Taco Stuffed Shells

I was planning on making my Beef Taco Bake one night, but at the very last second I decided to use pasta shells instead of hard tacos shells.  It was a good decision!  But, I totally confused Tim.  He had asked earlier in the day what was for dinner and I told him the taco bake and when I served him the stuffed shells, he was very confused.  Anyway, we enjoyed them very much and I stashed 1/2 in the freezer for a night when I’m short on time.

Just a note about freezing meals that is probably common knowledge already but oh well.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and write the date, item name, and baking directions directly on the plastic wrap with a sharpie, then cover with a layer of foil and place in the freezer.  That way, the directions are on the meal and you don’t have to guess about the baking instructions in a few months when you (or your husband 😉 ) pull it out to prepare for the night.

Just one note on something I’ll change next time.  I thought it could have been just a little saucier, so I’ll add some salsa (maybe 1/2 cup) to the mixture before stuffing the shells next time.

Taco Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

1 can refried beans

1 can whole black beans

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 small onion, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, minced – optional (can sub one green bell pepper)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can Mexi-corn, drained

1/2 can black olives, drained and coarsely chopped

1 pack (1/4 cup) taco seasoning mix & water that it calls for

1 pound lean ground beef

1 package large pasta shells

3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided

For serving:

lettuce

sour cream

scallions

salsa

Directions:

1.  Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine refried beans, black beans, and hot sauce in a bowl.  Spread evenly in two 8 or 9- inch square baking dishes (0ne for now and one for the freezer).  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese per baking dish.

2. Cook pasta.

3. Meanwhile, cook beef in large skillet until no longer pink with onion, peppers, and garlic.  Pour off fat.  Then stir in taco seasoning and water.  Simmer over low heat until thickened.  Then stir in Mexi-corn and olives and turn off the heat.

4. Spoon the beef mixture into the cooked and drained pasta.  Arrange in the baking dishes.  Cover with with foil, and bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Remove foil, top with remaining cheese, and bake another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with scallions and/or shredded lettuce and serve with sour cream on the side.

Stuffed Peppers

I had stuffed peppers on my mind after seeing a post from Chloe the other day, so when I had a few leftovers in the fridge suitable for filling the peppers I gave them a try.  I’m not really going to list specific measurements for everything because I was just using what I had in the fridge.  I also ended up with a little extra filling, but it was tasty eaten plain.  The sun-dried tomatoes added a nice chewy texture and a subtly sweet flavor {similar to raisins} to the dish and the chickpeas remained a little crunchy, so overall the balance of textures was really nice.

Stuffed Peppers

Inspired by:  Valuable, but Small Life

Ingredients:

1 red bell pepper

1/2 yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup cooked rice

1/4 cup leftover ground beef cooked with onions and jalapenos and seasoned with taco seasoning

1/2 of a can of chickpeas, coarsely mashed {could substitute black beans}

sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1-2 Tbsp tomato paste

chicken broth or water

Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Wash peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the stems, seeds and white membrane. Place the peppers cut-side down in a microwave safe dish. Add half an inch of water, cover and microwave on high for 9 minutes, or just until softened. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, lightly mash chickpeas with a fork or pastry blender, leaving some whole.  Reconstitute the sun-dried tomatoes if necessary, or drain if they have been packed in oil, and chop.

Warm up the rice and beef, in a saucepan and then add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, mashed chickpeas, and tomato paste.  Stir everything together and add some broth, a little at a time, to bind it together.  Just cook until everything is heated through.

Divide the filling among the steamed pepper halves.  Sprinkle each pepper with the Parmesan.

Place on a baking sheet or broiler pan and broil for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Enjoy with a dash of hot sauce!

Beef Taco Bake

This is something I love to make when we’re in the mood for tacos but want something a little different than our usual soft shell tacos.  It also takes a little more time than traditional tacos, so I have to plan accordingly.  But it’s really good and never disappoints!  Leftovers are not ideal (they get a little chewy), but not horrible either.

I realized I was out of cans of refried beans, so I just took a can of seasoned black beans, lightly drained them and then buzzed ’em up in the food processor until mostly smooth.  Worked great!

Beef Taco Bake

source:  Cook’s Country Oct/Nov 2007

Ingredients:

2 (10 oz.) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained but reserve 1/2 cup juice

1 (16 oz) can refried beans {or use my trick mentioned above}

1 tablespoon hot sauce {such as Tabasco}

1/4 cup chopped cilantro – I omitted

3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

1 pack (1/4 cup) taco seasoning mix

12 hard shell tacos

1 pound lean ground beef

3 scallions, sliced

additional toppings if you like – lettuce, black olives, sour cream, etc…

Directions:

1.  Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.  Combine beans, hot sauce, half of the drained tomatoes, and cilantro in a bowl.  Spread evenly in a 13×9 – inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.

2. Cook beef in large skillet until no longer pink.  Pour off fat.  Then stir in taco seasoning, remaining tomatoes and reserved 1/2 cup of tomato juice.  Simmer over low heat until thickened.

3. Spoon one tablespoon of shredded cheese into each hard shell and top with beef.  Arrange tacos upright in bean mixture, cover with foil, and bake until bubbling, about 10 minutes.  Remove foil, top with remaining cheese, and bake another 4 or 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Before baking.

After, topped with sliced green onions.

Meatloaf

This my standard meatloaf recipe and there’s not a lot to say about it.  It is just so hearty and good.   You can easily switch up or add other vegetables to it if you want to sneak them into a meal.  Chopped spinach and shredded carrots are some suggestions that come to mind.  Just saute them with the onion and peppers.

The only tip I have to add is that it is imperative to chop the onion, peppers, and garlic as fine as you possibly can.  If you leave them as big chunks, the loaf will have the tendency to fall apart, especially while slicing.  So, the smaller mince/chop the better to have it hold together.

Meatloaf:

1 tsp oil

1 small onion, finely chopped or grated

1/2 green bell pepper, very finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup {+/-} bread crumbs {or one sleeve of crackers such as Ritz, finely crushed}

1 egg

salt and lots of cracked black pepper

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or more to taste

glaze:

1/4 cup ketchup

1.5 tablespoons honey

splash Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp {or less} Sriracha hot sauce

Directions

In a skillet, saute the onions, peppers, and garlic in the oil until tender.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the glaze together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, egg, s & p, ketchup, bread crumbs, and Worcestershire sauce together.  Then add the cooled sautéed veggies.  Once, thoroughly combined, shape into loaf in a baking dish.  Cover with glaze.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until done.  Let Rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Beef Empanadas

I served these empanadas as a meal by themselves, but due to their size I think they would be better suited just as appetizers.  Or, they need to be made larger to be served as an entire meal in my opinion.

I had way more filling that I needed, so I’ll cut that in half {or more} next time or I’ll double the amount of pastry and freeze half of them.  I think I’ll also add a few tablespoons of salsa to the filling next time as well.  To cut down on prep time, I made the filling the night before.

Sweet Corn and Beef Empanadas

{heavily adapted from a Cuisine At Home magazine}

Note – Below is exactly how I made them which yielded way too much filling.  We used the leftover filling in soft tacos for the next few day’s lunches and dinners.

Filling Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground beef

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small can roasted diced green chilies

1 can Mexi-corn, drained

4 scallions, sliced

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp or more ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne or to taste {can sub paprika for less heat}

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the empanadas:

1 pkg refrigerated pie dough (2 sheets)

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp water

paprika

salsa for dipping

Directions:

Brown ground beef with garlic and chopped onion until cooked through.  Drain fat.  Mix meat and onions with chilies, corn, scallions, and seasonings.  Chill thoroughly {or overnight}.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unroll 1 sheet of pie dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll with rolling pin to smooth and thin out (about 1/8″).  Cut circles in dough with a 3.5″ or larger biscuit cutter (I’ll definitely make them larger next time).  Place rounds of dough on prepared baking sheets.  Repeat with second sheet of pie dough and re-roll scraps as needed.

Add shredded cheese (and some salsa?) to the meat filling and then place one tablespoon of filling on each small circle of dough.  Fold in half and crimp with fork to seal.  {You may freeze them at this point if desired.}

Blend egg yolk and water and brush it on the top of each empanadas.  Sprinkle with paprika and bake until golden, 15-18 minutes.

Serve with salsa on the side for dipping.

Italian Beef

There’s not a lot to say about an Italian Beef sandwich, other than they are delicious! I used my crock pot for this and it was super easy.  I even put the roast in partially frozen and it worked out great.  The only downfall to putting it in frozen is that I wasn’t able to trim off the fat, which contributed to slightly greasy drippings later.

I was home all day, so I was able to change the crock pot temp after 2 hours.  Had it been a work day, I would have started the crock pot on low from the beginning.  I have heard that they make programmable crock pots, so if you are going to be away from home you can have the temp change automatically as programmed.  I don’t have one of those nifty types of crock pots though.

I served these with oven fries and Asian cabbage salad.  Posts on each coming soon!

 

Italian Beef

{adapted from PW}

Ingredients
  • 1 whole Beef Chuck Roast, 2.5 To 4 Pounds
  • 1 can Beef Consomme Or Beef Broth
  • 3 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ cups Water
  • ½ jar (16 Oz) Pepperoncini Peppers, With Juice {I used about 1/4 jar because that was all I had}
  • I added 2 small cloves of peeled smashed garlic
  • Buttered, Toasted Deli Rolls {I used hamburger buns because I’m fancy}
Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in large crock pot. Stir lightly to combine seasoning with the liquid.

Cover and turn heat to high for a few hours and then turn to low for about 5-6 hours or until done and fork-tender and falling apart.

With two forks, completely shred all meat, leaving no large chunks behind. Serve immediately, or keep warm.

Serve on buttered, toasted rolls. Top with cheese and melt under the broiler if desired {we skipped the chese for once!}.  Serve with juices from the pot.  {After trying it, I thought the juices were a little to greasy this time, so we ended up not using them.}

May make the day before, then store in the refrigerator. Remove the hardened fat from the top before reheating.

Enchilada Casserole

This is a really versatile dish inspired from a Pillsbury recipe booklet from the grocery check out lane.  You could use cooked chicken, beef, or pork.  I thought about adding beans and  I omitted the green onion and tomato topping.  This was a great and fast meal to whip up.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cut-up cooked chicken {I used 2 cups of ground beef that I cooked with onions and peppers}
   
1/2 cup salsa
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups coarsely broken tortilla chips
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 cup shredded Cheddar

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix cooked meat, salsa, enchilada sauce and corn.
2. Place tortilla chips in lightly greased 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish. Top with meat mixture. Sprinkle with onions, tomato and cheese.
3. Bake 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. If desired, arrange additional tortilla chips around edge of dish.
 
   

Pizza Pasta Bake

This is a homemade version of a meal I prepared all the time while I was in college.  The meal I made at that time, came in a box and you just boiled the pasta, then stirred in the meat sauce, sprinkled on cheese from a packet and baked it. {*cough*Banquet Homestyle Bakes*cough*} I thought it was fantastic at the time and it easily served myself and my 3 roommates.  But looking back now, I’m sure it was full of preservatives and other “fake” ingredients.

So with this homemade version, I still get to take a trip down memory lane to my college days, but I feel better knowing what ingredients go into the meal.

Pizza Pasta Bake

Ingredients

1/2 pound ground beef {or ground sausage or turkey}

1/2 package of turkey pepperoni, coarsely chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

dash of red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1 cup tomato sauce {homemade sauce recipe found here}

2 Tbsp water

approx 1 heaping cup dry short pasta such as elbow macaroni {Sorry measurement is vague, but I just used 3 handfuls of macaroni – just call me Rachel Ray I guess!}

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking dish and set aside.

Boil water and cook pasta.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a large skillet with the onion and peppers.   Cook until beef is no longer pink, then drain.  Return to skillet {off heat} and stir in the pepperoni, seasonings, 2 Tbsp cheese, tomato sauce, water, and cooked pasta.  Stir everything together and spread into prepared baking dish.  Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serves 4

Hearty Beef Stew

I think this could be considered the perfect Sunday night meal during the winter months.  It takes a few hours to cook, so you’ll want to plan ahead, but it is not difficult at all.  A little hands on time is all it takes, and then the oven does the rest of the work.

I served the stew with Red Lobster biscuits.

Hearty Beef Stew
{source:  adapted from America’s Test Kitchen seen at Good Things Catered}

Ingredients:

3 lbs. beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes {I used approx. 1.5 pounds of beef stew meat}

salt and ground pepper

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped coarse

2 celery stalks, sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 c. dry red wine

1.5 c. low-sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1 tsp ground dried thyme

4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes

3 or 4 large carrots , peeled and sliced 1/4 in. thick

1 c. frozen peas  {I omitted}

1/4 c. minced parsley {I omitted}

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
-Dry beef thoroughly and season generously with salt and pepper.
-Heat 1 Tbsp oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat.
-Add half the meat so that pieces are not touching and cook not moving until brown (about 2-3 min)
-Use tongs and rotate pieces until all sides are browned (about 5 additional min.)
-Transfer beef to medium bowl and add another 1 Tbsp oil to pan if needed, repeating previous steps with other half of beef.
-Reduce heat to medium and add additional 1 Tbsp oil to now empty pan and swirl to coat bottom.
-Add onions, celery, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, scraping bottom of pan for brown bits until softened (about 5 mins).
-Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 sec.
-stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored (1-2 min.)
-Add wine, scraping the bottom and stiring until thick and flour is dissolved.
-Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly scraping up the remaining browned bits on bottom of pan.
-Add bay leaves and thyme and return to simmer.
-Add beef, return to simmer, and place the pot in the oven.
-Cook for 1 hour.
-Add potatoes and carrots cover and return to the oven to cook for additional hour.
-Remove the pot from oven (here you can cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)
-Add the peas, cover and allow to stand for 5 min.
-Stir in the parsley, discard bay leaves, adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

Cornbread Casserole

I posted this recipe before {called Fiesta Casserole}, but I didn’t include a picture at the time.  Since then, I have adapted it quite a bit, so I’m re-posting the new variation.  Beware, it is spicy! 🙂

I used a 10″ inch cast iron skillet this time, but it really needs to be put into a 12″ because I had some filling run over.

Cornbread Casserole

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef or turkey

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 packet taco seasoning + water as directed on package

1 can (10 oz.) Mexi-corn, drained (regular corn works fine)

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (10 oz.) Ro-tel diced tomatoes with chili peppers, drained

1 can (7 oz.) diced green chilies, drained

Topping:

1 Jiffy cornbread/muffin mix (8.5 oz.) and the ingredients to prepare it.

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1/4 cup sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 12″ cast iron skillet {or other large oven safe skillet}, brown ground beef with onion and garlic.  Drain.  Return to skillet and heat to medium low, add taco seasoning, water, beans, tomatoes, chilies, and corn.  Stir to combine and heat thoroughly.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl, prepare cornbread mix as directed on box with egg and milk.  Stir in cheese, chopped green onion, and sour cream.

Turn off the heat under the skillet and evenly press/smooth the meat mixture down in the skillet.  Top with cornbread batter {will be a little thin}.  Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown.

Yields 6 large servings.

This definitely has some kick to it.  If you want to reduce the spiciness just omit the chilies, use regular diced tomatoes, and regular corn.

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