Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taco Filled Pasta Shells

When it comes to family dinner, the one thing that I like to do is to take familiar ingredients and combine them into different dishes. Being married to an Italian, pasta is a staple in our diet. I didn't grow up eating a lot of pasta - I think we might have had spaghetti every couple of weeks and occasionally, some lasagna. As such, I feel the need to find different flavors for pasta so that I can include it more frequently in the menu.
(must not have snapped a picture after adding the cheese and baking!)

Taco Filled Pasta Shells

20 ounces ground turkey
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
4 ounces neufch√Ętel cheese
1/2 (12-ounce) box American Beauty Large Shells (15 shells)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup salsa
1 cup taco sauce
1 cup multi-cheese shredded cheese
1 ounce crushed tortilla chips (24 chips)

Cook the meat until no longer pink, drain. Add taco seasoning, following packet instructions. Add cream cheese to the pan, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until melted. Transfer to a bowl and allow to chill for an hour.

Cook shells according to package directions. Drain, toss with butter.

Spoon salsa into a greased 9" square baking dish. Fill each shell with meat mixture. Set into dish on top of the salsa. Repeat. Once all shells are filled, top the dish with the taco sauce.

Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish, sprinkle with cheese and crushed ships. Bake 15 minutes.

Serve with sour cream and onion.

According to my recipe software, a serving, of 3 shells is just under 500 calories.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Berries

Yesterday morning, I watched a video online and the guy was making a Cream Cheese Pound Cake. I love pound cake and knew that I had some berries in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten. We were going to a Bible Study in the evening, so I decided that this sounded like a great dessert to bring along to share. I did a quick search and found a recipe on PBS website that sounded pretty close to the one on the video and ran with it. It was super easy and super yummy! It sounds like it should be super heavy, but surprisingly it didn't seem heavy. Interestingly, when I cut each loaf into 20 slices and used the light cream cheese, it worked out to be only about 130 calories per slice (according to my recipe software). Now, I'm guessing the average person might slice thicker, but I'm trying to control calorie intake and figure that it is easier to eat an entire thin slice than half a normal slice.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
3/4 pound butter
8 ounces cream cheese
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt

Yield: 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.

Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

With mixer on low, add flour and salt in two additions, beating until just combined. Remove from mixer and gently fold from top to bottom to ensure even mixture of the flour.

Generously coat two loaf pans (1-1/2 quarts each) with cooking spray. Pour batter into pans. Gently tap pans to fill in corners and remove large air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out almost clean, 60 to 75 minutes (if the tops begin to brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil).

Cool 10 minutes in the pan. Turn out the cakes; cool completely, with top sides up, on a wire rack.

Look at that crumb - yum!

Macerated Berries
2 c Berries (I used blackberries and blueberries)
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp corn starch

Combine in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for about 30 seconds. Cover and store in refrigerator.

I find that the microwaving helps to 'juice' the berries and makes them ready to eat a little sooner.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pineapple Salsa Chicken

I have a collection of recipes that I have been wanting to try, but because they are out of sight in a folder, I rarely think to look through them to find something to make for dinner.

This recipe is from Dole and appears to be something I tore out of a booklet of some sort. I made some adjustments, adding more bell pepper and using a smaller pineapple than was in the original recipe.

The fresh salsa flavor was a welcome addition to our winter menu, but would be excellent in the summer on grilled chicken. We enjoyed it with a side of rice. We have a good amount of salsa left, so we will enjoy that with some tortilla chips.

Pineapple Salsa Chicken

Servings 4 (but there was salsa leftover)

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Fillets
2 cups pineapple tidbits
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno peppers

Prepare chicken on the grill or in the oven.

In a bowl, combine the pineapple, peppers, green onions, cilantro and jalapeno peppers.

Serve chicken with the salsa.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Beef Taco Skillet

This recipe was inspired by Campbell's Beef Taco Skillet. A few weeks ago, they had a recipe in the Parade magazine that I snipped out with plans to make it. As I made it, I thought it needed a bit of pizzazz and so I modified the recipe to make it more my own.
Beef Taco Skillet
1 # Ground Meat
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup
1 c Salsa
1/2 c water
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 green chili (canned), diced
5 flour tortillas, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Brown your ground meat and drain. Add in the taco seasoning packet and cook down according to packet directions.

Stir in soup, salsa, water, tomatoes, and chili.
Mix and then add tortillas mixing them into the sauce. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

I had already prepared, seasoned taco meat in the freezer, so this meal was very quick to put together. I pretty much put everything in, brought to a boil, and then cooked 5 minutes. So, in about 10 minutes, I had dinner on the table. The salsa and chili pepper gave it a really nice flavor. I served it with chips on the side.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sonora Chicken Pasta

Many of the dishes that I like to make for dinner are knock off versions of recipes from restaurants that we have eaten at. One such dish is Sonora Chicken Pasta, which I believe was from the menu at Ruby Tuesday's. I think that this is one where my husband was traveling on business and had dinner at a Ruby Tuesday's. Upon returning home, he asked me if I could make something like it. I found a recipe and made a few tweaks like substituting milk for the cream. The dish has a great flavor, the contrast of the warm pasta and chicken, the spicy cheese sauce (and beans), and the cold tomatoes creates what I consider to be a great experience. There is something about mixing hot/spicy with cool that makes a dish very appealing to me. It is great with fresh tomatoes or diced, canned tomatoes.

Sonora Chicken Pasta
Yield: 8 servings

1 pound Kraft Velveeta Cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1/4 cup minced green chili
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black beans
1 dash paprika
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 dash Italian seasoning
3/4 pound Smart Taste prepared
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or diced Roma tomatoes
2 green onions chopped

Combine cheese with milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir cheese often until it melts and becomes smooth.
Saute the red chili pepper, 2 tbsp green chili pepper, 2 tbsp onion and 1/2 clove garlic a couple of minutes. Then, add water to the pan so that the peppers do not scorch. Simmer another 2 minutes until the water has cooked off.
When cheese is smooth, add the sauted peppers and onions, 1/4 tsp salt, sugar, vinegar and cumin.
Leave on low heat stirring ocassionally until the other ingredients are ready.
Pour the entire can of beans into a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining onions and peppers and paprika.
Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until everything else is ready.
Rub chicken with olive oil, season with salt and Italian Seasoning. Grill for about 5 minutes per side, until chicken is done.
Remove chicken from grill and slice into strips.
Spoon pasta, cheese sauce, chicken breast, black beans, and chopped tomatoes into serving dish. Sprinkle with green onions.