Mexican Brown Rice Casserole

Mexican Brown Rice Casserole

Serves 6-8
3 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey
1 large onion, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
3 large garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin powder
1 tablespoon paprika powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Mexican hot sauce, such as Valentina or Cholula (optional)
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (14-oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for the top
½-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Optional toppings:
Tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, Greek yogurt, etc.
Cook the brown rice according to package directions, being careful NOT to over cook until mushy.
Meanwhile: In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil and add in the meat, onions and peppers. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onions start to become translucent, stirring often, about 5-8 minutes.
Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.
Season the meat with the salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and chili powders and cook for 2 minutes to develop flavor. Stir in the hot sauce, if using.
Dump in the tomatoes, beans and liquid and stir to mix well.
Cook for about 10-12 minutes to meld the flavors and to heat the beans. Taste and adjust flavors, if necessary.
Meanwhile: preheat the oven to 350F.
When the oven is hot, dump the cooked rice and chopped cilantro into the meat mixture and mix thoroughly.
Pour into a large casserole dish and top with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese and casserole is bubbling. Serve with more chopped cilantro on top and your favorite toppings.

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