Shells with Tomato and Basil

I am a fan of mixes. It should come as no surprise to you that one of my favorite cookbooks is Fast Fixes with Mixes. I like the convenience of mixes as a base to a recipe. It allows me to come home from work and create a meal that looks like it took me a lot longer than it actually did. So I am always on the lookout for new recipes that start from a mix.

This particular recipe is not new. In fact, I’ve had it for a long time; I think before graduate school even. My grandmother was getting rid of tons of cooking magazines so I stole them all and went through and cut out lots of recipes from them. You will not be surprised that I have rarely made any of them. But on my year long (some what stalled but getting back into it) trek through my own recipes, I decided it was time to make a few. Shells with Tomato and Basil was, I think, pilfered from a Kraft cooking magazine. I guess this only because its base mix is Velveeta Shells and Cheese – the brand is even included in the recipe.

I kind of adored this recipe actually for two reasons. One, it makes a ton of food so I had it for leftovers for three days after I originally made it. Two, it works as a main course or a side dish. The first night I had it with salad and fresh French bread. The second night I had it with baked chicken and peas. The third on its own again. A dish that I can have as leftovers but still add and subtract other dishes to keep it fresh and not repetitive is always a good thing in my book. Bonus? This dish is just…pretty. I do like it when my food is not only tasty but appetizing to look at as well!

See? Pretty and tasty!

Shells with Tomato and Basil
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 package Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped (I also took out the seed parts)
2 Tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

1) Prepared shells and cheese as package instructs
2) Add remaining ingredients; cook until heated through thoroughly, stirring occasionally

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Pumpkin Cornbread

I love cornbread. And pretty much anything that includes pumpkin. So, this recipe was a no brainer for me to try. I tried it with a main dish that fell flat but this was waiting for me – still warm, moist, lots of pumpkiny goodness. Made my night instantly better. That and Kermit and Miss Piggy made an appearance at the Oscars…still bummed they didn’t get to perform “Man or Muppet.” back to the cornbread, top it with some honey or maple syrup, and you have a lovely treat for a cold night.

I used honey for my topper; maple syrup adds a touch more sweetness than honey

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp molasses

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400F and grease an 8×8 baking dish
2) InĀ  medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal
3) In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then stir in the pumpkin, oil and molasses
4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top as much as possible
5) Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean

Serve warm with honey or maple syrup

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen

Beef Taco Skillet

Somewhere along the way, I cut a short, easy looking recipe from a newspaper. I can’t for the life of me remember which one or where I might have been living when I did so. I’ve narrowed it down to either my grad school days or since I moved out here but that’s the best I can do. This Beef Taco Skillet used tomato soup for its base and I am a big fan of using Campbells for a starter – a recipe always seems fool-proof to me then.

This recipe is definitely one of the easiest I’ve ever put together and it cooked up quickly and easily. But then, what I ended up I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. The skillet gives you a concoction of beef and tortillas cooked with salsa and tomato soup. It isn’t quite thick enough to be a stew and not thick enough to be a soup. It’s somewhere in the middle. I wasn’t exactly sure how to serve it. I think for the leftovers I’ll make rice to go with the dish, but for tonight I made do with tortilla chips and sour cream.

I liked this dish but the taste of tomato soup sort of overwhelms it. I also think if I were to make this again I would add a dash of taco seasoning to give a better kick to it. As it is, this is a very mild, bordering on bland dish but filling. I had only a small helping myself and I’m stuffed. I also, unlike what the recipe called for, didn’t put cheese over the entire finished product, only my portion of it. As it will be eaten over the week, I figured I would prefer adding fresh cheese to each serving rather than putting it all on at once.

Honestly, I have a better Mexican skillet recipe in a cookbook I prefer to this one so it’s one that is not getting a permanent place in my recipe box but I’m glad I tried it out. For a busy night when you aren’t sure what to make and you know you have a pound of hamburger in the freezer, I could see this becoming an easy, go-to dish.

Beef Taco Skillet

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 water
4 flour tortillas (8″ round, cut into 1″ pieces)
1/2 cup taco blend shredded cheese

Directions:

1) Brown beef in 10″ skillet until well-browned; drain fat
2) Stir in soup, salsa, water and tortillas.
3) Heat to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes
4) Stir and serve; top each serving with cheese.

Makes 4 servings