Thursday, March 8, 2012
Easy Weeknight Dinner- TACO Stuffed Shells
I know this; I love stuffed shells, and I love anything taco-esque...so why not get those two concepts hitched up into a delicious, easy weeknight dinner that is a total crowd-pleaser!?!
As much as I wish this idea was my own, I always prefer to give credit where due- and this innovative yumminess comes from the Building Food Storage Blog (click the link for original recipe and photos).
This is my version of that awesome dish- I've had a husband and 6-month old battling the flu over here this week so I didn't have a moment to check the recipe and had to go from memory of seeing it once and using the ingredients I had here. That alone should give you a concept of how EASY this is to make.
What you'll need to make Taco Stuffed Shells:
1 lb lean ground turkey (you can also use beef, of course or a substitute of Veggie Taco Meat * if you are vegetarian or making this dish for a Lenten Friday dinner)
1 15oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped**
1/2 a red bell, finely chopped**
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese (this is the 1/3 less fat "cream cheese"- if you read the package on the Philly brand, or buy generic, you'll see it's actually Neufchatel- go figure!)
1 box of large pasta shells
1 can of large olives, drained & sliced (or buy em sliced to save more time!)
4 chopped green onions
a few handfuls of shredded cheddar or jalapeno jack cheese
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, avocado and a little extra chopped green onion for garnish
A jar of salsa- or about 1-2 cups fresh salsa
*you can skip the taco seasoning step and also choose yay or nay on the additional veggies if you make the vegetarian taco meat recipe above...
**the jalapeno and bell pepper are completely optional, I threw em in because I had them in the fridge and didn't want them to go to waste...
***You can ALWAYS just buy the packet from the store or follow the instructions on THIS LINK to make your own. I eyeballed a combo of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, sea salt & black pepper to taste.
In a large skillet cook the ground meat thoroughly, add the seasoning as the meat cooks, or according to package directions, if using a packet. (if you use extra lean meat you shouldn't have to drain the meat after cooking- especially if you go the turkey route)
Add the onion, beans, jalapeno & bell pepper and stir over medium heat about 3-5 minutes.
Meanwhile start a large sauce pot full of water boiling on another burner for the shells.
Add the Neufchatel or cream cheese to the meat skillet, reduce heat to low and stir until cheese melts in.
Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.
Boil the shells according to package directions- about 9-12 minutes, you want them to be "aldente" because they will finish cooking once filled & baked.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water- set aside. (skip if prepping a freezer meal- see below)
Drain the shells and spread out on a sheet of wax paper to cool- so they don't cool all nestled into one another and stick together.
Pre heat the oven to 375
Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with foil.
Pour a little of the pasta water in the bottom of the baking dish- just enough so the bottom is covered completely in a VERY THIN layer of the water. (again, skip if freezing- see below)
Dot the bottom of the pan with salsa.
Use a wooden spoon or your clean hands to stuff each shell with the meat/bean mix and line them up in the pan until you've used all the filling.
Pour salsa over the stuffed shells in the pan.
Sprinkle the shells with shredded cheddar or jalapeno jack cheese.
Sprinkle the cheese covered shells with green onion.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Top with sliced olives, sour cream (or non fat Greek yogurt), green onions, avocado and hot sauce.
FOR A FREEZER-MEAL VERSION- COOK THE SHELLS 1 MINUTE LONGER, OMIT THE PASTA-WATER STEPS AND STOP AT THE "POUR SALSA OVER THE STUFFED SHELLS IN THE PAN" STEP.
COVER THE PAN WITH FREEZER PRESS N' SEAL AND THEN FOIL & FREEZE.
WHEN READY TO MAKE- REMOVE PRESS N' SEAL, COVER WITH FOIL AND BAKE ON 400 FOR 30 MINUTES- REMOVE FOIL- SPRINKLE CHEESE & GREEN ONION, BAKE AN ADDITIONAL 15 MINUTES.