Well Dined


Semi-Homemade Dinners

I, like most people out there, do not make gourmet meals every day. In fact, a lot of the time I cook what's affordable, easy, and comforting. I have a collection of recipes that foodies may snub because they are old fashioned - like casseroles - or use pre-packaged ingredients. I am not ashamed of these things because, hey, sometimes it's hard to get food on the table. So here are some recipes that I can depend on to save me when I am low on time, money, and energy.

Beefy Noodle Bake

This is a great recipe for getting rid of leftover produce, frozen veg, and canned goods. You can easily adapt it to use whatever you have on hand. I discovered it in a Taste of Home casserole booklet.

Starch, protein, and veg are included in one dish. Creamed corn provides sweetness, chili powder provides flavor.

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb cooked wide egg noodles
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) cream-style corn
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
optional - 1 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Mexican blend)

In a Dutch oven or large pan, cook the beef, onions, and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish.
Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until heated through.

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

This recipe comes straight off the back of a box of Stove Top Stuffing. I discovered it in grad school and it definitely helped get me by.

Pieces of chicken breast, dried basil, mozzarella cheese, and a mixture of stuffing and tomatoes are layered and baked.

The result is an easy dish with classic Italian flavors that will please even the pickiest eaters. The stuffing actually creates a layer that seals in moisture and prevents the chicken from drying out.

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg (6 oz) stuffing mix for chicken (Stove Top)
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Mix tomatoes, stuffing mix, water and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.
Layer chicken, basil, and cheese in a 3-qt casserole or 13x9-inch baking dish.
Top with stuffing. Bake 30 min or until chicken is done.

Pumpkin Ravioli

This is a great recipe that comes from Buitoni. It takes advantage of the convenience of package ravioli and sauce, and elevates it by using fresh ingredients like white wine, shallots, scallions, sage, and pumpkin. When pumpkin puree is unavailable, butternut squash works just as well.

1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 container (10 oz) alfredo sauce (can opt for the light version)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage (1 tsp dried)
2 pkgs (9 oz each) refrigerated four cheese ravioli
2 tbsp chopped green onion

Cook wine and shallots in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Stir in sauce, pumpkin and sage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Stir reserved water into sauce; toss with pasta. Sprinkle with green onion. Season with ground black pepper.

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