09 March 2012

Mexican Stuffed Shells

I may not be able to invent dishes from nothing, but occasionally, once I've finished with a recipe it's far better improved than when I began.  Such is the Case of the Mexican Stuffed Shells (sounds like a delectable mystery novel), a Pinterest recipe found here.

It all began when my green onions went bad... the day after I did my shopping.  I should clarify that going to the grocery store-- or anywhere for that matter-- is no easy feet given the location of our apartment, the ridiculous LA traffic, and the even more ridiculous LA parking. I could've walked to the local market but I never have cash, they only allow charges to be $5 or higher, and I didn't feel like buying random stuff just to bring up the total.  Moreover... I'm lazy.

Okay so, my green onions went bad and I apparently needed them for the recipe, so I decided to substitute a real onion and saute it when I browned the meat.  As I reread the recipe I then realized the major lack of flavor my shells were sure to have.  They were just basically taco flavored meat in pasta-- BORING. Thus my stuffed shell recipe was born.  And double bonus: I also came up with a great snack as well so you're getting 2 for 1 blogs today!  How lucky are you?

Start with your seasoning-- the most important part!
Yup, that's homemade taco seasoning. Super easy, made with all common spices, and much lower in sodium than that store bought crap.  Plus look how much of the individual spices I still have leftover... and do you see how much it made?!  This will be my go-to from now on.

While the shells boil, mix up the yummy filling...
Mmmmmmm creamy goodness... You could also try using sour cream if you're not a fan of cream cheese, you just don't need to simmer the meat longer. It'll change the flavor a bit, but come on... it's not going to be bad.

You could pretty much stop at the gooey melted cheese part and say "screw you!" to the garnish.

Mexican Stuffed Shells-- Jamie style!

1 to 1.25# ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp homemade taco seasoning
1 cup water
4oz Lite Cream Cheese
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Everything else:

18-20 jumbo pasta shells
1 cup salsa
1 - 8oz bottle Taco Sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

1/2 to 1 cup cilantro, chopped or torn 
Chopped green onions
Chopped black olives
Chopped fresh tomatoes

1.  Cook pasta shells according to the package's PRE-BAKE directions. (In other words, you want the shells to be al dente.  Salt the water to prevent them from sticking and be sure to separate each noodle when they're done.)
2.  In a large skillet, brown onion, garlic, and meat. When cooked through, add taco seasoning and 1 cup water, simmer for 10 minutes (or until most of the liquid has cooked down).  Then add the cream cheese in small chunks, cover and simmer, stirring regularly until meat is blended with cream cheese.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cilantro.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread salsa on bottom of 9x13 baking dish (you probably won't need the full cup so feel free to save the rest for garnish). Stuff shells generously without overfilling, lay evenly in dish with the open side up, and cover shells with taco sauce.  Cover dish with foil and bake 30 minutes.
4. Remove foil, add shredded cheese, then bake uncovered for 10 -15 minutes more.  Top with condiments you like-- I obviously chose cilantro.  Serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole.

Seriously delicious dish.

**Next time I think I'll toss some chopped jalapeno in with the onion for added heat and flavor. Not to mention I'm concocting a recipe for Mexican Stuffed Shells with Chicken. Stay tuned...

And also....

Mexican Stuffed Cups-- an impromptu appetizer

So I had some leftover filling, didn't feel like boiling up 2 more noodles, and was getting hungry just smelling everything, so I decided to make up a snack.  Here's the before:

And now for the After:
These are also absolutely delicious and a great, easy snack for after school, weekends, drunk nights, a casual party... ANYTHING!

Mexican Stuffed Shell filling (see above)
Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
Tostitos Scoops

Fill each scoop with filling, spread evenly on baking pan, top with cheese.  Bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees, or until cheese is melted.  Top with a dollop of guacamole (optional... and not pictured) and serve with salsa.

You could also use this meat filling for nachos as well.

I need a clever name for these-- any ideas?  I must say I'm loving trying out recipes and reinventing them. Do you have any recipes you are afraid to try because you're not sure if they're good?  I will make and review them for you. I wish I could do a piece where you come over and we cook the recipe together and have a photo shoot BUUUUUUT none of my readers live nearby. Sad panda.

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