Easy Taco Skillet Dinner

I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. 🙂

Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
  • sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
  2. As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
  5. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
  6. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
  8. Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

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One-Pot Baked Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

So, this dish uses broccoli rabe instead of broccoli- but I’m still including it in my “series.” 🙂 This is a skillet version of one of my favorite classic Italian dishes. It was delightfully cheesy too.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used large garlic cloves and decreased the broiling time to 2 minutes. We ate it with a large green salad. Absolutely delicious!!

Yield: Serves 6

  • coarse salt
  • 12 ounces Fontina and/or aged cheddar cheese (about 4 1/2 cups), divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 2 large sprigs sage
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound ridged medium pasta shells, or large tube pasta, such as lumaconi or rigatoni
  1. Place racks in center and upper third of oven; preheat to 325, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, for the pasta. Salt generously.
  3. Grate the Fontina cheese on the large holds of a box grater (you should have about 4½ cups).
  4. Smash the garlic cloves, peel, and coarsely chop.
  5. Pick all sage leaves from stems and set aside about 10. Finely chop remaining leaves (you should have about 1 tablespoon).
  6. Trim tough dried ends from the broccoli rabe, then cut stems into 2″ pieces. Leave leafy ends long.
  7. Heat a deep, large, ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Add ¼ cup oil and swirl to coat.
  8. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet. Break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until sausage is browned, about 4 minutes. Stir a couple of times and continue to cook, undisturbed again, until sausage is fully cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
  9. Add garlic, chopped sage, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in half-and-half and simmer until sauce is thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  11. Gradually add about two-thirds of cheese, bit by bit, stirring constantly and letting cheese melt completely before adding more, until sauce is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes; season with salt and remove from heat.
  12. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of package instructions (8–10 minutes depending on type).
  13. During the last 2 minutes, add all of broccoli rabe to pot with pasta. Drain in a colander and shake several times to remove excess water. Return pasta and broccoli rabe to empty pasta pot.
  14. Add cheesy sausage mixture from skillet to pot with pasta. Stir until pasta and broccoli rabe are coated in sauce, then transfer everything back to skillet.
  15. Cover skillet tightly with foil and bake on center rack until pasta is tender and sauce is bubbling, 30–40 minutes. Let rest a few minutes while you heat broiler.
  16. Remove foil and top with remaining cheese.
  17. Toss sage leaves with remaining 1 T oil in a small bowl and arrange over pasta.
  18. Broil until cheese is browned and bubbling in spots, about 2 to 5 minutes (depending on strength of broiler).
  19. Let pasta cool a minute or two before serving.
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Potato, Broccoli, & Cheddar Soup with Cheese Toasts

My husband likes soups that have a thicker consistency. As he loves our gold standard Cauliflower Cheese Soup, I knew that he would love this one too; I just used more potatoes to give it a heartier consistency. It was perfect. It would also be difficult to argue about eating a soup that is garnished with garlic-cheese toasts! The roasted broccoli floret topping was another bonus. 🙂

This soup is quick enough to prepare and serve on a weeknight, but is even more wonderful if made in advance. The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used some chicken stock for water and increased the amount of garlic, potatoes (unpeeled!), and lemon juice. I also used a sourdough baguette to make the cheese toasts instead of Italian bread. Great.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
  • 6 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled and chopped, florets cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups florets, divided)
  • 1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 packed cups grated sharp white cheddar (from an 8-ounce block), divided
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon, plus grated zest for serving, or to taste
  • 8 slices (each 1/2 inch thick) sourdough baguette, sliced on a diagonal or 4 slices (each 1/2 inch thick) rustic Italian bread
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallots, 4 cloves of garlic, broccoli stems, potatoes, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add stock with 3 cups water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups broccoli florets; cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender with 1 cup cheese; puree until smooth. (I used an immersion blender instead.)
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
  6. Stir together remaining cheese and garlic. Place bread on one side of a rimmed baking sheet, and remaining broccoli florets on other. Drizzle both with oil; season with salt and pepper. Top bread with cheese mixture.
  7. Roast broccoli and cheese toasts for 15 minutes, tossing florets halfway through.
  8. Serve soup topped with toasts, florets, and zest, as desired.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Cheesy Corn Casserole

Simple and rich. This side dish is so quick to throw together it’s absolutely perfect for after Thanksgiving or another holiday meal when less side dishes and more turkey (or main protein) is leftover. I suppose it would also be a terrific side for the big day! We enjoyed it with our leftover turkey this year. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Sarah McLellan. She described this dish as “an easy, unadulterated combo of creamy, salty, and cheesy.” Spot on.

  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans of whole kernel corn (not creamed corn)
  • 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese, to taste
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko or other breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, and/or parsley, more to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine the jalapeño and garlic in a medium saucepan. Sauté until fragrant and just starting to soften.
  3. Add the corn, cream cheese, butter, 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; stir through until melted.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper, as desired. Add more cheddar cheese, if desired, to taste.
  5. Pour it into a baking dish, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, the remaining Parmesan, and the chopped herbs.
  6. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Serve right away.

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Southern Pimento Cheese Dip

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. (I write about it in all of my Shrimp & Grits posts!) I love everything about it. The culture. The architecture. The FOOD. I met my husband there. ❤ I went to graduate school there and met amazing people and established wonderful friendships there as well. It is just beyond fabulous. 🙂

I recently attended a reunion weekend in Charleston with my best girlfriends. It was better than great. I smiled for three days! 🙂 I also ate incredible food… Which brings me to this post.

I have a memory of pimento cheese from way back when in my South Carolina days. I had never heard of it- growing up in Maryland- and didn’t like it at all. Well, now I’ve seen the light! Pimento cheese can be jarred pimentos mixed with Miracle Whip and shredded cheddar cheese- maybe with a little cream cheese. It could also be this. (The Anson Mills website makes a point of this.) On my recent visit, we ate pimento cheese dip (from Ted’s Butcher Block) with rosemary crackers for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour. 😉 It was that good. When we went to buy a second container, I asked for the recipe. Apparently, it’s a secret… but they did tell me that it didn’t have pimentos- it had roasted red peppers instead. No wonder I loved it!

When I came home, I searched for a similar recipe. I was so pleased when I found it on AnsonMills.com. I made it to share with friends on the Fourth of July. The Long Island crowd loved it! 🙂 I used New York extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar cheese (the cheese is very important), organic mayonnaise, and grilled the peppers to roast and char them. We ate the finished dip chilled with rosemary crackers, pita chips, stone ground wheat crackers, and Trader Joe’s social snackers. Delicious!

  • 3 firm red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), roasted and charred on a gas grill, steamed, peeled and seeded, and cut into ⅛-inch dice (instructions below)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce, such as Chipotle Cholula, Sriracha, or Tabasco
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, preferably 12 oz extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar (or 6 oz each of sharp yellow cheddar and aged raw-milk white cheddar, or 12 oz of sharp yellow cheddar)
  • 4 oz (½ cup) organic mayonnaise, plus additional as needed
  • assorted crackers or celery sticks, for serving
  1. Using a gas grill, roast the red peppers until their skins are uniformly charred.
  2. Place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skins have loosened from the steam and they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove the charred skin, seeds, and ribs from the peppers. (Do not rinse!) Dice into 1/8-inch pieces. Reserve any residual juice/liquid.
  4. Add the diced roasted bell peppers and any residual juice to a small non-reactive bowl (you should have 1 very generous cup).
  5. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, remove and discard the skins, and add the garlic to the bowl with the peppers.
  6. Stir in the vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and up to ½ teaspoon hot sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater (you should have about 4 cups lightly packed). Turn the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the peppers, which are now pimentos, and, using a rubber spatula, stir the pimentos into the grated cheese until well combined.
  9. Add the mayonnaise and fold lightly with the spatula. If the mixture appears too dry, fold in additional mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning.
  10. Transfer the pimento cheese to a serving container with a lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  11. Serve chilled with assorted crackers or packed into celery ribs.

Note: Covered tightly, pimento cheese keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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Classic Shrimp & Grits

This is a simple, classic, and perfect version of this fabulous southern dish. As a tradition in our house, we eat Shrimp and Grits over Easter weekend. It is absolutely delicious and can be served for any meal of the day. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Crook’s Corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, via Saveur. I used large shrimp and increased the amount of garlic and mushrooms. I also omitted the oil and used Sriracha instead of Tabasco. The shrimp tasted incredible after being sautéed in the bacon fat. Mmmmm. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
  • 3⁄4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1⁄4 cup parmesan
  • 2 T unsalted butter, divided
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges or slices
  • 1⁄2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  1. In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. (I incorporated 1 cup of chicken stock.)
  2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. (Whisk in more water for thinner grits.)
  3. Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt; cover and set aside.
  4. Heat a 12″ skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
  6. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
  7. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  8. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.
  10. Raise heat to high, add chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  12. Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and its sauce.
  13. Garnish each bowl with bacon, scallions, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

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