Sunday, February 23, 2014


This meal is like a grown up chili mac, and some people have also declared it an adult version of Hamburger Helper.  Here is what you need to know: it's creamy, meaty, perfectly spiced, filling, delicious leftover AND I've made it at least 10 times.  I've used ground beef almost every time, but I've also used ground turkey and shredded chicken.  Both tasty, but I definitely prefer the beef.

This recipe doubles easily, but this time I actually tripled it.  A group of us rented a cabin for a celebratory birthday weekend, so there were many mouths to feed.  I chose to make this because it's a favorite of the birthday boy and it couldn't be easier to prepare. 

This was the first time I've had a talented photographer offer to document the cooking process.  This pasta has never looked so delicious.  These pictures are just fabulous.  THANKS, BRAD!  The photos make me want some cheeseburger mac right now.  Anyone else tempted to lick their screen??? 

If I'm giving shout outs, I'll give one more to my other half.  I like to call him my "Cheese Sauce Apprentice" because he volunteers is forced to make the cheese sauce each time we have this.  He didn't even know what a roux was the first time he made this!  Now he's an expert. 

You'll find the recipe here.  The only change I make is to use a heaping cup of macaroni, maybe an extra third or fourth of a cup.

Boil the pasta in all the other ingredients- easy!

There is something about not using an additional pot for boiling pasta and not using a colander to drain it that just makes me so happy.  The pasta will soak up the liquid and then it'll be time to add the cheese sauce!

Looks ready for some cheese

Stir in the cheese sauce (and make a big mess!)


1 lb lean hamburger meat
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies (or petite diced tomatoes)
2 cups beef broth (or water)
1 HEAPING cup elbow macaroni

Brown and drain hamburger meat. Stir in taco seasoning, Rotel, beef broth, and macaroni. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and cover pan. Simmer 12-14 mins until macaroni is tender.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking for 5 minutes until fragrant and light brown in color. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Whisk until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until melted. Add the salt and pepper to the cheese sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the hamburger mixture. Stir gently to combine.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I bought ingredients to make some kind of Italian inspired pasta and was very excited about it!  Then, my other half reminded me about the dozen eggs sitting in the fridge that were about to expire.  He also declared his love for frittatas, so this dinner was born.  Mild Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, aged Italian cheeses and of course, eggs.  Easy, filling, delicious and perfect to pack for lunch the next day.  Fresh tomatoes would be delicious, but there were only 6 grape tomatoes leftover from salad night.  I used those in addition to the can of tomatoes.  I may double the tomatoes next time I make this.  I had 3 packages of mushrooms and the jumbo bag of spinach, so this frittata is huge.  It fit in a 9x13 dish and would be perfect for a crowd.  If you're not planning to feed an army, just halve the recipe to fit in a pie dish!

This recipe is so versatile: use spicy sausage for an extra kick, a variety of mushrooms, sub Egg Beaters for the eggs, add Italian seasoning or use a different blend of cheeses.  Frittatas are fab because you can suit them to your taste!  My first frittata was very breakfasty: potatoes, cheddar, onions, peppers and Jimmy Dean sausage.  This one has a dinner/Italian flavor.

You guys, it is AGED TO PERFECTION.


1 lb mild Italian sausage
3 containers sliced mushrooms, 8 ounces each
1 can petite diced tomatoes, 14.5 ounces, drained of ALL liquid
1 clove chopped garlic
1 bag spinach, 9 ounces
9 eggs
1 container shredded Italian cheese blend, 6 ounces
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste*

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown and crumble sausage in nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Remove to large baking dish, 9x13.  In same skillet, saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until cooked down and all liquid has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add drained tomatoes and cook until most liquid has evaporated.  Add in spinach by the handful, stirring to wilt.  When liquid has significantly reduced, add sausage back to skillet.  Stir to combine ingredients.  Spray baking dish with nonstick spray.  Add meat mixture in an even layer to dish.  In a large bowl beat eggs with salt and pepper, then carefully pour over meat mixture in dish.  Sprinkle cheese evenly on top, then bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until eggs have set.  Slice and serve immediately.

Note:  Depending on the sausage and cheese you use, you will need to adjust your salt accordingly.  Eggs need lots of salt for flavor, but be familiar with the saltiness of your cheese. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I've been seeing lots of recipes floating around online for baked tacos.  You fill your taco shells with cooked meat, beans and cheese, then stand them up in a casserole dish and bake them.  Then you add your cold toppings.  Sounds fabulously easy!  I headed to the store and found these super cool shells:

I was looking forward to super stuffing them with delicious filling!  I opened the box like an excited child on Christmas morning, and this is what I found:

Christmas is RUINED!  I was faced with a few options: cry, go to the store for more shells, or be an innovator.  Crying is for babies.  The store was filled with people stocking up on toilet paper, milk and bread for the snowstorm.  Only one option left.  My uncle had actually just texted earlier that day to let me know about a little enchilada casserole he whipped up.  He had tons of enchilada filling, sauce and cheese, but not enough stamina to roll all those enchis.  Instead, he layered it in a baking dish and said the results were outstanding.  Thanks for the inspiration, Uncle Dave!

First, brown and crumble a pound of ground beef.  Add an undrained can of chili beans, a cup of salsa and a packet of taco seasoning.

Medium heat gives the perfect kick!

Simmer the meat mixture until the liquid reduces, about 10 minutes.



You want it to be a little liquidy, so the taco shells don't stay completely hard and crunchy.  I've had casseroles with flour tortillas, which turn into a gooey mushy layer.  Corn tortillas are good, but kind of disintegrate in the liquid.  Taco shells seem like the happy medium!  Time to layer.  Broken shells, meat mixture, cheese, repeat.


1 lb extra lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 can medium heat chili beans
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup salsa
1 box taco shells
2 cups shredded cheddar (or mexican blend or whatever you'd like!)
sour cream, salsa, lettuce, toppings!

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown and crumble ground beef.  Add undrained beans, taco seasoning, and salsa.  Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, until mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat.  Break taco shells and place about half on bottom of 8x8 baking dish.  Add half of meat mixture and spread to cover evenly.  Sprinkle on one cup of cheese.  Repeat layers.  Cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes.  Uncover and broil for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is perfectly browned and melty.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into 4 pieces.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Disclaimer:  I may have seemed incredibly optimistic throughout the ordeal of a ruined baked tacos recipe.  This is why:
My cooking partner for the evening.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


This meal was the result of cleaning out the pantry.  Half a box of pasta, a can of enchilada sauce, chicken broth, frozen chicken breasts, fajita seasoning, Ro-tel, sour cream, half a block of white cheddar and half a block of yellow.  We were craving both Mexican and comfort food.  This meal was the perfect combination of the two!  A co-worker gave me a packet of Lawry's Fajita Seasoning awhile back and I've been trying to think of a creative way to use it.  She swears by this stuff and orders it in bulk online, so I knew it would be delicious.

I seasoned the frozen chicken breasts with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper then baked them.  While they were cooking, I boiled the pasta in all the liquid ingredients.  When the chicken was done, I shredded it and tossed it in the pasta along with the cheese and sour cream.  We like beans in southwestern pasta, but didn't have any whole beans.  I heated up a can of refried beans and debated whether to mix it into the pasta, or just use it as a base under the pasta in our individual bowls.  I went with the latter and it was definitely a winner.  Next time I make this I may purchase a rotisserie chicken so I can skip cooking the chicken altogether!  Plus, I am kind of a rotisserie chicken skin addict.

The Ro-tel and enchilada sauce were both spicy, so adjust according to your own preference.


2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (precooked would save a step!)
Chili powder
8 ounces any small shape pasta
2 cups chicken broth
1 can enchilada sauce, 10 oz
1 packet fajita or taco seasoning
1 can Ro-tel (or petite diced tomatoes)
1-2 cups shredded cheddar (I used extra sharp yellow and white)
1 cup sour cream
1 can refried beans

Season chicken with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, or until fully cooked through, then shred.  If using cooked chicken, shred and set aside.  In large skillet with lid, combine broth, enchilada sauce, fajita seasoning and Rotel.  Stir until seasoning is completely dissolved, then stir in pasta.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until pasta is done.  Taste then season with salt and pepper as necessary.  Stir in cheese until melted, then stir in sour cream.  Serve over cooked refried beans. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Chicken.  Pesto.  Spinach.  Pasta.  Melty, broiled cheese.  Do I need to tell you more, or are you already convinced you need to make this meal?  Okay, one more important thing to tell you: remember this pasta?  I purchased Rao's sauce again, and it MADE this dish.

Layer sauce, spinach, seasoned chicken

The good stuff.

Spread pesto over chicken

After cooking, top with cheese!

Broiled cheese: beautiful.  Broiled spinach: woof.


1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1 jar pesto, or about 1 cup homemade
1 jar marinara sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1 bag baby spinach, 9 oz.
Italian seasoning
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 lb pasta

Preheat oven to 375.  Start a large pot of water boiling for pasta.  Coat bottom of 9x13 baking dish with about 1/2 cup marinara sauce.  Lay spinach leaves on top.  Season both sides of chicken with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  Place on top of spinach, avoiding overlapping.  Spread pesto on top of chicken.  Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until chicken is almost done.  Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese on top, put the foil back on and bake for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Remove foil and broil for about 3 minutes, until cheese is browned and bubbly.  While chicken is baking, boil pasta in salted water according to package directions.    Drain pasta and mix with remaining marinara sauce.  Serve chicken over pasta.