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.

Summer Pasta {version 2}

Here’s a variation of the previous recipe that I posted.  I liked that recipe so much that I experimented with some different ingredients.  This version took a little longer than the previous one because of the bacon, but it was still ready in about 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Summer Pasta

ingredients:

8 oz dry spaghetti

8 or 9 strips of bacon

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can artichoke hearts, sliced into bit sized pieces

1/2 can of olives, sliced in half

1 package {about 2 cups} of cherry tomatoes, quartered

juice of one small lemon

s&p to taste

handful of basil leaves, chopped

1/2 cup pine nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place bacon strips on foil lined baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until crispy.  Then drain on towels and crumble.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water.

In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute the minced garlic for about 1 minute.  Then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Saute until the tomatoes wrinkle, then add the olives, artichokes, and lemon juice.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the drained spaghetti and toss. Lastly, toss in the crumbled bacon, pine nuts, and chopped basil and serve.

Summer Pasta with Shrimp

hmmm, I couldn’t think of a very good title for this recipe.  But it was a terrific meal!  It is definitely more of a  “chick-food” type of dish according to Tim, but that’s why I loved it!  It is pasta with shrimp, garlic, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and olives.  Yum!  I could have eaten it without the shrimp even,  I just added them for Tim since he’s not a fan of vegetarian meals.  Anyway, it cooks really fast too, which is why I added the ‘summer’ part in the title.  Its ready in about 15 minutes which is ideal for a summer-time meal when you don’t want to stand over a hot stove for very long.

I was really winging it as I went along, so measurements aren’t exact.

Summer Pasta with Shrimp

Makes 4 servings

Inspired from a Cuisine at Home magazine, Issue 82 for August 2010

Ingredients:

8 oz. dry spaghetti

1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon butter

crushed red pepper flake, to taste

salt, to taste

1 small carton of grape tomatoes, sliced in half {about 2 cups?}

about 1 cup olives, sliced in half

1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic {about 3 cloves}

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

juice of 1/2 a large lemon or more to taste

about 8 oz. of fresh mozzarella “pearls” or diced fresh mozzarella

Directions:

Boil water and cook spaghetti.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over med-high heat with about 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add shrimp and crushed red pepper and cook until shrimp are done.  Remove the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Add more butter or olive oil to the skillet if needed and add the garlic to the skillet, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the halved tomatoes and salt, and cook for a few minutes until the tomato halves just slightly wrinkle and sort of burst.  Then add the halved olives.  Cook another minute, then add the lemon juice and cooked shrimp.

Turn off heat, add the cooked and drained spaghetti and toss.   Stir in the mozzarella pearls and serve.

Tim added Parmesan to the top of his, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

We served it with garlic bread.

Enjoy!

Chicken Piccata, Take 2

I wasn’t really looking for a new chicken piccata recipe as I already have a terrific one in my repertoire.  I was just in the mood for a new lemony type of chicken dish.  Something perfect for summer and quick.  As I was searching, I stumbled upon this piccata recipe by Ina Garten.  She has never let me down, so I went ahead with it and am glad I did!  It was actually even easier than my other recipe and Tim liked this one better.  I thought they were a tie, but I’m going to make this recipe again next week just to be sure. 😉

I served the chicken over pasta with a side of broccoli.  Next time I’ll reduce the amount of salt and add a few tablespoons of capers to the sauce.

Sorry, the pictures were taken before I added the sauce.  And I skipped the sliced lemon and parsley garnish.

Chicken Piccata

Source:  Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate.  Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

Ravioli Casserole

Sorry for my absence.  I really haven’t made anything blog worthy in over 2 weeks.   I haven’t stuck to my menu in over a month and overall just haven’t been in the mood to cook anything new lately.

However, I did make this casserole a few nights ago and it was excellent so I thought I’d share.  I used meat sauce and beef ravioli, but if you’re Catholic and looking for meatless meals for the remaining Fridays during Lent, this would be an excellent meal if you use meatless sauce and cheese ravioli.  It is very filling so you won’t even miss the meat.

Sorry no picture though, just imagine lasagna and that’s what it looks like!

Ravioli Casserole

{source:  given to me by one of Tim’s aunts at my bridal shower}

Ingredients

1 jar {28 oz} spaghetti sauce {I used about 4 cups of my homemade meat sauce}

1 package any flavor {25 oz} frozen ravioli, cooked and drained

2 cups small curd cottage cheese {or ricotta cheese}

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking dish.  Layer with half of the prepared ravioli, 1-1/4 cup sauce, 1 cup cottage cheese, and 2 cups mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Yields 6 servings.

Pesto

Finally!  I found one lonely package of basil at the store.   I guess I have never tried to buy basil at the store before {especially in the winter} because I grow my own in the summer.  It is one of the few herbs I can successfully grow in my garden!

Anywho, I was finally able to make a batch of pesto that I have been craving for a few weeks!  I love to use pesto to just simply coat some pasta for a vegetarian meal as I am showing here {gnocchi}.  You can add grilled chicken breasts to the pasta if you chose, but it is definitely wonderful without.  Pizza sauce is another great use for pesto.  And also, the pasta with pesto is great hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Pesto

1 slightly packed cup of basil leaves

2 peeled garlic cloves

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 – 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and a lot of black pepper

1/3 cup EVOO

Process the garlic, nuts, and basil in a food processor to make a paste.  Add the cheese and s&p and process some more.  Then stream in the EVOO while the processor is on.  Taste and adjust as needed with more s&p if needed.

If using as a pasta sauce, reserve some of the pasta’s cooking water to add as needed when mixing the pasta with the pesto.  It just makes for a smoother and evenly coated pasta 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

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