Have you ever had one of those terrible days that just won’t end? Yesterday started with the wonderful surprise that my beloved coffee machine wasn’t working. After much futzing around and ultimately going through the 5 stages of grief for my dead coffee machine, I plopped down in my office chair to try to get some work done. This was followed by a giant cracking noise. At first, I tried to ignore the sound, hoping it wasn’t a big deal. Then, almost comically, I leaned back in the chair and the ENTIRE back fell off along with half of an arm. Thankfully, I was able to borrow my boyfriend’s chair for the rest of the day but things didn’t really improve after that. I was waiting for the maintenance guy and the UPS guy and neither showed up. Add to that some annoying tech issues with my business and not feeling particularly inspired (or even awake) enough to finish a project and you have the recipe for very bad, no good, pretty terrible day.
On days like this I dread making dinner. In fact, I’d normally just give up and go my favorite Mexican restaurant to drown my bad day in a margarita. But Brandon and I have been exercising and trying to eat better so we didn’t want to undo all of our progress. Instead, I pulled out my go-to recipe for bad days. It’s cheesy and satisfying but also fairly healthy (at least compared to an actual Mexican restaurant).
This was originally a Weight Watchers recipe but I don’t recommend making their version because it is just about the blandest casserole you will ever eat. This is my version which I’ve developed over several years, adding more vegetables, more cheese and lots more spice. The filling is a mixture of shredded chicken, vegetables, spices, two kinds of cheese and sour cream which is all layered between tortillas. The whole thing is topped with more cheese and baked until it’s melted on top and crispy around the edges.
This recipe can be thrown together in a few minutes and you can even cook the chicken a day or two before to save even more time. It’s full of things that you most likely already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. The vegetables are canned or frozen, but you can easily replace them with fresh versions. I frequently use fresh corn and tomatoes in the summer when they’re in season.
This version is not as low fat as the original, but it tastes a lot better and that’s what matters most to me. If you’re looking for something easy and satisfying after a long day, this recipe will help you end the day on a high note.
Layered Mexican Chicken Casserole
Dinner | Servings: 4 to 6
Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 50 min
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 tbsp. safflower or canola oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
- 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained, or 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
- 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn (no need to thaw)
- 1 packet (about 1 oz.) taco seasoning (see recipe notes)
- 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 1 cup low-fat sour cream
- 3 (8-inch) flour tortillas or corn tortillas
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Coat a 8 or 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
- Tip: For faster shredding, cut chicken into large chunks and transfer to the bowl your mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low until the chicken is shredded. Place chicken in a medium saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the chicken. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 or 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool for a few minutes. Use two forks to shred chicken. You can make the chicken several days ahead and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge.
- While the chicken is cooking, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the grated cheddar and Jack cheese in a small bowl.
- Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the beans, tomatoes, green chilies, corn, taco seasoning, salt and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Add shredded chicken. Stir in sour cream and mix well.
- Using the skillet that you cooked the onions in, place over medium-high heat. Cook one tortilla until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to baking dish. Repeat with next tortilla. While the tortilla is cooking, spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture in the baking dish. Top with the toasted tortilla and another 1/3 of the chicken mixture. Repeat toasting remaining tortilla and top it with the remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.
If you don’t have a packet of taco seasoning or would rather make it from scratch, here is an easy recipe.