Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Skinny black bean tortilla casserole

Skinny black bean tortilla casserole is a healthy, fast and easy way to add a satisfying meatless meal to your weeknight dinner rotation.

Skinny black bean tortilla casserole

This may sound really weird but it's really exciting: I've rediscovered the public library.

I told you it would sound weird. I mean, where did it go that I had to rediscover it, right?

I grew up as a library power user: in elementary school, I couldn't wait for summer, not just for the swimming and playing outside and not attending class part but also for the summer reading program at my tiny local library. Whether I knew it or not, I was a lot more Type A back then and the reading program had a contest for which child could read the most books: Let's just say I rose to that challenge and then some.

Not to mention that I just loved spending time in the library itself. It seemed magical to me that I could wander around, browsing through a seemingly endless supply of novels, taking as long as I liked to make my selections and then I was allowed to just take them home. For free. It was better than a candy store for an avid reader.

Even as an adult, I made weekly visits to the library after work to refresh my book pile, largely because I tried to spend my lunch hours reading the novels I so love. The number of books I read each year was a little mind boggling.

But then something changed all that: We moved to a tiny town in Vermont.

Skinny black bean tortilla casserole

Don't get me wrong, there was a public library and it wasn't even very far from my home. But it was so small and so poorly stocked and so poorly run that I pretty much just gave up on it (please don't make mention the part where the newly ordered sign for the library had the word "library" misspelled on it). And instead I turned to buying e-books.

But now we have moved yet again and, realizing that I drive past the large public library several times a week, I stopped in on a whim just to check it out. And was more than pleasantly surprised. My town here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland might not be the nicest place we've ever lived, but it has a damned fine library, which seems to be serving an amazing number of people, not just with reading material but social programs, job search assistance, free internet and more.

While I was there, I browsed the new fiction (and found two books on my to-read list which I checked out -- for free) but then also decided to take a walk through the non-fiction stacks. I found myself in the cookbook section and I had the biggest "a ha" moment I've had in years.

Shelf after shelf after shelf of cookbooks, full of the recipe inspiration I've been craving lately, from the general to the micro-specific. Morrocan street food, Indian for dummies, vegan desserts, heart healthy slow cooker, French bistro style, and on and on and on. And all available to me for free.

Why oh why had I forgotten about the library and all its treasures?

I sat down on the floor in the stacks, as I used to as a child, and just pored over that glorious supply of books, taking as long as I liked to make my selections. Then I took them home.

For free.

Now, I find myself once again looking forward to my weekly trip to the library to refresh my book pile.

And what does all this waxing poetic about the library have to do with this skinny black bean tortilla casserole?

It was library cookbook-inspired.

Do you have a library card? Have you given it a workout lately? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Skinny black bean tortilla casserole

Skinny Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

Inspired by the American Heart Association, this healthy recipe is also gluten-free.

1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1  can (15 oz) low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1  can (14.5 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes (don't drain)
2/3 cup salsa
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 corn tortillas (6 inch size)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or sharp cheddar cheese (I use Cabot Seriously Sharp)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the pepper, onion, beans, tomatoes, salsa and salt in a large bowl. Spread 1 cup of the mixture over the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch baking pan, then layer with four tortillas, overlapping slightly if necessary. Spread half of the remaining sauce mixture over the tortillas and top with 1/2 cup of the cheese, then repeat.

Lightly spray the back of a sheet of foil with non-stick spray and use it to cover the pan (greased side down). Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for about another 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with red pepper flakes and let the casserole stand for a few minutes before cutting into four servings.
-- print recipe --


  1. So fun to rediscover the library! I too was that kid who took stacks and stacks of books home from the library. The max. was 25 and I always checked out....25! So glad you now have an inspiring library to visit! We just listened to a book on CD on our way to Quebec City. On to your delicious recipe....great casserole. Love everything in it and so do my kids!

    1. Glad you're also a library junkie, Allie! And I hope your kids love the casserole.

  2. Ingredients list says CORN tortills...Directions state FLOUR tortillas. Will either work well? This sounds delicious and I really want o try it soon!!!! Thanks for healthy yet fun and easy to make recipes ! Cathy

    1. Hi Cathy! Actually the directions state FOUR tortillas, as in the number 4, not "flour". :-) I haven't tried this recipe with flour tortillas, as I like to keep it gluten-free, but you could certainly try it.

  3. Ha! I'm only a recent convert to the public libraries..... Ashamedly enough, when I was a young tyke, I developed a bit of a phobia of them...., long shadowy aisles, with who knew whom around the corner, and no mommy quite in sight......., and all of those books were overwhelming to me..... WHAT I REALLY NEEDED WAS A SLOW, GUIDED TOUR ***OVER TIME***. Now? I'm a huge fan. And yes, I use the library for cookbooks. Otherwise, my house would be too full of them. Between the library and the internet, I find I have no more need of cookbooks. Pinterest to organize recipes? Yes. Cookbooks to make order of recipes? No. Good for you, loving the library too! BTW, my favorite book list? not perfect by any means, but very, very powerful, is found at AmblesideOnline......

  4. Oh, and as for the casserole, it looks a bit richer than the one we make with: a layer of corn tortillas, black beans, salsa, cheese, repeat.