Southwest Skillet Ragu

Hello friends! One of these days my goal is to get back to regular posting. I swear just when I think things will get back to normal, something else comes up that keeps me incredibly busy. This time it’s a move!! My boyfriend and I have lived in the same apartment for over 6 years now, and while we love a lot of things about it, when we got word of another place opening up, we jumped on the chance to take it. This time we will be renting the 2nd floor of a two-family house which has a lot more character than the generic apartment we live in now, and I think has a lot more potential for customization… also, I’ll be getting my own office/study/craftroom space which I am super excited about, and there’s space for a decent sized garden!!!! Anywho, our move out/move in date is January 1st, and that is rapidly approaching. With work keeping me busy much of the week, I’m using most of my spare time packing and getting ready for the move. It’s amazing how much we’ve accumulated in the 6+ years we’ve lived together.

With all the craziness around here, I’m searching for quick and easy meals that require few pans, and minimal cleanup. Okay, that’s what I’m always searching for, but even more so these days. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Two dishes, few ingredients, and all around comfort, this dish is a winner. Goulash is such a comforting food to me (it’s one of the first I started making on my own when Ron and I moved into our apartment), and this take on it with the southwest flavors of chili powder and cumin is really yummy. Definitely recommended.

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Serves 4-6


1 cup elbow macaroni

1-1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey

1 large onion, diced

1 red (orange, yellow or green) bell pepper, chopped

8-12 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper


1. Place a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and cook pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water when done. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil, and add the ground meat. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside, and drain off most of the grease. Leave a small amount just to coat the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the onions, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and cook about 5-6 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add peppers, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 tsp of salt and cook 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

4. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add back browned meat, and simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauce has thickened.

5. Add the pasta and cheese, and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta cooking water until the sauce is to your desired consistency. Serve, topping each serving with more cheese if desired.

Source: The Kitchn




Taco Pockets

A few years ago Ron’s mom gave me a cookbook filled with recipes she loves and uses frequently in her own kitchen. It is wonderful!! It has recipes for things like chicken stock, beef stock, vegtable broth, buttermilk dressing, homemade mayonnaise, pasta sauce and a bunch of other great recipes! She put it all in a binder so that it’ll be easy to add more recipes throughout the future. These taco pockets are one of the recipes she included, and has told me many times how great they are, but it has taken me til now to make them! I blame my terrible tendency to procrastinate. I am so glad that I finally made them though. They are just as good as she said they were, and Ron and I both thoroughly enjoyed them, They are a spin on a burger, but they are spiced up with taco seasonings, and wrapped in a tortilla instead of a bun. A very fun twist on a couple of my favorite things- tacos and burgers!

Taco Pockets

Taco Pockets

Serves 4


1 lb ground sirloin, turkey, or chicken

1/2 medium Spanish onion, grated

2 tsp water

2 Tbsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp chili powder

A pinch of cayenne pepper, or a dash of hot sauce

1 tsp garlic powder, or 2 cloves minced fresh garlic

1 tsp salt

4 12-inch flour tortillas

4 oz. cheese (Monterey jack, pepper jack, cheddar or smoked cheddar)

1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded

1 large tomato, chopped

Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Avocado or guacamole, optional

Salsa, optional


1. In a medium bowl, combine the ground meat with the water, onion, spices and salt. Form into 4 patties.

2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray, or brush with a little oil. Place the patties in the skillet and cook about 5-7 minutes on each side.

3. To assemble pockets, place a tortilla on a plate. Put any toppings you’d like in the center of the tortilla, and then lay the patty on top. Fold the tortilla over the patty on all four sides. Flip over, and cut in half.

Source: Adapted from Rachel Ray

Good Stuff Melts

Last winter, Ron and I visited my brother and his fiancee (Jeremy and Michelle) down in the Washington, D.C. area. We were able to fit in a lot in the two days we were there, including seeing a lot of the amazing monuments around the city, visiting the National Cathedral, and visiting the Museum of American History. We also were able to eat at some great restaurants, including Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery. Despite being extremely crowded, and having to eat standing up at a small counter, it was well worth the visit. Our burgers were awesome, the toasted marshmallow shake was incredible, and the village fries (fries tossed with rosemary, thyme and sea salt) sold there were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Several months later I received The Good Stuff Cookbook from Jeremy and Michelle. It is one of those cookbooks where I seriously want to make pretty much every recipe in the cookbook. There are recipes for the amazing salads, burgers, fries, and shakes sold at the restaurant, among other things. I really want to make the village fries at some point, but I have to gear myself up for actually frying something in my kitchen. The burgers seemed a little more approachable, and while there are some additional steps for the burgers, such as making homemade sauce, toppings, and then the technique of wrapping the burger is wax paper before eating, they really are not hard to make at all. These are definitely the best burgers I’ve made myself, in my kitchen, and I can’t wait to try the other recipes as well.

Good Stuff Melts

Good Stuff Melts

Makes 4 burgers


20 oz. (1.25 lbs) ground sirloin

4 potato buns

1/4 cup canola oil

2 cups Spanish onions, thinly sliced

4 slices Muenster cheese

4 slices Cheddar cheese

Perfectly Roasted Wild Mushrooms (recipe follows)

About 1/2 cup Good Stuff Sauce (recipe follows)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Make patties by rolling 5 oz. ground sirloin into a ball, and then flattening it into a patty. Place the patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

2. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add oil. Add the onions, and stir around so that they are coated with the oil. Cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have browned and caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan, and place them in a bowl.

3. Season the patties with salt and pepper, and place the patties in the now empty skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes* on one side, and then flip and cook for 3 minutes. Then place a slice of each cheese, some mushrooms, and some caramelized onions on each patty, and cook for about 2 minutes more. Cover with the lid, and cook for 30 seconds more, until the cheese melts.

4. While the burgers are cooking, toast your potato buns. Heat the broiler, butter the buns, and place them face up on a cookie sheet. Place under the broiler for just a few seconds. Check every few seconds as they go from perfect to burnt quickly.

5. To assemble the patty melts, place a patty on a bun bottom, put on some of the good stuff sauce, place the top on the bun on, and wrap in a square of wax paper. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. This will allow the bun to absorb some flavor from the patty and the toppings. Eat and enjoy!

*The amount of time you cook it depends on how well-done you like your burger.

Perfectly Roasted Wild Mushrooms


1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

12 oz mixed wild mushrooms (i.e. shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle)

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter

3/4 bunch fresh thyme, chopped

1 garlic clove, sliced


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes, until the liquid is released. Add 3/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, and cook about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are browned.

2. Add the butter, thyme, and garlic and cook about 5 minutes more. Add remaining salt and pepper.

*The directions here are a bit different than what the cookbook says to do as it has you cook the mushrooms over high heat the entire time. I did that, and my mushrooms burned, even cutting down the cooking time. That said, maybe it was my stove misbehaving and not the directions. In either case, I don’t think cooking the mushrooms on a lower temperature will do any damage, it might just take a little longer.

Good Stuff Sauce

Makes about 1 cup


1 large egg*

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp ketchup

1 Tbsp molasses

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tsp salt


1. Add the egg, mustard, vinegar, and salt to a blender or food processor. Blend for 30 seconds in a food processor, or 10 seconds in a blender.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil, in a thin, steady stream, until the mixture is smooth. Stop to taste and adjust thickness if needed. If too thick, add a little hot water, and blend. If too thin, blend for a bit longer. Stop here and you have a basic mayonnaise!!

2. Now add the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, and salt. Blend until combined. You can refrigerate this in an airtight container up to a week.

*This does contain raw egg. If you are skeeved out by this, or have a weak immune system, you can skip making the homemade mayonnaise portion and just use pre-made (I recommend Hellman’s). To do this, just mix 1 cup mayonnaise with the ketchup, molasses, rice vinegar and salt until combined.

Source: barely adapted from The Good Stuff Cookbook

Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

Simple Beef Chili

I made this chili a couple of weeks ago on one of those days where winter was still trying to keep its grip on us. Chili is the perfect comfort food- it is on the same plane as soups and stews. My dad makes a mean chili. Growing up chili was usually a meal for a Sunday. I remember coming downstairs in the morning before church, seeing the crock-pot sitting on the counter, already simmering away as my dad always wakes up super-early, and getting very excited about the deliciousness that would await us later. I loved coming home from church to the delicious chili-scented air. I’m pretty sure he never follows a recipe, adding a little of this, and a little of that, and having it be the same but also unique each time (if that makes any sense).

Me… I’m sure I could throw together some chili without following a recipe as well, although I’m not sure it’d live up to my dad’s, but I really love trying out the numerous chili recipes out there as well. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook alone has 6 different recipes for chili, and I fully intend to try them all! I decided to make this one first, as I was lured in by the ingredient list which includes pretty much all pantry staples in my home. Ron says this is the best chili I’ve made yet (and I’ve tried a bunch of recipes), so it was definitely a success! It’s very simple (as the title states), but it still takes its time to cook, so it’s definitely best for a weekend or day off. I made it on a weeknight, and so we didn’t end up eating until 9:30 this particular night… the wait was so worth it though!

Simple Beef Chili

Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

Serves 4-5


1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 lb 85% lean ground beef

1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed

1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (14.5-oz) can tomato puree



Lime wedges

Cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Diced avocado



Sour Cream


1. Place a Dutch oven over medium-heat, and add oil. Heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell peppers, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. Cook until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes, stirring and breaking up with a spoon.

3. Add the beans, diced tomatoes (with juices), tomato puree and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove the cover, and cook for another hour, stirring occasionally. (If the mixture begins to stick, you can add up to 1/2 cup water.)

4. Season with salt to taste. Serve with any optional condiments desired!

Source: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Jalapeno Popper Sliders

So burgers mixed with jalapeno poppers sounds awesome, am I right?  When I saw this in Rachel Ray’s Everyday magazine I just couldn’t resist trying out this combo.  Yep, once again I’m back with some Rachel Ray… I picked this particular issue up at the grocery store recently as I had finished all the food magazines I subscribe to, and an amazing looking burger beckoned to me from the cover.  Not the popper sliders, but rather a burger topped with an extra-thick onion ring.  Perusing the magazine though brought me to these sliders, and I knew that I would have to try them.  I mean, who doesn’t like jalapeno poppers?  (It’s okay if you don’t, I won’t judge you too harshly.)  So in this recipe, a mini-burger is topped with the ingredients of a jalapeno popper- a seasoned cream cheese, sauteed jalapenos, and a bit more cheese for good measure- covering both jalapeno poppers stuffed with cream cheese, and those stuffed with a cheddar cheese.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Jalapeno Popper Sliders
Makes 6 sliders

3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into rounds, or strips
1 red Fresno chile pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
Extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil, for drizzling
4 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp grated onion
1 large clove garlic, grated or pressed
A small handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 lb ground beef
2 oz. sharp or smoked cheddar, or smoked Gouda, sliced
6 slider rolls, such as 3-inch brioche rolls, or cornmeal topped dinner rolls, split
1. Preheat your grill (or griddle or grill pan) to medium-high heat.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and add jalapenos and Fresno chile peppers.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, until they are charred on the edges, and crisp-tender.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, onion, garlic, cilantro and cumin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
4. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper.  Form 6 small patties, with an indentation in the center of each. Brush the grill with canola oil (or other oil with a higher smoke point).  Place the patties on the grill, and grill for 2-3 minutes.  Flip the burger, top with a dollop of cream cheese mixture, and a piece of sliced cheese.  Grill for 2-3 minutes more until the burger is cooked, and the cheese is melted.
5. Place the burgers on the rolls, and top with the chile peppers.
  • For the last step of the recipe, when you have flipped the burger and placed the cheeses on top, the original recipe says to put the cover of the grill down, or tent with tinfoil to promote melting.  I really didn’t think this was a necessary step, as my cheese melted just fine without the top down.  
  • I loved these burgers, but next time I want to try stuffing the burger with jalapenos, cream cheese, and cheese to make it even more exciting!  A burger stuffed with jalapeno popper ingredients sounds even awesomer to me- maybe stuffed and topped with them…. hmmmmm…
  • Also next time I won’t seed the peppers, as with them de-seeded there was very little heat.  It is perfect this way if you like mild food, but since I like things spicy, hopefully keeping the seeds in will be just the thing to literally spice things up.