Enchilada Manicotti to the dilemma rescue

Italian food? Mexican food?

Mexican food? Italian food?

I am torn too often between the two cuisines because I love them both.

When faced with this dilemma, what do I do?

How about a mashup of both?

Does the thought of this raise your eyebrows and titillate your taste buds?

My Enchilada Manicotti recipe is really the perfect solution for me when I can’t decide.

It satisfies my craving for enchiladas and pasta and with every bite.

It has a delicious seasoned meat and refried filling that is piped into al dente manicotti shells.

Next, it is covered with smoky fire roasted tomatoes and enchilada sauce.

Top it off with a combination of cheddar, jack and mozzarella cheese, a few garnishes of your choice, and you have a meal that is hearty, delightful, family friendly and company worthy to be sure.

The recipe comes together pretty quickly and has a list of ingredients that are familiar and unfussy. If you mise en place – as we say in the culinary world – or gather all of your ingredients before you start, you will wiz through this recipe.

If you need a suggestion on what to serve with your Enchilada Manicotti, I got ya.

I love to serve them with a simple Spanish rice and some Mediterranean string beans (fresh, frozen or canned green beans that are drained) which are seasoned with garlic and diced onions that are sautéed in olive oil, then add dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

The next time you want Mexican food or Italian food, give this mashup a try. It is double delicioso and delizioso!

Enchilada Manicotti

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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A mashup you will never forget.


1 ½ pound ground meat (I used a combination 85% Lean Ground turkey and Italian turkey sausage)
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dehydrated chopped onion (has great, intense flavor)
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
4-ounce can diced green chilies
15-ounce can refried black beans
28-ounce can mild enchilada sauce
15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar and jack blend and mozzarella)
8-ounce box Manicotti pasta (should contain 14 shells)
Optional – chopped olives, chopped green or red onion, chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro or basil


Gather all of your ingredients and cooking equipment before you begin.

Add ground meat to a heated non-stick skillet and cook until done, chopping to separate meat into small pieces. Cook meat completely until it is no longer pink. Drain off oil released from the meat.

To the cooked meat, add cumin, salt, dehydrated chopped onion, garlic powder, diced green chilies, black beans and ¾ cup enchilada sauce.

Mix well until all the ingredients are well blended. Set aside.

Cook manicotti pasta shells according to directions for al dente. When pasta is done, drain, cool with cold water then remove pasta shells from pot and drain on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.

Spray a large, rectangular baking dish (at least 13 x 9 inches) with non-stick cooking spray. Pour 1 cup of enchilada sauce into the baking dish and spread it over the surface of the dish.

Spoon about a quarter of the meat and bean mixture into a quart size plastic zipper storage bag. Seal the bag and clip off the tip of one of the corners.

Pick up a cooked manicotti shell and squeeze the bag to fill each shell with the bean and meat mixture.   

Place each filled manicotti shell into baking dish. Continue to refill the plastic zipper bag with the meat and bean filling until all the shells are filled.  If your baking dish is not large enough to lay them all flat, just stack them on top of each other.

Note: If you have any leftover meat and bean filling, just go back and pipe a little bit of it into all the pasta shells until you have used it all.

Pour the entire can of fire roasted tomatoes over top of the filled shells. Next pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the filled shells.

Top with shredded cheese. Add chopped onion and black olives if desired.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove cover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with sour cream if desired.

Let’s Celebrate with a Festive Red Cabbage Slaw

Festive Red Cabbage Slaw is a perfect side dish.

So many people are getting together, finally.

Family reunions, picnics, backyard barbeques are back and so are the smiles, kisses, hugs and laughter.

It’s a beautiful time to be sure.

But if you are gathering and need a quick side dish, this Festive Red Cabbage Slaw recipe won’t disappoint and it is family and figure friendly too.

No mayo here my friends, just a cabbage slaw that is not your usual suspect and amped up with a delightful olive oil and rice vinegar-based dressing that is tasty and is easy to make.

Festive Red Cabbage Slaw is great on seafood tacos!

It’s a perfect side dish and condiment for seafood tacos.

Take it to your next gathering. Make it for your family.  It will certainly impress the crowd and those you love. Enjoy!

An easy recipe you will make over and over again.


3 to 4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (if small head use half of it)
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ear of fresh corn, cooked and shaved from cob

¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Dijon Mustard (Trader Joe’s is my preference)
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon sugar


  1. To a large mixing bowl add thinly sliced cabbage, grated carrots, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro and corn.
  2. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix with a large spoon or spatula.
  3. To a small mixing bowl add olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, Dijon Mustard, sesame seed oil and sugar, and whisk with a wire whisk or fork until the mixture is emulsified or comes together.
  4. Pour half of the dressing over salad in the bowl and mix well. Taste and add more salt or pepper to taste. If desired, add more dressing to your taste.
  5. Fresh ear of corn cooking hack
  6. Take a fresh ear of corn with the hulk on and cut the top and bottom off.
  7. Place it in the microwave for 3 minutes.
  8. Let cook, remove husk and shave off kernels with a sharp knife.

Turned-up Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese and tomato soup are classic combinations.

Some would say they are inextricably bound.

While my Turned-up Tomato Soup is a wonderful accompaniment to your favorite grilled cheese sandwich, it can be consciously upcoupled (a wink and nod to Gwyneth Paltrow) and stand firmly on its own.

Using fire roasted tomatoes gives the soup a tasty smokiness. I’ve added my beloved sweet potato to this soup to create more depth of flavor while adding a subtle, sweet middle note. The splash of tequila gives it roundness, and the ground chili paste turns it up with and infuses a lovely finish and pop of spice!

Not only is this a delicious soup, try it over chicken, fish and pasta or serve cold like gazpacho garnished with fresh chopped cilantro. Or get jiggy with it and charge it up with some cooked black beans and corn. Or how about adding chopped chicken or cocktail shrimp?

Oh boy! Are you ready to get turned up?

The recipe is below. Enjoy!

Turned-up Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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A turned-up version of tomato soup with a little tequila.


1  14.5 ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes

½ pound or 1 cup, peeled sweet potatoes, medium dice

½ medium white or yellow onion, chopped small dice

2 cloves garlic, chopped small dice

4 cups low sodium chicken stock or good vegetable broth (see my back burner vegetable broth recipe here)

1 tablespoon butter, clarified is my favorite

½ teaspoon sugar, white granulated

½ teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons ground fresh chili paste (to your liking)

2 tablespoons gold tequila (I used Cazadores Reposado Tequila)

Cracked pepper, to your taste


  1. To a stock pan or Dutch oven set on medium heat, add butter.  Once melted, add diced sweet potatoes and cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly browned.
  2. Add onions and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Add garlic and chopped oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tequila and next add fire roasted tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock/broth, salt, ground chili paste, sugar and some cracked pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.
  6. When done, remove from heat and carefully pour soup into a blender.
  7. Remove the center piece from the blender. Make sure the lid is secure.
  8. Place a clean towel over the opening to avoid splattering and blend mixture until smooth, about 15 to 20 seconds.
  9. Return to the pot or Dutch oven. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with croutons and fresh grated parmesan cheese.

This back burner broth is top shelf

I know I’ve been missing in action. I am in culinary school and it is very time consuming.

Yup, it’s remote and we do all of our culinary lectures and labs at home.

The very cool thing about being in school is having access to experienced culinary professionals and the ability to ask them questions my inquiring mind has always wanted to know such as:

“Why do the commercial vegetable broths I’ve purchased in the market taste odd, have a brassy top note and an unpleasant after taste?”

Geepers! Just saying this makes my nose wrinkle.

The answer: the abundant use of celery in these broths which is just full of chlorophyll, the compound that gives plants their green pigmentation and the compound my palate obviously doesn’t like as a primary ingredient in a broth.

Chlorophyll is the natural compound present in green plants that gives them their color. It helps plants to absorb energy from the sun as they undergo the process of photosynthesis. This nutrient is present in green vegetables and other plant-based foods, like algae. The greener the vegetable is, the higher its chlorophyll content.


Well, I can change that now that I understand what it is I like and don’t like.

So I did, and this vegetable broth is glorious and so good.

The base is composed of shitake and oyster mushrooms I scored from my local 99Cent Store.

The aromatics include the modest use of celery and other stuff to make it tasty. For this recipe I did sauté the aromatics in a little clarified butter to impart some depth and richness in the broth. However, if you are pledged to veganism, use a good extra virgin olive oil instead.  This is an important tip: a little bit of sugar helps to round out the pungency from the herbs so make sure to use it.

This recipe makes about 6 cups of broth after it simmers down and is strained. I want you to note that it does take a little work, time and patience – so commit to the process because it is so worth it.

What can you use this broth for? It’s great as a base for soups, stews, gravies or whatever recipe that requires broth. The color is marvelous and the taste is velvety and balanced.

I used this stock recipe to make a pot of yellow split pea soup from the peas I also scored at the 99Cent store. Here’s a little-known fact about me: I make a pot of legumes every week which I lovingly call “soupe de la semaine” or soup of the week.

When making this broth you will need roughly 3 to 4 hours from start to finish – so plan accordingly, enjoy the journey and the fruits ( or should I say vegetables) of your labor.

Back Burner Vegetable Broth

  • Servings: 6 cups
  • Difficulty: You can do it!
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A delicious, homemade vegetable stock.


4 ounces shitake mushrooms
4 ounces oyster mushrooms
1 medium red onion, large diced
2 shallots, rough chopped
3 celery stalks, cut in half
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half
6 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh oregano sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
1/2 teaspoon pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
8 cups cold water


To a large stock pot, add carrots, celery and mushrooms. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet on a stovetop set on medium heat.

Once the skillet is hot, add butter or olive oil.

When oil is hot, add onions, shallots and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, oregano sprigs and rosemary and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat and add contents of skillet to the stock pot.

Add salt, sugar, peppercorns and 8 cups of water.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

When done, strain the broth through a mesh strainer into a separate heat resistant container.

Broth is ready to use or can be stored in the refrigerator for one week, or frozen for up to 6 months.