Now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom, I am making more of an effort to cook more. I have never been a what I’d call a good cook, but I enjoy it and I can follow a recipe pretty well. My biggest challenge is getting inspired to cook. I lack the ability to look in the fridge and what to make for dinner magically pops into my head, I need to actually do a little planning first. My mom says it takes practice. Now that Tommy is old enough to play by himself and let me cook, I’m doing my best to practice more. And since Bill is such a great cook, he’s been very patient with me as I learn. As I come across recipes that are successful for us, I’ll try to take some photos to share.
This recipe for Mexican Stuffed Shells has been popping up on Pinterest quite a bit lately and is getting rave reviews on the couple of message boards that I frequent. So a few months ago I decided to give it a try. Honestly, I didn’t love it, but I thought it had potential to be really delicious. It’s also one of those handy dishes that can be made ahead of time and then stored in the freezer until you’re ready to bake. I made it again a couple of weeks ago for Mom, Dad and Michael and I made some changes to the recipe to suit our palettes.
First Edit: The Filling. The recipe calls for the shells to be stuffed with just ground beef, taco seasoning and creme cheese. I thought there was some potential to add variety to the texture here, so I added about half a can of organic black beans and a couple of handfuls of frozen corn to the mix. For the taco seasoning, the recipe calls for low-sodium seasoning, but I wasn’t able to find any. Someday I’ll make my own, but for that evening I just used half a packet of Lawry’s Taco Seasoning. Using the whole packet would have likely made the dish too salty.
Second Edit: Taco Sauce. This was the biggest issue I had with this dish, each shell is doused in taco sauce before baking. Until I made this for the first time, I had never tasted taco sauce. It’s just never been part of my food choices. I didn’t even know what kind to buy, so I went with a sauce that was recommended. I didn’t like it, I thought it was too salty and I disliked how the entire dish relied so much on the flavor of the taco sauce. I imagine if you’re a fan of taco sauce then by all mean, use it. This time, I just used fresh salsa. In the summer, I imagine this will be fun to make with homemade salsa made from homegrown tomatoes.
About a week after I made this, I had these shells at a friend’s house and she topped them with a jar of enchilada sauce from Trader Joe’s. It was quite good and had a little kick to it.
The meat mixture:
Almost ready to bake:
Garnished with diced scallions and a dollop of sour cream. Other condiments on the table include the extra salsa that wasn’t used, Tapatío sauce (if you’d like some spice) and guacamole.
Verdict: So. much. better. I much prefer the milder flavors from the salsa vs. the taco sauce. I can actually taste the corn, seasoned beef and the tomatoes in the salsa. Mom, Dad and Michael seemed to like it too, I didn’t hear any complaints.