Chili-Mac-Cheese Casserole

690-ChiliMacThis is comfort food.

Nothing exciting to see here.

Just plain old good gruel as my husband would say.

You make it in the morning. Let it sit. Toss it in the oven until it’s hot.

No doubt if you half this recipe or have a really big crock pot, you could do it that way.

But it’s fast and easy.

And I said it was good.

So when the kids are cranky, this is what you fix them.


  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2-3 hot chiles of any kind you like chopped finely
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, microplaned (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh ground chuck
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice or diced, roughly chopped,
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, or any kind you like, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (like Frank’s)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 /2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 pound grated Cheddar or Jack cheese
  • 4 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves or scallion greens for garnish


  1. Saute your onions and peppers in a large skillet until softened and the onion translucent.
  2. Add your spices and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the beef and break up stirring occasionally until the meat is mostly browned.
  4. Add the tomatoes, beans and hot sauce. Stir well and cover and let lightly simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Place the macaroni in water and place over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn off and let it sit until it is al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta and add the milk and cheeses. Mix until the cheeses have melted and all is creamy.
  7. Add the meat mixture to the macaroni and cheese and stir until mixed.
  8. Place all in a casserole and heat at 350° until heated and bubbly.
  9. Strew the top with additional cheese, scallions and cilantro if desired.


NOTES: This is just a framework. Your own chile recipe can stand as your framework if you wish. This is not very hot and so you can spice it up considerably. Add things like corn for instance or use cubed meat instead of the hamburger.  This method for cooking the macaroni is unusual but works fine. I have read analysis that suggests that putting pasta in cold water changes nothing in the taste or time so it’s just easier this way, and shutting off the heat after it comes to a boil just means you don’t have to worry about boil overs when you are busy with other parts of the meal.

SOURCE: Adapted from Serious Eats

Cream Cheese Wontons

wontons-036Oh I love appetizers.

This goes perfectly with a good Asian entrée along with a egg roll.

Makes a perfect complete plate.

And they are easy.

And they freeze perfectly so you can make a batch and have them for future Asian meals.

What more can you ask for?

Oh, yeah, someone to do the prep for ya.

Well, I can’t help with that, but do indulge in these lovely tidbits.



  • 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
  • 2 whole Green Onions, Light Green And Dark Green Parts, Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha Or Other Hot Sauce (more To Taste)
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 24 whole Wonton Wrappers
  • Vegetable Oil, For Frying


  1. Place cream cheese (softened) in food processor or mixer along with onions, and hot sauce and whir until all is well mixed.
  2. Mix the egg and water together until frothy in a bowl.
  3. Take a wonton wrapper and place about 1 tsp of the cheese filling in the lower corner and roll until it is covered. Then wash the outer triangle of wonton with egg wash. Bring the two sides together and press down, then flip up the tip. I make mine to look like little rectangular pillows so the tips don’t get over done. The point is to zip them up tight enough that the filling doesn’t come out during the frying.
  4. Place in oil which has been heated to about 350°. Depending on how large or small your frying vessel is, you can put 4 or so at a time.
  5. Remove when they have risen and are just golden. Place on a rack lined with paper towelling to cool.
  6. Makes at least 2 dozen.
  7. Freeze leftovers in a plastic bag and reheat in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes.
  8. Serve with a soy/honey sauce if desired.


NOTES: You can of course add anything else to the cheese mixture that strikes your fancy. Perhaps a tbsp of soy might be good.

SOURCE: Pioneer Woman


Asian Grilled Chicken

chickgrillIt’s grilling time!

Here in the Southwest, it’s never not grilling time. We are very lucky in that.

This is a recipe I adapted from a very excellent one to put on the grill.

It turned out extremely well and after giving us a lovely main dish, the remnants served to make truly delicious chicken sandwiches a day later.

Hope you enjoy it.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 Serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 5 to 6-pound whole roasting chicken


  1. Take a chicken and cut out the backbone. (I save in the freezer with wing tips to make stock). Spread out the bird, tucking the wing tips under. Pat dry with towelling and place uncovered in the fridge for about 12 hours to dry.

2.     Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add garlic, ginger and Serrano peppers and sauté until they start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetable oil, along with the soy sauce, mustard, vinegars and sugars. Season with pepper and, if needed, salt. Raise heat to medium-high, bring to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened to a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

3.  Place the chicken on a hot grill, on the cool side, basting with some of the sauce,  and cook juices run clear. Then transfer to the hot end and baste every few minutes until skin is crisp and charred. Let sit for about 20 minutes and then slice up and serve.


NOTES: This recipe was for the oven. If you use it this way, baste from the beginning and cook at 375º for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

SOURCE: Adapted from Serious Eats


Authentically Tasty Pork Carnitas

Carnitas 500 6487Like so much of Mexican cooking, every family has its own recipe. Nobody has “the” recipe. The one ingredient in all of course is pork.

In most of the authentic ones I’ve found, lard is another basic.

Now I know what you are going to say. Ewwww, no lard for me.

But if you will listen, we can get past this problem.

So scientifically, as I understand it, the lard is not absorbed. A chemically thing happens here. The meat has “juice” in it, aka, water. It also have some fat. If you keep the temperature fairly mild, the fat and collagen “render” out of the meat, but the lard acts as a barrier and prevents the water from escaping.

Thus at the end, you have a crispy (I’ll explain that too) outside, and an amazingly succulent, moist, literally melt-in-your-mouth interior.

Let me repeat again, the lard is not absorbed. You are using raw meat. You are not breading it like chicken. When you do that, the breading (flour and egg) do absorb the fat. That’s why the crust on fried chicken is greasy.

So if you have the nerve to give this a try, you will have the most amazing food experience ever. It literally makes your eyes bug out in pleasure.

So, are you game?


  • 2½ – 3 pound pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces at least 2×2 inches in size (do not skimp on the size, trust me)
  • 1 pound lard (if you cannot find lard at your local market, use suet)
  • ½ orange, skin on, quartered
  • 1 lime, skin on, quartered
  • 4 medium garlic cloves skinned and left whole, slightly smashed
  • 1 jalapeno stemmed and sliced into ½ inch rings, seeds left in
  • 1 medium onion, skinned and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup bacon fat


  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. In a dutch oven, or similar volume oven-proof vessel, place all ingredients. Cover with parchment and foil and bake for five hours.
  3. Remove from oven and scoop out meat with a hand strainer or spider strainer. Dispose of remaining liquids and solids.
  4. Place cooked pork on a foil-lined sheet pan, place under broiler for five minutes. If the bottoms seem too wet, flip the pork and broil the other side for another minute or two. This step needs to be watched – you want the meat to caramelize without burning it or drying it out.
  5. Serve simply in a warmed flour tortilla with chopped onion and cilantro.


NOTES: You can add sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, or anything else that makes you happy. This meat simply melts. If you cut up the meat into smaller chunks, it tends to disintegrate so keep them quite large. The tenderness is shocking actually. And there is no greasy taste or feel. You might well remove them from the original pan onto some paper towel first before transferring to the sheet for the broiler. Do not skip the broiler part. It adds significantly to the full mouth pleasure and taste. Anyone who tells you to substitute broth or other liquid for the lard is not giving you good advice. You meat will not be anywhere near as moist and tender. It will be dry and chewy.

SOURCE: A Family Feast

Chicken with Mushrooms DiJon Sauce

Sauteed-Chicken-with-Mushroom-Dill-Cream-Sauce-This is a recipe that works up fast, yet tastes elegant enough to serve to company.

You may use chicken breasts, but really any sort of chicken pieces will do, as long as etiquette doesn’t get in the way. If it does, I’d stick to thighs or breasts, but a thigh-leg quarter works fine as well.


  • 4 pieces of chicken
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter


  1. In a medium bowl, place four, salt and pepper and mix. Dredge chicken in four, shake excess and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken breasts and brown 3-4 minutes per side. If all four pieces will not fit, cook in two batches. Remove chicken to a platter and set aside.
  3. Heat pan back up to high and add mushrooms and cook for about three minutes until just starting to brown. Reduce to medium high and add onions and rosemary. Cook for two to three minutes. The mushrooms will give up some liquid when the onions are added. Add both mustards, and wine and scrape up bottom. Add the stock and put the chicken back in, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is done.
  4. At this point you can turn the burner off and leave covered until just before serving. When ready to serve:
  5.   Heat to near a boil. Remove chicken again. Add parsley, and cream. Bring to a soft boil, adding butter in half tablespoons and stirring until it has melted in and thickened.  Add chicken back in and cover with sauce. Serve with sauce over each portion.


NOTES: Can be served with mashed potatoes, boiled, or noodles or rice.

SOURCE: Adapted from A Family Feast

Nana Cake with Peanut Butter Gobs of Frosting

banana cakeOkay, I gotta confess.

The cake here is ordinary. I don’t mean bad ordinary. It’s perfectly serviceable and good banana cake. Quick to assemble and all that and tastes just fine.

But the frosting is to die for.

Well, not literally since if you were dead you wouldn’t get to enjoy it.

So do think of using this on almost any kind of cake.

The flavor is subtle enough to that it will go with anything pretty much.


For the Banana Cake:
2 cups all-purpose  flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3  – 4 ripe

For the Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the Greek yogurt and vanilla extract. Mix in the mashed bananas.

    4. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until flour disappears. Spread cake batter evenly into the prepared pan.

    5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely.

    6. While the cake is cooling, make the peanut butter frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter on high until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. Beat on high until powdered sugar is incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Beat until frosting is smooth and desired consistency.
    7. Frost the banana cake with peanut butter frosting.


NOTES: Don’t be overly concerned with the amount of bananas. At least 2 large and probably no more than 5 small. The frosting is really sufficient to cover a 9 x 14 pan very generously.

SOURCE: Two Peas and their Pod

OVEN: 350°

OVEN TIME: 20-30 min.

Italian Olive Salad with Potatoes, Corn and Green Beans

grilled-fingerlings-feta-green-beans-red-wine_s4x3This was a lovely salad.

Any salad that is a potato type is a good start.

Here I married potatoes, corn and green beans with the versatile Italian Olive Salad.

It was wonderful.

Even though it’s not summer yet, it was the perfect side dish. It is great with sandwiches, grilled meats, and all by itself. Add some meat and you have a complete meal.


  • 1/2 recipe of Olive Salad
  • Roast some potatoes (2 lg Idaho’s or a comparable amt of red, Yukon, or new potatoes)
  • 1 c of corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 c green beans (fresh or frozen is fine)


  1. Dice up the potatoes to bite-sized pieces.
  2. Either cook or defrost the veggies.
  3. Add all to a large bowl.
  4. Add the olive salad and mix thoroughly.
  5. Best if made a couple of hours ahead, and great at room temperature.


NOTES: You can of course use sweet potatoes, and add other veggies as you wish. Asparagus would be wonderful as would zucchini, lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower.

SOURCE: Sherry Peyton