Category Archives: Low Brow Treats

Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

Just Like Mom Used to Microwave

We’re each uniquely a walking paradox, darlings, and what we feast on is no exception.  I’d like to tell you that I feast on ramps, truffle oil and gold dust all day-every day, but it’d be a lie.  Sometimes, my taste buds want to slum it a bit and indulge in a guilty dalliance of the frozen variety.  Stouffer’s has a bevy of these treats that beckon me when I’m too tired to cook.  Yes, I can make far more comforting versions of mac and cheese, stuffed peppers, swedish meatballs and veggie lasagne.  And yes, my grabbing one of those little red boxes is incongruous with my love of all things wholesome and lovingly prepped with ingredients that I can select and choose.  So how does an evolved home chef tow the line and make peace with her guilty pleasures?  She figures out a copy cat recipe that gets the job done.

Continue reading Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

Sweet and Savory Crockpot Meatballs (Grape Jelly Meatballs)

Put Jelly in the What Now?

I like to pretend that I am in the know when it comes to what makes for a delicious dish and what makes for a dish worth open-hand throwing across the room.  If someone told me that the secret to killer crockpot meatballs was a jar of grape jelly, I’d probably spit out my filet mignon and make a mental note to never trust a single recommendation that person ever made.  And yet!  And yet!  Turns out those cocktail meatballs that I swooned over at every single potluck and holiday party were made with (you guessed it) grape ‘effin jelly.  That same vile stuff that I eschewed as the evil mistress of peanut butter in the PB and J.  And yes, I hate PB and J, but that’s for another day. Continue reading Sweet and Savory Crockpot Meatballs (Grape Jelly Meatballs)

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

Ribs require a hefty dose of patience to get them right, right? In order to achieve fall-off-the-bone tenderness along with a lacquered barbecue crust, you need to give them time and a lot of TLC.  Or do you?

These ribs are for the hungry and lazy – a troublesome combination that is often hard to please but will be bowled over by this ridiculously easy recipe. Parboil the ribs in a pressure cooker to cut down on the cooking time from hours to a mere 15 minutes. Paint with homemade glaze and broil for a few minutes for fresh off the grill goodness right from the kitchen and in a lot less time. Done and done.  I’m not kidding.  That’s really it.

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

1/4 c. of browning seasoning
3 tbs. of lemon juice
1/2 c. of apricot jam
2 tsp. of molasses
1/2 tsp. of dry mustard
2 tsp. of dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
2 tbs. of chili paste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbs. of soy sauce
4 drops of mesquite liquid smoke

1 onion, quartered
6 dried apricots
2 c. of chicken stock
3 lbs. of ribs

Mix the browning seasoning, lemon juice, apricot jam, molasses, dry mustard, corn syrup, ginger, chili paste, garlic, soy and liquid smoke. Add half of the marinade, onion, apricots and 2 c. of chicken stock to the pressure cooker. Top with the ribs (cut into thirds to fit in the cooker) and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let pressure release naturally.  Remove ribs to a rack set over a cookie sheet and let dry while you make the sauce.  Add the remaining marinade to the pressure cooker and boil vigorously until reduced to a cup of liquid.  Brush the ribs on both sides with the marinade.  Turn the oven on broil and cook until lacquered and crisped.  Let rest for 5 minutes before carving.  Slice ribs into individual pieces and serve.

Kona Coffee Glazed Chicken Wings

Ever since The Daring Kitchen Challenge that had us cooking with tea, I’ve been enamored with the idea of utilizing coffee, tea and chai in savory recipes. When I came across a recipe for Mahogany Wings in the We The Women of Hawaii Cookbook, I thought that I could up the flavor quotient by including Kona coffee in the marinade. Boy was that a success.

The kona coffee in this recipe serves to glaze these wings into mahogany glory, while a bevy of sweet sauces such as hoisin, plum, honey and ciger vinegar round out the flavor profile. Simply cook the marinade, cool it, then bake the wings in the sauce and broil to finish, for some truly lip-smacking nibbles. The chicken absorbs all of the cooking liquid while roasting in the oven, and then the last few minutes manage to lacquer the skin into sticky, sweet majesty. Continue reading Kona Coffee Glazed Chicken Wings

Chile con Queso

What do you call cheese that’s not yours?  Nacho cheese!  Hahahahaha!!!

What? Not funny?  There’s no accounting for taste these days.  But know that regardless of your sense of humor, you will adore the creamy, spicy goodness that is this chile con queso.  Because it is scandalous in its majesty.  Escandalo!

This recipe is my mom’s passed down to her from my grandmother.  We used to have this dip around Christmas and New Year’s, devoured as quickly as we could while still hot.  More than your typical melted cheese with peppers, the base of this sauce comes from smoky bacon.  To make matters even more dangerous, we’d occasionally dip pork rinds (!) into the cheese in addition to tortilla chips.  Say wha?  Don’t knock it till you try it. Continue reading Chile con Queso

Green Chile Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes & Chipotle Cream Gravy

Comfort food should feel like a big hug.  Warm and gooshy like a Disney film.  Cloyingly sweet like the giggling female actresses on the original japanese Iron Chef, comparing bites of the most perfect food to kisses from teddy bears.  Too obscure a reference?

For me and my other half (my husband, not my other personality), meatloaf is such a go to for an instant comforting classic.  Accompanied by whipped potatoes and some sort of butter-touched frozen veg, it’s a taste of Americana with a dash of childhood and a smidge of old school TV dinner goodness.  I typically make a saucy turkey version that would slay the greatest meatloaf critic.  But tonight, in honor of our desert home, I feel that I must expand my traditions to fit my surroundings.  Green chili and chorizo become the base of a flavorfully moist meatloaf.  Potatoes are drizzled with a country gravy spiced with smoky chipotles.  Though the flavor profile is novel and different, it still tugs at the same heart strings as the more traditional version.

Recipe for

Green Chile Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Chipotle Cream Gravy

2 lbs. of ground beef
1 lb. of beef chorizo (fresh and removed from casings)
4 cl. of garlic, minced
3/4 c. of onions, finely chopped
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 1/2 c. of bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 tsp. of salt
21 oz. of roasted green chiles

2 tbs. of flour
1/2 tsp. of ground chipotle chile powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
2 c. of milk
snipped chives for garnish

1 lb. of potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cl. of garlic
2 tbs. of butter
a couple tablespoons of milk
pinch of white pepper
salt to taste

Heat a skillet on medium high and add the olive oil and onions.  Cook until translucent and allow to cool slightly.

Add the beef, chorizo, garlic, bread crumbs, sauteed onions, onions, salt and roasted chiles to the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large mixing bowl) and blend thoroughly.  Pour out the ingredients into a 9×13 pan and pat gently to form an oval, slightly rounded loaf.  Bake in a preheated 350° oven for an hour.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Salt well and add the potatoes and garlic.  Cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and add back to the hot pot.  Add the butter and mash with a potato masher.  Add the milk in dribs and drabs until potatoes are chunkily mashed but smoother.  Season with salt and white pepper.  Cover to keep warm.

Carefully pour two tablespoons of the fat from the meatloaf pan into a sauce pan.  Turn the heat on medium and whisk in the flour.  Cook for a moment and then stream in the milk, whisking to keep smooth.  Season with chili pepper, garlic powder, salt and white pepper.  Once thickened, taste for seasoning.

Serve mashed potatoes with the chipotle cream gravy and slices of meatloaf.  Add roasted corn and red peppers to the party for a little more fun.

Sonoran Hot Dog


I get it fairly, but I am a hot dog junkie.  I’m talking Tyrone Biggums crackhead junkie for a hot dog.  I love footlongs, Hebrew Nationals, burnt Oscar Meyers around the campfire, red onion laden Grays Papayas, ASU’s Dave’s Dog House with the buttered buns, a charbroiled and blistered dog from Ted’s and a Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke.  I love them equally and unabashedly.  Even the dirty water dog has a special place in my heart.  So of course, after moving out to the wild, wild west, it was only a matter of time until I discovered the joys of the infamous Sonoran dog.  The dog hails from the Mexico/Arizona border, and features a bacon-wrapped link that is grilled and then topped with a bevy of condiments.  We’re talking pinto beans, shredded cheese, tomatillo and jalapeno salsa, chopped tomato and diced onion to name a few.  Traditionally, these bad boys are served on a sturdy Mexican roll with ketchup, mayo and mustard, but you can choose your toppings according to how you like them and use whatever roll you’d like to get the job done.  I like a sesame-seed hero roll myself.

Although crisping this bad boy up is great on the grill, you can use a rack over a cookie sheet under your oven’s broiler if you are grill-less.  I like to use a natural casing dog as my first choice, and a snappy Nathan’s brand or Sabrett’s brand dog as my second choice, since they cook up so love-er-lee.  But again, with a dog with this much DIY potential, feel free to rock it the way you want it.  Just make sure it’s loaded up, because that is the name of the game.

Sonoran Hot Dogs

4 hot dog links
4 slices of thick cut bacon (mesquite-smoked if you can find it)
1 c. of whole pinto beans
1 tsp. of adobo seasoning
1/2 tsp. of chili powder (can be ancho or chipotle if you like)
1 tbs. of olive oil
4 tbs. of chopped tomato
4 tbs. of chopped onion
1/4 c. of shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, a blend, you name it)
1/4 c. of tomatillo salsa (or other green salsa variety)

tabasco ketchup (optional)
jalapeno mustard (optional)
mexican crema or lime mayo (optional)

Begin by wrapping each hot dog with a strip of bacon.  Cook hot dog on the grill until bacon is crispy and browned on both sides.  Alternatively, you can place a rack over a cookie sheet and cook under your broiler for 7-10 minutes per side.

While the hot dogs are cooking, warm your beans.  Add your beans to a small saucepan with the adobo seasoning, chili powder and olive oil.  Taste for salt and season.

To assemble, squirt bun with a little ketchup, mustard and mayo (if you’d like it).  Top with the hot dog and spoon a few tablespoons of beans on top.  Sprinkle cheese over the beans to melt and then top with tomatoes, onions and tomatillo salsa.  Eat quickly and blissfully before the whole thing falls apart.

Ham Salad

Ham salad or deviled ham is seemingly pedestrian, but man, is it good.  Just as a rotisserie chicken can be transformed by dijon mustard, tarragon and apples, into sumptuous chicken salad, so too can baked ham be blended into deliciousness with rosemary, shallots and mayonnaise.  To truly make this some devilish goodness, add some paprika and cayenne to make things a little more fiery.  We used to make this after Easter with the tons of leftover ham from the feast the day before.  It kept incredibly well in the fridge for quick sandwiches and was always a treat…for as long as it lasted.

This recipe makes a pretty dry salad, like I like it, but if you want things a little more moist, add a few more tablespoons of mayo to smooth things out.

Recipe for

Ham Salad

1 lb. of ham (leftover baked ham or deli ham works fine)
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 tbs. of dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 tbs. of minced shallots
1/2 tbs. of dijon mustard
3 tbs. of mayo

In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth.  Spread on crackers or eat as a sandwich spread on crusty bread.

Spicy Mac with Chorizo and Jack

So, my friends, it seems that the macaroni and cheese adventure continues with this spicy, south of the border version.  Clever name aside (come on, you love that I rhymed mac with jack), this is full of piquant flavors and lovely texture that will become a welcomed departure from the usually cheddar pasta conglomeration.  If you like things hotter than hot, use a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper when making your cheese sauce.  Or dice a little chopped jalapeno into the mix as you saute the veggies.  I use mexican-style smoked chorizo for this, but you can also crumble and brown fresh chorizo, or dice a nice andouille sausage as well.  The choice is yours, dolls.

Spicy Mac and Cheese with Chorizo and Jack © Spice or Die

The bechamel for the macaroni and cheese is similar to most of the other versions I’ve posted, with the exception of the milk.  Here I use canned, evaporated milk of the fat-free variety, which provides lovely creaminess with half the fat.  Another variation is that in most of my mac and cheese recipes, I bake the entire thing after saucing.  This version is actually perfectly lovely unbaked and topped with a smattering of sliced scallions.  It’s excellent weekday eating – heck, you could even replace the chorizo for browned ground beef for truly the best Hamburger Helper you may ever have on this green earth.  Given that actual Hamburger Helper is abysmal, this isn’t much of a challenge.  Cook on!

Spicy Mac with Chorizo and Jack

1 lb of elbow macaroni
1/2 c. of chopped piquillo peppers (roasted reds are fine)
2 tbs. of onion, finely chopped
1 lb. of smoked chorizo, diced
3 c. of evaporated milk
4 tbs. of butter
4 tbs. of flour
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of mustard
3/4 tsp. of garlic powder
3/4 tsp. of salt
1 c. of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 c. of pepper jack, shredded

Preheat oven to 400°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente and drain.

While pasta is boiling, make your sauce. In a large sized pot, melt your butter on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the piquillo peppers and stir. Whisk the flour into the butter to form a smooth paste.  Slowly add the milk in a steady stream, whisking the whole time to prevent lumps. Add the salt, black pepper, mustard and garlic powder. Turn up heat and continue whisking until sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, whisking until melted.  Stir in diced chorizo and taste for spice.  Add cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste.

Toss macaroni and sauce in a large bowl. Let sit for 4-5 minutes and then serve.

Easy Western Scramble

When I was a kid, on Saturday mornings or Sundays after church, my parents would occasionally take us to Bob’s Big Boy for their breakfast buffet. A veritable smorgasbord of all things bad for you, I used to tuck into the absolute same dish every single time – a big plate of fluffy scrambled eggs, home fries (the deep fried square kind), a mixture of cooked ham, peppers and onions, and cheese sauce over all. It was baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. Like taste bud good and cholestoral bad news. But whatever – I was a kid and as much as I didn’t care about 401Ks and Roth IRAs, I wasn’t really invested in wholesome ingredients at the breakfast buffet. It was Big Boys for goodness sakes.

Easy Western Scramble © Spice or Die

I’m older and wiser now, with (at least I like to think) a more discriminating palette. The equivalent of breakfast cheese fries and eggs (which were probably dehydrated for all I know) don’t have the same appeal. And yet, the strange combination of peppers, onions and ham has stuck with me all these years. It was odd – the diced ingredients were kept warm in a broth of sorts, keeping the ham moist and the onion mellow. In an effort to recreate some atavistic memory of my childhood, I set upon a method of recreating this Western blend for a breakfast of my past. Served atop delicately scrambled eggs and sharp cheddar cheese, it may not be the low-brow brunch of my yester-years, but it still manages to make me smile.  And given the wholesome ingredients, your arteries are not at risk 😉

Easy Western Scramble

1/2 c. of diced onion
1/2 c. of diced green bell pepper
1/2 c. of canadian bacon, diced
1 c. of water
1 tsp. of salt
pinch of finely cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. of olive oil
4 eggs
splash of whole milk
1/4 c. of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbs. of butter

To a small pot, add the onion, bell pepper, canadian bacon, water, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Bring contents to a boil, and then immediately turn off the heat.  Let sit while you prep your eggs.

In a shallow dish, scramble eggs and milk together, making sure not to overbeat.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When warm, turn heat to low and add butter to the pan.  Swirl butter around the pan to slick the bottom and then add the eggs.  As the eggs slowly cook, use your spatula to push the curds to opposite sides of the pan and allow the uncooked egg to run across the surface of the hot pan.  Continue gently pushing the egg around until it is all cooked and just set – I like mine still a bit glossy and wet, but cook to your liking.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and allow to melt from the heat of the warm eggs.  With a slotted spoon, scoop up some of the ham, pepper and onion mix and top a portion of the eggs.  Dig in to straight up breakfast comfort.