What’s for dinner?

Frickin’ Fritos AKA Frito Pie

Classic version. Fritos, ground beef chili, red onion, cilantro, lime and cheese.

(SERVES 6-8)

2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
2 T water
2 t salt
1 t baking soda

Mix ingredients well and allow to sit on counter for 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

5-6 Dried Ancho chiles (seeded and torn into 1” pieces)

Place chiles in a dry Dutch oven over medium / medium high heat. Toss until chiles are fragrant and slightly smoking. Careful not to burn. Remove chiles to the bowl of a food processor. Allow cooling.

1/3 C fritos
2 T cumin
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T ground coriander
2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
2 t black pepper

Combine fritos and spices with cooled chiles in the food processor. Process until chiles are completely broken down and ingredients are well combined. Place spice mix into a bowl for later use.

1 – 14.5 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes

Place tomatoes and juice into the now empty processor bowl and puree.

3 T vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced

Place oil into preheated Dutch oven. Add onion and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Once onion is translucent, add garlic. Once fragrant, add ground beef. Cook beef until browned. Drain off excess fat/liquid.

1 – 14.5 ounce can of pinto beans (optional)
1 T minced chipotle in adobo sauce
2 1/2 C water
2 t sugar

2 T apple cider vinegar

Return meat to Dutch oven and add spice mix, pureed tomatoes, beans, chipotle, water and sugar. Place Dutch oven in a preheated 275 degree oven for two hours. Stir chili after one hour of cooking. Remove from oven, uncover and allow chili to sit for 15 minutes. Before serving, add vinegar.

Dressed up version. How about a Frito pie salad? Fritos, ground beef chili, thinly sliced iceberg, tomatoes, diced red onion, avocado, sour cream, lime, cilantro, cheese…was so hungry to eat this photo that I forgot the cheese.

Ham and Cauliflower Gratin

(serves 4-6)

4 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed and quartered
2 T butter, soft
1/2 t salt
A few cranks of black pepper

Place ingredients in a food processor. Process until bread forms a uniformed size of “crumb”.

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed into smallish florets
1 T salt

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Carefully add salt. Add cauliflower and cook until outsides have softened but insides are still firm. Drain and cool.

2 T butter
2 T shallot, minced
1 C of leftover ham, cut into cubes
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 T flour
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t cayenne
1 t dried thyme
A few cranks of black pepper

3/4 C grated sharp cheddar (do not use pre-grated cheese)

In a preheated skillet, add butter. Add shallot and sauté until softened. Add ham and garlic. Sauté until fragrant and warmed through. Add flour. Mix well. Make sure all bits of flour have been coated. Add cream, nutmeg, cayenne, thyme and pepper. Stir to combine and slightly thicken. Off heat and cheese and stir to combine and melt.

Combine cauliflower with cheese/ham mixture. Mix well.

In a 2-quart baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, add cauliflower/ham mix. Sprinkle with additional cheddar (if desired) and spread bread crumbs evenly over the top.

Place dish into a preheated 450 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes or until topping is golden brown and edges are bubbling. Remove from oven and allow 10 minutes cooling before serving.

What a great use of leftover ham. Turkey and broccoli gratin? Sure. Substitute any leftovers.

Ham and Cheddar Panini


So we purchased a Honey Baked Ham for the holidays from the Honey Baked Ham Store (their version is the best). After serving slices Christmas Day, there was plenty left for using in other recipes. Here’s one sure to please. A panini press is not necessary. You can do all of these steps in a non-stick skillet. I used olive oil for brushing. Melted butter would be great also. Leftover fresh cranberry sauce added a nice component. Other ingredients are: stone ground mustard and sharp cheddar slices. I think warming the cold meat up is important. I grill marked the ham on the press before assembling the sandwich.

Dang this was good!

Risotto with Veggies

(serves 4)

It seems that more and more, risotto recipes are being baked in a Dutch oven instead of the tedious stove top version which requires lots of stirring and attention.

I had some ingredients which were used for Christmas Day lunch leftover. Risotto is a perfect vehicle (or pasta!) for lonely ingredients needing a home.

Below is a basic risotto recipe (baked, not stirred) which can be used with a variety of ingredients…let your imagination and your pantry go wild.

1/4 C olive oil
1/2 a yellow (or white) onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 C Arborio Rice
1 T butter
1/4 C dry white wine
3 C chicken or vegetable stock

 1/2 C grated Parmesan reggiano, plus more for topping

In a preheated Dutch oven (on the stove top), add oil.
Once shimmering, add onion.
Once onion is translucent, add garlic, thyme and bay leaves.
Once that is fragrant, add Arborio Rice and butter.
Stir until rice is coated and butter is melted.
Add additional oil if it appears too dry.
Add wine, scraping up bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until wine almost evaporates.
Add chicken stock and your other prepared ingredients.
Place Dutch oven (covered) into a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Carefully remove Dutch oven and stir ingredients. Check the rice for “al dente” like texture. Return the covered dish to the oven and cook for an additional 20 or so minutes. You are looking for a slight thickening of the broth and “al dente” rice – fully cooked but a bit “toothy”. Not gummy. Allow risotto to sit for 10-15 minutes covered on the counter. Add cheese at this point and any other additional topping you want.

Preserved lemons from a friend here in Santa Fe. These are FANTASTIC! They provide a nice punctuation for a creamy, rich dish.

It’s pricey, but required! In addition to the king of cheese, a drizzle of EVOO is always a good idea.

Crock Pot Beef Stew

(serves 6)

2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast, trimmed and cut into chunks
olive oil
S & P

5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks on the diagonal
4-5 celery stalks, cut into chunks on the diagonal
2 small yellow onions, cut chunky style
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

3 T tomato paste

1 C dry red wine for deglazing

1 C dry red wine for stock

6 C beef stock

1 T dried thyme
4-5 whole cloves
5-6 bay leaves

1 container of cremini mushrooms, remove stems, dice caps

2 pounds new potatoes, cut chunky style
1 t salt
1 t baking soda

1 C fresh (or frozen) peas

2 T butter, very soft
2 T all-purpose flour

In a preheated cast iron skillet, add about 1/4 C olive oil. Brown meat in batches and season generously with salt and cracked pepper. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

Wipe out skillet. Add another 1/4 C of olive oil. Add carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Again, season generously with salt and cracked pepper. Don’t over stir! Allow some browning of the veggies. Also, water will be extracted from the veggies from the addition of the salt. Continue to sauté veggies until skillet becomes “dryish” again.

Add tomato paste. Mix in well. An additional amount of oil may be needed. Continue to sauté as a deep red color develops. Some sticking is good. Just watch your heat. No need to rush this. Depth of flavor is forming.

Add 1 C of wine to the veggie mix. Raise heat and get a nice bubble going. Reduce the wine until thickened. You should be able to draw a line across the bottom of the skillet and it should hold. See photo.

Place veggies, drippings and reserved meat into a crock pot. Add beef stock, remaining 1 C of red wine, thyme, cloves and bay leaves. Turn on high and cover.

While that is simmering, sauté mushrooms in the same skillet with some olive oil, salt, cracked pepper and a pinch of dried thyme. You may need to add additional oil as the mushrooms soak it up! Develop a nice golden color. Reserve to a bowl.

Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil. Carefully add 1t of salt and 1t of baking soda. It will bubble, be careful. Add potato pieces. Again be careful not to splash hot water on yourself! I used a sieve to gently lower them into the water. Cook until potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander. The potatoes will have rough edges compliments of the baking soda. Reserve.

Continue to simmer the meat until tender. Several hours will be required.

For service:

Stir together softened butter and flour until a smooth paste forms. Add this to the stew. Mix in well. Add reserved potatoes, peas and mushrooms. Allow to heat thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, if needed. Ladle stew into a warmed bowl and garnish with some chopped parsley. A good loaf of bread and a better bottle of red wine is all that is needed.

Suggestion: Edmeades Zinfandel from Mendocino

Lemon Oregano Chicken with Quinoa Tabbouleh, Cucumber Yogurt and Sugar Snap / Radish Salad

Brine chicken breasts in salted ice-cold water for about two hours prior to cooking. Rinse and pat dry. Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle olive oil over chicken. Spritz with salt, cracked pepper and dried oregano. Place chicken into a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove chicken and place sliced lemons on top. Place back into oven with broiler on. Place rack about 10 inches from heat source. Keep an eye on them and broil for about 10-15 minutes. Make sure to rotate baking sheet for even cooking. They are done when the thickest part of the breast feels firm to the touch. Remove and let chicken rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.


Cook quinoa according to instructions on package. 1/4 C dry measure is a good serving size per person. Add chopped parsley (LOTS), cherub tomatoes, mint, basil, toasted walnuts, lemon juice, EVOO, S & P. Combine and adjust seasonings. Great for leftovers the next day or after.


For yogurt salad, combine diced cucumber, green onion, lemon zest, red chili flakes and salt with whole milk Greek yogurt.

Slice snap peas on the diagonal. Combine with slivers of radish, S & P, a splash of toasted sesame oil and a spritz of rice wine vinegar.


Drizzle olive oil on some rustic bread slices and toast in a toaster oven until “crispy chewy”.




This meal stores well in the fridge for leftovers the next day.








Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sautéed Green Beans

Rinse, dry and trim a pork tenderloin. I had a 1 pound loin. That’s plenty for three. Add a small amount of olive oil to a preheated skillet. Salt and pepper tenderloin. Be generous. Place tenderloin into the skillet and brown it well on all sides.

For squash, purchase some “already diced” butternut squash… (a big time and aggravation saver). Toss with olive oil and spread out onto a foil-lined baking sheet that has been spray with non-stick spray. Salt and pepper squash and place it into a preheated 425 degree oven. Toss occasionally for even cooking. Roast until browned and tender.

For green beans, trim and blanch. I often will blanch a large amount of beans and store them in the fridge. Perfect for a salad or for sautéing at a later date. For this recipe, add blanched beans to a preheated sauté pan with olive oil and some diced shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until beans are “crisp tender”. Add some lemon zest at the end.

Once pork is thoroughly browned, remove it from the skillet and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Slather on the delicious barbecue sauce from Trader Joe’s. I don’t normally buy this kind of thing, but it looked tasty and seemed an easy plan.

Place pork in a preheated 425 degree oven. Roast until you have a nice warm pink in the middle. Those squeamish about pink pork can certainly roast longer. Remove and allow pork to sit for about 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Simple salad of greens, tomatoes, avocado, and some diced Turkish figs. (They were sitting on the counter!) Drizzle of honey, balsamic vinegar, EVOO,  salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Some leftover cornbread split and toasted made a great addition.


Garbanzos and Tomato Sauce over Quinoa


Begin with a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes. (San Marzano preferred.) Use an immersion stick and puree tomatoes until smooth. In a skillet, sauté some onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil until fragrant. Add tomato puree, salt and a pinch of sugar. Simmer until flavors meld. Check for seasoning and make adjustments.

Drain a can of garbanzo beans and rinse. Add beans to tomato sauce and continue to simmer.

Prepare quinoa according to instructions. 1 C dry would feed four. I added some salt and bay leaves to the cooking pot.

I had some small sweet peppers in the fridge and I decided to roast them up. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with non-stick spray. Oil your peppers with EVOO. A pinch of salt and pepper and in they go to a preheated 425 degree oven. Roast until slightly charred. Rotate peppers at least once for even cooking.

Make a salad. I had some arugula, cucumber and avocado on hand. Simple dressing: lemon juice, EVOO, cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt.

For service: fresh basil, shredded parmesan and a drizzle of EVOO.

Some old crusty bread found new life in the toaster oven. Drizzle a bit of EVOO and lightly toast.

Filling, vegetarian, delicious and guilt-free!