{Make-Ahead} Unstuffed Shells

I made this for the family a few weeks ago... it was a total HIT!  Super-easy, and made great leftovers, too.  Will definitely be revisiting this recipe again right after the holidays.  :)  (As seen on Kraft.) I like to double this recipe - keep one for us, and share a dish with others!

{Make-Ahead} Unstuffed Shells

total time: 1 hr 15 min
prep time: 30 min
servings: 6

4 c. medium pasta shells, uncooked (2/3 of 16-oz. box)
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef or mild Italian sausage
1+ jar (24-32 oz.) marinara sauce (I like to use Classico Family Favorites - Smooth & Rich Traditional flavor)
1 8-oz. block of cream cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
1/4 c. grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1.5 c. shredded mozzarella cheese 

Cook pasta as directed on package, without salt.
Brown meat in large skillet; drain. 
Stir in marinara sauce; simmer on medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Drain pasta. 
Mix cream cheese, sour cream, garlic, Italian seasoning, basil and Parmesan in large bowl; stir in pasta.
Spray 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray. 
Spread half the meat sauce onto bottom of the dish; cover with layers of pasta mixture and remaining meat sauce. 
Sprinkle with mozzarella; cover with foil. 

2 options:
  1. BAKE NOW - Heat oven to 375ºF. Cover dish - bake 20 minutes. Uncover dish - bake another 10 minutes.
  2. BAKE LATER - {Refrigerate up to 24 hours.} Heat oven to 375ºF. Cover dish - bake 30 minutes. Uncover dish - bake another 15-20 minutes.

Shopping list if doubling recipe:
  • 2 boxes of medium pasta shells
  • 2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef or mild Italian sausage
  • 3 24-oz. jars Classico Family Favorites - Smooth & Rich Traditional flavor
  • 2 blocks of cream cheese
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • minced garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • basil
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 bags shredded mozzarella cheese

Pomegranate Salsa

Here's the yummy salsa Mom made at Thanksgiving and at the Rogers Birthday/Christmas Party! 

Pomegranate Salsa

2 pomegranates (peel under water to prevent staining clothes)
2 avocadoes, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 tomatoes (I use 4-5 Roma tomatoes--they're not as juicy)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander (I used less than 1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (I used less than 1/4 tsp.)

Mix all together and serve with scooped tortilla or corn chips.

Margene's Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

The classic, perfect recipe for your ham leftovers!

Margene's Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (1 Tbsp. dried)
1 qt. cubed, cooked potatoes (4 c.)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I use medium cheddar)
1.5-2 c. ham, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cook onion in butter until golden and translucent.
Blend in flour. 
Take off heat, so as not to burn. Then put back on stove when adding the milk. 
Gradually add milk to make a white sauce. Heat until it thickens, stirring constantly.  (Make sure it thickens here in the pot, because it won't in the oven later.) 
Add salt, pepper, cheese & parsley. 
Put 2-3 spoonfuls of sauce in a 2-qt casserole dish, then layer 1/2 of the potatoes and 1/2 the ham.  Pour in 1/2 of the remaining sauce, the remaining potatoes and ham, then finish with the rest of the sauce.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  (You may want to protect your oven, it often will boil over.)

Peppermint Bark Popcorn

A friend (that's you, Hayley!) pointed me to this little recipe... and it is beyond delicious!  I made it as part of our Christmas goodies this year, and I'm having to use some serious willpower to stay out of it.  That is, until I'm done typing this post!  One batch makes quite a bit, and it packs and keeps really well... if I wasn't so greedy this year, I'd send some over to the neighbors!  ;)  This yummy treat will definitely be included in our Christmas goodie-making each year to come!  (As seen on Our Best Bites.)

Peppermint Bark Popcorn

16 c. popped popcorn (fresh, or about 2 bags microwave unbuttered, natural/salted popcorn)
1 lb. almond bark
1 6-oz. box candy canes (12-ct.), crushed (about 1 generous c., Bob’s brand are best!)
1/4 tsp. peppermint oil or 2 tsp. peppermint extract*
3/4 c. semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

* Flavored oils (for candy making) will combine best with the almond bark, if you can find them.  Otherwise, if using extract, the almond bark will seize or go lumpy - just stir quickly and pour quickly on the popcorn.  Once mixed in it will be fine.

Place popcorn in a very large mixing bowl.

Melt almond bark according to package instructions.  (I melted mine on the stove in just a few minutes.)
When completely melted, add extract or peppermint oil. 

Pour the bark mixture over the popcorn and pour crushed candy canes on top.  Stir to evenly coat. 

Spread popcorn mix onto waxed paper to cool.

Melt chocolate chips slowly in the microwave (follow the bag instructions).
Drizzle over popcorn mixture. 
Let mixture dry completely until chocolate and almond bark are hardened. (Close to the end of this process, I packed mine up and put it in the refrigerator to help it solidify faster.)

Once mixture is solid, break it apart into chunks, and enjoy!
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