Tex-Mex Stuffed Shells

Someone I care for very much is about to undergo cancer treatment for the fourth (or maybe it’s fifth?) time. I was so heart broken when I heard about it. This time it is a more rare form and has moved to a different part of her body. To try and help her and her husband out, I wanted to make some freezer meals for them to eat when they got back home (only 12 places in the country treat this type of cancer and Atlanta isn’t one of them). I made them some chicken and rice, a chicken pie, whole wheat sweet potato bread, and cornbread.

Depending on what the dish contains will determine how far you go with cooking if you plan on freezing it. For the chicken and rice, nothing was cooked; I just placed it in the aluminum pan. For the chicken pot pie, I cooked the chicken first and then mixed everything together and placed the pie crust on top. This dish was was similar to the chicken pie; I cooked the meat, pasta shells, and sauce, assembled it, and placed it in the freezer. Because I was not preparing this for myself, I can not comment on the end product, but I tasted everything individually, and it was good.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shells
Adapted from Elly Says Opa
Yields 2-8×8 aluminum pans

1-12 oz. box large pasta shells
1 batch ground beef filling (recipe below)
1 batch tomato sauce (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups Mexican cheese blend, shredded

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
1-29 oz. can low sodium tomato sauce
1/2 cup low sodium beef broth or water
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 bay leaf

Ground Beef Filling Ingredients:
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper,diced
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup low sodium beef broth or water
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 oz. sour cream

1. To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the sauce slowly bubble and simmer, stirring occasionally, as you make your ground beef mixture.

2. Cook the onion and green pepper and brown the ground beef in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic. If necessary, drain the fat off the beef.

3. Return the beef back to the skillet and add the water/beef broth, cumin, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat until most of the water/broth has been absorbed. Re-season to taste if necessary. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before stirring in the cream cheese.

4. Pour about 2/3 cup of the tomato sauce into the two aluminum pans. Stuff each shell with a tablespoon or so of the ground beef mixture, and place on top of the sauce in the pans. Continue until all the shells are stuffed. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, and then sprinkle with the cheese. If you are making a freezer meal, place the pans in freezer once cooled.

5. To bake: Cover the pans with foil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degrees preheated oven. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 until the cheese is bubbly and begins to brown.

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