As you can see, I am still on my ground beef kick. And why you might ask. Well – lean ground beef is versatile, relatively inexpensive, relatively low in fat, a good protein source, and tasty. (Really, what more can you ask from a simple, easy to obtain food product?) And when combined with other healthy ingredients, ground beef is the base for many quick and easy dishes including this wonderful soup. (I call ground beef “wonder meat” because it is the perfect meat for all the working mothers and fathers (can’t forget all those guys out there who are the family cooks) who rush home from work and are greeted with those 3 little words all parents hear upon entering their home. And no, it’s not “I love you”. It’s “what’s for dinner”?) So this is yet another recipe to help you prepare an easy, healthy dish that is on the table before your kidlets have time to declare that they are about to expire from hunger. As if?? (And yes, this recipe is great for seniors too. Healthy, easy to prepare, and basically a one dish meal.)

So yesterday when I was deciding what to do with the pound of ground beef I had taken out of the freezer, I decided to search for a goulash style soup that featured ground beef. (I love Hungarian food, so I often start a search with the word “Hungarian”.)

This soup recipe is out of the Food and Wine magazine. (I did use noodles instead of potatoes, added some sour cream, and used less salt than originally called for, but the rest is straight off the Food and Wine magazine web site. Great recipe site BTW!)

So do yourself a favor and make this soup next time you want to use ground beef in a less than traditional way. And I know, spaghetti, tacos, chili, and hamburgers are delicious too. But often, a new dish is as welcome to your family as fixing a new recipe is for the cook. And always remember, it’s all about you – the cook. If you’re happy in the kitchen, your family are going to reap the benefits. And since the kitchen is the heart of any home, who knows, you might even hear “I love you” more often. Stranger things have happened in the name of good eating.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 T. Hungarian paprika (sweet, not smoked or hot)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1¼ tsp. caraway seeds (don’t even think about leaving them out!)
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (small amount)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3 c. beef broth  
  • 3 c. water
  • 1½ – 2 c. egg noodles
  • ½ c. sour cream, plus more for the table

In a heavy covered soup pan, lightly brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the paprika, cayenne, marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, tomato paste, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the noodles and cook just until al dente. Stir in the sour cream, adjust seasoning, and serve with additional sour cream if desired.




As much as I love to cook, there are just those evenings when the last thing I want to do is spend time or more time in the kitchen. What happens more often than I would care to admit, is that I have already spent my entire day in the kitchen preparing for an event. So the last thing I want to do is even think about what to do about dinner. Sometimes the answer is obvious. I grab my dear husband and drag him out the door to a local food purveyor. But that never seems quite fair. After all, the poor guy has been smelling food all day. And I’m quite sure expecting that at least some morsel of whatever I have been preparing is going to reach the dining room table. (Not usually going to happen.) So the good wife in me hates to deprive him of a home cooked dinner.

For those evenings, and for times when all I want is a simple meal fit for the most dedicated carnivore (I resemble that remark), I fix this simple recipe, along with a baked sweet or Yukon Gold potato and a steamed green veggie. Mr. C. is happy, I’m happy, the cats are happy. All is right with the world.

So if you too have extenuating circumstances that result in you not jumping for joy at spending another or even 30 minutes preparing dinner, I suggest you use the excuse I often use under this most trying of situations. I DON’T WANT TO! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! I QUIT! (I don’t actually say those things. But you can bet your favorite Dr. Seuss book my inner child is jumping up and down screaming them in my head!)

Actually what I usually do is negotiate. You know, the art of getting your own way but in a decent, respectful manner. I play to Mr. Cs always agreeable side. I merely tell him, “I’m old, I’m tired, and if I have to make dinner I might accidentally burn down the house”. No, I don’t do that either. I just tell him the truth – “I truly don’t have the desire or strength to cook dinner tonight”. That’s all it takes. Just a simple statement told in an adult and civilized manner. Sometimes it results in us going out. Sometimes Mr. C. cooks, and sometimes the best of all possible worlds happen. We cook dinner together. I can almost always garner enough strength to cook when I have Mr. C. helping me. And of course, a dish as easy as this makes our joint adventure even more enjoyable. That and one of Mr. Cs martinis! (You just have to get a little extra boost of energy wherever you can. A nice glass of wine works too.)

So enjoy how easy this ground beef recipe is to prepare, how economical it is, and how darn delicious it is for containing such a short list of ingredients. You can thank me later by replying at the top left corner of this post.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 T. minced onion
  • 2 tsp. Montreal Seasoning
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. beef stock
  • 1 T. Cognac

Combine the ground beef, onion, and Montreal Seasoning. Form into 2 or 3 torpedo shaped patties. Heat the butter in a small fry pan. Add the patties and fry the first side until dark brown and about half cooked. Flip the patties and cook an additional couple of minutes or until desired doneness.


Remove pan from heat and transfer the patties to a small plate; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add the beef stock and Cognac to the pan. Return pan to medium high heat and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and pour over the patties.   


As I’m sure you already know if you have read any of my previous posts, I am the number one fan of ground beef. I actually much prefer it to steak, and as a breakfast meat, in my mind there is no comparison. And now, after having purchased a quarter of a Highland cow and had a good portion of it ground, I am even more convinced that ground beast is indeed a food from the Gods. (And yes I meant to write “beast”, because that was a common mispronunciation when my kids were young, and I still often lapse into “kiddie language world”.)

Anyway, I decided I wanted to serve a tasty barbequed burger to my friends who would be helping us celebrate our new trailer on our shakedown cruise. When I am trailer camping, I still like to serve great food, but I really don’t want to spend my entire day in the kitchen. (Our trailer kitchen is very nice, but never-the-less, one of the reasons I go camping is to get away from my usual routine, and treat myself to some quality outside time!) So I planned the menu around quick and easy recipes like this one.

This recipe is based on a recipe I found on the Food Network Kitchen site. Their recipe called for ground turkey, but I thought using ground beef (since I had 24 pounds in my freezer) would be perfect too. So I changed a couple of ingredients, and the following recipe is the result.

And I am telling you, all the ingredients work perfectly together to make just a delicious, succulent burger. And using grilled English muffins instead of regular hamburger buns is genius. English muffins toast beautifully on the grill and are not as filling as those puffy things you usually associate with a hamburger. I will never again buy a package of squishy buns. My heart now belongs to English muffins, or homemade rolls of course!

So do yourself a favor and mix up a batch of this ground beef mixture, form it into patties, and throw the burgers on the grill. Your family won’t even suspect that they are eating vegetables when they bite into one of these burgers. But they will notice that the burgers taste just wonderful. But do it soon. Fall is fast upon us. And even though you can still BBQ in the winter, burgers always taste better when you eat them al fresco! Plus it saves cleanup under your kitchen table. After all, any burger worth its gooey additives is going to be messy. So when you eat outside, the juices running off your elbows aren’t a problem. Plus your hose is probably nearby. (So much easier than throwing your kids in the shower after they have eaten!) Happy end of summer.

(Sorry about no picture, but we were all hungry and the burgers disappeared before I could get my camera out of its case.)

  • 1 lg. portobello mushroom cap, stem and gills removed, finely chopped
  • 1 small finely chopped shallot
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on the grill
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Monterey Steak Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • thin slices manchego or sharp cheddar cheese
  • English muffins, split
  • mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • sliced avocado

Mix the mushroom, shallot, parsley, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, Montreal Steak Seasoning, seasoned salt, and pepper together. Add the ground beef and mix together with your hands until just combined. Divide the mixture into 4-5 balls, then lightly press into 1-inch-thick patties. Place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Brush the grate with olive oil. Grill the patties, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Give the patties a quarter turn and cook until marked again, 2-3 more minutes. Flip the patties, top with cheese, and grill until cooked to your liking. Remove from grill to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to stay warm.

Toast the English muffins on the grill, then spread one half with mayonnaise, the other half with mustard. Add a hamburger patty, a couple slices of avocado and take a bite. Heaven I’m telling you, heaven! Or if you like a more traditional burger, add any of your favorite condiments. It’s all good!




If you have been following my blog, you already know that I am not a gourmet. I am however, a gourmand.* (Not always proud of that classification, but if the shoe fits, etc. etc.) And as a true and faithful gourmand, some of the food I am passionate about is as common as a cheeseburger. But as I get a little older, some of the foods I used to eat with nary a concern for calories or nutritional content, have turned against me in the form of digestive problems and additional weight. (Simply not fair!)

So, in trying to still be able to wholeheartedly enjoy my favorite foods, I have been working on recipes that mimic certain foods, but are healthy, less caloric, and easy to prepare. And since a good bacon, avocado, and cheese hamburger is still one of the foods that make life worth living for both of us, I decided to try putting all the ingredients associated with our favorite burger into salad form. And by golly, both Mr. C and I felt totally satisfied after eating one of these salads last evening. We absolutely did not miss the bun, or the mayonnaise sauce in the least. The salad had way more veggies than a real burger, but regardless, the flavor of a good burger came through in every bite. And of course, this new recipe fulfilled my desire to provide you all with more recipes containing ground beef.

So give this recipe a try. It’s a very nice change of pace from a taco salad, while still being a snap to prepare.

*Gourmand – a lover of good food who often eats too much.

  • 4 slices thick lean bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. very lean ground beef
  • ½ red onion, very thinly sliced, divided
  • ¼ c. ketchup
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp. Montreal Seasoning
  • 1 lg. heart romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 lg. dill pickles, diced
  • 1 Hass avocado, cubed
  • ½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Fry bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Remove cooked bacon to paper towels to drain. Set aside. Pour off as much bacon grease as possible from pan. Brown the ground beef in the same skillet over medium heat. Add half of the sliced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the ketchup, mustard, and Montreal Seasoning; stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.


To assemble: Place lettuce on 2 large dinner plates. Add some of the meat mixture (I usually have extra meat when I make this salad). Then top with tomato, pickle, remaining red onion, avocado, cheese, and the cooked bacon. Serve immediately. No additional dressing required.





There are several ingredients seemingly indigenous to Hungarian cuisine that are among my favorites. I love the flavor of paprika, adore sour cream and dill, and think caraway is fabulous. So when I can prepare a dish that contains all of these favorites, I know I am going to be in culinary heaven.

So when I decided I wanted to update my 40 year old recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls, I kept each of these ingredients in mind as I concocted my new version of this Hungarian classic.

While I was at it, I also wanted my cabbage rolls to be low in fat and reasonably easy to prepare. And to be made with fairly inexpensive ingredients. I also wanted a dish that even people like my husband, who are not as fond of cruciferous vegetables as I am, to be able to enjoy the dish and even look forward to eating it again.

So this recipe is my take on Töltött káposzta. And for all of you out there who have lovely Hungarian grandmothers who would be deeply offended by my use of sour cream in the sauce rather than as just a garnishment, who would not be caught dead not including sauerkraut or smoked pork shank in their version, I humbly offer my apologies. But as in all things, it’s really just all about me. And of course, what can you expect from a person who has only French and German blood running through her veins? Remember: not everyone is lucky or smart enough to be born with a Hungarian grandmother. (Next time around, I will be smart enough to get my request in early for an Italian mother and a Hungarian father. Or visa/versa would be fine too.)

If you need more apology than the aforesaid, please ask your grandmother to contact me personally! Speaking of which, don’t hesitate to “leave a reply” if you like a recipe or want to share some insight into the recipe with me. If your comment is not too derogatory, I will gladly add your comment to the blog for all the world to see. Thanks and I hope you enjoy this recipe. Oh, and also – Happy Spring! Yea sunshine!

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • ¼ c. long grain rice
  • 1 c. water 
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. marjoram
  • ½ tsp. caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper  
  • 3 T. sweet Hungarian paprika, divided (and yes, use real Hungarian paprika)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. ground pork*
  • 1 lb. ground beef*
  • 1 small can (14-oz.) chopped skinless tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best)
  • 1 c. sour cream, plus more for passing at the table
  • fresh dill weed, garnish, opt.

Remove core from cabbage with a paring knife. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Reduce heat and simmer the cabbage until leaves are softened enough to pull off individually. Then using a pair of tongs, gently remove the leaves as they become tender and set aside to drain/cool. (Don’t worry if you tear a leaf. It will mend during the baking process. Well, it won’t really mend, but once anyone takes a bite, believe me, no one will notice any tiny presentation imperfections!) Save the cabbage water for use later on in the recipe.    

Meanwhile place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small covered pan and bring to a boil.  Stir, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid, and set aside to cool. (If you have leftover rice, by all means use it.)  

While the cabbage leaves cool, place the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and gently sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, add the marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of the Hungarian paprika, and the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Add the partially cooked rice, ground meat, and combine just until the spice/onion mixture is evenly distributed throughout the meat. (Clean hands are your best tool for this process. Note: take your rings off first!) Place a handful of the meat mixture inside each cabbage leaf and wrap up like a burrito. Place folded side down in a lightly greased deep sided casserole or baking dish.

In the empty frying pan (I hate to make more dishes dirty than necessary), whisk together the tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons of paprika, 1 cup sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 cup of the reserved cabbage cooking water. Pour over the cabbage rolls and tightly cover the pan with foil. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 45-60 minutes or until the sauce is almost gone. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a nice rustic bread, baked Yukon gold potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes, and additional sour cream and fresh dill as garnishes.

*If you want to use another pound of ground beef instead of ground pork – go for it. You could also substitute ground chicken or turkey with wonderful results.





I love salads and am always looking for new ways to serve healthy salad ingredients in a more interesting and tasty fashion. So when I was also trying to think up exciting ways to use ground beef, I immediately thought of Asian wraps.  But there is something you should know about Mr. C and me. We are messy eaters. And trying to keep even an ingredient as ordinary as taco meat corralled in a crisp tortilla can be daunting for us. And don’t even get me started on what kind of a mess we can make when eating a really good and juicy hamburger!

So the thought of deliberately setting us up for another messy food experience just for the sake of presenting this set of ingredients in a trendy culinary manner, fairly screamed for an alternate solution. So last evening, when all the usual wrap suspects were assembled as a salad, we actually looked like two adults enjoying a wonderful meal, rather than two children left unsupervised to make as much of a mess as possible! After all, the same ingredients were in the salad as would have been presented in a wrap. So there really was no taste difference. The ingredients were simply presented in a much more dignified manner! (Plus we didn’t need to spend any time after dinner cleaning up after ourselves.)

So if you too are inept with hand held food, give this recipe a try as a salad. If you are able to walk and talk at the same time and eat wraps in a decorous fashion, by all means serve this delicious meat filling and veggie additives (inspiration from PF Chang’s recipe for Chicken Lettuce Wraps) in darling little lettuce leaf cups. Just please don’t tell me about it. I know I’m uncoordinated, but I hate to have that reality stuffed in my face. (Actually, if any stuffing is to be done, I want it to be another one of these wholesome and delightful SALADS, thank you very much! And in the near future too!)

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or chicken
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. grated ginger
  • ¼ c. hoisin sauce
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha, or more to taste
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
  • 1½ lg. romaine hearts, cut into bite sized pieces or 1 head butter lettuce, washed and individual leaves removed at the root
  • 1/3 c. chopped salted peanuts
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 1 c. very thinly sliced English cucumber, cut into half moons

Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the meat as it cooks. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent. (Don’t let it get brown.) Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for one minute. In a small bowl combine the hoisin sauce, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, water, Sriracha, and 1/3rd of the sliced green onions. Pour over the meat just before you are ready to serve. Let simmer for about 1 minute.

To serve, place romaine on two good sized dinner plates. Spoon as much of the meat mixture (you will probably have extra) onto the lettuce as desired. Garnish with the remaining green onions, chopped peanuts, shredded carrot, and cucumber.


Serve immediately. No dressing required.

To serve as wraps, spoon several tablespoons of the beef mixture into the center of lettuce leaves. Sprinkle on the peanuts, remaining sliced green onions, shredded carrot, and cucumber. Crump the leaves together at the top and eat like a messy taco. (The very reason I serve this as a salad.)

The meat mixture can also be served over rice if the whole healthy “lettuce and veggies” thing is unappealing. (No guilt trip intended!)




We recently purchased half of a Highland* cow together with Mr. Cs sister Katie and her husband Rick. When we received our quarter of the beef, we had 34 – 1 lb. packages of very lean ground beef among all the other cuts. Now that’s a lot of ground beast! Our beef had been packaged exactly as Rick and Katie’s. So at Christmas time when they were visiting for the holidays, Katie asked me what I planned to do with all the ground beef? Since I happen to really love ground beef, I answered that I already had several recipes that called for ground beef. But when I looked through my recipes, I realized I didn’t actually have that many. So I thought about my favorite cuisine – Italian. What about an Italian meatloaf, I thought to myself? So I set about figuring out a recipe.

Now the one thing that meatloaf absolutely must be is moist. If it is dry and has the consistency of sawdust, you might as well use it as a doorstop! So in order to offset the leanness of the beef, I added an equal part of pork Italian sausage. (You could use chicken Italian sausage, but the meatloaf would not be quite as moist.) And the recipe turned out to be very good. Absolutely moist and full of the Italian flavors that we so dearly love. And the topping, which is basically a simple marinara sauce, is a nice alternative to the usual ketchup and brown sugar variety.

So if you want a new slant on meatloaf, give this recipe a try. It is a wonderful way to prepare a large meat dish using 2 fairly inexpensive cuts of meat. Plus planned-overs can be used in a number of different ways – sandwiches, cut up in small squares to use as “meatballs” for spaghetti, or crumbled on a pizza, to name just a few.

So however you serve this dish, your family and friends are bound to like it. And for your young children who think of meatloaf as a boring alternative to “real” food, like McDonalds hamburgers, for example, don’t call it meatloaf. Call it something fun like Monday Moo Meat or some other fun name depending on whatever night you are serving it to your family. Then serve it with a potato dish like Oven Roasted Steak Fries with Fry Sauce (on this site) and carrot sticks, and your kids will love it. Or they might possibly think you have slipped over the edge. That could also happen! (I always felt it was better for my children to think of me as slightly crazy rather than as your average boring mother type! I succeeded too!)

*Highland cattle are a Scottish breed. They have long horns and long wavy coats that are black, brindle, red, yellow, white, silver or dun colored. And, this is the hard part, they are just stinkin’ cute! But, as cute as they appear, they are raised primarily for their meat. So as long as I stick to thinking of these darling critters in terms of small white packages that live in my freezer, I’m OK.

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T. Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T. milk
  • ½ c. Italian style dry bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage* (pork or chicken)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce

Heat the oil in a small fry pan. Add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Take all but 2 tablespoons of the cooked onion and garlic out of the pan and place in a large mixing bowl.  Set the pan, complete with contents aside. 

To the bowl with the cooked onion and garlic, add one of the tablespoons of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, parsley, Parmesan, eggs, milk, and bread crumbs. Stir until thoroughly blended. Add the Italian sausage and gently stir until completely blended. (I use the meat serving fork from my set of tableware to help break up the meat as I stir it into the other ingredients. I find it to be the best tool for the job.)  Add the ground beef and do the same. Pat into a lightly greased 9X13-inch baking dish. 

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, add the tomato sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, and a pinch of kosher salt and pepper to the pan with the 2 tablespoons onion and garlic. When the meatloaf has baked for 25 minutes, remove it from oven and slather on the sauce. Return the meatloaf to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. (If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, ask Santa for one next Christmas. They are the best thing to hit the culinary tool parade since high temperature spatulas!) But seriously, the meatloaf should be done after about 40 minutes. So don’t panic if your kitchen does not contain an instant-read thermometer. I didn’t have one until about 3 years ago, and I’ve been making meatloaf for a heck of a lot longer than that!    

*If you don’t happen to have bulk Italian sausage around, you can add 1 teaspoon of fennel seed and ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to either plain ground pork or bulk breakfast sausage and achieve a good enough replacement.                                                                                                                                                        





This recipe is an adaptation of a soup that appeared in the first cookbook I ever owned. In 1964 I received the gift of my still loved, but terribly battered first edition, third printing 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook from my Aunt Ruth. Along with several metal baking dishes, some of which I still use today. And one of the first recipes I tried from my new cookbook, was the bones of this recipe for a very simple, economical, savory, and healthy soup.

Of course in those days I wasn’t as much interested in healthy as I was in simply filling my new husband’s and my tummies at a price two full time college students could afford! (And no, there was no red wine in the original recipe, nor was there any red wine in our household.) We were basically eating anything that didn’t eat us first. And the likes of beer and wine were simply not in our budget. (Mores the pity!) 

But over the years I have added ingredients to the original recipe to make it my own. And today, when healthy counts more for us than the price of a dish, this soup is just as welled loved as it was in the 60s. It simply bursts with flavor, even though the ingredients are healthy and economical.

So if you too love a hearty soup that is easy to prepare, contains healthy ingredients, and is economical – give this recipe a try. (And no, you don’t have to be a starving student to enjoy this soup. But if you are a starving student, add more potatoes. That’s what I used to do.)

  • 2 tsp. oil (olive, vegetable, avocado, etc.)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ c. red wine
  • 2 c. beef stock
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ½ c. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 small potatoes, cubed
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley, opt.

Heat oil in a medium sized covered pan. Add the meat and cook until browned. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the red wine and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Add the beef stock, pepper, bay leaf, basil, ketchup, Kitchen Bouquet, Worcestershire sauce, and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir periodically. (Add water if the soup starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.) Add the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Adjust seasoning, add parsley, and serve piping hot.  



Ok, this is not a fancy new recipe for taco salad. It doesn’t feature spectacular new ingredients, or a taco sauce that takes 14 ingredients, special equipment, and an hour to prepare. The meat is plain old ground beef, chicken, or turkey, and the toppings are just what you would expect if you ordered taco salad at any of your favorite restaurants.

What this recipe for Taco Salad does feature however, is an oven baked tortilla base, taco meat that is perfectly seasoned with dried herbs, spices, and ingredients that you should already have in your pantry, and a two ingredient taco sauce that is refreshingly light and delicious. And because you season the meat yourself; no more buying those expensive little packets of taco seasoning mix that contain unnecessary ingredients like too much salt and sugar that you wouldn’t even want your childhood nemesis to ingest, much less your family!

Oh, and did I mention that this salad is stinkin’ easy to prepare? Probably not! I get so excited about the ingredients and flavor of a dish sometimes that I forget to tell you about the ease of preparation. I also sometimes fail to mention that certain parts of the recipe, the taco meat and the taco sauce in this case, can be prepared ahead of time and sequestered on a shelf in your refrigerator.

So no matter how you want to look at this dish, as an easy to prepare one dish weekday meal, as an inexpensive one dish weekday meal, or as a delicious one dish weekday meal, you’re covered. (I’ve always got your back; don’t you ever forget it!)

  • 4 small (7½-inch) or 2 large (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • taco sauce (see recipe below)
  • taco meat (see recipe below)
  • chopped romaine lettuce (as much or as little as you want)
  • any of the following toppings for your salad:
  •     diced tomatoes
  •     halved black olives
  •     diced avocado
  •     diced yellow, white, red, or green onion
  •     grated sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Cotija cheese
  •     canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  •     canned corn, drained and rinsed
  •     anything else that strikes your fancy

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 4 oven-proof bowls or for larger tortillas, 2 6-inch cake pans on a large rimmed baking sheet. Warm the tortillas in your microwave for 20 seconds or until pliable. Spray both sides with cooking spray, then drape over the bowls (smaller tortillas) or nest the larger tortillas inside the cake pans. Bake until the tortillas are crisp and just starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Watch them carefully the last few minutes.) Set aside.


Meanwhile prepare the Taco Sauce and the Taco Meat (recipes below).


When ready to serve, place a taco shell on a large plate. Scatter lettuce in and around the shell. Scoop some of the taco meat into the shell and surround with your toppings of choice. Serve with taco sauce.

Taco Sauce:

  • 1 c. (8-oz.) sour cream
  • ½ c. salsa verde – I use Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa (which BTW contains no preservatives or ingredients that can’t be pronounced) when I’m feeling lazy. When I have time and inclination, I prepare the Salsa Verde recipe on this site.)

Whisk ingredients together, cover, and store in the refrigerator until needed.

Taco Meat:


  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 lb. ground beef, chicken, or turkey
  • 2 T. dehydrated onion
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp. dried oregano (Mexican oregano if possible)
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • ½ c. water

Spray a non-stick fry pan with cooking spray. Add the ground beef and cook slowly until the meat is just about brown. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a high simmer, reduce heat, and cook for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.





You know, there are actually times when I just want to cook healthy. I know that shocks many of you because of my predisposition to use butter with alarming regularity. But never-the-less, it’s true! I can actually be as health conscious as the next gal. So when my “good conscience angel” wins over my “bad conscience devil”, I make a meal featuring a recipe like this one.

Now granted, there is nothing wrong with this recipe. In fact, I love both the meatballs and the marinara sauce. And truly, I am not going to feel cheated in the least when I eat this dish. It’s just that when I look at the recipe, I have trouble seeing beyond the fact that it just plain looks good for us and therefore is inherently going to taste like sawdust! (You know, it really is hard to teach old dogs new tricks. And this old dog is no exception!)

But you just have to trust me on this one. The sauce is truly delicious and the meatballs are tender and flavorful.

So next time your “angel” wins, build a batch of these meatballs and stir up a pot of this sauce. You are going to feel absolutely elated serving your family such a healthy dish. And maybe, just because you have shown yourself to be such an exemplary contributor to your families good health, your “angel” will forgive you a second glass of wine! Could happen!

  • ¼ c. finely ground uncooked oats or dried bread-crumbs (I prefer ground oats)
  • ¼ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese + plus more to pass at the table
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. milk
  • 16 to 20 oz. ground turkey or chicken meat
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 mushrooms, chopped
  • marinara sauce (see recipe below)
  • 6-8 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked al dente

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, and milk in a medium large mixing bowl. Gently stir in ground turkey. (Mix only until combined. Do not over mix.) Form into 1-inch meatballs (I use a small ice cream scoop) and place on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake meatballs in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.

Meanwhile pour olive oil into a medium sized sauce pan. Sauté mushrooms until tender. Add the marinara sauce and the meatballs. Serve over al dente spaghetti. Offer Parmesan at the table.

Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (28-oz.) can chopped or diced tomatoes (Italian tomatoes preferably)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano ( I use Mexican oregano)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 T. butter, optional

In a large covered sauce pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes. (Take the lid off part way if the sauce is too thin or allow to gently burble away until the sauce reaches your desired thickness.) Remove from heat, discard bay leaf, add the basil, and adjust seasoning. If the sauce tastes acidic, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavor.

Note: this is a very basic marinara sauce that can be used in a myriad of recipes. Leftover sauce freezes beautifully.