Now that Matt is working a job that he is consistently home for dinner, one of my family goals is to be better about meal planning. It seems like what works for most people, from what I've read on others' blogs, is having a list of regular meals that you all like and that are easy/inexpensive and rotating them so that no one gets tired of them. I'm still working on that one- I like to cook, but get overwhelmed sometimes when I don't know what to make.
One of our favorite 'regulars' that is quick/easy/cheap is a layered mexican style dip. Matt's sister Leanne brought this to us after my Mom died, and it has been a favorite ever since! I've even made it for company- it is a great, laid-back Saturday night in kind of meal (and who doesn't love dip for dinner?!)
Line a baking dish with 2 cans of refried beans. Smooth it out a little flat with a spatula. If I have a little leftover black beans or spanish rice from another meal, I will usually add it in here.
Brown about a pound (for 2-4 people) of ground beef in a pan with one packet of McCormick's Cheesy Taco powder. Taco night has never been better since we discovered this stuff! Cook according to directions on the packet, and spread in a layer over the beans.
Spread a large jar of picante sauce or THICK salsa evenly over the meat layer. You don't want liquid-y salsa or it will make your dip soupy (we like Pace picante).
Optional Step 4:
If it were just me, this is the part where I would spread an entire container of sour cream over the whole thing because I love it. Matt however, is an avid hater of SC and refuses to eat anything it has touched, so I leave it off and just add it later to my own serving. (Funny story- when Leanne originally brought it to us, she only put SC on one half because she knew Matt hated it!) Obviously, any of these steps are optional if you don't like or can't eat one of them, and you may want to add something extra I didn't mention here like guacamole!
Spread 1/2 to 3/4 of a package of shredded cheese smoothly over the salsa layer. I use Harris Teeter's Nacho & Taco Mexican blend because it's cheap and good. Yum.
Bake at 375 until it's hot through the middle and the cheese is nice and melty, usually about 25-30 minutes. Serve into bowls and enjoy with taco chips! We love Sanitas brand (also from HT)- a large bag is always only $2 regularly priced, and they are delicious! I even like them better than Tostitos.
And finally, enjoy feeding your family a delicious, home-cooked meal that didn't take you all day in the kitchen! We're enjoying this one for dinner tonight!