Stuffed to the Gills Shells

stuffed shells 2Sometimes, great things take some time. I’m not one for a lot of fussy cooking. I don’t make ravioli a lot because of the time it takes to make the dough and roll it out, and invest in a ravioli cutter of some sort and so forth. I don’t make cupcakes much for the same reason.
But this is worth it. I promise you.And this recipe makes enough for two casseroles, and so you can freeze one. It won’t be as good, since pasta doesn’t hold up well to freezing, but it will be okay. Enough okay that your family will love you for it. And you will love it. And that really matters! So let the taste buds have a party with this Italian love fest. INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe of your favorite Italian sauce.  (or a jar of something if you must)
  • 1 box of large shells
  • 1 lb of ground round, or pork, or sausage of your choice.
  • 1 egg
  • about 2 cups of raw chopped mushrooms of your choice
  • 1 bunch of kale or swiss chard, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 2/3 c of freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1  16 oz container of full milk ricotta
  • about 1/3 c chopped basil
  • 16 oz of fresh mozzarella, shredded


  1. Cook the meat (use a bit of olive oil if needed) Remove with a slotted spoon and use the pan to cook the mushrooms until they have given up their liquid and are done.
  2. Cook the shells in salted water until al dente. Drain and let cool.
  3. Place the mushrooms in a bowl, adding the garlic to it and mix.
  4. Steam the kale or chard until nicely wilted.
  5. Add to the mushrooms and let it cool on the counter.
  6. In a small bowl whisk the egg. Add the ricotta and the Parmigiano and mix.
  7. Add the meat to the mushroom mixture and pour the egg mixture over all, mix thoroughly but gently.
  8. When the shells are cool, oil a baking pan (2) for this recipe. Place a couple of ladles of sauce in the bottom of each and spread around.
  9. With an ice cream scoop, scoop up a the meat mixture and place in the shell. Place shells in the baking dish as you go along. They will fall over, but once you get them in fairly tight, you can aright them.
  10. When you have used up all the filling, pour your sauce over the shells, not to cover completely but be generous.
  11. Scatter the shredded mozzarella over.
  12. If freezing one, cover with foil and seal well, and place in freezer.
  13. Place in a 350° preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Scatter the chopped basil over the top. Let sit for about 10-15 before serving.

SERVES: 6 well

NOTES: Serve extra grated cheese at the table. Goes beautifully with a nice salad with a light vinaigrette and some great bread.



Classy Colcannon

colcannon_zoomThis is surely peasant food, but it’s a dish that I just adore, and surely don’t make it often enough.

There is just enough of a twist on the classic dish to liven it up and make it an excellent choice not only for that St. Patrick’s Day meal, but for many others.

Think, grilled sausage for starters. I think it also goes well with a pork roast.

It takes little more time than making regular old mashed potatoes so do surprise your family from time to time with this delightful Irish dish.


  • 4 – 6 slices of bacon, thick cut.
  • 4-6 red potatoes, peeled or not as you prefer
  • 1/2 medium cabbage, sliced in nice shreds
  • 1 /2 of a medium onion, also sliced thinly
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 c cream


  1. Chunk up the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain and set aside.
  2. Chunk up the potatoes and boil in salted water until just done, drain.
  3. Slice the cabbage into shreds and place in a steamer pan, steaming until done but still having a bite
  4. Saute the onion in some butter, for 15-20 minutes or so, just until starting to caramelize. Set aside.
  5. Add butter and cream to the hot potatoes and mash.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Fold in the cabbage and the onions until mixed.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the bacon.

Serves: 6-8

NOTES: Beware, you family may demand you make this on a regular basis. It’s really that good. Kale can also be added for an extra punch of flavor. I’d say about 2 c loosely packed should do it. Swiss Chard would also be an option.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish-Soda-Bread1An easy and pleasing bread is Irish Soda Bread. Made without yeast for all of you who are scared of yeasty doughs (really there is nothing to be the least scared about. Yeast breads are very easy).

I think traditionally soda breads are made with raisins but I made mine without. The recipe comes directly from Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide, a fine cooking blog if there ever was one. I made this for St. Patrick’s Day, and we surely enjoyed it.

This makes 2 loaves, so freeze one for another occasion.


  • 4 c unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp caraway seed
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1  1/2 c buttermilk (or use milk with 1 tbsp vinegar, stir and let sit for 15 minutes)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c dried currents (optional)


  1. Put baking soda, baking powder, and flour together, stir a bit and then sift together.
  2. Add salt, zest, and caraway seeds and mix.
  3. Dice up the butter and cut it into the flour until you have a crumbly mix.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and honey. (add the currents if using)
  5. Slowly add to the flour, stirring it in with a fork until it comes together enough to make a dough. You may not need all the milk.
  6. Knead a few times to bring it into a tight mass. Divide dough in half and place on greased baking sheet.
  7. Cut an X in the top of each with a sharp knife.
  8. Brush with milk/egg mixture.
  9. Let sit for 10 minutes
  10. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 30 minutes or until it thumps with tapped.

SERVES: 2 loaves

NOTES: This makes a very nice breakfast bread I find. The sweetness of the bread compliments some good butter and perhaps some marmalade!

Corned Beef Bonanza

cornedbeefOh corned beef. What a wonderful meat it is. So great for sandwiches and so perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

There are, as you can imagine, a zillion recipes out there for how to make it, and so many insist that they are authentic (Irish recipes that is), and so many are really awful, leaving you with some shoe leather or watery tasteless stuff.

This is, I thought, a bit unusual, but it worked wonderfully. Easy and carefree (so you can devote your time to some fun things like soda bread and colcannon) and deliciously tender and juicy.

In a word–or words–we loved it. And the left overs were put to good use–(stay tuned for a great casserole recipe)

So next year come St. Paddy’s Day, do buy a big old corned beef and give it a go.


  • 1 good-sized brisket with its spice packet
  • 1   12 oz bottle of a good lager beer
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 c peppercorns
  • half a bulb of garlic (cloves peeled and separated)


  1. Place everything in a slow cooker (crock pot).
  2. Add enough water to cover the meat.
  3. Start on high, and once boiling, reduce to medium or low.
  4. Cook for 4-5 hours.
  5. Remove and let sit for ten minutes or so to let it firm up.
  6. Slice or shred as you desire.


NOTES: You can if you wish, place the cooked beef in a pan, place a glaze over it and put in a hot oven for a few minutes. Some like a mustard glaze on their corned beef. As I said, the leftovers make some fun casseroles and I’ll post that recipe in a couple of weeks. Also of course, there are the ever-great corned beef sandwiches!

Home Sweet Home Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

sausagegravySometimes it’s just what you have to have.

Nothing else will do.

It’s got to be home cooking and it’s got to be nostalgic.

Nothing fits that bill better than home-made biscuits and some very very home-made sausage gravy.

You can almost taste it can’t ya?

I know city folks don’t like such fattening stuff. But all of us were once upon a time just kids and this was wonderful food.

And sometimes life is hard and this kind of food lets us forget all the mean old world for a bit and enter our memories and smile.

So do make this. You’ll know when it’s time.


  • 1 recipe of Southern biscuits baked according to the directions.
  • 1 lb of your favorite bulk breakfast sausage, broken up.
  • 1/2 lg onion, diced
  • 1/4 c of flour
  • 3 c whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Assemble the biscuit dough, make your biscuits and let it sit while the oven preheats and you begin the gravy.
  2. Break up the sausage and saute with the onion until done. Use a potato masher or cutter to break up the sausage into even pieces.
  3. Add the flour and mix thoroughly with the meat coating it all, and cooking it for a couple of minutes more.
  4. Add the milk (you can put it in the microwave for a minute or so to warm but it’s not necessary). Stir well and continue stirring as the milk gets hot and begins to thicken.
  5. Stir until completely thickened and bubbly.
  6. Salt and pepper and then taste for more seasonings.
  7. Pop your biscuits in and bake. Serve piping hot.


NOTES: This is a basic recipe. You can add herbs (fresh would be great of any kind you wish, depending on the type of sausage you are using), hot pepper flakes, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped chiles if you desire. Any spices which you think might complement your type of sausage can also be added.

Bring It On Burrito Pie!

tortialla pieThere are a million of these recipes, and so don’t hold me to anything seriously authentic, except for the ingredients. I have adapted this one from one from All Recipes, but I adapted it so much, it’s really my own.

It’s just a really nice, filling, and satisfying meal all around.

It rewarms very well, and actually would freeze well too.

You can vary it as you wish to, but I’m giving you the basics.

As always, you can make this simpler by using a lot of prepackaged stuff, or make it much better and full of love with a bit more time and attention.

It serves well with some nice Spanish rice and the usual chopped lettuce and tomato side.


  • 1 1/2 lbs ground round
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, microplaned
  • 1 4 oz can of black olives, drained and sliced if whole
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 ancho, Anaheim, Hatch, or other similar chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped.
  • 1 c of diced tomato, seeded
  • 1 1/2 c salsa (make pico de gallo and whirr up in a blender or food processor until it’s fairly smooth. (can substitute jarred salsa)
  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained, rinsed, and then mashed with a potato masher until lumpy but broken down.
  • 8 or so flour tortillas ( depending on their size and the size of your baking dish)
  • 1 c corn (fresh, canned or frozen)
  • 10-12 oz of cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican cheese of your choice.


  1. Brown the meat, onion and garlic until the meat is done. Break up the meat so that it is loose.
  2. Add the olives, roasted chiles, tomato, salsa, and beans, and mix together. Add the corn.
  3. Add the spices and herbs.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, just to work the flavors together.
  5. Oil the baking dish (9 x 13 is good, but deeper pans are suggested–a large springform pan is excellent but cover the bottom with foil in to keep it from leaking and place on a rimmed baking sheet)
  6. Layer a thin layer of the meat mixture in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Cover with a layer of the tortillas.
  8. Then a layer of the meat, and cover with cheese.
  9. Another layer of tortillas, meat and cheese,
  10. A third of you have room.
  11. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

SERVES: 6 easily

NOTES: Serve with sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, and or green chile salsa.

Patty Melt With a Southwestern Flair

patty-melt-01Sometimes you need a burger plus. Something like a burger, but not quite a burger.

So kick off the bun, and add some rye bread. And well, the recipe follows. ‘

Take your classic patty melt and send it down here to New Mexico and we will put our own spice to it. You won’t be disappointed if you try this one.

This is a user-friendly recipe, and even the kids will pretty much like this I think.

Makes for a great little Saturday light dinner with some homemade fries and some homemade coleslaw.


  • 1 lb of ground round
  • 1 med-lg onion, sliced
  • 2 Anaheim chiles or Hatch if you can get them
  • slices of Monterey Jack cheese
  • slices of rye bread
  • mustard of your choice


  1. Slice the onions and place in a saute pan with about 3 tbsp of butter, and cook slowly until nicely caramelized–about 30-45 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Place your chiles on an open flame or under a broiler and char the skins thoroughly. Scrap off the skins, cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Chop into a nice dice. Set aside.
  3. Take the ground meat and place between two sheets of wax paper.  Shape into a rectangle. Using a rolling-pin, roll until it’s evenly distributed and can be cut into six pieces of the same approximate size. (rye bread if used is long and you will use two pieces of patty for each sandwich.)
  4. Cook the meat until done to your preference.
  5. Remove meat to a plate and place two slices of bread in the pan and brown evenly. Place the 2 pieces of meat on each slice, then scatter some chiles over the meat. Add some onions. Then add three slices of the cheese on top.
  6. Place the top slices of bread on each and with care, turn over and saute until the bottom slices are browned.
  7. Serve it up with mustards of your choice.

Serves: 3 generous sandwiches