Saturday, November 6, 2010

Make Ahead Beef Enchilada Casserole

As many of you know, my son TH is away at school.

I have to admit, the grief in saying goodbye as your *almost* adult child walks out the door was something that took me by surprise.

Like the first morning of kindergarten, or the day they begin junior high, it occurs to me that parenthood is a combination of great joy, unconditional love, the odd frustration - and grief - because there are so many endings.

But with any kind of loss, there are gifts to be found if we're willing to look.


When TH was a little boy, my husband and I made a big deal over Christmas.

Although we never had much by way of money, I have always been able to whip up a little magic in the kitchen and during the months leading up to Santa's big day, I would fill my deep freeze to capacity with cookies, baking, appetizers, make ahead casseroles and other goodies that could be easily pulled out if guests came over, or after a long day of Christmas shopping.

But over the last few years, that practice had lost its lustre because TH, who was now a teenager, became less interested in the old traditions and the holidays became more about being with friends.

I was okay with that. I understood that was where he was at - in my head, anyways.

My heart, of course, was a different matter.


Last Christmas I did no baking at all. No make aheads. No filled freezer - instead I went to Superstore and purchased our holiday treats.

There's an old expression: "You don't always know what you have until it's gone..."


TH called me the other night and said, "Mom I'm coming home a day early. I'm leaving after my last exam."

Which thrilled me to no end.

But it was what he said next that really surprised me.

"Can you make sure there's lots of baking and those appetizers you used to make? Oh, and the enchiladas and that quiche? Are you gonna make cinnamon buns for Christmas morning? Can we have an appetizer night?"

All the traditions. All the things we had done over Christmas as he was growing up - the things that got lost during the teenage years when TH was so busy with work, sports, school, and friends - were still there.

Best of all, they still mattered.

I mattered.

I know that sounds silly, but as a mother, you do all these little things - everything for your family - and then while your kids are growing up and growing away you wonder if it was all just a big unappreciated blur.

At least I do.

(I have never tried to hide the fact that I have issues)

This holiday season, though, I have a whole new lease on life. With my ending has come a tremendous beginning and I am, for the first time in many years, excited.

As such, I have begun planning all the wonderful things I will fill our pantry and freezers with.

December is a time of feast and solstice. Love shared with friends and family as we recall the light of peace and goodness that shines so brightly in the winter air.

Yesterday I began cooking...

Make Ahead Enchilada Casserole
For printable version click HERE

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning, *or* three heaping Tbsp Home Made Taco Seasoning Mix (I prefer this)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cooked rice (cook just till al dente)
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • One small can green chiles
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (I like to use Sargento or Kraft Mexican Cheese blend but you could also shred a mixutre of mild cheddar, monteray jack, and whatever else you think might taste good)
  • 12 tortillas -whatever flavour you prefer. Corn is most authentic.
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 cup sour cream


Brown ground beef and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until cooked through and no longer pink. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for five minutes. Add the corn, black beans and chilis.

Stir in rice. Cook and stir until liquid is evaporated.

Spread about 2 tbsp refried beans, 1/4 cup beef mixture, and one tbsp cheese down the centre of each tortilla, roll up.

Place seam side down in two lasagna pans that have been sprayed with PAM.

Combine salsa and sour cream; pour down the centre of the enchiladas.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

This will make two casseroles with six enchiladas per casserole.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 25 minutes - or until heated through and cheese is melted.
Or cover and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in fridge overnight. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake ten minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted.



Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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  1. Of Course he does appreciate you and tradition. Maybe it took being away to appreciate it more.
    My oldest who is home right now lives in Banff. She is 27 years old and I still cry my eyes out for a week after she leaves. Kids have no idea HOW MUCH they mean to you, until they have children of their own. Then they get it.
    She will be leaving on Tuesday. It probably be another 6 months before we see her again. Even though I talk to her every day online and through texts. Its still not the same as having her at home.
    So we will pack up her Christmas Stocking and Gifts. We will open them on MSN christmas morning. It will be our new tradition. :)

    Enchiladas look AWESOME, going to make them for sure !

  2. I feel so much better knowing I'm not the only one who cries her eyes out!

    You could totally do these veggie by omitting the beef.

  3. Hi Lyndsay - I just discovered your blog via Brenda's Cookbook Sundays. I'm so excited for you that you will have your son home for Christmas and that he is looking forward to some of those traditional Christmas treats. I don't have kids of my own, but I can understand how you feel.

    These enchiladas look great by the way - definitely one to try :-)


  4. Thanks Sue and very nice to meet you :-)

  5. It gets even better... eventually, they realized the sacrifices made (willingly)and say THANK YOU. Oh glory be! :)

  6. I find myself crying over all sorts of things lately, both abandoned son & beautiful daughter related.
    His leaving, my visiting & having to come home, holiday meal planning, driver's licenses, cleaning a closet, finding an old photo, finding a handmade Christmas card...
    I am SO not ready for the kids to have a life of their own without me, even though they pretty much do already.
    Thank goodness they embrace all the silly traditions!

  7. Chris, thankyou for that - it's good to know.

    Jinx, you and I are in pretty much the same place with it right now.

  8. YUM! and crying. what a sweet post and unexpected twist near the it!

  9. Hi Erin :-) Nice to see you! And thanks for the kind words. They're appreciated.

  10. Just found you, and I just love everything about your blog! Your post had me teary eyed, as I imagined my own response to my son leaving home. He's only 5, soon to be 6, so it's years away, but I know it will come all too soon. The recipe looks delicious, and I'm bookmarking for the future.

  11. What a nice thing to say - thank you Louanne. I\Your kind words are very much appreciated. This is such a nice recipe to freeze!

  12. You are so right - we don't appreciate something until it is gone - I have only had one leave the nest (I have 8) and he only went 2 doors away, but wow do I understand how you feel - they just grow up too darn fast. What a beautiful post! I am going to make your enchiladas this week! And start a new tradition with your appetizer night!