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




BBQ Chicken Meatball Sliders

BBQ Chicken Meatball Sliders

A couple weeks ago my best friend and I got together for a little horror movie watching and cooking (a couple of our favorite activities). We made a few treats for the horror-themed blog we write together, check it out here! We decided to watch Friday the 13th, and made a few delicious recipes to go along with the movie. While perusing recipe ideas for our dinner and a movie night, I came across these BBQ chicken meatball sliders and while we ultimately decided on making some awesome chicken parm sliders instead, I still wanted to try out this recipe, especially since we had just been gifted some Texas barbecue sauce and smoked cheddar cheese by Ron’s grandparents. These sliders turned out wonderfully! The smokiness of the barbecue sauce was especially good with the smoked cheddar cheese. They were great for a dinner, but would be an awesome appetizer to serve as well. Wouldn’t a make-your-own slider bar be a fun idea for a party? After making a couple recipes for these little sandwiches, I’ve gotta say I’m hooked.

BBQ Chicken Meatball Sliders

BBQ Chicken Meatball Sliders

Makes about 16 meatballs


1 lb ground chicken

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large egg

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp chili powder or chipotle chile powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup barbecue sauce

1/2 small onion, minced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

To assemble:

Slider rolls, toasted

Shredded cabbage or lettuce

Grated cheese (I used smoked cheddar)

Tomato slices (optional)

Pickles (optional)


1. Mix together the ground chicken, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper in a large bowl, until combined.

2. Form meatballs, by rolling 1-2 tbsp of the chicken mixture into balls.

3. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the meatballs and brown on all sides. This will take about 5 minutes total.

4. Remove the meatballs to a plate, and set aside.

5. With the skillet still on medium-high heat, add the onion, and saute a few minutes until translucent. Add the meatballs back to the pan, and then add the barbecue sauce. You can add about 1/2 cup water if the sauce is too thick.

6. Bring the sauce to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

7. Assemble sliders by placing on a slider roll and adding toppings of your choice.

Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa

Another of my favorites from week 2 of the Whole Living Action Plan, these roasted vegetables were so filling and flavorful! Seriously guys, this dish was so good! I love butternut squash and Brussels sprouts already, and roasting them is definitely the way to go, but tossing them with smoked paprika gives the vegetables another amazing layer of flavor. Smoked paprika has to be one of my favorite spices ever, but I don’t cook with it nearly enough. The sauce that is mixed with this dish, and then served on top is also a wonderful thing! Who would have thought the combination of tahini, apple cider vinegar and some herbs could be so wonderful. I love all those flavors separately, but I never would have thought to put them together. Definitely a winning dish!

Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa
Serves 2

3 cups butternut squash, diced
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup cooked Quinoa
2 1/2 cups baby spinach, divided

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and on the baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, olive oil or coconut oil, salt, pepper. and smoked paprika. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown.
2. To make the sauce, add the garlic, tahini, vinegar, olive oil, water, chives, parsley and cilantro to a food processor. Pulse together until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Toss the roasted vegetables, Quinoa and 2 Tbsp of the sauce together in a large bowl.
4. To serve, toss each serving with 1 1/4 cups baby spinach. Drizzle with remaining sauce, to taste.

Source: Whole Living, January/February 2013

Smoked Paprika previously: Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze

Paprika Shrimp Quesadillas

Who doesn’t love a delicious quesadilla?  I mean, it’s basically cheese and a tortilla filled with any delicious combination of veggies/meats/whatever you can dream up?! Any food that derives from the word “cheese” is automatically awesome, right?  Some of my favorite combos are chorizo and jalapeno, and chicken and peppers.  I’ve actually never made one containing shrimp before, but this one is delicious.  The shrimp are so flavorful on their own, especially with the addition of the smoked paprika (my new favorite spice), but the combination of them with the cheese, scallions, cilantro, and tomatoes make them even better…. and it’s such an easy meal which makes it perfect for a weeknight.  

Paprika Shrimp Quesadillas

Serves 4 to 6
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 lime, juiced
A small handful of cilantro, finely chopped
8 large tortillas
2 plum or vine tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 scallions
2 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
Guacamole and/or sour cream for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or a grill, griddle or grill pan to medium-high.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Toss shrimp with a drizzle of olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Add the shrimp to the pan, and cook until done, about 4-6 minutes.  When done, add lime juice, toss, and remove from heat.
3. Remove the shrimp from the pan, and chop into smallish pieces.  Place in a bowl, add cilantro, and toss together.
4. To assemble the quesadillas, place half of the tortillas on  foil-lined baking sheet(s) (you will need 2 baking sheets, or you can do this in 2 batches).  Sprinkle cheese onto each.  Then sprinkle on shrimp, tomatoes and scallions.  Top each with another tortilla.  
5. Pop into the oven and bake 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted.  
6. Cut into wedges and serve.
  • Alternately, you can do this all on a grill, as the original recipe calls for.  (If you are lucky and it’s not raining when you are making these!)  For grilling, preheat your grill to medium-high heat.  Once you toss the shrimp with the spices, thread them onto a skewer and grill for about 2 minutes per side.  Pour the lime juice over them before removing from the grill.  Then chop and sprinkle with cilantro.  To make the quesadillas on the grill, it’s easier if you place the ingredients on half of each tortillas and fold over, so that only one side is open.  Spray with cooking spray, and place on grill for about 5 minutes, turning once.
  • Even without the extra-smokiness that grilling these would have given the quesadillas, they were still awesome!  I used hot smoked paprika, rather than sweet smoked paprika.  Feel free to use either, just make sure it’s the fancy smoked stuff!
  • The original recipe calls for avocado to be inside of the quesadilla as well, but I decided to make guacamole instead.  It’s totally up to you.

Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze

I was desperate to use my grill by the end of last week, after numerous rainy days, and more in sight for the evening.  After checking the weather channel, and seeing that the rain was supposed to start around 7pm, I had just enough time to make my shrimp and sausage skewers before impending doom- that is, if the meteorologists were correct with their timing.  Seeing as it was 5:45, my bamboo skewers had to soak for an hour, and the kebabs had to cook for 6-8 minutes, it was a race against time.   Thankfully, luck was on my side on Friday night, as I finished up just as I felt the first raindrops start to fall.

Deciding to chance it was the best decision I could have made though.  These skewers were so good that I would gladly had stood out in the pouring rain, sheltering them from the precipitation, if needed.  What’s great about these particular skewers is that all you have to really worry about it cooking the shrimp, as the sausage used is precooked, which takes out the threat of overcooked meat from the equation- an ailment that plagues many kebabs.  The glaze was an added bonus in these skewers.  Have you ever had smoked paprika?  It is a far cry from the generic paprika which is a great coloring agent, but doesn’t add too much flavor.  One whiff of smoked paprika and you know you’re in a whole other flavorful territory.

Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze

3/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
5 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp Sherry wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
12-20 extra-large shrimp 
12-16 1-inch-long pieces andouille sausage (about 16 ounces) (or other fully cooked smoked sausage, such as linguica)
2 bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow), cut into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 vidalia onion cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces, each piece should be 2 layers
6-8 metal or bamboo skewers (** If using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them at least 1 hour)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, vinegar, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Transfer half of the mixture to a small bowl for serving, and reserve the other half to use while cooking.
2. Make your skewers by alternately threading on shrimp, sausage, peppers, and onions.  Depending on how many pieces of shrimp and sausage you have, and how many skewers, each will have about 2 pieces of each shrimp, sausage, peppers, and onions.  A couple of mine had three shrimp each.  Arrange the skewers on a large rimmed baking sheet.  
3. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.  Coat the grates with oil (I used canola).  Brush both sides of the skewers with the glaze, and place on the grill.  Grill about 6-8 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque, turning and brushing with glaze occasionally.
4. Serve the skewers with the reserved glaze.
  • The original recipe in Bon Appetit uses cherry tomatoes and red onion in place of the peppers and vidalia onion.  My tomatoes and red onion had unexpectedly gone bad, so I substituted the other veggies, so feel free to use whatever you want.  They will still be crunchy, with the edges being slightly more cooked.  Alternately, you don’t even have to put the veggies on if you don’t want… I was just pretending to be healthy.
  • In the original recipe, the shrimp that it calls for are the extra-large shrimp, sometimes called colossal, which have 13-15 per pound, and the recipe called for 12 which would be just under a pound.  I couldn’t find these at the market, but they did have the jumbo shrimp which were 16-20 per pound.  I ended up with 20 slightly smaller shrimp, and this is why I ended up doing more skewers, with some having more shrimp per skewer.  Feel free to use either- the U 13-15 are hard to find in my experience.
  • I realized as I was making this that I didn’t have fresh thyme, so I substituted the dry.  A general rule of thumb is that 1 tbsp of fresh herbs, equals 1 tsp of dry herbs.
  • I used Pimenton de la Vera for my paprika, which is a hot smoked paprika.  You can also used sweet smoked paprika if you want.  It’s sometimes labeled “Pimenton Dulce” or “Pimenton de la Vera Dulce”.  Don’t use the normal paprika you may have in your spice cabinet- the smoked paprika makes a huge difference!

Turkey Burgers with Cheddar and Smoky Aioli

Now that it’s unofficially summer, and I have a working outside grill, it seems the perfect time to start exploring the wonderful world of burgers.  Growing up, I admit that burgers were not my favorite meal in the world…. sorry mom and dad.  I have changed my opinion though now that I’m older, and have realized the burgers don’t just have to mean a ground beef patty on a bun with ketchup and mustard.  I like the kicked up burgers with interesting toppings and lots of cheese far more than the plain burgers, and nowadays they are actually something I crave.  I am personally more a fan of turkey burgers, rather than beef, and so I decided that my first burger of the season would be one made with ground turkey.  After doing a little searching, I came upon a recipe for a grilled turkey burger with cheddar cheese and smoky aioli that originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.  This burger is seriously one of the best I’ve ever made- the toppings are awesome- cheddar cheese, grilled peppers and onions, and to top it off a delicious cumin and coriander spiced aioli. Really awesome!

Turkey Burgers with Cheddar and Smokey Aioli
Serves 4

1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing veggies
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
4 red onion slices, 1/3-inch thick
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers, quartered
4 slices cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
4 hamburger buns

1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat, and toast cumin and coriander seeds about 1 1/2 minutes, or until aromatic and slightly darker in color.  Shake skillet often to move seeds around while toasting.  Once toasted, grind spices in a spice grinder, or crush in a mortar with pestle.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, and spices.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a medium bowl gently mix turkey with 2 tbsp of the aioli (mayo mixture).  Make 4 3/4-inch patties with the turkey, and make a shallow indentation in the middle of each burger with your thumb.
3. Prepare your grill (should be about medium-high heat).  Sprinkle your burgers with salt and pepper on each side.  Brush the onions and peppers with olive oil.
4. Grill onions and peppers for about 4 minutes per side, until soft and charred.
5. Grill burgers 5 minutes on one side, then flip and grill 4 minutes.  Place cheese on burgers, and grill a minute more.
6. Assemble burgers with desired toppings- onions, peppers, arugula, and a nice dollop of aioli.

Source:, originally from Bon Appetit, August 2009


  • I highly recommend using a grill basket for the veggies in this recipe.  I unfortunately do not have one yet, and about 1/2 my onions ended up falling into the hot coals- luckily I had sliced more that the recipe calls for, and so the survivors were enough.
  • I grilled the burger buns on the grill as well, so if you like toasted buns, place them on the grill while the burgers are cooking, checking them frequently.  Move them around a little too, if some are on a hot or less hot part of the grill, so that they are toasted evenly.
  • I used white meat ground turkey for my burgers and they turned out perfectly fine, and not too dry, but the darker meat will turn out a juicier burger.  Dark meat is harder to find though- it’s not carried at the Shop and Stop I go to, but is carried at Whole Foods.
  • The aioli this makes was the best part in my opinion, and you’ll probably have some left over after you put it on your burgers.  It makes a great dipping sauce for fries, so I’d say that’s a good way to use any extra.