Taco Stuffed Shells

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This was another freezer meal I prepped before Jake was born. I’ve made it a few times before but never got a bloggable picture before this. If it’s surprising to you that the best picture of this dish came while I was carrying around a baby, it’s surprising to me too.

This is a real people-pleaser meal – a fusion of tacos and pasta, how can you not love it? If you’re looking for a meal to bring to a friend, this is a great one.

For the freezer, I covered and froze after the taco sauce. I bagged the cheese separately and froze that so I’d have one less thing to do on a busy night. Also, the picture shows a half batch – I prefer to freeze in portions that are easier for two people so we’re not drowning in leftovers!

Taco Stuffed Shells
(from Blog Chef)
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
20-24 large pasta shells
1 cup salsa
1 cup taco sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups tortilla chips, crushed
Green onions, black olives and sour cream, for serving, optional

In a frying pan, brown the ground beef and prepare as taco meat according to directions on the seasoning packet. When finished, stir in cream cheese until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the meat cooks, cook shells according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Pour the salsa into the bottom of a baking dish. Fill each shell with the taco meat mixture and lay on top of salsa. Cover shells with taco sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover and top with cheeses and tortilla chips. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Top with green onions, black olives and sour cream, if desired, and serve.


Burgers with Brie, Caramelized Onions, Arugula and Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo Garlic Mayo (+ Win a Hampton Creek Just Mayo Prize Pack!)

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A few weeks ago, the folks at Hampton Creek contacted me about trying out some of their Just Mayo products. A company that’s trying to make sustainable, healthy, affordable food? I was totally on board.

They sent three mayos to try – regular, garlic and sriracha. I’ve been incorporating all three into dishes the last few weeks and I can honestly say I’m impressed. The mayo is eggless, so it’s allergy-friendly and it tastes really good.

These burgers went on the menu so I had an excuse to try the garlic mayo. So delicious! The flavors really go together well here for an awesome, easy burger.

Interested in trying some Just Mayo yourself? The nice folks at Hampton Creek sent along a set of Just Mayo products for a lucky reader. Want to win? Leave a comment below letting me know how you’d like to use the mayo. I’ll pick one comment at random to receive three bottles of Just Mayo in original, garlic and sriracha flavors. You have until midnight eastern time on September 14, 2014. Open to US residents only.

Burgers with Brie, Caramelized Onions, Arugula and Garlic Mayo
(adapted slightly from Handle the Heat)
Serves 2

1/2 lb. ground chuck
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 slices Brie cheese
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup arugula
2 Tbsp. garlic mayo
2 burger buns

Heat the grill to medium heat.

Divide the meat in half and form into 2 patties. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 10 minutes, turning halfway, to desired doneness. Top with the cheese and remove from the grill immediately. Tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the burgers on buns topped with caramelized onions, arugula and garlic mayo.


Grilled London Broil with Chimichurri

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We have a lot of parsley in the garden. A lot. This was the first recipe I ran across that used up a chunk of it – and london broil was on sale! – so it went on the menu. Grilled steak is a summertime favorite so this was a nice way to shake up our normal routine without being too different.

We’re also currently over-run with basil and dill – any suggestions on ways to use them up?

Grilled London Broil with Chimichurri
(from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 lb. london broil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a food processor, combine the parsley, oil, oregano, vinegar, red pepper, garlic and green onion. Process until finely shopped. Rub 1 Tbsp. of the parsley mixture over the steak and let stand for fifteen minutes.

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat, covered, 4 minutes per side or until it is cooked to your liking. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

Serve with remaining parsley mixture.


Garlic Beef Enchiladas

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One thing that’s been a bit of a surprise with the new kitchen is that the new freezer is smaller than our old one. I had grand plans to start stocking the freezer with meals for after baby boy is born once the kitchen was back together, but it’s become a project of using up what’s already in there first. One thing I inexplicably have a lot of? Ground beef.

When I polled my friends for their favorite recipes using ground beef, Katie suggested this one. Not only did it use up some of the freezer stock, it’s a freezer-friendly meal itself so I made a small tray to freeze as a post-baby meal. They were delicious, so I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy them again!

Garlic Beef Enchiladas
(from Taste of Home)
Serves 5

For the enchiladas:
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. rubbed sage
1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped up
2 cups Colby-Jack cheese, divided
10 flour tortillas

For the sauce:
1/3 cup butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minces
1/2 cup flour
1 can beef broth
1 can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion until the beef is browned and the onion is softened. Stir in flour and seasonings until well combined. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.

While the beef simmers, preheat the oven to 350F degrees and make the sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and seasonings. Heat through and then set aside.

To assemble: Pour 1 1/2 cups on the sauce into the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. In each tortilla, place about 1/4 cup of the beef mixture and 1-2 Tbsp. of the cheese. Roll up and place in the baking dish on top of the sauce, seam side down. Pour remaining sauce over the top.

Bake, covered, for 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Remove cover, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.


Queso Burgers

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It’s sort of amazing that we always want what we can’t have. On a normal week, I’d kill to have a night of takeout and not have to cook. With the kitchen torn apart and plans to get takeout, there’s nothing I want more than to be able to cook dinner. Of course.

What have we been eating while the kitchen is a mess? Burgers. Lots and lots of burgers. They’ve been easy to put together and throw on the grill without actually needing the kitchen.

This is one of the burger variations we liked best. It’s a basic burger patty (in a pinch, you could totally buy pre-made pattys) topped with queso. So simple and yet really, really tasty.

Queso Burgers
(from The Recipe Critic)
Serves 6

1½ lb. ground sirloin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. Velveeta, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
6 hamburger buns

Divide the ground sirloin equally into 6 balls, form into patties and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat, about 4-5 minutes per side, until they reach desired doneness.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the Velveta and diced tomatoes. Microwave on high for 2 minutes and then stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second – 1 minute intervals, stirring between, until the cheese is fully melted and well combined.

Serve burgers topped with queso.


Flank Steak Pinwheels

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This recipe came from a magazine I got while in college. I made it a few times that summer and then pretty much forgot about it. I don’t know what made me think of it the other day, but I decided I needed to make it again. I tore my office apart looking for that magazine, only to come up empty handed.

And then it occurred to me that it’s 2014 and I could probably find it on the internet. Thank you, internet!

This is a dish that looks fancy but is actually pretty quick and easy – and now that the recipe has resurfaced, I’m sure it’s one we’ll make regularly. If you’re still looking for something fun to grill up this weekend, I recommend these!

Flank Steak Pinwheels
(slightly adapted from Taste of Home)
Serves 4

8 slices of bacon
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
4 cups fresh baby spinach
7 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup shredded horseradish cheese (or blue cheese)

Place bacon on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. Cover with another paper towel and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, until partially cooked.

Butterfly the steak and open it so it lies flat. Pound out to 1/4″ thick. Cover with spinach and red peppers. Roll up, jelly-roll style. Wrap the bacon strips around the beef and secure with toothpicks or skewers. Slice between the bacon slices, making 8 pinwheels.

Preheat the grill to medium heat. Grill for 5-7 minutes per side.

While the pinwheels grill, combine cream cheese, milk, butter and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook on low, whisking regularly, until smooth. Whisk in cheese and stir until melted.

Serve pinwheels with cheese sauce.


Baked Ziti

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Do you know what today is? It’s 10k day for those of us participating in NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated)  is a project to write 50k words of a novel in 30 days. It’s a little crazy and a lot fun. This is my 7th year participating in NaNo and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past attempts, it’s that you need to plan ahead.

As part of my NaNo prep this year, I stocked our freezer with dinners. I’ve never really done much freezer cooking, but spending less time in the kitchen and more time writing sounded like an excellent idea. This is one of the meals we’ve got in the freezer for this month. The recipe makes two pans – so we ate one when I made in and froze the other. This is a pretty basic, no-frills baked ziti, but it’s a really good one. We’re really looking forward to enjoying the second pan.

I’ve got a whole lot of freezer meals on the menu this month. I’m planning to share the hits and include freezing instructions on some already-blogged recipes. Keep your fingers crossed this goes as well as planned!

Baked Ziti
(from Six Sisters’ Stuff)
Makes 2 8×8″ trays

1 lb. penne pasta
1 onion, diced
1 lb. lean ground beef, seasoned with pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and minced garlic
2 (26 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce
8 slices provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions.

In a large skillet, cook the onion and ground beef over medium heat until the meat is browned and onions are translucent. Drain off any excess fat. Add in the spaghetti sauce and simmer for fifteen minutes.

If cooking it now, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Spray two 8×8-inch pans with non-stick cooking spray. Layer in each pan: 1/4 of the ziti, 1/4 of the sauce, 4 slices of Provolone cheese, 1/2 of sour cream,  1/4 of ziti, 1/4 mozzarella cheese and 1/4 of sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, until cheeses are melted. Or, cover and freeze.

To cook from frozen: bake at 350F degrees, covered, until heated through and bubbly.


Roast Beef and Parmesan Pita

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This has been one of my favorite lunches recently – it’s been making near weekly appearances, which is practically unheard of around here. It’s really not terribly fancy, but all together it’s absolutely delicious.

I’m also loving it because the individual ingredients all fit perfectly into the sections of my bento box. It makes it so much easier to take to work and solves the usual soggy sandwich issue.

For those of you that take lunch to work, what are you favorite things to pack? I’m always looking for new ideas.

Roast Beef and Parmesan Pita
(from Self Magazine)
Makes 1

1 6-inch whole wheat pita
4 oz. lean roast beef
1/2 cup arugula
1/4 cup sliced cucumbers
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
Fresh pepper
Oregano

Fill the pita with roast beef, arugula, cucumbers and parmesan. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with pepper and oregano. Drizzle over the pita.


Chili Braised Beef with Cornbread Dumplings

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Sometime back in August (or, July maybe?), I made a list of football food. Dishes I could cook up on Sundays while Mark and I were hanging out and watching the game. I had grand visions of lazy days and indulgent food.

What happened, you ask? Well, we’re Giants fans. I think that explains it well enough.

Still, there were a few things on that list that I couldn’t wait to make – whether we were footballing or not. This is one of them. Chunky, spicy beef topped with cornbread? I don’t think you could dream up a better meal for a chilly fall night.

Chili Braised Beef with Cornbread Dumplings
(slightly adapted from Donna Hay)
Serves 6

For the beef:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. stew beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
2 chipotle chilies in adobo
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 32 oz. can cherry tomatoes
2 cups beef stock

For the dumplings:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup instant polenta
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown, about three minute, cooking in batches if needed. Remove the beef to a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the paprika and chipotle chilies and cook for 1 minute. Return the beef to the pan along with the brown sugar, tomato paste, cherry tomatoes, and stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 3–3½ hours or until tender.

Preheat oven 400F degrees.

Place the flour, baking powder, polenta, buttermilk, salt, pepper, cheese and cilantro in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon onto the beef and bake, uncovered, for 15–20 minutes or until cooked through and golden.


Spicy Sausage Pasta

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I’m very fortunate. Even though I love cooking, there are nights that I just don’t want to spend time in the kitchen. When that happens, Mark is always happy to step in and take care of things. He’s a great cook.

This is one of the dinners he cooked up recently. Its a one-pot meal – you don’t have to cook the pasta separately, just keep adding things to the pan and in the end you have a creamy, spicy pasta dish. It was awesome.

 

Spicy Sausage Pasta
(from A Bitchin’ Kitchen)
Serves 4

1 T. olive oil
1 14 oz. package smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1/2 c. heavy cream
8 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne pasta (about 2 1/2 c.)
1/2 t. black pepper
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced scallions
Salt, to taste

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil until smoking.  Add the sausage and onion to the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the broth, tomatoes, heavy cream, uncooked pasta and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice while cooking.

While the pasta cooks, preheat the oven broiler. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Add salt to taste. Top with the scallions and remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.