Friday, March 23, 2012

Nacho Cheese Beef Bake

Recipe modified by You Want Me to Cook? – September 6, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Nacho Cheese Beef Bake recipe originally published in Taste of Home – August 2011.

I’m always looking for a delicious casserole recipe and I love Mexican food, so this recipe seemed like the perfect match.  I also liked the convenience factor.  Most everything was canned (and I could buy healthier versions than specified) and what wasn’t, I could buy per-sliced or shredded… except for the chips, but crushing chips isn’t all that difficult.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Nacho Cheese Beef Bake
I didn’t pile everything on top of the casserole like they did in the picture because I wanted the picture to show the casserole underneath.  

As you can tell, I did a horrible job at showing the casserole.  I cook.  I'm definitely not a photographer.

From what I can tell, my casserole looks slightly “soupier” which I’m not sure if I like or not.  Still, my food looks delicious and I was ready to eat it as soon as the picture was taken.

© Taste of Home
As you can see, it looks really good, but this pictures represents one of my pet peeves: the topping doesn’t reflect what is in the recipe.  It looks more like fresh tomatoes or pico de gallo than salsa.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessNADA – For the most part, it’s all mix and go.  I spilled some chip crumbs when I crushed them, but that was it in terms of a mess.  Also, I was able to clean up ALL dishes well before dish was finished so everything was done – including clean-up – when the dish was ready to be put on the table.

Start-to-Finish Time: ABOUT AN HOUR – The great news is that about half of that is hands-off and in that time I was able to clean up all the dishes (except the dish the casserole was baking in) and the entire kitchen before it came out of the oven.

Prep Work: ALL FINGERS STILL HERE – It’s a basic open and mix recipe.  The things that needed to be sliced or shredded, I purchased that way.  I did have to crush the chips, but that took little work.

Ease of Recipe: COOK IT IN MY SLEEP – The hardest thing about making this dish is pouring off the fat without pouring some of the beef into the trash.

OverallNOT BAD – It wasn’t one of my favorites, but my husband ate it happily.  Of course, he eats just about anything I make without complaint.  I do feel that there are many ways to dress it up and make it better though (I'll talk about that later).

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes

Four servings is a ridiculous amount of food per serving.  Forgetting everything else, you would be eating a quarter-pound of ground beef.  On top of that add a quarter can of tomatoes, soup, chilies and an ounce and a half of cheese.  Serve it with a salad and you can definitely stretch this to 6 or 8 servings.

I always am confused on what they call “prep time”.  It seems like they include everything in prep except the baking time.  I needed about 15 minutes more than what they specified, which isn't all that bad.  Here is how my timing worked out:
  • Noodles: 20 minutes
  • Prep: 8 minutes (done while noodles cooking)
  • Hands-on Time: 32 minutes (started while noodles cooking)
  • Bake Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 56 minutes
The nice thing is that you can do all of your prep and start the meat and vegetables while the noodles are cooking.

Nutritional Information – 1-1/2 cups (calculated without optional ingredients):
  • 827 calories
  • 55 g fat
  • 24 g saturated fat
  • 158 mg cholesterol
  • 2,131 mg sodium
  • 41 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 42 g protein
The calories, fat and sodium in this dish are ridiculous.  And it isn’t even all of the ingredients… it excludes the optional ingredients.  To me, that’s cheating because most people are going to use the optional ingredients if they like them.

I always run their ingredients and servings through a separate nutrition tool, so I added one tablespoon of lettuce, sour cream and basic jarred salsa per serving to the recipe.  I plugged their ingredients with the optional ingredients added into the assessment tool and got the following:
  • Calories 991.7
  • Total Fat 75.4 g
  • Saturated Fat 28.9 g
  • Cholesterol 179.0 mg
  • Sodium 1,974.6 mg
  • Potassium 552.9 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 41.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber 4.7 g
  • Sugars 3.7 g
  • Protein 37.7 g
And now we know why they didn’t include the optional ingredients.  These numbers are HORRIBLE!  Of course, I make as many changes as I can to help ease the nutritional load, but I'm guessing it still will be in a high range for the "bad" numbers. 

I used whole grain egg noodles, lean ground beef, reduced fat cheddar cheese, whole grain tortilla chips and some light sour cream.  Also, we didn’t eat a full serving.  We turned the 4 servings into 6 and ate some salad with the dish.  With my substitutions and serving size difference, the nutritional information came out as:
  • Calories 574.8
  • Total Fat 33.3 g
  • Saturated Fat 12.2 g
  • Cholesterol 85.5 mg
  • Sodium 1,220.8 mg
  • Potassium 286.3 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 39.0 g
  • Dietary Fiber 4.7 g
  • Sugars 4.4 g
  • Protein 29.7 g
Okay, now the servings are in a healthier range, but it still has ridiculous fat and sodium numbers.  Basically what I’m saying is this would be a once-in-a-while dish… if we like it of course.  The good news is that it has a decent level of calcium which is necessary for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.  Also, it can help to guard against cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Changes denoted by red text

© You Want Me to Cook?
Nacho Cheese Beef Bake - ingredients
2 cups uncooked Whole Grain egg noodles
1 pound ground beef (88% lean)
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed Fiesta nacho cheese soup, undiluted
1 jar (5-3/4 ounces) sliced pimiento-stuffed olives, drained
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed Whole Grain tortilla chips
1/3 cup prepared ranch salad dressing
Shredded lettuce, Light sour cream and/or salsa, optional
Cooking Spray

Ingredient Notes:
Whole Grain Egg Noodles – When you are using products with whole grains, the grain is kept intact which is healthier for you than processed wheat/flour.

Lean Ground Beef – The original recipe called for regular ground beef which is 80% lean meat to 20% fat.  I used a leaner beef which is 88% lean meat to 12% fat.  You are going to drain fat from the dish, so you don’t have to worry about the missing fat affecting the taste of the dish.

Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup – The original recipe called for nacho cheese soup.  I checked all brands and couldn’t find it and certainly couldn’t find a healthy version.   I settled on using Campbell’s Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup.  What’s the difference?  I have no idea.

Olives – I went with pre-sliced to save some time.  I suggest you do the same, because cutting up an entire bottle of olives seems like a very tedious process to me.

Reduced-Fat Cheddar Cheese
  • The original recipe called for regular cheddar cheese, but the reduced fat has about a third less fat than the regular whole fat cheese.  Beware… reduced fat dairy usually has slightly higher sodium, so if you’re watching your sodium intake, there isn’t a big enough benefit with the reduced fat to take in the extra sodium
  • The original recipe didn’t specify what type of cheddar, so I used a mild blend.
Whole Grain Tortilla Chips – Honestly, I don’t know if this makes a difference in the dish.  It just made me feel better to try.

Shredded Lettuce – I used iceberg lettuce that was pre-shredded in a bag.  If you are using it, plan on at least 1 tablespoon per serving or more if you really like lettuce.

Light Sour Cream
  • I tend to purchase Daisy brand Sour cream because it is less expensive than most and it has a reduced-fat version.  The reduced-fat sour cream has a third less calories, fat and cholesterol.  However, after doing a little research, Breakstones has a Fat Free Sour Cream that has HALF the calories, a teeny-weeny amount of fat (so much for “fat free”) and less than a quarter of the cholesterol.  I gave it a try.  I’m sticking with Daisy Light.
  • Plan on about 1 tablespoon a servings if you choose to use it.
Salsa – Again, plan about 1 tablespoon per serving.

Equipment Needed:

© You Want Me to Cook?
Nacho Cheese Beef Bake
Large Saucepan
Wooden Spoon
Dutch Oven / Large Saucepan
Large Spoon
11x7 Glass Baking Dish

Equipment Notes:
Large Saucepan / Wooden Spoon / Colander – Use these tools to cook the noodles.  Normally, I’d tell you to use a pasta pot if you’ve got one, but in this case there is not a lot of noodles and they’re small in size.

Dutch Oven I’m not sure a large saucepan can hold a pound of ground beef, a can of tomatoes and a full can of condensed soup, let alone all the other stuff.  I went with my Dutch oven and you can see from one of the pictures below that it almost filled it.

Glass Baking Dish – This is one of those times that you need to use a glass or ceramic dish instead of a metal one.  The tomatoes could react with metal so you’ll need to use glass.

(1)   Start water for noodles to boil. Prep the ingredients.

(2)  Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
It took approximately 11 minutes to cook the beef until it is no longer pink
(3)  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink, approximately 11 minutes; drain.

(4)  Stir in the tomatoes, soup, olives and chilies. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

(5)  Stir in noodles.

(6)  Transfer to a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
It took me about 15 minutes to get the cheese to melt and it be heated through.
(7)  Top with tortilla chips; drizzle with salad dressing. Serve with lettuce, sour cream and/or salsa if desired.

The dish was good, but I felt it was a little over-powered by the olives.  I’m not sure what is wrong with me because I could eat an entire jar of olives if left to my own devices.  I just thought the whole jar was a little much.  I did get a pieces without a lot of olives and thought it was much better.  Also, I didn’t care for the salsa, like the recipe suggests.

If I were to make any changes, I would:
  • Use at least half the olives.
  • Add an onion.
  • Possibly add a little pepper or maybe even cayenne to give it a kick.   A jalapeno would work well too.
  • Use fresh tomatoes for my topping instead of salsa (like their picture shows).
  • Dress up the casserole like actual nachos.  I would put the full tortilla chips on the plate, spoon the casserole on top and then dress the casserole like I would regular nachos, minus the beef or beans.
As always… Happy Cooking!!!

1 comment:

  1. I suggest using grass fed beef instead of grain fed beef even if it is leaner. This will bring your calories and calories from fat down. Grass fed beef also has so many other health benefits that you can learn about by looking on the La Cense Beef website. Using grass fed beef will also add a very tasty flavor to your meal. Give it a try and just see. I am sure you will love it!!