Italian Stuffed Shells

A friend of mine recently celebrated her birthday, so in honor of the occasion I hosted dinner at my house.  The guest of honor said she was in the mood for stuffed shells; I’ve never made stuffed shells before so I was excited to try something new.  I essentially used some of the same ingredients for making lasagna, but stuffed it into giant shells instead!

This was an easy recipe and great for serving a lot of people.  I actually doubled the recipe since I had a few guests.  I made the sauce and filling the night before, but I wouldn’t suggest preparing or stuffing the shells in advance because they may not hold together as well if they sit overnight. Since I made the sauce the night before, I reheated it on low heat to warm it up, and that’s when I added the ladleful of water from the pasta.

This recipe could easily be prepared vegetarian; just remove the meat from the recipe, and I think it would taste great!

This one was definitely a hit at the birthday bash and it will be a hit at your house as well!


Here’s the recipe for Italian Stuffed Shells:

1 package of large italian shells

2 cups of mozzarella cheese, divided

1 cup of parmesan cheese, divided

1 beef bullion cube

Cook the shells according to package directions, but add one cube of beef bullion to the boiling water before adding the shells to the pot.  Before draining the shells, reserve 1 ladleful of the water from the pot to use in your meat sauce.

Meat Sauce: 

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pound ground beef or sirloin

1/2 pound italian sausage-I used mild sausage, but you could use hot if you want the sauce to be a little spicier.

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce

About 2 tablespoons of tomato paste-I just used about 1/2 a small can of tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine-okay, I probably used more like 3/4 to 1 cup but feel free to use what you like.  🙂 I used Cabernet Sauvignon, but Syrah would also be good if you want more of the flavor of the wine in your sauce.

1 ladleful of water from cooking the large shells (see directions for cooking the shells)

1 Tablespoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano

About 2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped-I just used a small handful.

Salt and Pepper, to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and sausage and brown it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  When the meat is browned, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft and tender.  Stir the diced tomatoes into the pot and cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is cooked out.  Stir in the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Add the wine and a ladleful of water from the pasta to the pot and bring to a bubble.  Add the oregano, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a bubble.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.  If you can simmer it longer, that’s even better; the longer it simmers the better it will taste.

For the filling: 

1 16 oz container of ricotta cheese

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg

About 1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained-I just used about 1/2 of a small frozen container of spinach

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Salt and pepper, to taste-about 1/2 teaspoon of each

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 425

Stuff each shell with about 1 tablespoon of the filling and place it into a 9X13 baking dish filling side up.  One baking dish should be large enough for all of the shells.  Once all the shells have been stuffed and placed into the pan, pour the meat sauce over the top of the shells.  I poured it a ladleful at a time so I wouldn’t damage the shells.  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the shells with 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and return it to the oven.  Bake, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey.  Allow the shells to cool for about 5 minutes before serving, and sprinkle with a little extra basil for garnish, if you’d like.


Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

Due to the popularity of my last crock pot recipe for Italian Beef Sandwiches, I’ve decided to post another new slow cooker recipe I found, and to share a fantastic blog.  Crock Pot Girls is a blog dedicated ENTIRELY to slow cooker recipes!  And let me tell you, there’s some good ones!  I’m a big fan of slow cooker recipes, especially during the winter months.  There’s so many good things you can make in a slow cooker; stews, chili, soup, you name it.  Plus, it’s sooo easy to cook with a slow cooker!  Just throw the ingredients in, and when you come home after a long day of work…and as Chef PickyKid says, “VOILA! It’s ready!!’

This is a slightly modified recipe from Crock Pot Girls for Beef Stroganoff.  When I cook with a slow cooker, I like to brown the meat a little first; it just seems to add a little more texture.  I couldn’t find cream of onion soup as the original recipe called for, so I just used two cans of cream of mushroom soup and added a little onion powder.  I also used light cream cheese and sour cream so I could save on calories, and it tasted fantastic!

The original recipe calls for canned mushrooms, but my husband is not a big fan of mushrooms, so I didn’t use them (I know mushrooms are kind of a staple of beef stroganoff, but I didn’t want to watch him pick all the mushrooms out!).  If I were to make this for a non-mushroom hater, I would probably add a container of fresh cremini mushrooms to the recipe.

Here’s my recipe for Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff:

1-2 pounds beef for stew-I used top round steak that wasn’t already cut up because it’s much less expensive, but you could buy pre-cut stew meat to save on time.  You could also use london broil.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and Pepper

2 cans cream of mushroom soup-I used the low fat option.

1 cup beef stock or broth

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese-I used light cream cheese.

1 8 oz container sour cream-I also used light sour cream.

Egg noodles or rice, cooked according to package directions.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the beef with salt and pepper, and brown in the heated skillet for about 5 minutes on each side or until browned on each side.  If you’re using pre-cut meat, you’ll only need to brown for a few minutes-just until the meat begins to brown.

Remove the meat from the pan and allow to cool enough to handle and cut into bite sized chunks. Place the meat into a crock pot and add the soup, beef stock or broth, onion, garlic, and another 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Mix the ingredients together and cook in the crock pot on low for 8-10 hour or until the beef is tender.

Prepare egg noodles or rice according to package directions.  While the noodles or rice are cooking, add the cream cheese to the beef mixture and stir until it’s melted.  Add the sour cream and stir to combine.  Serve the beef stroganoff over the egg noodles or rice.


This isn’t the best picture in the world, but you get the idea.  Man, I really need one of those fancy cameras!! 🙂

Kath’s Meatloaf

As a kid, I was never much of a meatloaf fan.  My father likes meatloaf, so he made it a lot when I was growing up.  Looking back on it, it was a good recipe (maybe he could post it on our blog?!), but  I just really didn’t like meatloaf.  I mean, it’s a log of beef with ketchup on it; what’s to love, right?  Well, as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a newfound appreciation of meatloaf.  It’s a great comfort food, and nothing goes better with a plate full of mashed potatoes than a huge hunk of meatloaf!

Recently, a friend of mine made her mom’s famous meatloaf for a dinner get together, and I loved it!  So when my husband requested meatloaf for dinner, I could think of no better meatloaf recipe than Kath’s Meatloaf.  It’s a classic meatloaf recipe that’s super easy to make.  I changed my version up just a little bit, but the original recipe is fantastic!  Enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need for Kath’s Meatloaf: 

1 pound lean ground beef or sirloin

2 links italian sausage (I used mild, but you could use spicy sausage for a little extra kick)

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1/2 yellow onion, grated (I like to grate the onion so I get the flavor of onion without tasting large chunks)

1 egg

1 small can of tomato paste

Salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper)

3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs

2-3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Hot pepper sauce, a few dashes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, combine ground beef or sirloin, italian sausage, garlic, onion, egg, tomato paste, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of hot pepper sauce (2-3).

Place meat in a bread loaf pan or form into a large loaf and place in a small 8X8 baking dish.  Spray the dish with cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Bake the meatloaf, uncovered for 50 minutes.

While the meatloaf is baking, in a small bowl mix together 2-3 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and a few more dashes of hot sauce.  Pour this mixture over the top of the meatloaf and return to the oven to bake for ten more minutes.  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serve with a big ol’ heap of mashed potatoes!!

Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…fall is approaching and magnificent Arizona weather is on its way.  My favorite holidays are just around the corner.  But more important, IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON!!!!  For the next 17 weeks, I have an excuse to flop on the couch on any given Sunday, because I’m watching football.

Football is an event in my house.  Sunday is all about football, from the moment we wake up, until the last game ends on Sunday night.  Even Chef PickyKid loves football; she watches the games with us, and can recite our favorite team’s fight song.  And of course,  any great event must include great food.  I like to make easy to prepare recipes on game day, so I don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen and away from the games.  That’s why crock pot recipes are perfect for football Sunday!  And, as the weather gets cooler, crock pots are great for making comfort foods (yes, I realize “cooler” for us means 70 degrees, but after two years of living in the desert, 70 degrees feels downright chilly to me).

I got this recipe from a co-worker and added a few ingredients.  I prepared it before kickoff for the morning games, and it was ready by the time the afternoon games were over.  The meat is incredibly tender, very tasty and had just a little bit of spiciness.  Yummmm!!!

Here’s what you’ll need for Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches:

3 Pounds of beef cross rib roast or chuck roast

About 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a few turns of a large pot or dutch oven.

1 Package of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

2 1/2  Cups of beef broth or stock

1 Package of Au Jus gravy mix

2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning

Kosher Salt and Pepper

About 1/2 jar of Mezzetta Pepperoncinis, stems removed and sliced; I used a little more than half the jar, because I like it a little spicier.

1 Yellow onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, divided

Ciabatta bread or sandwich rolls

Muenster cheese


Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Rub the roast with one clove of garlic.  You won’t use the entire clove.  I usually cut the garlic in half, and rub the meat with the cut end of the garlic.  Make sure you rub the garlic over the entire roast.  Season the roast with kosher salt and pepper and brown it in the heated pot.  Be sure the pot is hot when you add the meat so it will get nice and browned on both sides.

While the meat is browning, add the broth, Italian dressing mix, Au Jus mix, Italian seasoning, Pepperoncinis, onion, and one clove of minced garlic to a crock pot.  When the meat is browned, add it to the crock pot and cook on low heat for at least 4-6 hours.

Remove the meat from the crock pot and shred it, but don’t throw away the liquid from the crock pot! The meat will be very tender, so this won’t take a lot of effort.  I just shred it with two forks.  Add the meat back to the crock pot and stir it into the liquid.

Serve the Italian Beef with Ciabatta bread or sandwich rolls and the Muenster cheese.  I was a little hesitant about using Muenster, as it isn’t one of my favorite cheeses, but trust me, it’s delicious!!

Happy Game Day!!

Carne Asada

This is the second installment of Mexican Food Mania.  If you had a chance to check out my last post for Chicken Enchiladas, you know that this labor day weekend was one filled with Mexican dishes; four days worth, to be exact.

I prepared Carne Asada for dinner with friends on Saturday night. I love Carne Asada; it’s so easy to make, and very difficult to mess up.  I’ve tried many variations of marinades, and all of them have been fantastic.  You really can’t go wrong.

What I have learned from the many times I’ve made this dish is that the longer the meat marinates, the tastier and more tender it will be!  I recommend marinating overnight whenever possible.

Here’s my latest version of Carne Asada.  I’m just posting the recipe for the meat, so you can decide what you’d like to serve with it.  I usually serve it with tortillas (corn and flour),Pico de Gallo, cilantro, and some avocado or fresh guacamole.  You can also serve with sour cream and/or cheese, but to be honest, the meat is so good that a lot of extra stuff on it will really mask the flavors and adds a lot of empty calories.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any extra calories!

Here’s what you’ll need for the Carne Asada

2-3 pounds of flank or skirt steak.  This will serve 6 with plenty of leftovers.  Sometimes flank and skirt steak can be a little expensive, so if you are a chef on a budget, you can also use thin cut top round steak.  The top round steak will be a little less tender than the other steak, but still just as flavorful.  I used the top round for the Carne Asada in this recipe’s photo.

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

About 1 cup of chopped cilantro; I usually use 2 big handfuls of cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Mexican style beer; I use Negro Modelo

Juice  and zest of one orange

Juice and zest of two limes

Salt and Pepper


Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.  Place steak in a 9X13 baking dish and pour  the marinade into the dish.  Cover with foil and marinate for at least 4-6 hours.  If you can marinate overnight, that would be even better.

Heat a grill over high heat and grill for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and allow the meat to rest for about 5 minutes before chopping or slicing.