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VOL. 37 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 01, 2013

Mexican lasagna much easier than Italian

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Tired of the cold weather? I am. I’m ready for spring, for flowers, green grass and a clean car. However, I still have a while before all of that becomes reality.

How about soup? Tired of trying to find a soul-warming, hearty new soup or chili recipe for you or your family to have that perfect “comfy” meal during this cold weather? Well, I’m not tired of soup and chili yet because I love them, but I am in the mood for a slight change, and I’ve found the perfect casserole: Mexican lasagna.

I know what you’re thinking: lasagna takes so long to put together. All the dicing, shredding and chopping. But the good news about this lasagna is that it’s easier and quicker to make than Italian lasagna. Easier and quicker, and not as many bowls to dirty.

In fact, I hardly ever make Italian lasagna because there are so many steps to preparing it. But not so with this recipe.

Hubby and I just got back from a short vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. It is one of our favorite places to go, but as with most vacations, they’re always a few days too short.

One day there, we took a cab into Old Town San Jose to poke around in the little shops full of colorful dresses, tableware and art work before heading to the old mission. While strolling down one of the streets, we poked our heads inside of a glassblowing shop where two young men were busy making a glass fish. You’ve probably seen the fish, even if you haven’t been to Mexico. They’re in almost every little trinket shop.

The artists had made several beautiful pieces of artwork and were busy demonstrating the techniques used to make a fish. One of them broke the first one as he was trying to cut it off the pole, then threw the glass in a large melting furnace and quickly made another one that turned out perfectly. It was impressive.

I was busy recording the whole process on my camera when one of them came up to me and asked if I’d like to try. I couldn’t turn him down, so the next thing I knew I had a long metal pole with hot molten glass on one end and was blowing on the other end!

Knowing not one thing about what I was doing, I made a big, oddly shaped glass bubble. I didn’t know when to quit blowing, so the bubble just kept getting bigger and bigger.

It reminded me of when I was a child trying to blow the biggest bubble of gum I possibly could before the sticky stuff popped all over my face!

Anyway, I made an impressively big bubble, and the crowd standing around me was amazed at how much hot air I had. I handed the pole back to the artist and took a bow to the clapping audience.

At that moment, I realized how much time and talent is involved in taking a wad of molten hot glass and blowing a beautiful vase, or any object for that matter. Plus, just think of the work hazards. One of the men had a bandage on his hand from getting too close to the oven. I think I’ll stick to cooking.

Which brings me to the recipe! I think you’ll enjoy this casserole. Try it with a salad or all by itself. It’s yummy!

Mexican Lasagna

1 lb. of lean ground beef

1/2 cup of chopped onions

1/2 cup of chopped green peppers

1 pkg. of taco seasoning

1/2 cup of thick ‘n chunky salsa

1 frozen package of whole kernel corn

1 can of black beans, drained

12 6-inch corn tortillas, divided

1 container (16 oz.) of cottage cheese

1/2 to1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 can (2-1/4 oz.) of sliced black olives, drained

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the tortillas until golden and crispy. Remove them from the skillet and then set them aside. Brown the meat in a large skillet and then drain it. Add the onions and peppers and then cook them for three to four minutes, or until they’re tender but crisp, stirring occasionally. Add the taco seasoning, corn, black olives and seasonings. Mix well.

Stir the cottage and mozzarella cheeses together and then set them aside. Place one layer of tortillas in the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Top with the black beans, meat mixture, salsa and cheese mixture. Repeat the layers, omitting the beans. Cover with the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.