Everyday Mom's Meals: February 2024

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Pasta For Lent

No matter if you celebrate Lent or not, are looking for meat-free dinners or not, this pasta bake is going to end up on your menu plant ASAP. How do I know? Because I am a busy mom who loves to be able to make dishes with short ingredient lists too, and if I have everything on hand already, even better. 

First let's talk about the inspo for this recipe. Those meat-free Friday meals so many of us have to plan during Lent. Let's face it, there is only so much fish and cheese pizza you can eat.  

Pasta bakes seem like a great alternative, but guess what I realized when I went back through my archives to share some on my Facebook page. Most of them, at least mine, contain meat of some sort. Ground beef, sausage, chicken, meatballs...our favorites seem to always have meat in them. Which during most of the year is no big deal, but if there are EMM loyalists out there looking for something meatless, they aren't going to much help. 

So why create a new dish and not just omit the meat from another? Well, for one, that's my job lol and two, because sometimes if you omit meat from a pasta bake, it isn't going to set up right because the liquid to protein ratio will be off. Nobody wants a soggy pasta supper. 

This is basically a grown up version of a dish my husband has been making for a quick weekend for our entire almost 21 year marriage; and also makes for our boys, whom love it. He literally boils a box of elbow macaroni, mixes it with a jar of pasta sauce (usually the cheapest kind he can find) and done. That's it. Maybe sprinkle with a little Parmesan at the table. 

I took that concept, made it a little more bougie with a nice flavored pasta sauce, penne pasta and added a ton of cheese. Why so much cheese? Because your kids will gobble this down when they see how ooey gooey it is. Oh, and talking about kids- if you have picky eaters who don't groove on the meat so much, how happy are they going to be to find out this is just noodles, sauce and cheese? 

Cheesy Baked Penne is super easy, super affordable and 100% delicious. It also happens to be one of those pastas that tastes great (almost better) the next day for lunch. 

If you are celebrating Lent, I hope this is helpful for you, but if you aren't, still give it a try on a night when you just can't handle complicated!

Cheesy Baked Penne

Can I use a different kind of pasta? 

Sure! Whatever you have on hand will work: elbows, rotini, ziti, shells, etc. 

Can I use a different kind of pasta sauce? 

Yep! I like the flavor of tomato & basil, but traditional or marinara would also work. Obviously if you're trying to go meat free, a meat flavored one not so much.

  Why 3-4 cups of cheese?

 I wanted to use all 4 cups I had, but decided 2 cups was a little too much for the top. But you can use whatever amount your family will like.

Cheesy Baked Penne

Best Tips

Look for a jarred sauce that says "thick" so it bakes up nicely. 

You could add veggies this as well: mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, spinach. Be sure to precook them and drain off any extra liquid. 

An Italian blend cheese would work too. 

Add some dried red pepper flakes for a little spice. 

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Cover to reheat in microwave. 

Cheesy Baked Penne

2 (16 oz.) boxes penne

2 (24 oz.) jars tomato basil pasta sauce

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. Italian seasoning, extra for top

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a deep 9x13 baking dish. Boil pasta until al dente. In a large bowl combine pasta sauce and seasonings. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Add to sauce. Mix well. Add half pasta to bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 cups cheese. Add rest of pasta. Top with remaining cheese, either 1-2 cups. Sprinkle with extra Italian seasoning. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

Cheesy Baked Penne

More Pasta Bake Recipes To Try 

Baked Goulash

Lasagna Casserole

Cheesy Baked Tortellini 

Easy Baked Ziti  

Copycat Pizza Hut Cavatini 

Baked Spaghetti

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Some Might Call Me Obsessed

 Over the past year, nothing has been posted more to EMM than frozen meatball recipes. I make no apologies for it, and I hope you guys are enjoying them as much as I am creating them. 

I blog what we eat. Sure, there are times when I try to keep up with food trends like when I made Marry Me Chicken, Whipped Hot Chocolate and Cafeteria Noodles to name a few. And while we enjoyed those recipes very much, for the most part what you see on the blog are dishes I have made with the intention to simply just get supper on the table.

Hence why so many meatball recipes have made their way to your feed thanks to my page. I have become a little obsessed with finding new ways to utilize one of my favorite frozen foods. 

So how did this latest one come to be? I was planning a Mexican night at home, but wasn't feeling tacos, burritos or nachos. Time to see if I could combine my meatball friends with Mexican flavors we love. The answer? YES! 

Crock Pot Enchilada Meatballs can be served as a tasty appetizer for a crowd or for an easy weeknight supper like I did, alongside some cheesy rice. You could also pile them into a hoagie roll, top with cheese, lettuce and tomato for a tasty twist on a meatball sub! 

If you saw yet another meatball recipe and groaned, I'm sorry you're disappointed. But I promise you might change your mind at the first bite!

What kind of meatballs do I use?

You want to look for the frozen meatballs called "homestyle" or sometimes original. Italian ones won't taste the same.

 Can I cook on high instead of low?

If time is an issue, yes you can cook these on high for 2 hours.

 Can I substitute something for the enchilada sauce?

While I haven't tried anything else, you could! Maybe a green verde sauce or even a salsa instead. If you do, let me know how it goes!

What do I serve with Crock Pot Enchilada Meatballs?

Some ideas: Cilantro rice, refried beans, chips and salsa, fiesta corn, black beans

 What is your favorite brand of frozen meatballs?

My two favorite frozen meatballs to use are the Great Value brand at Walmart and Bremer's at Aldi. Yep, both are just as tasty as name brand and much. more budget-friendly!

Crock Pot Enchilada Meatballs

 Best Tips
Be sure to stir the meatballs well before serving to coat them well in the sauce.
If you can find a packet of enchilada seasoning instead of taco, that would be perfect!
Like things spicy? Use Pepper Jack cheese, spicy Rotel and/or diced jalapeños.
A can of diced green chilies would be delicious too.

Crock Pot Enchilada Meatballs

1 (28 oz.) bag frozen homestyle meatballs

1 (10 oz.) cans red enchilada sauce

1 (10 oz.) can Rotel 

1 packet taco seasoning

Shredded Mexican style cheese 

Cilantro, for garnish

In the bottom of Crock Pot, whisk together enchilada sauce, Rotel and taco seasoning. Add meatballs. Stir to combine. Cook on LOW 4 hours. Keep on warm until serving. Stir before serving. Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. 

Crock Pot Enchilada Meatballs

More Meatball Recipes To Try Next

Crock Pot French Onion Meatballs 

Crock Pot Italian Meatballs 

Crock Pot Korean Meatballs

Crock Pot Meatball Subs

Crock Pot Hawaiian Meatballs 

Meatball Pasta Bake

 Crock Pot Teriyaki Meatballs 

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs