Light King Ranch Casserole

If you're not from Texas, you've probably never heard of King Ranch casserole. Texans love a casserole as much as a Wisconsinite, but we need a little spice down here. The traditional King Ranch casserole utilizes two cans of cream of (fill in the blank) soups, and very few other ingredients - a hint of spice and some veggies.  We wanted something similar to King Ranch but I didn't want to use the creamy soup bases, so I modified it by making my own sauce, adding lots of veggies, and using fewer tortillas. The result: a perfectly spicy, lightly creamy, totally husband-pleasing casserole. Make it tonight! It serves a family of 20. Oh! And it's gluten free.

You can cook the chicken however you want, but for casseroles I like to boil a few boneless skinless breasts.  I seasoned these with lots of chili powder, cumin, and salt, then boiled for 20 minutes and shredded.

Preheat the oven to 350.  To make the sauce, start by sauteing the onions and peppers in a pinch of olive oil in a large skillet/pot.  Once cooked,  stir in the flour and spices. Add the broth and continue to stir until thickened. Add the Rotel tomatoes (juice included). Reduce the heat, then whisk in the half and half and sour cream.  Turn off the heat.

Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Ladle a couple large spoonfuls of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover.  Lightly dip tortillas in the sauce just to coat (to keep them from getting crispy), and use enough to complete one bottom layer (I used 5).  Top with half the chicken, half of the remaining sauce, and one cup of shredded cheese. Now, you can either repeat the layer one more time ending with the cheese (and requiring 5 more tortillas), or you can do it like I did to cut back on the tortillas. I tore the remaining 2 tortillas into small strips, and mixed them into the remaining sauce.  I poured half of this remaining mixture over the cheese layer, then added the rest of the chicken, finished with the sauce, then topped with the last cup of cheese. My husband is tortilla-averse, so that's why I did it that way. I looooove tortillas and can't get enough, so I would have done another full blown layer.  Though you really can't tell much when it's all said and done, everything melts together.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, then broil for a minute or two at the end to brown the top.  Believe it or not this is quite a healthy and easy option for weeknight cooking, although if you were looking to indulge you could easily up the cream and cheese factor.