Chili Pie with Potatoes and Cheese

img_1124I created this recipe just for the Super Bowl. The combination of the Chili with the potatoes and cheese put together in a pie crust, meets the challenge of Super Bowl food criteria; it is filling, satisfying, and delicious. It is not finger food, but you will not mind taking out a plate for this.

I use the Pillsbury pie crust that you can find in the refrigerated section at the grocery store for convenience, but the Chili is homemade. It is easy to prepare, and to save time you can prepare the Chili the day before and assemble the pie on the day you want to serve it.

1 – lb. ground sirloin
1 – cup diced green pepper
1 – cup diced onion
2 – cloves garlic minced
3 – tbls. tomato paste
1 – tbls. chili powder
1 – tsp. ground cumin
1/4 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 – cup chicken stock or water
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 – 15.5 oz. can black beans
1 – large Idaho potato
1 – cup Pepper Jack Cheese
1 – cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 1/2 – tbls. butter
Sour cream for serving

Pour about 2 tablespoons of canola oil into a large skillet. Mince the garlic and dice the onion and green pepper, then add them to the oil. Sauté until they start to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Push the onion mixture to one side of the skillet and add the ground beef. Break up the meat into crumbles and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Stir often. Once the pink color is gone, mix it together with the peppers and onion.

Clear a small space in the skillet and add the tomato paste, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Stir and cook about 1 minute, then add about 1/4 cup chicken broth (or water) to deglaze the pan. Combine the seasoning with the meat and onion mixture. Add salt and black pepper. Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the skillet. Stir to incorporate the beans into the meat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes on a medium-low flame, stirring often.


In the meantime, place the pie shell in a deep pie plate. Peel the potato and slice it into 1/8″ thick rounds. Once the chili is ready, add it to the pie shell.  Real cheese lovers can add a little extra cheese to the meat mixture.img_1105

Top off with a layer of potato slices. Start from the middle and place the slices around in a circle, overlapping rows until you reach the edge of the pie pan. img_1106

Brush the entire surface of the potatoes and the rim of the pie crust with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.


Put the pie into a pre-heated 425° oven. Cook for 40-45 minutes. The pie crust should be golden brown.


Remove the pie from the oven and top with the grated cheeses. Return it to the oven and turn the oven to broil. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown. Watch the pie carefully as it will brown very quickly under the broiler.

You can serve this with sour cream, salsa, or guacamole.


Makes 6-8 servings.


Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans and Zucchini


img_0403Spaghetti con pomodori secchi, fagioli, e zucchini

This pasta dish is one of our favorites at home. It is my “go to” when I do not have any other ideas for dinner. I generally have all the ingredients in the house so it is convenient.  Whole wheat spaghetti is also a delicious option if you prefer to use whole grains.


 1 – lb. spaghetti
6 – oz. sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
1 – 15 oz. can cannellini beans
2 – medium zucchini
2 – cloves garlic
1/2 – tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 – tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 – tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 – cup pecorino Romano cheese


Put on a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, slice the zucchini in rounds, about 1/8 inch thick. If it is a large zucchine, slice the rounds in half and set aside. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes in slices about 1/4 inch wide. Peel the garlic and smash both cloves with the side of a wide knife. This will release the flavor.

Heat a large skillet and add extra virgin olive oil, enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and crushed red pepper. Sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Use a low flame so not to burn the tomatoes. Stir often. Add the zucchini, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook about 6 – 7 minutes, then add the cannellini beans (drain first). Stir and cook until the zucchini is tender, but not limp.

Meanwhile, the water should have come to a boil, add about 2 tsp. salt. Add the spaghetti, stir to make sure it does not stick together. Bring back to a boil and cook according to the package directions. Check the pasta about 2 minutes prior to what the directions say in order to check if it is al dente. It should be a little firm to the bite.

Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the zucchini mixture and stir, adding about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir in the pecorino, add more pasta water as needed to make a thick sauce. Do not use more water than necessary. Drizzle the top with olive oil and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Mushroom Barley Soup

mushroom-barley-soupMushroom barley soup was not something that I grew up eating, but I love it. This recipe is one that I created one evening when I did not know what else to make. I searched through my pantry and refrigerator and started throwing ingredients together. I am always looking for ways to add protein to my semi-vegetarian meals so I added the cannellini beans. They go perfectly with the soup and make it a complete nutritious meal. Serve with some crusty Italian bread and enjoy!


1 – 8 oz. pkg. of white mushrooms
1 – 8 oz. pkg. of cremini mushrooms
3 – cloves garlic
Soffritto (dice by hand so they have some texture)
1 – 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 – 10.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
32 – oz. chicken stock (preferably organic; vegetable stock may be substituted if you want to keep it vegetarian)
2/3 – cup barley
1/2 – tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flakes
2 – tbls. extra virgin olive oil


Prepare the soffritto, add it to a large stock pot and sauté in a little canola oil until it starts to caramelize. Peel the garlic and smash them with the side of a large knife and add to the soffritto. Meanwhile, wipe the mushrooms clean and cut them into 4-6 pieces depending on the size of the mushroom. Add the diced mushrooms to the soffritto and sauté about 5 minutes.

Rinse the barley and drain. Add it raw to the mushroom mixture along with the salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir together and cook an additional 2 minutes then add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes.

Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook about 25 minutes until the barley is cooked. Once the barley is cooked, drain the cannellini beans and add them to the soup. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Best Ever Turkey Chili

turkey-chiliGrowing up, Mom made Chili at home, and of course, it was her own creation. She used ground beef and kidney beans in a tomato based sauce. It was delicious. For many years, I made it exactly the way she did until one day your father and I were visiting the botanical gardens and we stopped for lunch in their cafeteria.  Dad ordered the Chili, which he liked very much, so I took a taste. It was slightly sweet and in addition to beans it also had corn.  I decided to recreate a hybrid recipe at home.  I started with my Mom’s recipe and added a second type of beans, corn, a little brown sugar to add the sweet element, and a little nutmeg.  Pardon my frankness, but my creation is better than the one we tasted at the botanical gardens.

I use ground turkey now since it is a healthier choice, but you can use beef. The turkey has a certain gamey taste, and this is the reason I use nutmeg. It disguises the gamey flavor. I use nutmeg in all my ground turkey recipes.


1 – lb. ground turkey (97% lean)
1 – medium onion diced
2 – stalks celery (center leafy is best)
3 – cloves garlic
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 – tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 – cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 – tbls. chili powder
1 – 15 oz. can black beans
1 – 15 oz. can red kidney beans
1 – 15 oz. can sweet corn
1 – 10..5 oz can tomato soup (Campbell’s healthy request)
1 – 10.5 oz can diced tomatoes

Note:  you can substitute the beans with any kind you prefer; for example, chic peas or pinto beans.


Add 2 tsp. Canola oil in a large heavy pot. Add the diced onion and garlic. Sauté on low heat until tender. Careful not to let the garlic burn. Push the onions aside and add the ground turkey. Break it up into small pieces. Add the salt, pepper and the rest of the spices. Cook on medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato soup, and 12 oz. of water. (You can use chicken stock in place of water if you like). Stir, and then add the diced tomatoes, celery stalks (keep whole), corn, and beans. Drain the corn and rinse the beans before adding them. Once the chili comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 45 min. to one hour.   Remove the celery before serving.

We usually add a little cheddar cheese on top or sour cream.

Farro Salad


Insalata di Farro

Farro is an ancient grain that has a nutty flavor with a nice bite to it. Not only is it delicious, but it is also high in fiber and protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and multiple B vitamins.  Please note that it is not gluten free.


1 – cup farro
1 – cucumber
½ – cup diced red onion
1 – red bell pepper
1 – cup frozen peas
1 – can black beans
15 – grape tomatoes
4 – fresh basil leaves
½ – tsp. dried oregano
1 – tsp. fresh thyme
1 – tsp. fresh parsley
¼ – cup extra virgin olive oil
½ – tsp. salt
½ – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
½ – tsp. Adobo seasoning


Cook the farro according to the package directions. Be sure to add salt to the water. Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables and herbs and place them in a large bowl. Peel the cucumber and dice along with the red bell pepper and red onion, making them all the same size. Slice the grape tomatoes in half, add the frozen peas, and the finely chopped fresh herbs.  Mix all together in the large bowl.

When the farro is cooked, drain and let cool. While it is cooling you can add about 1/3 of the olive oil so that is does not stick together. Once cool, add to the vegetable mixture. Add the remaining olive oil, salt, pepper, and Adobo. Mix well. Add more olive oil if it seems to dry. Adjust taste by adding more herbs and salt if desired.

Serve at room temperature.

Note: you can use any fresh vegetable that you like in this dish. The ones I have used are only a suggestion.