Growing up, it was pretty standard that spaghetti or baked chicken would make it into our weekly dinner rotations. It was easy for my working mom to get dinner on the table fast with very little thinking involved. I’ve been guilty of this as well, and when I am tempted to make the same ol’ spaghetti, I challenge myself to jazz it up somehow.
My Jumbo Stuffed Meatballs are inevitably what ends up happening when I want something family-friendly and fast, but that differs from typical spaghetti with meat sauce. Meatballs stuffed with mozzarella instantly add some pizazz to the meal, while making them large and in charge keeps things exciting.
Also exciting? Shredded Chicken Taquitos night! Serve on top of a bed of lettuce or alongside some Spanish rice for a complete meal. They’re great for appetizers, too. I’ve topped mine with an avocado crema, but you could certainly just serve it on the side for a less messy way of indulging.
Finish things off with some Chocolate Frosted Brownies. With an irresistible homemade batter, the brownies are delicious on their own but kick up a notch or two—or ten—when topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkled with white chocolate shavings. Triple chocolate might be a more adequate title for them.
1 lb. ground beef
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
8 small (1-in.) mozzarella balls, or 1-in. chunks mozzarella cheese
Pasta sauce, to serve
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an oven-safe skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine ground beef with minced garlic, egg and seasonings in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix and then tightly form ground beef mixture into 4 giant meatballs. Poke a hole in center of each meatball with your thumb, and insert 2 mozzarella balls, then form meat around the cheese to seal it, reshaping into a ball. Place meatballs in prepared skillet over medium-high heat. Brown well on all sides. Transfer skillet to preheated oven and bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Meatballs are done when a meat thermometer inserted in center registers 155 degrees. Toss in pasta sauce before serving. Serve over pasta or, for a low-carb option, atop zucchini noodles.
Makes 4 servings.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
10 (10-in.) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
2 ripe avocados
1⁄3 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or medium-size pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring until tender and onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute more. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes and seasonings and cook until hot. Reduce heat to low to keep warm.
Add chicken filling to the center of each tortilla and top with 2 Tbsp. cheddar cheese. Roll tightly and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tortillas are crispy.
To make Avocado Crema, slice each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove pit and scoop out flesh. Add flesh of avocados and remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Drizzle over top of taquitos or serve on the side. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Makes 10 taquitos.
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2⁄3 cup canola oil, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
Shaved white chocolate, garnish (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup evaporated milk (or regular milk)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8-in. square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and place a piece of parchment paper inside pan with a bit of overhang.
In a medium-size bowl, stir together cocoa powder and baking soda. Blend 1⁄3 cup canola oil into cocoa powder until well mixed and shiny. Carefully add boiling water and stir until mixture thickens. Add sugar, and stir in remaining 1⁄3 cup canola oil and eggs; mix until smooth. Slowly add flour, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Stir in mini chocolate chips. If you’re adding nuts, fold them in now, too. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out slightly wet. Allow brownies to cool completely before frosting.
To make Chocolate Frosting, combine all frosting ingredients in bowl of stand mixer and whisk together until smooth.
Transfer brownies to a cutting board by lifting parchment paper overhang “handles.” Drop frosting onto center of brownies and, using an offset spatula, gently spread frosting to edges, being careful not to touch brownies with spatula.
Sprinkle with shaved white chocolate, if desired.
Makes 9 servings.
Aimee Broussard is a Southern food blogger and award-winning cookbook author. Seen on QVC, Rachael Ray and more, she is a self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur with a penchant for porches and sweet hospitality. Find her online at aimeebroussard.com.