Originally created 11/06/02

Bake to basics



My daughter C.C. is a nacho lover, and today's recipe for C.C's Nacho Casserole gives her the taste of her favorite appetizer in a quick and easy main dish.

The recipe is beyond simple, and only calls for four ingredients. You start with a layer of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips, then pile on seasoned ground beef and shredded cheese.

My mother served a similar casserole when I was a child, way back when Doritos tortilla chips were new at the supermarket. (They used to come in a tasty taco flavor.) I've updated the casserole using a few modern convenience products, and the resulting casserole is a speedy child-pleaser.

I used regular Doritos brand tortilla chips when testing the recipe, but reduced-fat tortilla chips abound and can be substituted. There are two choices in reduced-fat nacho cheese-flavored chips right now. WOW chips, which are cooked in Olestra and the new Baked Doritos, which I haven't spotted in supermarkets, but have sampled at Subway restaurants. Plain Baked Tostitos also would work well here.

Three cups of the chips are layered in the bottom of a glass-baking dish, and then another cup of the chips is crushed for a crunchy topping.

The filling for the nacho casserole is a pound of lean ground beef (ground round or sirloin are my usual choices). The beef is browned in a skillet, drained well, then gets spiced and sauced with the addition of a can of seasoned diced tomato sauce for chili.

I love the new canned tomato products that include spices and nice chunks of ripe tomato. Not only do they save time in the kitchen, they also deliver loads of flavor without measuring spices, pressing garlic or chopping onions. Here, the pre-spiced sauce replaces Mom's combination of tomato sauce and taco seasonings.

The sauced beef is layered over the chips, and then on goes a pile of shredded cheese - this is a nacho casserole, after all. Choose a bag of shredded Mexican cheese blend, Monterrey Jack or cheddar. Then sprinkle the reserved crushed chips over the cheese, cover with foil and bake.

While the chips start out crunchy, they'll end up making a soft crust for the casserole, as the liquid in the beef sauce is absorbed by the chips. The texture becomes similar to corn tortillas rather than the crisp chips you started with. Add some packaged Mexican rice, and carrot sticks with Ranch dressing for dipping, and you'll have a family full of happy children.

4 cups Nacho Cheese Doritos

1 pound lean ground beef

1 15-ounce can seasoned diced tomato sauce for chili*

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch glass-baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 3 cups of the Doritos over the bottom of the pan. Crumble the remaining 1 cup of Doritos in a bowl and set aside.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until no longer pink. Drain well and return to skillet. Add the seasoned diced tomato sauce. Pour sauce over Doritos in baking dish. Top with the shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Makes 6 servings.

*Hunt's brand Seasoned Diced Tomato Sauce for Chili was used for testing purposes.

COMING Nov. 13: Chicken Normandy

See Karin prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on WJBF-TV (Channel 6).

   437 calories
   26.9 grams protein
   20.1 grams carbohydrates
   2.3 grams fiber
   27.4 fat
   12 grams saturated fat
   85 milligrams cholesterol
   532 milligrams sodium
 Nutrition analysis provided by Fran Frye, a licensed and registered dietitian of the Augusta District Dietetic Association.