Tag Archives: Beef

Healthified: Pastelillos

A pastelillo is basically the Puerto Rican version of an empanada.  I grew up eating them and definitely consider them a comfort food.  One more plus…DH is practically a slave to them!  The only problem is, they basically consist of deep-fried pastry dough and greasy ground beef:  not exactly figure-friendly.  While I don’t want to completely sacrifice the essence of the dish, I want to be able to eat them more often, without the guilt.  So with this post…I’ve decided to officially launch a brand spankin’ new category:  “Healthified!”  Because yes, like so many people, after Christmas I vowed to do whatever I could to stay healthy and become more fit.  I’m not really the type to totally give up things that I love; I believe in enjoying life, and clearly, for me food is a big part of that.  To achieve my goals,  I’ve been altering some traditionally unhealthy meals to make them more suited to my efforts (and of course, bumping up my exercise routine!).  I’m not giving up cheese, or meat, or carbs, or really anything, I’m just modifying and moderating.  I hope you all enjoy my efforts and join me by making a change, so that you can be a better you, too.




Bell Pepper

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Spanish Green Olives (Alcaparrado or Manzanilla)

Goya Adobo (con pimiento)

Goya Sazon (con culantro y achiote)

Bay Leaves (dry or fresh)

Tomato Sauce

Goya Discos Grande (freezer section, make sure to defrost ahead of time)

Ground Beef (as lean as you can afford)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Note:  I would normally use fresh cilantro, as well, but I didn’t have any, so I skipped it and the recipe still turned out delish.


Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees.  Then heat a drizzle of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  While the pan heats up, finely chop all of your veggies.

001Then add the veggies to the pan, and season with salt and pepper.

004Saute until veggies soften and onions begin to go translucent.

008Add in the ground beef and allow the first side to brown up.

010When the bottom is nicely browned, turn and allow to cook through and mix with veggies.  Drain off any excess grease.

Next, season to taste with the Adobo, Sazon, and more salt and pepper, if needed.  Then add tomato sauce (enough to really move everything around and coat the mixture), bay leaves, and olives.

012Stir well to incorporate and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

014Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and allow to cool for a few minutes.  While you wait, carefully separate your discs, lay the first one out and fill one half with a small amount of meat mixture.

017Fold over disc so that edges meet.

018Use a fork to seal and crimp edges.  Repeat this process until all of the discs are filled and sealed.

019Cover a cookie sheet with a silpat, parchment paper, or a light coating of cooking spray.  Then place each pastelillo on the cookie sheet and lightly mist with cooking spray.

021Bake 10-15 minutes until crust is bubbly and crisp.


My baked, healthified version.

The original deep-fried version.

The original deep-fried version.

Allow to cool just a bit (they will be very, very hot right out of the oven) serve with a simply dressed salad, and ENJOY!




Filed under Beef, Ethnic, Healthified, Make Your Own Takeout, Uncategorized

Healthified: Midweek Medley Meatloaf

So, last week, DH actually did all of the grocery shopping because I was tied up at work.  Like a typical guy, he stocked up on ground beef (to give him credit, he also got lots of my faves…lol).  In an attempt to healthify my standard meatloaf, I decided to use vegetables for at least half of the mixture.  I think I succeeded, the final result was absolutely delicious, true to the original, and had lots of color.  DH really loved it, and meatloaf is one of his favorites, so I think I passed the test.  Anyway, I can usually make a meatloaf from start to finish in less than an hour, so it’s always a viable option for a midweek meal.  The trick is not to use a loaf pan.  I always use a regular baking dish, because it allows more of the heat to circulate around the meatloaf, thus cooking it quicker.  Give it a try, it’s really a very well-rounded, protein-rich choice to refuel your body midweek.


Ground Beef

Bell Pepper




Tomato Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce

Dijon Mustard

Quick Oats

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper


Cheddar Cheese (I always use extra-sharp)


Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees, then finely chop all of your veggies.


Place the vegetables in a large bowl with the beef, an egg, a good shake of oats, tomato sauce, mustard, worcestershire, herbs, salt and pepper.

0031Now, if you’re anything like me, you will remove your rings and dig in with your paws, but if you must, you can use an apparatus.  That takes too long for me, plus, it’s easier to tell if everything is well incorporated when you’re using your hands.  Anyhoo…gently mix until everything is combined.  Then, transfer to a baking dish and use your hands to form the meat into a loaf shape.

0041Transfer to the oven, and cook until top is nicely browned and the loaf has rendered quite a bit of its fat.  At this point, you can remove from the oven and top with cheese.

0052Return to the oven and bake until cheese is a crust of brown, bubbly, goodness.  Then remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

007Drain the fat from the pan, slice, and serve.  I served with buttermilk cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed peas and carrots…a classic, all-American meal.  ENJOY!



Filed under Beef, Healthified, Uncategorized

Dan’s #1 Shephard’s Pie

A few years ago, my husband, who is of mixed race, discovered that he is mostly Irish on one side.  In honor of his heritage, I set out to learn some recipes typical of Irish cuisine.  So along with soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a few others, I learned to make shephard’s pie, which quickly became Dan’s favorite and the dish most requested by my family and friends.

It just so happens that it is also the perfect meal for the current state of our economy.  I’m sure many people are starting to notice that I make a lot of ground beef.  To be honest, it’s not my favorite but there are two reasons that I use it so much.  1.) It is usually the most affordable meat in the grocery store, and we stock up when it’s on sale.  2.)  Dan can’t get enough of it!

This may not be completely traditional but here’s what my recipe has morphed into over the years:


Meat Mixture:

Ground Beef


Fresh Garlic

Thyme (fresh or dried)

Bay Leaf (fresh or dried)


Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Tomato Sauce

Hot Sauce

Red Wine

Frozen Veggies (I usually use peas and carrots or mixed)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Potato Topping:

Potatoes (whatever you use for mashed)

Fresh Garlic



Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cheddar Cheese (I use extra sharp)


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  You can also shred up your cheddar cheese now so, it will be waiting and ready when you need it.

Start by peeling and chopping your potatoes, I usually allow two potatoes per person.  Place them in a pot and just cover with water (I know they say to use cold water but, I never do, and my mashed potatoes always come out delicious).


Put them over a high fire and bring to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling bowl, add plenty of salt to the pot and allow to cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes cook, begin the meat mixture.  First, in a large skillet heat just a touch of olive oil over a low to medium fire.  While the oil heats, chop the onion and mince the garlic (for about 3/4 lb. of meat I used 1/3 of a medium onion and one large clove of garlic).  A microplane comes in handy for the garlic but, the fine side of a box grater or good knife skills will work too.  Once all the onion is chopped add it to the skillet and allow to begin softening.  A few minutes later, add the garlic (it will burn if you put in too early or if the fire is too high).  Stir the veggies to throughly coat with the olive oil and allow everything to soften up but, not brown.  Note:  as I’ve mentioned before, I like to season every layer of a dish so, at this point, I do lightly season the onion and garlic with s&p.

0021When the onions are just translucent, add the ground beef, break it up with a wooden spoon, and allow to brown on one side before turning.

0031After the meat is browned on one side, turn it and break it up a little more then, add your seasonings.  Salt and pepper, paprika, thyme (no need to chop just pull off the tiny leaves and toss ’em in), bay leaf, tomato sauce, and hot sauce.

0041Stir everything to combine.0052

If there is lots of excess grease in the pan, be sure to drain it off as, it will make your potatoes runny once it’s baking.  (Plus, who needs all the extra fat?)

0061Allow the meat to gently simmer while you finish the potatoes.

When I make this dish, I use my standard mashed potato method.  It’s a little different but, my mom taught me this trick when I was a teenager, and it has proven very handy and time saving.  I put butter (1-2 tbsps, depending on the number of potatoes) to a mug and add a crushed clove of garlic to the butter and then put it in the microwave until the butter is melted and the garlic is toasty (don’t walk away from it, the garlic can burn before you know it if you’re not paying attention), start with about 30 seconds, until you know exactly how long your microwave takes to toast up the garlic.  Here, we are essentially roasting the garlic.

0071I then add my milk to the same mug so that the heat of the mug and the butter will warm the milk, just a bit.  At least in my thinking, ice cold milk will cool down the potatoes too much.

0082Here’s where your multi-tasking abilities will be tested.  By now, your potatoes probably need to be removed from the heat and drained.  It is also the time your meat mixture needs to be finished off.

So, quickly drain the potatoes in a colander and cover with a paper towel (so you don’t lose too much heat and moisture).  Then, add a generous glug of red wine to the meat and stir to incorporate.  Add your veggies to the pan (whatever amount is to your liking, I prefer lots).

009At this point, you can lower the heat and cover while you mash up the potatoes.

Return the drained potatoes to the pan, pour in your butter mixture and begin mashing.  If your masher is effective, it shouldn’t take too long to get them mostly smooth.

0101Add salt and pepper to taste and as much shredded cheddar as your heart desires.

0111Stir with a spoon until the cheese is well-incorporated.  Note:  I like to leave the potato pan on low while I’m preparing them.

0121You’re almost to the finish line now!  You can turn off the potatoes and the meat.  Then pour your meat mixture into a casserole dish.

0131Top with the mashed potatoes and drag the tines of a fork across the potatoes (just for texture’s sake).

0141Sprinkle more cheddar on top of the assembled casserole.

015Place the prepared dish into your oven and allow to bake until cheese and potatoes are browned and bubbly (if you need a shortcut, you can also stick it under the broiler).

016Yuuummmm…Crispy cheese!


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Spicy Kafta With Yogurt Sauce

Low on groceries and even lower on money, I took out some ground beef to defrost this morning.  I’m all out of potatoes and we already had rice and pasta this week, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to make.  I did have about half a box of whole wheat couscous.  So, I’m thinking how in the world am I going to make couscous and ground beef work together?  Then I remember a dish we had at a middle-eastern restaurant, over the summer.  It was called kafta, similar to Greek beefteki, but with its roots in Turkey and Lebanon.  It was delicious…herby and spicy.  I looked up some recipes online and altered what I found to work with the pantry ingredients I had in stock.  Traditionally this dish is grilled and made with ground mutton or lamb but, my grill is officially out of commission until next summer, so I decided that broiling it in my gas oven would be the next best thing.  Here’s what I came up with:



Ground Beef

Fresh Parsley

Red Onion

Kosher salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Goya Sazon

Bread Crumbs

(I know it sounds like an odd combo but, I promise, it worked.  I used the Sazon because it is made mostly of cumin which, is a common ingredient in this dish.)

Yogurt Sauce:

Plain Nonfat Yogurt

Low Fat Sour Cream

Lemon Zest

Fresh Lemon Juice

Fresh Garlic

Kosher Salt

Fresh Parsley


Start by preheating your broiler.  I put mine on the low setting to insure that the meat cooked through before it got too browned.  While it preheats, finely chop some red onion and fresh parsley.

001In a bowl, combine this with the ground beef, bread crumbs, 1/2 pack of sazon, a sprinkle of cinnamon and salt and pepper.

002As I mentioned in Meatloaf Meatballs, be sure not to overmix your meat mixture, so it doesn’t get tough.  With your hands, form handfuls of the meat mixture into flat ovals and place on your pre-heated broiler pan.

003Place pan in pre-heated broiler and allow to cook until patties are browned and spring back when touched.  You will be able to smell the patties when they are close to done.  While they cook, you can prepare the yogurt sauce.  I didn’t have any greek yogurt, so I combined about 2/3 regular plain nonfat yogurt and 1/3 low fat sour cream.

004In a small bowl, combine this with finely chopped parsley, 1/2 a lemon’s worth of zest and its juice, a small clove of finely grated garlic, and salt to taste.

005I served the kafta with the couscous that I seasoned with lemon zest and sazon and peas with olive oil and lemon juice (that I almost burned).

008I was really pleased with the results and will definitely make it again…enjoy!

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Filed under Beef, Ethnic, Make Your Own Takeout