Hye Thyme Cafe: May 2013

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday: My favorite movie of all time is ...

Source: IMBd

"My favorite movie of all time is ... "

This may not be my "favorite movie of all time," that's a tough call, but whenever someone asks me that question, this is the movie that immediately comes to mind.  Aside from having a great cast: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, Stephen Baldwin, Dan Hedaya, and Giancarlo Esposito, it was a great script.  Best of all, it had a big GOTCHA at the end.  I love that in a movie!!  If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Favorite Quotes (source: IMBd):
Dave Kujan: You know a dealer named Ruby Deamer, Verbal?
Verbal: You know a religious guy named John Paul?
Jeff Rabin: I'm telling you this guy is protected from up on high by the Prince of Darkness. 
Dave Kujan: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
Verbal: Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.
McManus: Old McDonald had a farm ee i ee i o. And on that farm he shot some guys. Badda boom badda bing bang boom. 
Verbal: How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss? 
Verbal: Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone.

Other favorite movies include (in no particular order):

  • The Joy Luck Club
  • Inception 
  • Amadeus
  • A Walk in the Clouds
  • Dead Again
  • Life is Beautiful
  • Saw 
  • Identity
  • Forrest Gump
  • Chaplin
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Bonnie and Clyde

Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "I hit a turning point in my life when I ... "

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Noodlemania! 50 Playful Pasta Recipes - by Melissa Barlow

Cover Photo

This is the downside of doing cookbook reviews - I received this book from the publisher and sadly, being honest, there is more I dislike than like about it.  I understand that a lot of work goes into these things, but as cute and clever as it may be, I'm just not a fan.  Let's start with the positive ...

Aside from the recipes and photos, many of which sport additional illustration, as evidenced by the cover shot above, there are also illustrations of  various types of pasta scattered throughout the book for your little ones to learn from, and interesting trivia blurbs such as:
"PASTA TRIVIA: The first industrial pasta factory in the United States was built in Brooklyn in 1848 by a Frenchman. He spread his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry in the sunshine!"
Some of the silly titles are sure to capture kids' attention and imagination.  Here's a sampling of what they'll find:
  • Dinosaur Mountain
  • Funky Chicken Salad
  • Gloppy Green Frog Eye Salad
  • Gnome Home Pasta
  • Little Lady Bug Salad
  • Robot Parts
  • Spider Cookies
  • Super Stuffed Monster Mouths
  • Under the Cheesy Sea Shells

So what is my problem with the book?  Well, let's start with the fact that more and more attention is being focused on teaching kids [all of us really] to eat more healthy meals. Practically every recipe in Noodlemania contains either ramen noodles, chow mein noodles, pudding cups, food coloring, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned soup, canned chicken, bottled dressing or some combination of those items.  I understand that these are convenience items and easy for kids to work with.  I would just hate for them to read or flip through the entire book and be left thinking that everything they make should start with those items.

As with other cookbooks I have reviewed, this one provides information in the forward, such as how to properly cook pasta, that would not be useful if the child just opened to the recipe and started from there.  If they did read the forward first, they might be confused when it comes to food coloring - here we are told that 8 to 10 drops is a good rule of thumb, yet when you look at the recipes, most call for a few drops.  Is 8-10 a few?  Others just say to add the food coloring - I wouldn't want the child to think the intention was to add the entire bottle.  We are also told that, in addition to trivia, the book contains neat math facts - I found one:
"MATH FACT: SIMPLE SUBTRACTION  1 1/4 cups - 1/2 cup = 3/4 cup."
Totem Pole Tortellini
Totem Pole Tortellini
Another thing I find disturbing is the prospect of a child choking on a toothpick or wooden skewer.  I notice a lot of cookbooks and blogs posting fruit and veggie kebabs for kids, which always makes me nervous, but Little Ladybug Salad has the kids making a pasta dish garnished with ladybugs made out of cherry or grape tomato halves and black olives held together with toothpicks (not pictured in the photo).  I could see using the toothpicks to form the ladybugs and set them into place, then sliding them out, but I wouldn't want your little chef to forget about them or, worse yet, serve them to an unsuspecting sibling.

Funky Chicken Salad
Funky Chicken Salad
Or how about teaching kids to make a sandwich filled with pasta??  As a carbaholic myself, I'm pretty sure that's not a good idea!  The filling would be great on its own as a pasta salad.

Even the illustrations made me raise an eyebrow here and there.  For instance, the Gnome Home Pasta, which is a pasta salad with a gnome home made out of a hard boiled egg topped with a tomato end cap and diced egg (makes you think of Willy Wonka's garden) includes an illustration of what looks like a martian.  Why not a gnome??  Unless your kids are fond of Travelocity commercials, they might think that's what a gnome looks like.

A number of recipes do not include photographs, which is an issue I have with many cookbooks.  I always like to know what the end product should look like.  I find that especially true with kids, who might not be great at following instructions - those visual cues can come in very handy.

There is also a recipe for Homemade Pasta, which I thought was a great addition until I read "Cook according to your favorite recipe and enjoy!" That might pose a problem since most recipes do not start with fresh pasta but do indicate in the instructions to cook according to package - you have no package to refer to here.

One FUN FACT provides synonyms for NOODLE.  That's great, but they are synonyms for the definition of noodle as "a stupid or silly person," not for the pasta definition.  Hmmm, maybe your kids will be asking for Numskull and Meatballs for dinner next week.

On the publishing end, Quirk isn't left out here.  The last page suggests that you navigate to QuirkBooks.com/Noodlemania to:
  • See fun photos that didn't make it into the book
  • Download extra recipes
  • Read Q&As with the author, photographer, and illustrator
  • Share your own crazy noodle photos and creations
The problem?  I did go to the webpage but did not find any of those things.  I was hoping to include a link to a recipe or glean more info from the Q&As.

All in all, there are some fun recipes with cute names, but personally, I would think of this as more of a "check out of the library" type of book to try one or two items with the kids, or maybe a book best left at Grandma's house as a special treat when visiting.

Whenever possible, I like to actually try out and include a recipe with a review post.  In this case, I went with the Little Birds' Nests.  With very few ingredients and nothing overly-processed, this is one option I could recommend - with one caveat.  It can sometimes be difficult to cook birds nest pasta so that it remains intact.  Rather than pouring out the pot like with other pastas, I recommend gently removing each nest from the pot with a slotted spoon, like a poached egg.

I already had kale in the fridge, so I substituted kale for the spinach called for.  Also, regarding the mini mozzarella balls, it appears that what is pictured (and what I was pleasantly surprised to find at my local market) is actually mozzarella pearls.  The mini mozzarella balls are fine if that's all you can find, but the pearls are smaller.


Little birds' nests - cookbook page pictured with my renditionINGREDIENTS:
1 package birds' nest pasta
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup shredded spinach leaves
12 mini fresh mozzarella balls

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain.  Mix melted butter with garlic powder.  To serve, drizzle each nest with a little melted butter, top with a little pinch of shredded spinach, and then carefully place fresh mozzarella "eggs" inside.

Little Birds' Nests

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As always, a big thanks for Quirk Books for providing me with the review copy.  

Photography by Zac Williams
Illustration by Alison Oliver

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

I have had turkey on the brain lately - more specifically ground turkey, given the recent recall. In thinking about those awesome leftover turkey sandwiches, you know the ones - where you pile on the turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, maybe a little gravy, etc., I at some point contemplated turning that into a meatloaf but never got around to it. I noticed that ground turkey is back on the shelves now, so there's no time like the present.

There were only three of us at dinner, and this was met with mixed reviews. One really enjoyed it, one has a hard time wrapping their brain around the concept of ground poultry but ate it without complaint, and I could honestly take it or leave it. I liked it, and will probably be having leftovers tonight, but I definitely prefer the traditional roasted turkey with the fixin's. You can decide for yourself, or maybe it will spark a new idea.

2 c cubed herb stuffing mix
1 stalk celery, minced
1 med sweet onion, minced and divided in half
2/3 c turkey or chicken stock
2 T butter
2 lb ground turkey
1/3 c turkey gravy
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t poultry seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
Cooking spray  

  1. Mix together the stuffing mix, celery, and half of your minced onion
  2. Either on the stove top or in a measuring cup in the microwave, heat the butter in the stock until melted
  3. Pour the stock/butter over the stuffing mix and stir to coat well; set aside
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, gravy, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, garlic, and remaining onion
  5. On your work surface, lay two sheets of plastic wrap (short edges closest to you) so that their edges are overlapping, to aid in rolling (like a bamboo mat for rolling sushi)
  6. Pat out the turkey on the plastic wrap to form a large squarish shape
  7. In a small bowl, mash about half of the cranberry sauce with the back of a spoon to break up the gelatin and spread over the turkey layer
  8. Spread the stuffing over the cranberry layer, pressing lightly
  9. Use the plastic as a guide to help roll the loaf, peeling back the plastic as you go (you really don't want to eat that part) - you can twist the ends to seal or seal once transferred to pan
  10. Speaking of your pan, you will probably want to give it a shot of cooking spray to prevent sticking
  11. Bake at 350 for approximately 45" to 1' - time will vary depending on how thick yours is when you start off, etc.  About half way through, break up the rest of the cranberry sauce and spread over the top (I was expecting it to melt down more than it did, but still good)

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe
Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe
Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe
Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, May 24, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday: I Blog Because ...

This week's Finish the Sentence Friday starter is "I blog because ..."

A few years back, I was searching online for a recipe and stumbled upon a foodie site I was not familiar with.  I wandered around for a while looking at recipes, then realized that there was a chat forum, so I checked that out as well.  Something in that day's thread must have caught my attention, because I wouldn't normally have jumped in, but I did ... and ended up becoming "friends" [as much as you can online with complete strangers] with a handful of the regulars.

We would chat back and forth, send holiday cards to one another, create and compete in challenges [just for fun, not for prizes], and even arrange gatherings [I haven't had a chance to participate in one myself - time and distance issues].  Over time, a few of them started blogging and were encouraging me to do the same, based on the recipes I had shared with them and how much I enjoy cooking/baking.  

I kept telling them I don't cook often enough to keep up with a blog [wasn't the only cook in the household at the time], and I really hadn't done all that much cooking over the years.  For me, it was mostly the Armenian stuff around the holidays.  Growing up, the kitchen was Mom's domain.  When I was out of the house and living in an apartment on my own, I couldn't have been bothered to do much cooking just for myself - what's the fun in that??  It wasn't until I moved to NY and was always around my sister, her family, and the parade of kids always passing through - not to mention marching band functions, etc., that my time spent in the kitchen really started to increase.  There were willing guinea pigs every which way I turned.

I finally decided that even if I don't post every day [I try to at least post weekly], blogging would be a good kick in the butt to actually make all of those recipes in the ginormous recipe box pictured above.  I apparently love chicken - that's the biggest section.  Some of those recipes are from my grandmother, my sister, my mom and her sister, others from friends and co-workers over the years, but mostly, they are just recipes that I have clipped and accumulated along the way intending to try ... some day.

The irony is that blogging has gotten me to expand my horizons in terms of ingredients and techniques.  I've made some crazy and interesting things with mixed success, but I'm always trying something out of my head.  I still haven't tried many of the recipes in that box!  

Hmmm, maybe I should do my own version of Julie & Julia - instead of cooking all of the recipes in her book, I should start at the front and work my way through my own recipe box!

I haven't monetized my blog, haven't gone to any blogging conferences, don't advertise, etc.  I just do it for the fun of it and to maybe inspire others to get in the kitchen and play with their food.  Although blogging has opened me up to opportunities like playing with ingredients via Marx Foods when they pose blogger challenges, or reviewing Cookbooks for Quirk Books.  That's always fun!

As a bonus, when I'm visiting friends and family out of town now and want to make something for them, I don't have to schlepp recipes with me - I can just pull them up online wherever I am.  I do like the idea of making a few bucks blogging, but I really need to research that before jumping in - with my luck, I'd screw myself up and have the IRS knocking at my door. Unless they're looking for dinner, I really don't care to see them anytime soon!

Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "My favorite movie of all time is ... "

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher of Mali B Sweets

Cover Photo

Once again, the folks at Quirk Books have introduced me to something new and interesting.  This time around, I was given an opportunity to review Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers, by Miche Bacher of Mali B Sweets, photography by Miana Jun.  

I have been holding back on reviewing this particular cookbook for a while now because I really wanted to be able to try one of the recipes. Sadly, I haven't come across the flowers to do that yet.  I certainly don't want to pick them myself (Miche does provide info for how/where to do that) and find I'm using an ingredient that has been doused with pesticides, etc., so that will have to wait until I can hit up a farmer's market.  

I must say, this is one of the "happiest" cookbooks I've seen.  It's like when you receive an e-mail from someone or come across a Pinterest pin full of babies or puppies - you just can't help but smile.  Heck, even the book itself is pretty!  If you peel back the jacket, the cover (front and back) is loaded with flowers.

Jacket and book cover

Most of us are familiar with the basic uses of flowers in cooking - chamomile tea, stuffed squash blossoms, dandelion wine (if only from song lyrics), and candied violets on baked goods.  Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures are also big on rose water in cooking. Personally, rose water makes me think of old ladies (perfume), which I really don't want to associate with something I'm eating, so I tend to steer clear.  Cooking with Flowers goes well beyond that.  Here's a sampling of the great recipes you'll find inside this beauty:

  • Calendula Ravioli
  • Floweretti Cake
  • Dandelion Ham and Egg Cups
  • Daylily Curry
  • Pickled Pink Petals
  • Dianthus Spiced Chocolate Cookies
  • Elderflower Marshmallows
  • Rose-Scented Geranium Filled Filo Cups
  • Popcorn Chive Blossom Cupcakes
  • Caramelized Peaches with Lavender Cream
  • Hibiscus Fried Rice
  • Hollyhock Scones
  • White Pepper Thumbprint Cookies with Lilac Jam

Aside from providing great recipes and beautiful photographs, Cooking with Flowers is chock-full of interesting and useful information, from the best picking times to cleaning and storage tips and sources (including one of my personal faves - Marx Foods).  

Where most cookbooks are broken down by course (soups and starters, entrees, desserts, etc.), Cooking with Flowers is broken down by flower.  In so doing, Miche was free to open each section with information pertaining to that particular flower: Botanical Name, Nicknames, Language of Flowers, Background, Culinary Use, Seasonality, Preparation, and Measure.

How lovely this Spring Tulip and Pea Shoot Salad would be for a brunch.

Spring Tulip and Pea Shoot Salad

Rock Candy

Or you could really throw your kids' elementary school teacher for a loop when they make rock candy for class and yours show up with this.  :)

Who wouldn't smile walking into your kitchen and seeing something like this?!?

I get to lick the beaters!

The one thing that bothered me, like with a few other cookbooks I have reviewed, is the noting of ingreient preferences in the opening of the book, but not with the recipes themselves.  She indicates that she uses unsalted European butter for its higher fat content, but if you didn't read the preface before trying a recipe, you wouldn't know that, and your end product could yield a different result.  She also uses organic granulated sugar, noting that it is less sweet than regular granulated sugar - so again, your end result would be different if you hadn't read that before getting started.  It also caught my attention where she noted "oats" in a recipe with no indication of whether they should be quick, rolled, steel cut, etc., when each produces a different texture.

This is a book where, even if you only find one recipe that appeals to you (I'm sure that won't be the case), it will be such a stunning item to add to your repertoire that it will be well worth the price.  

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As always, a big thanks for Quirk Books for the review copy.  To pick up a copy for yourself - or  for your favorite gardener - check out ... 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cantaloupe Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

During a conversation with my mother one day, it came up that she used to love to eat vanilla ice cream inside a half of a cantaloupe, so she could scoop a little of the melon with a bit of ice cream.  I thought of that while looking at melons int he grocery store the other day, so decided to play with the vanilla/cantaloupe combination and make a vanilla bean panna cotta.

I first saved the pulp from straining the juice and served the panna cotta over the pulp, but I realized that the panna cotta itself had such a nice cantaloupe flavor that the additional cantloupe actually took away from that and made it seem like you needed the pulp for the flavor, when that was not at all the case.  After that, I just served it up with a little sliver of melon for garnish.  The only reason I molded them into little tartlets was that I happened to buy the tins that same day and wanted to play with them.  :)

2 c heavy cream
1/2 c sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 c fresh cantaloupe juice
1 packet plain gelatin
3 T cold water
Cooking spray

For the cantaloupe juice, I rough chopped half a cantaloupe, ran it through the food processor, then strained it over a measuring cup.  As a side note, I keep having problems with small strainers rusting or corroding.  I finally broke down and invested a whopping .49¢ in a re-usable coffee filter.  So far so good.

In a small pot, whisk together the cream and sugar, then split open the vanilla bean, and with the back side of a paring knife, or the edge of a spoon, scrape the inside of the bean and add it all to the pot - the seeds AND the pod.

In a separate small bowl, stir together the gelatin and cold water and set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom.

Over medium heat, whisking frequently, bring the cream mixture up to a boil, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to thicken slightly.

Remove from heat, remove vanilla pod, whisk in gelatin until smooth, then add the cantaloupe juice.

You can pour the entire batch into a bowl or other vessel to scoop out servings, or you can pour it into small shot glasses, etc.  I decided to play with the tart tins, so I sprayed each with a bit of cooking spray to make sure I could invert and release them later.

Chill until set, then garnish as desired.  Some panna cottas are nice with mint or other herbs, etc., but this one has such a subtle melon flavor, you will not want to overpower it.  I love all the little flecks of vanilla bean. 


Friday, May 17, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday: When I was younger I wanted ...

When I was younger, I wanted to be a famous race car driver.
Hmmm, no, that's not right.  

When I was younger, I wanted to be a pitcher, but I got into some trouble with a loan shark...no, that wasn't it either ...

When I was younger, I wanted to run off and join Ringling Bros.  (That might actually have been true for a while.) 

When I was younger, I wanted to be a fisherman.  Heck, I don't even eat fish, so that's not it ...

Actually, when I was younger, I really wanted to be either an archaeologist, a veterinarian, a child psychologist/social worker, or a private detective (I was a big Nancy Drew fan, then Agatha Christie, etc.).  I never ended up being any of those things.

There was no way I would ever cut it as an archaeologist considering I can't stand dirt!  It's a texture thing.  My skin is super sensitive, so I can handle mud, but not dry dirt.  Just like on the beach - I can't stand to walk in the sand, unless it's the wet sand along the water's edge.  I'm kinda like the princess and the pea - I have a hard time just holding a peach because of the fuzz, and don't even get me started about when a single strand of hair slides down the back of my shirt!

It would have been tough being a vet since I'm allergic to many cats and other fuzzy creatures.  Besides, if any crossed my path in poor condition, I'd want to steal them and take them home to care for them - much like with kids if I was a child psychologist/social work.  That would not have ended well!

Hmmm, I wonder why I never pursued being a detective.   Maybe seeing one too many episodes of The Rockford Files and Jim getting beat up all the time.  ;)

The Cardinals cap was really just a C for Chris.  If I was a baseball fan, it would have to be the Red Sox.  I actually did used to play softball for a while - can't remember which ended that for me - someone stealing my lefty mit or taking a softball to the throat.  Maybe it was the combination that took the shine off that sport LOL.

Although I was often known to be caught clowning around, that was really just trying out face makeup for Halloween.

As for fishing, with one sister and four cousins, I think this was the only solo mission I went on with my Dad to go fishing as a kid.  It was just us and the crazy dog (really was crazy) who ran down the pier straight into the water and had to be saved by Dad.

As it turned out, most of my time in high school was spent doing theatre, either in school or local productions.  I really didn't have a specific focus, so my parents were afraid I would attempt to be an actress and decided since I typed a bazillion words per minute, they shuffled me off to Katherine Gribbs Secretarial School.  That was pretty much like living in a convent for two years  - all girls, very strict, etc.   Hey, now that I think about it, I didn't become a detective, but my first job out of college was for a criminal law firm, so I was working on cases.  Some very interesting ones at that.  Even a few famous ones, but that's for another time.  So, how about you?  Did you have any grand plans back in the day??  Did any of them pan out???

Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "I blog because ... "

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taco "Shells" Two Ways

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Are you a pasta lover? If so, have you ever had it fried? Fried ravioli have become more and more common over the years, but before I first encountered those, I was presented a platter of deep fried farfalle pasta with spinach and artichoke dip. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was love at first bite! Every once in a while, I'll fry up a batch with some marinara or spinach dip. It's everything you already love about pasta, but slightly crispy and chewy and mmmmmmm drool. Where was I???

This is not a new concept either, but I have been wanting to make a version of Taco Stuffed Shells for a while now. I have seen others that use crumbled corn chips on top as a garnish, which made me think of using cornmeal or corn chips for dredging and frying. I thought the cornmeal might be too coarse, so I went with the corn chips. 

As much fun as I had playing, and as good as it was, I probably won't bother taking the extra time to fry these in the future. If I want fried pasta, I'll take the quick route and stick with the farfalle. It mainly comes down to size here. If you want to use a medium shell, that would work better but be more work. You don't want to pick up and bite into a large shell, but when cutting them, because of the sturdy "shell" around the filling, I found the filling trying to escape. The frying itself worked fine - I was worried that I might burn the house down or something, having never fried anything not completely closed, like an eggroll or ravioli.

I only fried three of the shells to see how it worked. I baked off another eight, but I would say there was enough filling for 20 - I froze the rest of the filling for another time - maybe to stuff baked potatoes, or scoop up with corn chips.

20-25 jumbo pasta shells (boil a few extras in case of breaks)
1 lb ground beef
1 lg onion, chopped
1.25 oz packet taco seasoning
   (I used the Ortega 40% less sodium)
2.25 oz can sliced black olives, drained
3 oz can nacho style sliced jalapeños, drained
1/2 c Mexican blend shredded cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced - divided
1 can refried beans  (I prefer vegetarian)
Taco sauce
Egg(s), Corn Chips (I used Tostitos), and oil (I used canola) if frying
Optional - scallions, sour cream, cilantro, olives, etc. for garnish

  • Cook the pasta shells in salted water to al dente, then drain and set aside (If you are working slowly, you might want to separate them or toss them with a bit of oil so they don't stick together while you prep your filling)
  • Sauté the ground beef and onion until the beef is browned (If you are using beef with a high fat content, you might want to drain off the grease before proceeding)
  • Add the taco seasoning and water as indicated on the package
  • Stir in the cheese until fully melted, then add the olives and jalapenos
  • Remove from heat and stir in one of the diced tomatoes
If frying:
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg(s)
  • Crush enough corn chips to serve as your dredging flour (Amount will vary depending on brand, size, etc. I pulsed them in a food processor, but you could crush them with a rolling pin, etc. if necessary) and place in a second small bowl
  • Spread the inside of each shell with approximately 1t of the refried beans, then fill with the beef mixture and set aside
  • Dip each filled shell in egg, then in the crushed corn chips
  • Deep fry the shells until lightly golden
  • Transfer to paper towels to absorb any excess oil, then plate and garnish as desired
If baking:
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Line a casserole dish with some of the taco sauce, to prevent sticking
  • Spread the inside of each shell with approximately 1t of the refried beans, then fill with the beef mixture
  • As you fill the shells, transfer them to the lined baking dish
  • Drizzle the top of each with additional taco sauce and sprinkle with cheese
  • Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has melted
  • Plate and garnish as desired

Saute the ground beef with the onion until browned

Add the taco seasoning and water until thickened
Stir in the cheese until melted

Stir in the olives
Stir in the jalapenos

Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes
Line each shell with refried beans, then fill with beef mixture

Stuffed shells dredged and staged for frying
Stage bowl of beaten egg and bowl of crushed nachos for dredging

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe
Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe
Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

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