Ground Beef and Refried Beans Tacos

This can also be served with tortilla chips as an appetizer or hot dip.

1 lb ground beef
½ medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. T Adobo seasoning, or to taste (Start with 1 tsp.)
1 small can (4 oz.) diced green chilis or ½ c. Goya Recaito Culantro cooking base (Find in specialty food stores.)
½ c. bottled salsa (your favorite)
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
2 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese
Flour tortillas
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Sour cream

Brown ground beef with onions and season with Adobo. Add green chilis and salsa. Spread meat mixture across bottom of medium casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, moisten refried beans with just enough water to make them spread easily over the meat mixture in the casserole. Top with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Serve with warm tortillas (wrap in foil and warm in oven while dish is cooking). Top each taco with shredded lettuce, fresh chopped cilantro, and sour cream. Yields 12-14 tacos.

You could serve this as a warm dip with tortilla chips.


Stuffed Pasta Shells

Comfort food at its finest.

1 box (12 oz.) jumbo pasta shells (boiled, drained, cooled)
1 28 oz. jar pasta sauce (or make your own, about 4 cups)
½ lb. mild Italian sausage, browned.
½ c. sliced mushrooms, lightly saute’d
2 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling and set aside while you boil the shells. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stuff each cooked shell with about 1 T. ricotta filling, placing them in a greased a 9×13-inch baking dish or a lasagna pan as you go. Use all the filling.

Sprinkle Italian sausage and mushrooms over filled shells. Pour sauce over shells and bake 45-60 minutes until bubbly.

Top with additional Parmesan or shredded mozzarella if desired and place under broiler for a minute or so or until golden brown and bubbling.

Chicken and Dressing Country-Style

Chicken and Dressing
Unabashed comfort food

This is ideal if you have only 4 or 5 people for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and aren’t up for all the rigmarole that goes with roasting a whole turkey, especially the cleanup. Roast and serve this in one dish.

1 large chicken, cut up
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. ground sage
½ c. onion, chopped, lightly saute’d in butter
½ c. chopped celery (optional)
1 loaf plain white fresh bread, torn into small pieces
2 cans cream of chicken soup
½ c. chicken broth
1 c. water

Lightly brown chicken and set aside (don’t cook through). Saute’ the onion (and celery if you’re using it). Tear loaf of bread into pieces. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, sage, onion, chicken broth, and 1 can of cream of chicken soup (reserve 2nd can). Mix to form a dressing and mound in the center of a large baking dish, leaving room around the edges to surround it with chicken pieces. Place chicken pieces in the dish.

Mix reserved can of cream of chicken soup with 1 c. water and pour over chicken and dressing. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or more.

Note: cream of mushroom soup can be substituted in this recipe. We have also used cream of celery soup in the dressing. This recipe came from my ex-mother-in-law, Grace Reynolds and she didn’t use celery. (When I make this for my husband, I  add the celery and also sometimes mushrooms.)

Here’s a thought: Why not arrange this in a slow-cooker and cook it that way? I will update this post once I do that. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

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.)