All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014
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I don’t know what is wrong with me but I have a definite pattern of opting to make comfort food on the hottest of days. Yesterday was no exception. One hundred degrees out? Turn on the oven & get baking!
This dish is pretty simple & very customizable. I used ricotta because I had some left over from my Zucchini Squash Blossom White Pizza with Goat Cheese and Ricotta and Mozzarella.
Ricotta is better suited to lasagnas though & I might not use it if I didn’t already have it around. I also opted to roast 5 jalapenos because 1) I have a convenient stove-top grill and 2) it was another opportunity to have another heating element cranking away in my already unbearably hot kitchen.
Roasting peppers (or eggplant) can be done directly on the burners of your stove. Just put them on a flame & turn until they are black everywhere. Put them into a covered container for a few minutes so they “sweat,” and then rub the blackened skins off under cool running water. Seed & mince the jalapenos & you are ready to go.
I also made my own taco seasoning (more than I ended up using) but you could just use a packaged kind – if you prefer.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
This is a pretty spicy recipe so go easy on (or eliminate) the spicy parts if you prefer a milder dish. Also – if there is an ingredient or two that you do not have or do not like – lose it. Or – like corn in your tacos or nachos? Add some! Want some cooked meat in there? Add it. This is a very forgiving dish.
Southwestern Taco or Nacho Style Mac and Cheese
Feeds a lot – 6 easily
8 oz dry macaroni
9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or real beef)
1/2 red onion – diced
1/2 red bell pepper – diced
1-5 roasted (or raw) jalapenos – (I roasted mine as explained above & I used all 5) – minced (optional)
1 (4 oz) can chiles (I used hot ones)
1 (15) oz can black beans – drained & rinsed
1 (10 oz) can Rotel (or diced tomatoes)
2 TBS taco seasoning (packaged or use the recipe above)
1-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – minced (optional)
3 cups cheese (I used 1 cup ricotta & 2 cups grated cheddar/mozzarella blend but 3 cups of grated cheese is fine (maybe better) and pepper jack would be great) – or VEGAN alternative
Extra grated cheese to top the casserole (1-2 cups or so)
1 (4 oz) can sliced black olives (as garnish)
Raw jalapeno – sliced – as garnish
Cilantro – as garnish
Tomato – diced – as garnish
Avocado – as garnish
Pico de gallo or salsa as garnish
Corn chips – as garnish
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook & drain the macaroni.
Make the taco seasoning – if you are not using packaged.
Roast the jalapenos – if you are using them roasted. Mince & set aside.
Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan. Saute the onion, bell pepper & canned chiles & fresh jalapeno (roasted or not) and chipotle peppers and heat until the onions & peppers are softened. Add the beef & heat through. If using real meat – be sure it is cooked through.
Add the seasoning & the macaroni & stir around.
In a large bowl, mix the black beaks & Rotel (or diced tomato) & then add the macaroni beef mixture. Add the cheese you are using & mix it all up well.
Grease a large casserole dish & put the mix in there. Top with additional cheese & some sliced olives & jalapeno. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until the cheese is all melted & bubbly & beginning to turn golden.
Garnish with your choice of olives, jalapeno, avocado, tomato and cilantro. Corn chips might be a nice touch, too.
Crack a cold beer & get your eat on!