Shells and Cheese with Kielbasa and Peas

Ever since discovering my favorite recipe for Easy Mac and Cheese almost 2 years ago, it’s become a regular in our weeknight dinner rotations. I love it because I can whip together in almost the same amount of time as a store bought packaged mac and cheese or side item, but it’s so, so, so much better. Plus I love knowing exactly what is going into my food. No mystery chemicals or high fructose corn syrups.

During my first trimester of pregnancy I was exhausted all the time and many nights I just didn’t have the energy for complicated dinners. This led me to do more experimenting with the recipe and add-ins to turn mac and cheese into a quick weeknight meal. This has been one of our favorite combinations. The kielbasa adds a nice smokey flavor and the meat that Jesse likes to round out his dinners. The peas add a light sweetness and make me feel just a tiny bit better about eating mac and cheese for dinner (even though I know peas aren’t the best vegetable choice in the world, still better than nothing!) I hope you like this combination as much as we do!

 

Here are some more Easy Weeknight Dinner ideas!

Easy Foil Packet Salmon
Easy Homemade Fish Sticks
Easy Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce
Easy Mexican Lasagna

 

Foil Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn

I’ve been so inconsistent about posting food lately that I’m almost lost about how to even write this post! I really need to get myself back into the swing of things…

In the weeks leading up to “the big move” I pretty much gave up on trying to make and photograph food at dinner time. I was usually too tired after work to put the proper amount of effort into it, the lighting was terrible, and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s also kind of hard to get motivated to make a whole meal when it’s just you you’re cooking for.

On my own, I could happily eat noddles with a little olive oil, garlic, squeeze of lemon and boat load of cheese almost every night for dinner. But during the day (I had a break while the girls were in school) I had much more energy and of course was always looking for an excuse to do anything other than pack my apartment. So I found myself making a lot of my big meals for lunch.

This fish was one of those mid-day meals. I’ve got to tell you, it was one of the best lunches I’ve had in ages. It’s been over a month since I made it and I can still taste it when I think about it.

The chipotle adds a deep smokey flavor that balances out perfectly with the lightness from the citrus in the orange juice. Then there is the punch of cilantro and the little bit of butter makes everything melt together. It’s also great because it’s basically a one dish meal with easy preparation and clean up. Definitely something you should try. I used Tilapia because it was on sale at the grocery store, but pretty much any mild white fish will work. If you’re worried about it being too fishy, try using a fish like mahi mahi since it’s flavor is even milder.

Also, I found this recipe on Pink Parlsey and this week Josie shared a spin-off recipe using chick peas instead of black beans. Sounds interesting!

Foil Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn
Ingredients
4 skinless white fish fillets (6 to 8 oz each), 1-inch thick
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or 1 tsp dry Chipotle chili powder
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups corn kernels, I used half frozen sweet corn and half frozen roasted corn (from Trader Joes)
1/2 red onion, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and adjust rack to lower middle position.

Pat the fish fillets dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the softened butter, 1/2 of the chipotle pepper (or chili powder), orange zest, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and half of the garlic. Spread the butter mixture over the fish.

In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, corn, red onion, 2 tablespoons of cilantro, orange juice, remaining chipotle pepper (or chili powder), remaining garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out 4 squares of aluminum foil and divide the bean mixture evenly between them. Place one fish fillet on top of the bean mixture on each sheet of foil. Fold the foil in half over the fish and then seal all of the open edges by folding the foil edges up and in.

Carefully move the foil packets to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Carefully open the packets, sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, The Best Simple Recipes as seen on Pink Parsley

Southwest Turkey Meatballs

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I can remember a point in my life when I would say, “Corn is not an ingredient!” It was actually a subject I felt pretty passionate about. To me corn was a side dish that went along with mashed potatoes, not a part of soup or salsa. What in the world was I thinking? I can’t tell you why I thought that or what changed, what I do know is that now I love it! Especially when paired black beans and cilantro. Yum!

That combination of corn, black beans, and cilantro was one of the reasons I loved this meal so much. But really, it’s one of those meals that is an all around winner. It’s healthy, it’s filling, it’s quick, and it’s easy. I knew the moment I saw the post on Rachel’s blog (Good Thymes and Good Food, fun blog name, huh?!) it would be a hit in my house and it was.


Southwest Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients
1 cup corn (frozen or fresh cut off the cob)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained & rinsed well
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice & zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup panko crumbs
1/2 tsp onion powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ c. chicken broth

Directions
In a medium bowl, combine the corn, beans, tomatoes, garlic, lime (juice and zest), cumin, and cilantro. Lightly season with salt and pepper, set aside.

In another bowl, using clean hands, combine the ingredients for the meatballs (turkey, egg, panko, onion powder, salt and pepper). Shape into 16 meatballs, about the size of a golf ball.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until they are evenly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes with frequent turning. It’s OK if the meatballs aren’t fully cooked through, they will continue to cook, you’re mostly looking for browning.

Add the chicken broth to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits. Add the tomato mixture and continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through and meatballs are fully cooked.

Serve over rice (brown rice keeps it healthy!) with extra cilantro and cheese for garnish.

Adapted from Good Thymes and Good Food, originally from Clean Eating Magazine

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce

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Try not to be too confused by my post today. The story and meal don’t match, but I don’t have a great story about this Mexican Black Bean Sauce. It came together incredibly easily and might have become my new favorite meatless meal. You know I love my black beans and to put it over pasta in the form of a sauce is just pure genius. Now onto my completely unrelated story (that mentions another recipe all together)…

Maybe you heard about a little blackout in Southern California last week. Around 3:30 all the power went out from Tijuana all the way up into Orange County and across to the California Arizona border. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t notice the power had gone out. The girls and I were working on homework and since it was daylight we didn’t have any lights on and there was no air-conditioning to go off. A neighbor actually called and asked if ours was off too and that’s when I looked at the clock and noticed. After that it didn’t take long to realize how wide spread this power outage was. And pretty much everyone left work early.

Not knowing how long the outage would last (and hearing it could be a day or two) I wanted to use up some of the things I knew would go bad. Meat and cheese. Thank goodness we bought that grill, because I managed to use it make the super easy Mac and Cheese (that’s how easy it is, I did it without power, partially in the dark, on a grill). Then we dined by candlelight with a few friends and tried to enjoy the slow pace of the evening. I snapped this picture with my phone and just had to share it with you.


Now for the recipe!

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce
(Adapted from Branny Boils Over)

Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 can (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro and cherry tomatoes for garnish
Cheese for garnish (optional)
12 ounces pasta, cooked according to box directions

Directions
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, sugar, and oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the sauce, and add to the bowl of a food processor* along with the black beans. Process to desired consistency then add back to the skillet and stir into the reserved sauce.

Serve over pasta with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and cheese garnish.

*If you have an immersion blender, you can use that instead of the food processor and save the dirty bowl.