Mexican Rice Casserole

Mexican Rice Casserole:

* 1 1/2 cups of white rice, prepared per instructions
* 1 tsp of olive oil
* 1 lb lean ground beef (I used 96/4)
* 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 tsp paprika
* 1 tsp chili powder
* 1 tsp dried cumin
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
* Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
* 1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
* 3-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (divided)
* 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
* 3-4 tomatoes, sliced thickly
* Sour cream (topping)
* Salsa (topping)
* Guacamole (topping)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare rice per instructions. While the rice is cooking heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the ground beef, making sure to break it up into crumbles. Cook the beef for 3-4 minutes then add the diced onion and all of the seasonings. Stir until well combined and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and the onion is tender. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly for an additional 60 seconds. Add the cooked rice, drained and rinsed black beans, tomato sauce and a bit of cilantro (reserving some for garnishing) to the beef and onion mixture. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, taste and re-season if needed.

Coat a large baking dish with cooking spray and pour the rice mixture into the dish, spreading it evenly. Place the tomato slices on top of the rice mixture then top with cheddar cheese.

Spray a piece of tin foil with cooking spray (so the cheese won't stick) and cover the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes then remove the tin foil. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Top with a dollop of sour cream and the remaining chopped cilantro. Enjoy.

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