoes to a boil over medium heat; boil until tender. Mash with sour cream and butter.

In a casserole dish, spread half the potatoes. Sprinkle with herb mixture. Layer with half the zucchini, half the pepper, half the onion, and half the pizza sauce. Sprinkle again with herb mixture, as well as feta cheese. Repeat.

Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 1 hour 15 minutes. Sprinkle with feta and bake another 15-20 minutes uncovered, until the cheese softens. Remove from oven, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! As you may have noticed, I used pizza sauce instead of tomatoes {since I didn’t have any on hand}. It turned out perfectly! And I used mashed potatoes instead of sliced potatoes because I like the texture better. I would like to try this recipe again using fresh herbs and possibly even ground beef. And I may put even more feta next time because it adds a delicious little bite 🙂

tuscan zucchini pasta casserole

Whenever I write up a recipe for my blog, I always have trouble coming up with a descriptive, mouth-watering title that isn’t too lengthy.

The alternative title for this casserole: Zucchini + Chicken + Sun Dried Tomatoes + Ricotta Pasta Casserole. Wow, that’s a mouthful.

The name I chose seemed fitting given that I pre-marinated the chicken in Tuscan Italian Dressing, which contains balsamic vinegar and sun dried tomatoes.

According to one site I found, “Tuscan cuisine is appreciated in the world for its fine natural and flavorful ingredients. It’s a typical expression of the Mediterranean diet, considered among others, the most wholesome and tasty, olive oil, pasta, fish and…meat.”

tuscan zucchini pasta casserole

1. One day ahead of time, marinate fresh or frozen chicken breast tenderloins (keep in fridge overnight) in Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing and a dash of olive oil.

2. Thinly slice zucchini using a knife or mandoline. I used long thin strips. Place on tin foil on top of a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and bake at 350 until soft (about 10 minutes). Halfway through, toss chopped onions on top.

3. Bake chicken pieces at 350 until cooked throughout (about 15 minutes). There should be no pink visible. When cooled, chop into small pieces.

3. Prepare noodles according to package. I used egg noodles, my favorite!

4. Layer cooked noodles, chopped chicken, zucchini slices, and onion in a casserole dish (any kind of deep baking dish will work though). Spread ricotta on top; sprinkle with chopped pieces of sun dried tomato. Lastly, scatter parmesan cheese over top and cover with tin foil (you can re-use the tin foil from the zucchini!). Bake at 350 until heated throughout- about 15 minutes.

It sounds labor intensive, but I promise it’s not. And it’s delicious when reheated, so make extra for dinner or leftovers. Also, letting it sit before baking actually allows all the flavors to mix and mingle, creating a more rich flavor.