Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

I feel like I’m living in an episode of Seinfeld or Friends.  You know… when something happens and then something else happens and then a third thing happens that somehow ties it all together.  I’m pretty sure some recent events are really just my subconscious is trying to tell me that I’m losing my mind.  Literally.


I’ve always had this panic thing where I really think I lose my cell phone and once I start the panic mode, I find it under my leg in my seat in the car, in a fold in a blanket, or under the dog.  This happens like, literally all the time.  At least once or twice a day.

What’s going on with my recent misplacement of really important belongings isn’t this panic-mode.  It’s real.  I don’t know what’s going on (with the exception of me losing my mind)… but in the past two weeks I have somehow managed to misplace not one but TWO jackets, leave my car keys in my Mom’s car, and forget my purse in a restaurant.  WTF?!

Rather than just thinking I’m a moron, I’m going to take this as a sign that I need to take a step back and relax.  Take a minute and breathe and STOP LOSING ALL OF MY CRAP!

In an attempt to go back to my normal routine, I decided to make dinner last night.  It’s been rare since Dave and I got engaged… life has just been too crazy and busy to make fun dinners.  I was inspired by the surplus of Grape Tomatoes in the house and wanted to try to make my own tomato sauce.

This sauce is so good… I almost could not believe myself.  Don’t leave out the roasting of the veggies in this recipe… it gives the sauce such a rich flavor.  It’s very easy to do!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu


1.5 pints Grape Tomatoes

1 Head Garlic

1 Poblano Pepper

8oz Lean Ground Beef

1 Green Bell Pepper

1/2 Large Sweet Onion

1 can Diced Tomatoes 

1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley (or 1T fresh)


1.  Roast the Veggies:  Preheat the oven to 400.  On a baking sheet COVERED with foil and prepared with cooking spray, spread the tomatoes.  Put the poblano on the sheet too.  Cut off the tip of the garlic exposing the tops of the cloves.  Wrap the garlic in a small piece of foil and pour a few drops of Olive Oil in and close.  Put the foiled garlic on the baking sheet too.  Either drizzle or spray the tomatoes and poblano with just a bit of Olive Oil, sprinkle with salt, and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Flip the poblano halfway through and remove if the skin becomes charred.

2.  Cook the meat:  While your veggies are roastin’, cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat.  If frozen, scrape into small pieces or chop if fresh.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Remove from pan.

3.  Cook the veggies:  Chop the pepper and onion and saute with cooking spray in the same pan the beef cooked in.  Cook for 5-10 minutes then set aside in the same bowl as the beef.  

4.  Make the sauce:  When the tomatoes are a little browned ontop and nice and soggy looking, remove them from the oven.  Unwrap the garlic and let cool.  Cut the poblano in half and scrape out the seeds.  Scrape off the skin too, if possible.  Chop half of the pepper and reserve the remaining half for another use.  Using the back of a spoon, press the bottom end of the garlic until the cloves slide out.  Place the chopped poblano, 1/2 of the garlic cloves, and all of the tomatoes in a blender with the rest of the seasonings, the can of diced tomatoes, and fresh basil.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  

5.  Eat the Sauce!  Combine the tomato mixture from the blender with the beef, pepper, and onion.  Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm.  Serve over spaghetti and top with a little bit of fresh parm.  Enjoy!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Cookin' up the pepper and onion.

Cookin’ up the pepper and onion.



The sauce all ready to go

The sauce all ready to go



So delicious.

So delicious.







Black ‘n’ Blue Cheese Burger Stuffed Baked Potato

Do you remember those divided plates you used to have when you were a kid?  They had cartoons in each section like this one from Sesame Street…

I may have to buy this... I love it.

I may have to buy this… I love it.

To this day, this is how I prefer to eat my food.  Divided.  Separated.  Nothing touching.

What I’ve realized is that you are either the type of person who likes messy meals, the kind where you can smush all their food together, “it all goes down the same tube, of course”… OR … you like your food separated.  You like to experience each flavor on its own before even considering mixing them together.  If you’re that person, you know you’re looking at that Sesame Street plate and thinking about getting one just like I am.

With all of that being said, I believe I have one exception:  I love a good stuffed baked potato.  The baked potato is the perfect vessel for any type of food smush.  It just tastes so good when you put loads of toppings on there and get it all mashed together with the insides.

It’s totally not like me, but for you, baked potato, I will make this exception.

My latest stuffed baked potato creation was inspired by one of my favorite burgers:  the Black & Blue.  Spicy Blackened seasoning combined with Creamy Blue Cheese is just heavenly.

Black ‘n’ Blue Cheese Burger Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Makes 2 Servings


2 Russet or other Baking Potatoes

8 oz Lean Ground Beef (I used 90/10)

2 Tablespoons (divided) Blackened Seasoning*

1/2 Onion, sliced thin

1 Jalapeno, cut in half and then into thin slices

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 oz or 1/2 cup Blue Cheese Crumbles

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil Mayo

1 Tablespoon Fat Free Sour Cream

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder

Garnish:  2 Tablespoons Butter Substitute, Freeze Dried (or fresh) Chives


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub your potatoes under cold water and then pat them dry.  You can rub them with a little olive oil and sea salt if you’d like.  Cut a line down the middle using a sharp knife so the potato doesn’t burst while it’s cooking.  Place directly on the oven rack (you can place foil on the rack below to prevent mess) and cook for about 45 min.  You can tell the potato is done when you squeeze the middle of the potato.  It will give in very easily when it’s done cooking.

2.  Meanwhile, caramelize your onions and jalapeno.  Melt the 1T of butter and olive oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and jalapeno strips.  Cook over medium or medium low, stirring occasionally until they become caramelized.  

3.  Take the ground beef and if it’s frozen, scrape into pieces with two forks in a large pan over medium heat.  If it’s raw, chop while it’s cooking in the pan.  Once the meat is chopped, add the blackened seasoning.  Start with 1T and stir into the beef.  Once the beef is cooked through (no longer pink), taste a piece and add more blackened seasoning to your liking.  

4.  Combine the Blue Cheese, Mayo, Sour Cream, Garlic Powder, and Onion Powder in a small bowl.  Stir and set aside in the refrigerator.  

5.  Assemble the Stuffed Potato:  Open the potato by squeezing on both ends (wearing an oven mit!)  You can add a dab of butter or butter substitute onto the potato.  Add half of the ground beef, then half the onion mixture, and a big dollop of the blue cheese sauce.  Top with chives if you’d like.  

*You can use store-bought or try this homemade recipe.  I made it for another dish a month ago and put the rest in a ziplock which is what I used

photo 1 (27)

photo 2 (30)

Told ya it was smush!  MMM!!

Told ya it was smush! MMM!!

This is definitely one recipe I can get behind mixing everything together.  It was so good and really messy.  I served these colossal potatoes with some fresh broccoli to make me feel a little healthier.  Adding green to something unhealthy totally erases calories.  Duh.

Check out these other fab Stuffed Baked Potatoes too!  … they’re kinda my thing.


Marin Joe’s Special

Forever ago, I was watching one of my Food Network shows when Tyler Florence introduced me to one of the best things he’s ever eaten:  The Marin Joe’s Special from Marin Joe’s in Corte Madera, CA.

He's sexy and he knows it!

He’s sexy and he knows it!

Seeing as I won’t be traveling to Corte Madera, CA anytime soon, I decided I had to try this one out myself.  It sounded so easy… “Hamburger, Spinach, Eggs”.  Three things I love to eat.

My grand idea of trying out my first recipe as seen on “Best Thing…” was spoiled when I told Dave the three simple starring ingredients.  What I got back was a different simple three words, “That. Sounds. Disgusting.”, and put the recipe back in my book of hundreds.  I forgot about good ole Marin Joe’s until one night during our “Lets not go food shopping and save money” week.  I had ground beef… a huge bag of spinach… and we always have a plethora of eggs.  Perfect.

And would you have guessed… Dave ended up loving it?  We both did!

This is an awesome recipe packed with protein from the beef and eggs and it even includes your veggies too!

Before you’re turned off by the eggs just like Dave was, let me reassure you, this doesn’t turn out to be scrambled eggs on top of a hamburger.  The eggs are mixed into the ground beef and turn into more of a thickener.  Eggs combine all of the other ingredients together and make it just deliciously rich.  Seriously, try it.

Marin Joe’s Special


1lb Lean Ground Beef 

1/2 Onion, thinly sliced

1 clove of Garlic, thinly sliced or crushed

1 Jalapeno, seeded and sliced

1 bag Baby Spinach (or more!  I had a giant bag so I used a ton)

3 Eggs

1/4 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese


1.  Add ground beef to a large saute pan.  Chop into small pieces as it cooks.  Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic.  Saute with the grease from the ground beef.  Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.  

2.  Once the beef is cooked through, pile on the raw spinach.  Mix into the meat and heat while stirring until the spinach becomes slightly wilted.  

3.  Stir the eggs together in a small bowl.  Once the spinach is slightly wilted, add the eggs to the pan.  Stir constantly until the eggs are completely mixed in and no longer runny.  If you stir it constantly- it won’t turn into scrambled eggs 🙂

4.  Serve in a bowl and top with Parmesan cheese.  

Recipe slightly adapted from:  Marin Joe’s Restaurant

Ground beef is sauteed and chopped up with the onion, garlic, jalapeno with salt and pepper.

Ground beef is sauteed and chopped up with the onion, garlic, jalapeno with salt and pepper.

I told you, I love spinach! This was during the time we had a giant 3lb bag from the Italian Market, so I def. used more than a normal 5oz bag.

I told you, I love spinach! This was during the time we had a giant 3lb bag from the Italian Market, so I def. used more than a normal 5oz bag.

Stir the spinach until it becomes slightly wilted, and then add the eggs.

Stir the spinach until it becomes slightly wilted, and then add the eggs.

In go the eggs!  Don't be afraid :)

In go the eggs! Don’t be afraid 🙂

Anything topped with fresh parm is okay in my book...

Anything topped with fresh parm is okay in my book…

See how good this looks?!  It was the perfect speedy dinner after a long run in the neighborhood.  And I do have to say, I can very much appreciate a one-pan dinner every once in a while!

Take a bite!

Take a bite!

Take a peek at these other recipes I’ve tried from the Food Network:

Blue Cheese n Spinach Orzo from Robert Irvine

Blue Cheese n Spinach Orzo from Robert Irvine

BBQ Deviled Eggs from the Neely's

BBQ Deviled Eggs from the Neely’s

Chicken in Peanut Sauce from Mexican Made Easy

Chicken in Peanut Sauce from Mexican Made Easy



Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes

I really have no idea what inspired me to make Sloppy Joe and put it into a wrap.  Let me tell you… the meal was JUST as sloppy as it is on a potato roll, if not MORE!  Grab a few paper towels and make this one for your fam!

Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes

Makes 8-10 Servings (3/4 cup)


Olive Oil

1 Red Bell Pepper

4 Large Carrots

2 Stalks Celery

1/2 Sweet Onion

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

Sea Salt & Pepper

2.5 lbs Ground Beef (lean, 93%)

2 8oz cans Tomato Sauce

2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (I used the tube kind)

1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce (+more)

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2-3 Tablespoons Hot Sauce or Buffalo Marinade

Buns (for traditional SJ’s), Wraps (what I did), or a big spoon!


1.  Finely dice all of your veggies.  Heat about a Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a very large skillet or dutch oven.  Season with Sea Salt and Pepper (just a pinch of both will do) and saute for 5-10 minutes.  Add Garlic and cook for another minute.

2.  Add the ground beef to the veggies.  Chop, stir, cook until the meat is no longer pink and is fully cooked.  Chop and chop and chop until the meat is almost the same size as the veggies.

3.  Add your tomato sauce, tomato paste, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, and Hot Sauce.  Stir, cover, and simmer on medium-low heat until it has thickened (for about 10 minutes).  Serve any way you’d like… buns, wraps, or just enjoy with a big spoon!

Recipe adapted from:  Spenser’s Sloppy Joe’s, Down Home w/ the Neelys

Get your veggies sauteed up!  I liked chopping them really small so they would mix well with the ground beef.

Get your veggies sauteed up! I liked chopping them really small so they would mix well with the ground beef.

Finished product!  YUMMM!

Finished product! YUMMM!

A Sloppy Joe wrap and a side salad

A Sloppy Joe wrap and a side salad

Digging right in... Sloppy is right! :)

Digging right in… Sloppy is right! 🙂

So, for some reason I had imagined Sloppy Joe in a wrap… so that’s exactly what we did.  I used those Ezekiel Sprouted Wraps which are super healthy; they have only 9 ingredients (all organic), are high in fiber, gluten-free, and taste really good.  You can find them in the frozen section of the grocery store if you haven’t tried them yet!


The Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce is so freakin’ good in here.  It is my absolute favorite BBQ sauce as it is, but the sweet & smoky Hickory Brown Sugar flavor is perfect for Sloppy Joe.  I added some extra onto the wrap before I closed it up as a nice finishing touch too.  You can try to use any BBQ sauce but if you see this stuff on sale… pick one up… or two… because it is SO YUMMY!


Although it made the recipe sorta non-traditional… I loved adding the veggies to this Sloppy Joe.  It gave the mix tons of flavor but also they bulked it up allowing you to eat more for the same amount of calories.  Hm… now that I think of it, what a great way to sneak in veggies for kids too!

We shared this batch with our roommate Adam and had enough for extras and leftovers the following day at work.  This is a great recipe for those one-pot cooking nights and for when you need to feed a lot of people!

Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes Nutrition

Servings: 8-10 (3/4 Cup)

Calories: 311

Fat: 7g

Protein: 28g

Fiber: 2g

Carbs: 29g

Leftovers Quick

Mexican Shepherd’s Pie & Feb Secret Recipe Club Reveal!

I have a huge blogging announcement to make!  I was recently accepted into the Secret Recipe Club!  This is something I’m very excited about, it will be a great opportunity to make new blogging friends and try out new recipes.  I have been on a waiting list to join for a few months and today is my VERY FIRST REVEAL!

Let me give you a brief run down of the “SRC”.  First, I am assigned a blog.  From that blog, I am allowed to pick ANY recipe they have ever made… and make it myself.  We’re allowed to make changes and swaps to fit our own tastes and diets too.  Then, we write a post about the recipe and our experience making it.  Finally, everyone will “reveal” their blog post about their secret recipe on the same day.  I get to tell the blog I wrote about and then someone who had me will tell me too!  It’s all very bloggerifically exciting.

Secret Recipe Club

For February, my SRC Blog assignment was Food-Ramblings.  Not only is this girl an AWESOME cook, but we have so so much in common.  First of all, her name is Elizabeth.  She makes and talks about some seriously delicious looking recipes but tries to stay healthy, just like me.  She even includes Weight Watcher points on her posts which is so helpful.

She’s truly an inspiration… she lost 30 pounds before her wedding and somehow managed to keep it off!  You go girl!

After reading through tons of great recipes, I decided to go with one that I thought was super creative:  Mexican Shepherd’s Pie.  Gasp.  How delicious does that sound?  Why haven’t I thought of this?!

Shepherd’s Pie has forever been one of my Mom’s favorite meals.  Growing up, we used to make it and mix it all together turning it into one big pile of delicious mashed potatoes, meat, and veggies.  Sometimes, my Mom would let my sister and I put food coloring in the potatoes to make it more fun to eat.  (gross!)

This recipe on Elizabeth’s blog  stood out to me right away and I had to get workin’.  I made this one two or three weeks ago now!  I was just so excited to try it out.

Mexican Shepherd’s Pie

**Recipe only slightly adapted from Food-Ramblings


1.5 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes

1 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

Splash of Half and Half

1/2 Cup Chicken Broth (red. sodium)

1 lb Ground Beef

1 Taco Seasoning Packet

2 Jalapenos, diced

2 Tomatoes, diced

1 can Corn

Cayenne Pepper

1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup Cheddar Cheese (red. fat),shredded

Fresh Cilantro


1.  Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until soft and easily pierced with a knife or fork.  While the potatoes boil, cook ground beef with taco seasoning and diced jalapenos.  Drain grease if you have any.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Smash the potatoes with half and half, chicken broth, garlic powder, minced onion, pepper, and salt.  Add chicken broth or half and half little by little if you need it to be more wet.

3.  In a foil-lined baking dish, spray with cooking spray.  Spread half of the potato mixture at bottom of pan.  Next, layer ground beef, followed by the tomatoes, corn, and black beans.  Sprinkle Cayenne somewhere in the middle if you’d like it to be spicier.  Sprinkle cheese over top (I used White and Sharp Cheddar).  Spread rest of potatoes over top.

4.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are just starting to brown.  Keep an eye on it!  Sprinkle on some fresh Black Pepper and Cilantro on top.  Serve 🙂

**Elizabeth’s original recipe first of all included a second recipe for Jalapeno Cornbread which I’m dying to try another time!  I made the shepherd’s pie after work one day and didn’t have enough time to try both.  Here are the changes I made:  I used Yukon Gold Potatoes, and less of them with the skins on instead of 2 lbs.  I added Cayenne and Jalapeno (duh).  I also unfortunately didn’t have the 1 cup of skim milk on hand to make the taters so I just used a splash of half and half.  Finally, since I had some on hand, I sprinkled some fresh Cilantro ontop.**

Smash smash smash.

Smash smash smash.

Next, I mixed the potatoes into mashed potatoes with lots of good seasonings and spread half of it into the baking dish.

Next, I mixed the potatoes into mashed potatoes with lots of good seasonings and spread half of it into the baking dish.

Add in some beef, tomatoes, jalapenos...

Add in some beef, tomatoes, jalapenos…

Black Beans, Corn, and some Cayenne for good measure

Black Beans, Corn, and some Cayenne for good measure

Loving two types of shredded cheddah

Loving two types of shredded cheddah

Into and out of the oven it goes... voila!  Amazing!

Into and out of the oven it goes… voila! Amazing!



Cross-Section of a Shepherd's Pie... I'm drooling.

Cross-Section of a Shepherd’s Pie… I’m drooling.

Spoon some up and add some hot sauce... call it a night!

Spoon some up and add some hot sauce… call it a night!

We LOOOVED Elizabeth’s Mexican Shepherd’s Pie!  What a GREAT idea!  I loved how she replaced the typical peas and carrots of Shepherd’s Pie with Corn and Beans and exciting flavors which I typically prefer anyway.  YUM!  We ate this for dinner TWICE and a few lunches too… tons of leftovers.

I can’t wait to officially follow Elizabeth’s blog now that she knows who I am 🙂  she has plenty of other amazing recipes I’m dying to try.


In the meantime, PLEASE do yourself a favor and click below to check out these other fabulous recipes that were discovered during this month’s Secret Recipe Club!