Monthly Archives: March 2010

Spicy Skillet Beef & Pasta

Ask Rich and the girls, and they will know exactly what I mean when they ask, “What’s for dinner?” and I say, “That Ground Beef Dish.”  It has been a staple on our weekly menu for at least 25 years.  I think everyone has a family recipe that has its own secret code name. Anyway, it’s an easy skillet dinner that evolved one day while I was searching through my cabinets for ingredients that would pair nicely with ground beef.  It has taken on slight changes over the years for one reason or another.  The big change thus far has been substituting ground turkey for ground beef.  I have also upped the spice factor!

Spicy Skillet Beef & Pasta

Makes 4 servings

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1  can (14 1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) corn
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup elbow pasta
– In large nonstick skillet, brown ground beef, onion, jalapeno pepper and garlic.
– Stir in stewed tomatoes, corn with its liquid, barbecue sauce, water, salt, chili powder, red  and black peppers; heat to boiling.
–  Add pasta and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until pasta is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

– As mentioned, you can substitute ground turkey for ground beef.  You may have to brown the ground turkey in a little vegetable oil.
– If you do not want the bold flavors, eliminate the chili powder and the crushed red pepper.  Sometimes I opt for the plain and simple.
– Try different pasta.  I’ve tried wheels, rotelle, fusilli, cavatappi (curly elbows).
– I love using Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce, but you can use your favorite.



Filed under Beef, Turkey

I Never Met a Lemon Bar I Didn’t Like

That said, there are definitely some lemon bar recipes that are better than others.

I am always looking for the perfect combination of crumbly shortbread crust and just-tart-enough filling. Well, my search for the perfect recipe just came to an end. While perusing the frozen dessert section of Trader Joe’s the other day, I noticed a sweet little package of lemon bars. Hmmm, I thought. I should try these. Am I glad I did! They are delicious—not too tart, not too sweet, not too crumbly, not too sticky, and not too many calories either.  Just 80 per serving, made with natural ingredients.

Not only are these bars fully baked and pre-cut, they are adorable and look completely homemade. And they pass the taste test! Try them, you will not be disappointed.

These bars would make a perfect Easter dessert. For a pretty presentation, arrange them on a flat white plate and garnish with small blossoms of pansies or johnny-jump-ups. Sweet!



Filed under Dessert, Sweets

On a Roll with the Crock-Pot

I tell you, without a kitchen, my new found friend is the Crock-Pot. I made Pork Chops with Sauerkraut, a blast from the past from my childhood! My Mom used to make this in the oven. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t touch it, but today — I love it. And in the Crock-Pot, the pork is so tender, it slips right off the bone. Caraway seeds and bacon– my secret ingredients!!!  OK, I know that bacon is not the best thing for you, but boy, does it add great flavor. You’ve got to live sometimes!!!


– I added some baby potatoes, halved to the sauerkraut mixture.  You can also add sliced carrots.
– If you are not a caraway seed fan, just eliminate them.
– Use turkey bacon if you don’t want the extra fat and cholesterol.
– Recipe can be doubled to make 4 servings.

Here’s the recipe:

Makes 2 servings

3 slices bacon
1 bag (16 ounces) sauerkraut
1 small onion, sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 center cut loin bone in pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)

    – Cook bacon in skillet until crisp, reserve bacon drippings.

    – In 5 to 6 quart Crock-Pot, place sauerkraut, onion, brown sugar, caraway seeds and black pepper.  Crumble bacon over sauerkraut mixture and add reserved bacon drippings; stir well.

    – Place pork chops over mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours.


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    Filed under Crock-Pot, Main Dishes, Pork, Potatoes

    Healthy Crock-Pot Oatmeal

    My husband Rich and I have been trying to eat healthier.  No more bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches for our weekend breakfasts!  I’ve discovered steel-cut oats. I love the texture of the oats—nutty, crunchy, so good ! They are the healthiest variety of oats, but also take the longest to prepare.  Crock-Pot to the rescue!!  Since it’s just the two of us for breakfast, I purchased a small Crock-Pot just for the oats—a 1 1/2 to 2-quart size works great, plus they are inexpensive.  I start the oats the night before and have a healthy breakfast in the AM.  I add lots of good toppings, too!


    – Be sure to spray the inside of the Crock-Pot with vegetable cooking spray.  If not, the oatmeal forms a sticky crusty coating on the sides of the Crock-Pot.
    – Add dried fruit such as cranberries, blueberries, raisins, pineapple, apricot, apples—the combinations are endless.
    – Add nuts, flax seeds, toasted wheat germ, granola—be creative!
    – You can also add fresh fruit.  If I do, I get up a little early and add it about 1/2 hour before the oatmeal is done.
    – I love adding brown sugar or a touch of maple syrup (okay, so much for being healthy!)
    – If you have a large family, use a larger Crock-Pot and double or triple the recipe. To make a smaller amount as in this recipe, it is important to use the right size (smaller) Crock-Pot as specified above.

    Here’s the recipe:

    Makes 2 heaping servings

    4 1/2 cups water
    1 cup steel-cut oats
    1/4 cup dried fruit
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    – Spray inside of  1 1/2 – 2 quart crockpot with vegetable cooking spray.
    – Place all ingredients in Crock-Pot.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.


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    Filed under Breakfast, Crock-Pot, Healthy

    Quick Cabbage Side Dish

    I absolutely love cabbage — warm, cold, anything in between!  In a slaw, with Corned Beef, sautéed, roasted, simmered. Red, green — it doesn’t matter.  I made a tasty side dish the other night with half of a leftover green cabbage from a shoot.  I thought I would share it with any of my “cabbage cronies.”

    I caramelized a large onion in 1 tablespoon each  vegetable oil and butter.  Add a sprinkling of sugar, salt and black pepper. Saute over medium heat until onions start to get a brown caramelized  look.   Add 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded and saute until softened.  Stir in about 1/3 cup chicken broth and 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds; cover and cook over low heat until mixture becomes very tender.  Meanwhile, cook about 3/4 cup whole wheat egg noodles; drain and stir into cabbage mixture.

    We ate it in no time!  I wish I made more for leftovers. Oh well, next time.


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    Filed under Side Dishes

    You Say Potato, I Say Po-tah-to

    So many varieties of potatoes to choose from.  Do they all taste the same?  Can they be used interchangeably? Does the color dictate the flavor?  I am going to talk about the three little “spuds” in our photo below…  Red, Yellow, Purple.  All three are popular, red and yellow variety leading the pack.  The red, also known as a “new potato”, because it is harvested before it reaches maturity – white flesh, available all year-round.  The yellow, commonly known as “Yukon Gold.”  – yellow flesh, also available all year-round.  The purple, also known as blue – purply blue flesh, mostly available in the fall.  All three varieties produce a moist, creamy texture.  All are pretty versatile and can be used for boiling, steaming, roasting, baking, mashing.

    I am going to share a fantastic potato recipe that I styled for a wonderful magazine, that unfortunately has folded…  Kitchen Garden Magazine, published by Taunton Press.  I remember distinctly shooting the story in an antique farmhouse in Washington, CT. The house was beautiful.  The kitchen full of “old-time” charm.  The recipe: Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Sage. The sage leaves are placed on the bottom of a heavy skillet (cast iron is best). The halved  potatoes go on top of the sage leaves, then roasted in the oven.  The sage gets so crispy, and the flavor — incredible!  You can certainly try it with any of the potato varieties discussed above.  Whatever color suits your fancy for the day!!!

    Here’s the recipe —

    Makes 4 servings

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    30-40 fresh sage leaves
    1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
    2 pounds small potatoes, halved

    – Preheat oven to 425F. Pour oil into heavy oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron), tipping skillet so oil covers bottom of pan. Lay sage leaves flat over oil, completely covering bottom of pan.

    -Sprinkle salt over sage. Arrange potatoes, cut side down on sage.  Bake, uncovered until potatoes are tender and the cut sides are crusty brown, about 35 minutes.



    Filed under Potatoes

    It’s Magically Whipped Cream

    I forgot to mention another great tip I got from my friend Melanie. When we all got together last Friday night, besides the Vita-Mix machine, she also brought the Magic Bullet, a powerful compact blender.  I’ve mainly used mine for making Pina Coladas but she whipped up heavy cream in a flash!  All she did was pour heavy cream,  a little sugar and a splash of pure vanilla extract into the container of the Magic Bullet, gave it a whirl.  We had  perfectly (or I should say magically) whipped cream for our berry dessert.

    If you own the Magic Bullet, you’ve got to try it.  I was skeptical but it really worked.  No need to pull out your mixer! You just have to watch when you make it.  It whips the cream so fast, you don’t want to turn it into butter.  When you are doing it for the first time, you might want to pulse it so it whips the cream slowly.



    Filed under Whipped Cream