Hot Taco Dip

My sister, Jen, gets credit for this recipe. Craving a simple and easy Mexican dish, this dip was the solution. It works well as a an appetizer but also pretty tasty as a main meal. There are numerous variations and substitutions that can be made, but this is my favorite version.

Supervising this meal: Duke

Taco Dip
Serves: a lot
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour
How hard was this for Rachel to make? Easy!

(Cheese not pictured. Whoops)
1 lbs ground turkey
1 pkg taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 can refried beans
1/2 medium yellow onion                                  
1 jar salsa (I prefer mild)
1 pkg mexican cheese (cheddar is a good substitute)
1 container light sour cream
Chips for dunking

Note: olives can also be added

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


While oven is heating,  brown ground turkey. Drain. Place pan back on stove and add 2/3 cup water and taco seasoning. Mix thoroughly. Once seasoning is mixed in, let meat simmer for 7-10 minutes. While simmering, add in refried beans.  Thoroughly mix meat and beans together.

Spray an 11 x 7 pan with pam, then spread meat/bean mix on the bottom. Cover the meat with sour cream, then salsa, onion and cheese. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with chips.




This post was originally published March 29th 2012.  I'd say my photographing skills have come some way since then…

The old photo:

Right after college, I moved to Chicago. I rarely cooked for myself (maybe 3 times in a year?) simply because I was lazy and thought cooking took too much effort.  The first real meal I made for myself was a burger that I grilled on my George Foreman Grill and cheesy potatoes from a box. I was so proud of myself I called my sister (whom I often refer to as Betty Crocker) to tell her of my accomplishment. She laughed that this was my idea of a home cooked meal.

Thankfully, I had a good friend, Lindsay, who LOVED to cook and lived nearby. The first meal she ever made for me was Stoup (compliments of Rachael Ray). It is a simple pasta dish (what else) but healthy, and paired with a glass of wine, absolutely satisfying. For years, we would have annual "Stoup" nights. Lindsay would cook and I would eat.  When I moved to LA, I had to learn how to make this "complicated" dish on my own. Turns out, it's not so complicated.  With a few slight modifications, here is one of my ultimate favorite meals.  Lindsay, I hope you're proud.

Serves: 2 w/ leftovers
Cook time according to Rachael: 45 minutes
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour (I've made this a lot)
How hard was this for Rachel to make? Lot's of steps, but not hard!

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (I use a bit more)
1 carrot peeled, chopped
1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
2 smal ribs celery from the heart, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups tomato sauce (22 ounces)                                          
3 cups chicken stock
1lbs ground turkey (pre-seasoned Italian is the BEST!)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese + more to pass
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 lbs spaghetti, broken in half
1 handful basil leaves, torn or shredded
1 loaf Italian crusty bread for dunking

Note on veggies: I use more than the directed amount. I don't measure, I just chop (well, J chops) until I get the amount seen below.


Old photos:


Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil (3ish turns), carrots, onion, celery & garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and chicken stock and cover pot. Turn up heat and bring to a fast boil.    

Old Photos:


While soup comes to a boil, mix the bread crumbs with the beaten egg  and parmesean cheese. Mix in the ground turkey. Roll into 1 1/2-2 inch balls.


Remove lid from soup and slide balls in. Bring back to a boil then stir in spaghetti. Reduce heat and simmer soup 10 minute more until pasta is tender and the balls have cooked through. Stir in basil.

Old Photo:


Serve with cheese & enjoy!

Side Dish:

J and I eat a LOT of bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. It makes the perfect appetizer. This meal was no exception. I poured the vinegar and this happened. A good omen?

Leftovers the next night:
It was only fitting that something not go right. How does THIS happen?????



{Recipe} Chicken Parmesan Bake

Leave it to work to get in the way of me learning to cook. Thanks to a grueling schedule the past few weeks, there has been a lot of ordering in.  Finally able to get back in the kitchen, I decided I needed to make something other than pasta. Thanks to my sister, Jen, & Pinterest I found this unconventional recipe for Chicken Parmesan to try from Chef John at Food Wishes. Chef John makes cooking easy with his how to videos. Everything was successful except I did learn we need a better garlic press.   Enjoy this simple recipe..

Serves: 3-4
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour
How hard was this for Rachel to make? Easy!

2 tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste 
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts 

2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup chopped basil
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Parmesan, grated
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a standard casserole dish, pour the olive oil & garlic in the bottom and spread evenly. Sprinkle LIGHTLY the red pepper flakes along the bottom.
Place the chicken closely together in the dish. 
 Cover with Marinara sauce. If you don't want to get a measuring cup dirty, use 2/3 jar of sauce. Spread evenly.
Pour half of both cheeses on chicken.
 Pour entire bag of croutons on top of cheese.
Cover croutons with the rest of the cheese. 
Bake dish for 35 mins or until chicken reaches 155 degrees if you have a meat thermometer

Tip: Make sure your new fancy thermometer that you picked up solely for this recipe actually works. I had to cut into the chicken to make sure it was done.


Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese. The Ultimate Comfort Food.

For those that don't know me (is that anyone?) I am pretty into sports. When my teams don't do well, I don't do well...and that was today. Both teams blew it big time and both teams put me into a depression.  There was no other solution than to cook something that always makes me happy. Macaroni & Cheese has long been my favorite food & once again, thanks to Pinterest, I have been able to find a whole new selection of Macaroni & Cheese recipes.  Feeling a tad lazy on this Sunday evening, I decided on the crock pot recipe from Moms with Crock Pots.

Slow Cooked Mac & Cheese
Serves: 4
Cook time according to Moms: 3 hours & 45 minutes
Cook time according to Rachel: 4 hours (pretty good!)
How hard was this for Rachel to make? Easy!

8 ounces elbow noodles
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup evaporated milk                                            
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tbsp butter, melted

*Note: For a healthier version use fat free milk & fat free cheese


Cook Macaroni based on package directions
Rinse & drain with hot water. Drain well.
Generously butter the sides & bottom of a large slow cooker. (Recommended 2 tbsp butter)

Combine macaroni with the remaining ingredients in the crock pot & blend well.  Cover the pot and cook on LOW for 21/2 - 3 1/2 hours. 
Stir once an hour. NOTE: The longer it cooks, the less creamier it becomes.  The above dish was cooked for 3 1/2 hours. Serve directly from the pot. Enjoy!


Thanksgiving in March...in Pasta

J picked out this recipe and I have to say, he did good. After watching an old episode of 30 Minute Meals, J took the reigns and wanted to make Thanksgiving Tonight (aka Thanksgiving in pasta form...yes, we make a lot of pasta) with me as his assistant.  Despite this being a difficult recipe, we only had a few incidents and one extra trip to Walgreens to get the flour that was forgotten. For the most part were pretty successful. 

Note: Not to knock Rachael,  but she did include a salad that didn't wow me or J, so it isn't being included. 

Thanksgiving Pasta
Serves: 2 with leftovers
Cook time according to Rachael Ray: 45 minutes (HAH)
Cook time to Rachel: 1 hour 20 minutes
How complicated was this for Rachel to make? VERY complicated, but SO tasty!


  • 1 pound spaghetti (or any noodle of choice
  • Salt
  • 1 cup dry stuffing                                                        
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Freshly ground black pepper          
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 celery ribs from the heart, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped        
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for liberal drizzling
  • 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced (No, I didn't eat these)
  • 1 medium Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored & finely chopped (make sure to peel before chopping!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • A couple handfuls flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring water to a boil in large pot for pasta. 
When the water boils wait until meatballs go into oven. When meatballs have been in oven 4 to 5 minutes, season water with salt, add spaghetti and cook to al dente. Drain pasta and keep warm.

Soak stuffing with about 1 cup stock in small bowl until softened, a couple of minutes.

Place turkey in mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add apple, lemon juice, celery, onion, poultry seasoning, egg and stuffing and mix until just combined. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form meat mixture into 16 (2-inch) balls, drizzle with some olive oil and roast until cooked through, firm and golden, about 12 minutes.

While meatballs roast, heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil in large skillet, add mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat until tender and season with salt and pepper
Make a well in the center of the pan, add the butter, and when melted, whisk in the flour 
Cook for 1 minute 
Whisk in about 2 cups stock and Worcestershire sauce
Reduce heat to low and cook for a few minutes to thicken the sauce, then stir in cream.

Meatballs should be golden brown when fully cooked through.

Toss pasta in a large serving bowl with the meatballs, sauce and cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve.


Spiked Linguini - The Dish That Started This

It was 6pm and my dinner plans for the night cancelled. I sent the standard text to J  asking what we were going to eat hoping for once he would have a craving. (Something to know about J, he never cares what we eat. EVER...and I am indecisive. Good combo) We finally agreed on pasta. I know one recipe thanks to Lindsay and I had just made it last week (will save for another post) . Feeling adventurous I went to Pinterest and found 6 Bitter Sweets.

Here is one of Xiaolu's staples slightly modified:

Spiked Linguini
Serves: 1-2
Cook time according to Xiaolu: 45 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour 25 mins (there was a minor blender incident. See below)
How difficult was this for Rachel to make? Slightly complicated, but so delicious.
Cookware needed: large skillet, boiling pot for pasta, blender

1/2 pound linguini
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finley chopped onion
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp thin;y sliced fresh basil
shaved or grated parmesean cheese for garnish   

Cook pasta according to package. Drain & keep warm.
While pasta is cooking:
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat
Add onion & saute 4 minutes or until tender
Add 1/4 tsp salt, pepper & garlic. Saute 1 minute
Add 1/2 cup vodka (disclaimer, alcohol can be very flammable!)
Bring to a boil
Reduce hear & simmer for 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half
Stir in scant 1/2 tsp salt (I had to look up what scant meant. Means, just under the directed amount), chicken broth & entire can of tomatoes
Bring to a quick boil
Reduce heat and simmer 15 mins
Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly

Should be NO sauce where blade goes
Place tomato mix in blender (this is where I had some issues see right)       
Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape)
Place clean towel over the opening to avoid splatters
Process until smooth
Return tomato mix to pan

Mix in 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Cook sauce for 2 mins over medium heat stirring constantly
Remove from heat and pour into pot with pasta
Mix in basil and cook for 2 mins
Remove pasta from pot and serve immediately


Can't Cook. Can't write. Let's Blog about Cooking!

Let's be honest. I'm not what I'd call a cook. Ordering in is a food group to me. I'm not what I'd call a writer. I hate grammar and am really good at run on sentences. A blog about cooking sounds like a great idea. So why bother? Well, it's time to grow up. I am the queen of Kraft Mac & Cheese, cinnamon toast and cereal. I've never minded eating Spaghetti-O's or chicken nuggets for dinner (I promise I like adult foods too) but when my boyfriend moved in, I quickly learned my dinner choices weren't going to cut it and ordering in for 2 can get EXPENSIVE. So what do I do? I learn to cook. How do I do that? Simple. Copy other people's recipes and try not to screw them up. Why blog? Well, I am hoping through this I can help other beginners and hopefully, get some new recipes from those reading this. Also, I am really good at screwing up so at the least, this will be a good laugh. Here we go...