Chorizo Sloppy Joes with Tomatillo Salsa

A lot of my best dishes start as inspiration from other blogs. One of my favorites is Annie’s Eats – even as a working mother, she finds time to create delicious and healthy meals from scratch. And as the mama bear of my friends, I’m usually cooking for one or more of my cubs (plus the hubs) every night of the week. Food is my love language, and since I love a lot of people, I need a lot of fast, fun and healthy ideas.

Chorizo black bean sammie
All the best in Mexican food – chorizo, black beans, cheese, salsa, cheese…

The beauty of this recipe lies in its adaptability. Making it for a vegetarian? Just use all black beans (or add crumbled veggies patties/sausage.) Gluten free? Switch out the bun. Dairy free? Hold the cheese. I served this with a Mexican vegetable soup, but you could also serve with chips and salsa.

You’ll need: 


  • ½ lb. Mexican chorizo (Spanish is usually fully cooked – Mexican has the consistency of breakfast sausage, but you’ll need to cut it out of the case.)
  • 2 15 oz. cans black beans
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup Mexican beer (or any lager)
  • 4 rolls (I used pretzel rolls, YUM.)
  • 8 oz. cheese (I used Iberico because I got some on clearance, queso fresco or manchego would be good too.)
  • Sliced avocado


  • 8 – 10 tomatillos, cleaned and quarter chopped
  • 2  cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, torn off stems
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Splash of water
  • Salt to taste

Get cooking:


  1. Pulse all ingredients in food processor until finely chopped. (Or whatever consistency you like – it’s really up to you.)
  2. Spread on sandwiches.


  1. Saute chorizo until it releases some of its fat (2-3 minutes), then add in onions and bell peppers, and saute until chorizo is cooked through (7-8 minutes) and onions/peppers are soft.
  2. Deglaze pan with beer and cook until reduced by half.
  3. Spoon on rolls with cheese, avocado and salsa.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

I love to entertain – except for those nights. Nights when you don’t want to clean. Nights after a wretched day. Those nights when you just want to cook something soul-warming, put on your PJs, open a bottle of wine – and call your best friends. Because you’re scared of them seeing your house. Even on those awful nights, Merrill will still come over – in her PJs, homework and Oscar (her dog) in tow. My house can be a mess, I usually am a mess – but we make some room on the couch to eat, laugh and relax. She requested this recipe during a ‘couch date’ – but, as always, we fiddled a bit. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but you’ll probably have most laying around already.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
The perfect classed-up comfort food – Brazilian shrimp soup.


Based on:


You’ll need:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1/2 t red-pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • 2 lbs medium shrimp, shelled and cut in half horizontally
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t cajun seasoning
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Salt, pepper, sriracha to taste

Get cooking:

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften (about 10 minutes.)
  2. Add the rice, red pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. erve in large bowls garnished with lemons, sriracha and parsley.

BBQ pork pizza

There is just something about barbecue. No matter what season, what occasion, it seems easy, fun and delicious. The same can be said for pizza. You can make a pizza fancy, fun, heavy, hearty – the combinations are endless.

Anyone who knows me knows how I cook – there should be a new term for leftovers coined just for me, to adequately express the level of leftover food I have after any given meal. The conception of this dish was one such occasion. I’m sure you’ve had chicken BBQ pizza (and in fact, my friend Matt makes the world’s best), but we happened to have a bunch of leftover pulled pork after an event, and I thought, “Well, I could make a pizza out of that!” So I did. And then David started requesting it weekly. So I suggest you don’t make this unless you’re ok with it becoming a permanent dinner rotation.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb pork loin or shoulder
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 lb feta
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 medium pizza crust
  • Cornmeal

Get cooking:

  1. To caramelize the onions: slice, combine with oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Put your pizza stone in the oven with the onions, so it heats up while you assemble the rest of the pizza.
  3. Spread your crust on a pizza peel/parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. (This will help the pizza slide off onto the stone. So be liberal, unless you want a calzone. Which is what happens when your crust gets mangled. Still tasty, but different experience.)
  4. Mix half the BBQ sauce with the pizza sauce and spread on the crust.
  5. Mix other half of sauce with pork.
  6. Add cheese, pork and caramelized onions to the pizza.
  7. Slide (very, very carefully) onto hot pizza stone and bake 15-20 minutes. (You can also place the parchment paper directly on the pizza stone – much, much easier.)
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes (I know, I know, but for real, you’ll burn yourself.)
  9. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I dare you.

Fun foil packets

Camping is an activity I’ve come to love as an adult. As a child, we went once. I was two. My father left my mother alone with twin two-years-olds and an infant to go to work, and I proceeded at stab my mother in the eye with a fork. Then, as the story goes,  it started raining cats and dogs and I think the camper got stuck. Needless to say, we did not camp again. But I’ve been a few times with different groups of people, and when you find a “good camping group,” it makes the whole experience an absolute blast.

We found a great group a couple of years ago through our friends Matt and Andy. Everyone was very nice and welcoming, we had a great time kayaking with them. One of their group traditions is dinner in a foil packet – basically, a bunch of different veggies and whatever meat and seasoning you want, wrapped in aluminum foil, grilled over the fire until the meat’s cooked. I can’t remember which one of the boys came up with which meat option, but we decided to bring shrimp and chorizo. It was a brilliant choice. The fat from the chorizo gives the veggies great flavor (and just means you don’t add as much oil) and the shrimp is amazing. It does tend to get a little done, so we leave it on the top. Or you could always throw it in at the end – that’s probably a better idea. And while we cook these over a fire, you can absolutely do them on a grill or even in the oven at about 400 degrees. We’ve done them all, because we just can’t get enough.

You’ll need:

  • enough aluminum foil to create a packet OR a personal sized foil pan (like for leftovers) that you can cover with foil. (The second options is easier by far.)
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb chorizo (uncooked)
  • 6-8 small red potatoes, thinly sliced (could also use yukon golds, russet, purple – whatever potatoes you love)
  • 4-8 cloves garlic, minced (1-2 per packet)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • A handful each (per packet) of your favorites out of the following:
    • Summer squash, sliced
    • Zucchini, sliced
    • Green beans
    • Broccoli
    • Mushrooms, sliced
    • Bell peppers, diced
  • Non-stick grilling spray and/or olive oil
  • Seasoning as desired – we like salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and gullah

Get cooking:

1. Get your heat source going, whatever that may be – a fire, a grill over medium high heat or an oven heated to 400.
2. Spray 4 foil pouches or pans with non-stick spray, to help keep everything from sticking.
3. Layer in your ingredients – potatoes on the bottom, chorizo next (make sure you break it up with your fingers), veggies on top of that and shrimp on the very top.
4. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, if desired, and add seasoning as desired.
5. Cover top with foil and place on fire grate, grill grate or in oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
6. Remove from heat, let stand for about 5 minutes (it will be super hot).
7. Transfer to a plate, stir and enjoy! Also, delicious topped with your favorite cheese.

Terrific Thai chicken pizza

So big shocker, the small town where we grew up did not have a Thai restaurant. In fact, the Chinese buffet in the next town over that opened during high school was a huge deal. Any other Asian restaurant of any kind was at least 40 minutes away. Which means my first experience with anything resembling authentic Thai cuisine didn’t happen until a few years ago. My friend Amanda actually made an incredible Thai feast during one of our marathon cooking days – lettuce wraps and a Thai noodle dish with a peanut sauce. I love the marriage of the sweetness and the heat, and peanut butter! In a sauce! I thought this was brilliant.

David was a bit more…apprehensive. But another friend made the most amazing peanut sauce for dipping chicken skewers and he seemed to enjoy that, so I thought I could combine all the flavors I love about Thai food in a dish he loves – pizza. It was a total win. Peanut sauce makes up the base, and the toppings are what you mind find in a Thai curry. These are what I like, but feel free to add your own.

You’ll need:

Peanut sauce base

  • ½ can coconut milk
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 1 T ginger, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 1 T soy sauce

1 crust, whatever you like. (I love this crust – I mean, REALLY love it, it’s perfect every time – and I sub in whole wheat flour when I can.)


  • Shredded chicken
  • Bell peppers
  • Scallions
  • Shredded carrots
  • Mozzarella
  • Cilantro
  • Peanuts
  • Sweet Asian chili sauce, to drizzle

Get cooking:

  1. Combine ingredients in peanut sauce together in a small saucepan and boil for about 15-20 minutes, until sauce is reduced by about ⅓.
  2. Spread sauce on crust, add all toppings (except for peanuts, sauce and cilantro) and bake for 15 minutes, until crust is cooked through.
  3. Add peanuts cilantro and drizzle with chili sauce.
  4. Eat. And eat some more.

David’s favorite – Fettuccine Alfredo

Everyone grows up having that one “dish” they love. I have a few – my dad’s roast, my mom’s carbonara. My dad’s steak is so good we call it “daddy steak,” and I refused to order restaurant steak until I was well into my 20s (and still only do about once a year.) David’s was his mom’s “beef paprika” – basically a spin on beef stroganoff that uses a tomato-based sauce. I tried to make it at least 3 or 4 times – now understand, I know my way around a kitchen and this is not a complicated recipe – but I could not get it right! It wouldn’t thicken up right, or the flavor would be off – so very odd. So I did what any self-respecting cook does – I stopped cooking it and went to work creating a new favorite dish for him. Not to replace his mom’s, but so that he could at least have one awesome thing he loved that I could actually make him. Not only did I succeed, but this is one of the easiest dishes I make. On the nights I really want to wow him, I make homemade pasta – but the stuff from the box makes this a super fast meal choice.

You’ll need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, diced (ahem, or more. You know, whatever bakes your cookies.)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced (optional)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 heads broccoli (optional)
  • 1 pound pasta
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t thyme

Get cooking:

  1. Boil pasta according to your tastes (I like a good bite in mine, David prefers a little less al dente.) About two minutes before pasta is done, add broccoli to steam in pasta water. Drain pasta/broccoli and add to sauce.
  2. For the sauce, saute garlic, onion and chicken (if using) in butter/olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Deglaze with wine and let reduce for 1-2 minutes, then add cream.
  4. Once it comes to a boil, add Parmesan cheese and let melt. Add pasta/broccoli to sauce, heat through another minute and add seasoning. Serve it up on a huge plate with extra cheese for the top.

Perfect Pineapple Rum Chicken

When David and I were first married, I committed to cooking something new at least once a week. It was a great way to expand my cooking skills from “broke college student” to “newly-married with a bit of money to play with professional.” I stumbled upon this recipe in a Rachael Ray cookbook and armed with a cupboard full of rum from our tropical honeymoon and a sale on fresh pineapple, I went to work. Slightly adapted from the original, it became and still is one of our favorite dishes. It’s also crazy fast to make.

You’ll need:

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces (You can use canned here if you like. I always just wait for the sale because I love the taste of fresh pineapple.)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T ginger, minced
  • ½ – ¾ cup rum, any flavor
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ t crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Steamed rice for serving

Get cooking:

  1. Heat skillet over medium high heat until warm, add oil.
  2. Once oil is hot, add chicken and onions – cook for 5-7 minutes until chicken is browned and onions of soft.
  3. Add garlic and ginger – saute for 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Add rum, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or flat whisk (deglazing) and let reduce by half.
  5. Add pineapple, chicken broth and spices. Boil until liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Serve over rice (while listening to Jimmy Buffett.)

Marvelous Marinara Sauce

Everyone has those nights – you’ve worked a super long day, you want to come home and eat a comforting, warm, home cooked meal….but you have absolutely no patience to actually cook. Spaghetti (or more accurately, any kind of pasta) in a marinara sauce is probably my go to “comfort food meal,” and while I could just buy jarred pasta sauce…I can actually make a homemade marinara in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Which means I get the exact flavor I want, I know what I’m putting into it, and best of all – I get out my daily aggression by chopping.

This sauce is really versatile, depending on what you’re feeling like that night. The recipe below is just the base sauce, but I’ve been known to add diced chicken (for a faster, lighter version of chicken Parmesan), ground beef or turkey, and a variety of vegetables (bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes) as it sounded good.

You’ll need:

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I just like the texture better, but you can use tomato sauce here if you’d prefer.)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped (I’ve been known to use a whole head and no, I’m not ashamed.)
  • 1 onion (Small, medium or large depends on how much you – or the people you’re cooking for – like onion.)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup – ¾ cup red wine
  • 2 T basil
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T brown sugar (Optional, if you like a sweeter pasta sauce.)
  • 1 pound of your favorite pasta

Get cooking:

  1. Get water on to boil and boil pasta according to package instructions/to your preference.
  2. Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
  3. Once oil is warm, add onion (and meat/veggies, if using) and saute about 5 minutes, until onions are softened.
  4. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes more, or until meat is done (if using.)
  5. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon/flat whisk (the fancy name for this is ‘deglaze”) and reduce by about half.
  6. Add tomato sauce and spices. Bring to boil, then let simmer until pasta is done.
  7. I always throw my pasta in the pan with my sauce and let them cook together for a minute or two, but that is totally up to you. Either way, dinner’s served! Don’t forget to top with Parmesan cheese.

Amazing Gnocchi in Acorn Squash

I studied abroad in Rome during the summer of 2006, and while I was there, I had a very…European class schedule. I took Italian from 9-12 and history from 4-6, leaving me a very nice chunk in the middle of the day for wandering, eating and siesta-ing. True story – it took me the rest of the summer to break my afternoon nap habit. Those Europeans, they have the right idea.

Lunch was sometimes pizza from a local pizzeria with my classmates, but on days where I just needed to get in the kitchen, one of my staple dishes was gnocchi in a white wine sauce. Super simple – just sauteed onion and and garlic and white wine with a little butter, gnocchi and a bit of cheese, but filling and refreshing. And fast enough that I had plenty of time for a nap.

I make the gnocchi year round, but during the two weeks of squashness early in our marriage I found a way to add some fall to this summer meal. I kept the same recipe for the gnocchi, but placed the finished dish inside the hollow of a cooked acorn squash. It gets in a vegetable serving, creates a great presentation and is just a fun way to eat the dish.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb of gnocchi, any variety
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced (Yes, I use a whole head. No, you don’t have to.)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 T dried basil or 20 leave fresh, chopped basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 acorn squash, split and cleaned
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. Place your acorn squash on a baking sheet – drizzle with 1 T of oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Bake at 450 degree for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.
  2. When the squash is about 10 minutes from being done, put the water on for the gnocchi.
  3. While the water is coming up to a boil, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add remaining oil. Saute onion 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 – 2 minutes more, until softened. Add wine, scraping up bits on the bottom of the pan. Let reduce by half. Add basil and salt/pepper to taste.
  4. Once it boils, add gnocchi. At this point, the gnocchi will only need about 3 minutes to cook – once one floats to the top of the water, they’re done. Scoop them out and add to the sauce.
  5. Cook gnocchi in sauce for another minutes or so, then add butter and allow to melt into sauce.
  6. Scoop gnocchi into cooked squash, top with your favorite cheese (we love this with fresh parmesan, goat cheese and blue cheese) and enjoy!

Caprese Salad Pasta

The summer is one of my favorite times of year because cooking is easy. Take meat, season liberally – throw on grill. Find veggies, whatever’s in the fridge – do the same. Add a slice of bread if there’s no potatoes. (If there were potatoes, you would have also grilled them.) Done.But I have to say, every once and a while I find myself missing carbs – specifically pasta. Because well, I was an Italian mama in another life. Also, I have an addiction. So this recipe takes my love of something completely summer – caprese salad – and marries it with another love – pasta. But, you cook the sauce partially on the grill, so that adds another level of flavor – and summer.I saw someone (and I’ll totally forget who) do this originally, and then I combined about three different recipes and my own creativity for something that was so good, David said “I don’t know WHAT this is, but I LOVE IT!” From his mouth to your face.

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh mozzerella, cubed (Hey, you could use a half a pound if you want – but why? Also, the fresh is key here – the flavor is … mmmm.)
  • 1 pound short-cut pasta, any kind you like
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Fresh basil – um, a bunch
  • Any other Italian seasonings you like
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. First you want to start your grill, then put your pasta water on.
  2. Dice your veggies and cheese.
  3. Once that’s done, grab a piece of foil big enough to fit the tomato, onion and garlic, and coat with cooking spray. (Go bigger than you think here – you’ll thank me later.) Lay the veggies down, toss with Italian seasoning and oil, and cover with another foil sheet. Seal it up and throw on the grill for about 10 minutes.
  4. While that’s cooking, add the butter to the pan and heat over medium high until it starts to brown. Once it’s brown, add in the balsamic vinegar. NOW WARNING: This will splash. And sizzle. And holy moly, will it smell. Your eyes will water. Your smoke alarm will go off. And it. Will. Be. Worth. It. Let the vinegar reduce by about the third, and turn on low.
  5. Add your pasta when the water boils – just cook like normal (whatever your normal is) and drain.
  6. Pull the veggies off the grill and add to the vinegar/butter mix. Now, you have two options here – you can leave this chunky, or you can puree with an immersion blender. Up to you. If you want to leave it chunky, I would suggest dicing the garlic and adding it to the butter in the pan. If you puree, you can keep the garlic smashed, since it’ll just get diced up later anyway.
  7. Add pasta once it’s done, and the cheese and stir together. Let it cook on low 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts and the pasta gets a chance to soak up the sauce flavor.
  8. Garnish with fresh basil.
  9. Eat. Then try to STOP eating.