Zucchini Lasagna with Beef & Mushrooms

I posted this so-so photo of the lasagna I made last night, inspired by a Skinnytaste recipe. After many requests for the recipe, here’s my adaptation!

Do not be fooled by the fact that the original recipe is Skinnytaste. As you may know by now, I love cheese. So I was compelled to add extra cheese. Not sorry.

Make sure you salt the zucchini slices, laid out on paper towels. Pat them dry after 15 minutes. If you skip this step, you’ll have lasagna stew because zucchini is full of water.

Use any type of ground meat you like – I used half a pound of venison and half a pound of beef sirloin. Turkey…Italian sausage…it will all work great!

I shortcut the sauce by using jarred. 6pm on a Monday after a full day of work is no time to make your own sauce, so pull out the jar, folks! I won’t tell.

Zucchini Lasagna with Beef & Mushrooms


  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, stem end removed, sliced to 1/8″ on a mandolin slicer (this is the weight of the final stack of slices)
  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, venison, etc.)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 jar (around 24 ounces) of your favorite spaghetti sauce (tomato basil works great)
  • 24 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or you could use shredded if you like), plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt, for zucchini

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Slice the zucchini and lay on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.

In a large pan, brown the meat and onion over medium heat. While the meat cooks, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and egg in a bowl. Set aside.

When the meat is done, drain off any liquid. Add spaghetti sauce and mushrooms; stir to combine. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, blot the zucchini dry.

In a deep 3 1/2 quart casserole, layer 1/4 meat sauce in the bottom. Layer 1/3 zucchini slices on top, making the slices overlap. Spread 1/3 ricotta mixture over top; repeat sauce-zucchini-ricotta two more times so you have 3 layers.

Spoon remaining sauce on top of top layer of ricotta. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then 15-20 minutes uncovered until cheese is browned and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Adapted from Skinnytaste.com’s Zucchini Lasagna


Salvadorian-Style Red Bean & Short Rib Stew with Salsa Cruda

This is an adapted version of the Salvadorian classic, made with ingredients more readily available to American cooks. The stew is rich and saucy, and the salsa cruda (“raw sauce”) is fresh and a perfect flavor compliment.

In the original version, several hard-to-find vegetables are called for, as well as much less meat. I also add onion and garlic when cooking the chicken. Chayote is a fruit that tastes like a cross between a papaya, avocado, and squash; it’s available in my grocery store, but if you can’t find it, leave it out or substitute yellow crookneck squash.

I like to serve this stew over white rice, with one short rib per person. Give everyone a small bowl of salsa cruda for topping, and you’re all set. ¡Muy delicioso!

Red Bean Stew Closeup


  • 2 pounds short ribs
  • 3 cans undrained red beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 light or dark green chayote (1 pound), pitted, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice (peel skin with a vegetable peeler, taking off just the top layer of skin)
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage, cut into 1-inch strips
  • salt to taste

for the salsa cruda:

  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes (4-6 count), seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large cooking pot; simmer 1 hour covered.

When ribs are tender, remove them along with the garlic cloves. In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat and brown garlic and ribs on all sides (keep pot of beans simmering while you do this).

While the ribs brown, add parsley, cilantro, plantains, chayote, and salt (if needed) to beans; stir. Add ribs and garlic back to pot. Simmer 20 more minutes or until vegetables are getting tender, then add cabbage and cook another 10-15 minutes until all vegetables are done.

Make the salsa while the pot finishes cooking: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Spicy Beef Chili

I have about a zillion chili recipes – this is Mike’s favorite! It is also super easy and doesn’t have to sit on the stove all day if you’re in a rush.

It is quite spicy (but we love that). It is naturally gluten free, and very healthy – I always use low or no sodium canned vegetables. The bacon fat is worth the splurge for a little flavor!

As the picture shows, I was really bad and put it on a cheese biscuit (delicious). But a nice, big bowl over some brown rice is just as good.

We like to top this chili with cheese, jalapeno slices, sour cream, cilantro, chives…take your pick. A fried egg on top might send me over the edge.

Spicy Beef Chili

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean (90/10) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (or use oil)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 15.5 ounce can spicy chili beans
  • 10 can mild or Original Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles
  • 15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 cups broth (beef, chicken or vegetable will work)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon terragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2+ teaspoons salt (to taste)

In a large pot, melt bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; simmer 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Turn heat to medium-high and add ground beef, cooking until no longer pink.

Add chili beans, Ro-Tel, corn, beans, and zucchini to pot, then add enough broth to barely cover. Stir in seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low, simmering 45 minutes to 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so. Season with salt to taste at the end. Enjoy!

Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

It is no secret that we love Latin food in this house.

It is also no secret that tortillas are our favorite way to deliver the goods. I have heaps of corn and flour tortillas in my kitchen at all times.

I was perusing the internet the other day, looking for recipe inspiration, and came across a “vinaigrette” that reminded me a lot of salsa, or pico de gallo…chunky bits of tomato and onion, but instead of cilantro, they used basil, and instead of lime, they used vinegar.

Aha! I have basil and vinegar in the fridge right this very moment!

Basil salsa…could a Mediterranean-style taco be in our future?

I thought I’d make this thing work. Rub a big shoulder steak with herbs, let it marinate, and grill to medium-rare perfection.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: please get yourself a good meat tenderizer (I have this one, and it’s not a mallet). They make such a difference in the tenderness of the meat. I mean, they’re called meat tenderizers for that reason, right?

So go get one. Or have the UPS man deliver one to you.

A meat thermometer is also indispensable in my opinion – it makes perfect meat a no-brainer. No poking or prodding, no cutting into the meat while it’s still in the pan, seeing if it’s done enough…or overdone.

The UPS man can bring you one of those too. I use mine whenever I cook steaks, pork tenderloin, or anything that needs to reach a specific temperature to be perfect.

Make the salsa while the steak rests; no need to refrigerate it. The basil loses its pungency if made too far ahead. You could, I suppose, mix up the other ingredients ahead of time and throw the basil in at the last minute, if you really wanted to.

Ibérico cheese is from Spain, a mix of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk. I love it for its stronger flavor – it stands up to the vinegared salsa nicely. You could also try Parmesan or maybe feta if Ibérico isn’t available.

Corn tortillas will work if you need gluten free! Or stuff a pita with the mix!

What a surprise these flavors were, it was like taco identity crisis! So good, and a nice change from cilantro/cumin/lime. Did I really just say that?

Closeup Herbed Steak Tacos

Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

Salsa adapted from finecooking.com’s Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette   

makes 8 tacos.

for the meat:

  • 1 1/4 pound beef cut of your choice (I use 1 inch thick shoulder/London Broil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

for the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup diced Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

you will also need:

  • canola oil, for grilling
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 flour tortillas, taco or fajita size
  • shaved Ibérico cheese (available in most grocery delis, El Cortijo brand seems to be widely available)

On a piece of plastic wrap, drizzle steak with oil, and rub in spices and garlic with your hands. Wrap tightly and marinate 1-2 hours, taking the meat out of the refrigerator the last 30 minutes.

When meat is ready, preheat a dry, heavy skillet or cast iron grill pan over high heat.

One at a time, grill the tortillas on one side. Keep warm in a towel.

Reduce heat to medium, and give the pan time to cool off a bit (5-10 minutes). Scrape garlic and herbs off steak (garlic is more important to remove, it will burn) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Oil pan lightly and add steak.

Let cook, undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Keep any eye on the heat – you want the pan to stay decently hot for a good sear, but not so hot it overcooks the meat. When you have nice browning, flip the steak. I suggest using a meat thermometer at this point, inserted into the thickest part of the steak, until it registers 125-130°F (medium rare). This will take another 10 minutes or so.

Remove the steak to a plate, and wrap with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Now make the salsa: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Cover and set aside.

Slice meat thinly, against the grain, into strips. Assemble the tacos by adding meat, a tablespoon of salsa, and shaving cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Beef Goulash Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash

Mmmm, acorn squash. The flesh gets sweet and creamy when roasted. But squash stuffed with savory goodness is even better! These warm the soul on a cool day.

Goulash is basically meat, potatoes and paprika, stewed with other spices and whatever else you fancy adding. Chunks of “stew meat” or “beef round chunks” are cheap and already cut up for you, all you need to do is cook the heck out of them.

Luckily, you have time because the acorn squash will take a while to roast (45-60 minutes).

The goulash will fill 4 squash halves to the brim, or two filled with extra on the plate (like I did, above).

Paprika can be replaced with chili powder for a little kick if you like. Or any ratio of paprika/chili powder will work too.

Also, there’s always debate over “flesh side up” or “flesh side down” when roasting squash. I always roast mine flesh side up, I like the color and flavor that develops. I’ve never had a problem with burning or drying out. So I’m team “flesh side up”, for all squash roasting!

I served the stuffed squash with toasted foccaica bread. If you eat gluten free, Udi’s makes delicious french rolls!

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Beef Goulash Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash

  • 2 2-pound acorn squash (cantaloupe sized)
  • 1 pound stew meat (beef round chunks)
  • 1 cup broth (beef, chicken or vegetable will work fine)
  • 10 ounces red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 1/2-2 teaspoons paprika, chili powder, or a combination thereof
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for squash
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup sour cream, more to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. In a shallow pan or baking dish, drizzle flesh with olive oil and rub all over to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for about an hour, or until squash is very soft when poked with a fork.

While squash bakes, prepare goulash:

Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan; add onion and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes. Add meat, and sprinkle generously with salt. When meat is browned, add potatoes, paprika, and broth. Stir. Add thyme sprigs, pushing them down so they’re submerged. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until squash is done. Taste broth at the end and add salt if needed.

Remove thyme sprigs and stir in sour cream right before serving. Spoon goulash into squash and sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!


Hot Roast Beef & Swiss Sandwiches with Horseradish Mayo

It’s football time and I’m so excited!

Get ready for some serious good eating. Here’s the first installation.

Spicy, savory, sweet…this sandwich is so good, and easy to make. Fancy up the plain ‘ol roast beef sandwich with some spicy horseradish mayo and caramelized red onions.

Put it all on a buttered pretzel bun and oh…devoured. Pronto.

Hot Roast Beef & Swiss Sandwiches with Horseradish Mayo

  • 2/3 to 3/4 pound good quality deli sliced roast beef (I like Boar’s Head brand)
  • 4 thick slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 1/4-inch slices of red onion, broken into rings
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, plus more for rolls
  • 2 pretzel sandwich rolls
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine mayo, horseradish and a small amount of pepper. Stir and set aside.

In a medium nonstick pan over high heat, melt the butter. Reduce heat to medium-high and add onions, cooking until browned and soft, about 5 minutes. Put onions in a bowl and set aside.

Halve and butter the inside of each slice of pretzel roll. Place butter side down in the pan and let cook until browned, 1-2 minutes. Place buns on a plate.

Turn heat to medium-low. In same pan, add the roast beef slices. Using tongs, toss the slices until evenly browned and warmed through, 2-3 minutes. Form meat into 2 piles in the pan and top each with 2 slices of Swiss cheese. Turn off the heat.

When cheese is beginning to melt, use a spatula to transfer the meat pile to each of the pretzel buns. Top with the cooked onions, and spread the horseradish mayo on the top half of the roll. Open mouth, shove sandwich in, and enjoy!

Rosemary Red Wine Pot Roast with Vegetables

I’ve got a bunch of fresh rosemary on hand this weekend, so the posting of my favorite recipes that call for it continue!

This is a wonderful and easy pot roast recipe. Sometimes I’ll even make it in the pressure cooker if I don’t have the hours it takes in the oven. (Time requirements in the details below for that!)

The red wine really takes this roast up a notch and lends a deep, rich flavor.  Just delicious. It’s great every single time I make it.

Take it a step further and make a gravy from the cooking juices at the end! Use cornstarch to thicken the liquid to keep it gluten free. Yes!

I usually serve it with brown rice or roasted red potato wedges. Mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles would be great too.

Rosemary Red Wine Pot Roast with Vegetables

  • 3 pound boneless chuck roast or shoulder roast
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed slightly
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (or use baby cut carrots)
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup sweet red wine (such as Barefoot Sweet Red)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3-4 cups beef or vegetable broth (or as much as you need to cover vegetables in your pan)

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a dutch oven or other large, deep pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat.

Salt the beef generously on both sides and add to pan. Sear until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove roast to a plate.

Add onion, garlic, and carrots to the pan.  Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and remove vegetables to a plate.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Add the red pepper flakes and stir.

Add back carrots, onion and garlic, plus the mushrooms, then pour in enough beef or vegetable stock to just cover them.

Place the beef on top of the vegetables, nestling it down into the liquid to partially cover it.

Arrange rosemary and tarragon sprigs among the vegetables.

Bring pot back to a simmer.  When you start to see bubbles, cover pot tightly with a lid and put in the preheated oven. (This stovetop reboil saves time in the oven, so don’t skip it!)

Cook until meat is fall-apart tender.  I usually allow an hour per pound of beef. If beef does not come apart with tongs easily, put it back in and recheck at 30 minute increments. (You almost can’t overcook it.)

This recipe will also work in a pressure cooker.  Follow the steps above, but reduce cook time to 90-120 minutes. Enjoy!