Meaty, No-Bean Chili

chili in a pottery bowl with tortilla chips on the side
Meaty, No-Bean Chili

My husband doesn’t like beans. No problem with this chili recipe:

1 pound lean, coarse ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small rib celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1 14.5 oz. can beef broth
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 small can (4.5 oz.) green chilis
2 T tomato paste (opt)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

1. Cook ground beef loosely in skillet until browned. Pour off excess fat if there is any. While the ground beef is cooking, Heat your chili pot or soup kettle over medium high heat, add olive oil, and saute’ the chopped onion and celery, adding the garlic last.
2. Simmer, then add cumin, paprika, chili powder, onion flakes and dried oregano. Add beef broth, stewed tomatoes and green chilis.
3. Add ground beef and simmer 20 minutes. Simmer another 30-40 minutes.
4. Add the chopped cilantro about 10 minutes before serving to keep the flavor fresh.


For New Year’s Day: Armadillo Turkey

a turkey with pineapple skin covering the breast
The ultimate party presentation: Armadillo Turkey

ARMADILLO TURKEY: Do it for New Year’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday

All you need do, is carefully carve the skin from one fresh pineapple, about 1/2 inch thick. Save the flesh for another purpose. You will have 4-6 pieces (try to keep them as large as you can). Prepare and truss your bird for roasting as you usually would.

Carefully cover the breast area with the pineapple skin pieces, skewering them into place with toothpicks or small metal skewers. You will have cracks between the pieces, that’s okay. The spaces can be filled in later with parsley and kale as you can see in the photo.

Roast the turkey according to the instructions. The pineapple will baste the breast and give it a tropical flavor.

When done, let the turkey rest 30 minutes, then garnish by surrounding the bird in curly kale (or use your imagination). I found parsley was perfect for tucking into the cracks between the pineapple pieces on the breast. Don’t skip the presentation, the look on the faces of your guests will be worth the extra effort.

Rigatoni Pie

rigatoni pasta upright in pan with sauce and cheese
Rigatoni Pie is easier than it looks

1 Lb. rigatoni (preferably, the shorter, wider ones)
2 T. Olive oil, divided1 Lb. ground beef
2 large garlic cloves
½ teaspoon oregano
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil the rigatoni in a large pot of boiling, salted water until slightly underdone. When done, drain, rinse with cold water and toss with 1 T. olive oil. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 T. olive oil in a skillet and cook ground beef. Add chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Be sure to break up meat into small pieces. This will be helpful later when filling the pie. Takes about 5 minutes.

Add oregano and crushed tomatoes; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss rigatonis with Parmesan cheese.
Grease a 9 or 10-inch spring-form pan. Begin placing rigatonis on end in the pan. You may need to tilt it slightly until the rigatonis fill the pan, all standing upright like little soldiers. Snugly put as many as you can, but stop before the start to flatten or collapse. You want them round and ready for filling.

Spread meat sauce over the pasta, letting it sink down in. If necessary, you can use a chopstick to gently tuck meat pieces down into the little tubes. Use all the meat sauce.

Place pan on a foil lined cookie sheet (because with a springform pan, there could be some leakage around the bottom) and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, then top with mozzarella and finish baking another 15 minutes. At the very end, you can place the pan under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to bubble the cheese and turn it golden.

Remove from oven and let sit another 15 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife and unmold to serve.

How to Brine a Turkey

turkey in brine
Brining will make your turkey more moist and flavorful.

1 – 13-18 LB fresh turkey
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves, crumpled
1-1/2 to 2 gallons water

roasted turkey
Roast brined turkey in your favorite manner

You will need a large non-reactive pot big enough for your turkey and the brine. Mix the water (start with 1-1/2 gallons and add the other ingredients. Stir until salt and sugar dissolves. Place cleaned and rinsed turkey into the brine, adding the rest of the water to cover. Place in a cool spot for 8-12 hours before roasting in your favorite manner. (I like to finish the turkey in my Nesco Roast-Air convection roaster oven.)

Loose Meat Sandwiches

loose-meatIf you have ever had the Iowa favorite, Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich, this is a close copycat recipe for you: LOOSE MEAT SANDWICHES

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (better yet, use 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes)
1 lb. ground beef
1⁄3 cup tomato ketchup
1 T cider vinegar
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoons seasoning salt and a pinch or two of pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown onion and sauté until soft, then add meat, stirring constantly with a fork to crumble.

When meat is brown, add all remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid cooks out (about 15-20 minutes). Spoon onto hamburger buns.

Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti sauce
Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce


2 small/medium eggplants, cubed (about 3 cups)
½ to ¾ lb. ground beef, browned in skillet
1 can (28-ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, in juice (alternate: use tomato puree)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 T. tomato paste
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Pinch salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
Pinch sugar, optional
2 T. olive oil, to saute’

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet and set aside.

Cube eggplants (amount is not critical, they get very soft and tend to dissolve into the sauce adding both flavor and texture) sprinkle with salt and place in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. (Youner eggplants do not need to be peeled.) Rinse quickly and drain. Using the same large skillet, (work in batches if necessary) brown the eggplant cubes in olive oil until deeply golden and flavorful. Set aside while you start the sauce.

Empty the contents of the tomato can in a mixing bowl and coarsely crush the tomatoes with a fork or your hands, leaving them a little chunky.

In a heavy bottom 2-quart saucepot over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions. Saute’ until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute’ about a minute until golden. Quickly add the tomato paste (stirring) eggplant, ground beef and crushed tomatoes to the mix. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, add the rosemary, oregano and Italian seasoning. You can add a touch of sugar if desired or if tomatoes are tart.

Simmer on low, stirring often for about 40 minutes. If not using right away, cool down and store in airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Serve over pasta with flaked or freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This sauce freezes well.

Italian Rotolo in Marinara Sauce

rotolo slices on plate
Italian Rotolo

ROTOLO in Marinara Sauce

1/3 pound prosciutto, very thinly sliced
1 pkg. (12 oz.) cooked spinach, chopped well drained
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. roasted sweet red peppers (from a jar) drained, chopped
½ c. pitted Greek olives, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional, as garnish)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
¼ c. milk
1/2 tsp baking powder

Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Melted butter
1 qt. marinara sauce (your favorite)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. To make the pasta (classic method), mix the flour baking powder and salt together and mound on a work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the eggs and milk into the well. Mix the eggs with a fork. Then begin incorporating the flour from the inside of the well into the eggs. Bring in just enough of the flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. You may need to add a little water if the dough seems too dry or flour if it is too wet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rest while you make the filling. Easier and faster method: Place all pasta ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer. Mix first using the paddle, then switch to the dough hook to knead.

To make the filling, combine. Spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, roasted red peppers, Greek olives, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a large round about 17-18 inches in diameter. The dough should be thin.

Lay prosciutto slices evenly over pasta sheet. Spread the filling evenly over the dough to within ½ inch of the edges. Roll dough like a jelly roll. Wet and pinch the seam to seal it and to prevent the filling from coming out. Place the roll along a long edge of a large clean kitchen towel, roll the pasta up in a towel, and tie the ends of the towel with string. I usually use 2 square yards of cheesecloth folded in thirds and roll, tying the ends.

Bring a large, oval turkey roasting pan filled with 1 gallon of water to a boil. Carefully lower the cheesecloth-encased pasta roll into the water, bending it gently to fit if necessary. When the water returns to the boil, partially cover the pot and poach the roll for 30 minutes, turning once or twice to keep it round. Remove the roll carefully with 2 spatulas, place it on a baking sheet, and let it cool.

rotolo in pan ready to bake
Rotolo in pan

Untie and unwrap the towel and carefully transfer the roll to a cutting board. Cut ½ inch off each end, then make 12 slices, about 1-1/4 inches thick and lay them on their sides in an oiled baking dish in a single layer.
Serve with a simple marinara sauce (store-bought is fine, or make your favorite). Pour sauce in the bottom of baking dish, cover and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 minutes more, finishing under the broiler until the top edges begin to turn golden brown. Serve with additional Parmesan Cheese. (Also, fresh basil is a good addition to the filling or as a garnish).