Albondigas Soup, Simplified for Weeknight Ease

Heather says:

I absolutely love albondigas soup, it’s a family favorite, but sometimes I just don’t have the energy to mess with rolling the meatballs. Sometimes I just can’t bring myself to care that much.

So on a whim one evening, when I had planned on making the original albondigas, I looked at it and said Fuhgeddaboudit, we’re doing a deconstructed or simplified version of the recipe. Deconstructed is a fancy term for breaking a complicated dish down into its elements or ingredients and changing the presentation.

This has all of the same ingredients, but without the work of the meatballs. Score.

If you were intimidated by the original soup recipe, give this version  a try. I wouldn’t dissuade you from trying it with a margarita, either.

Ground Beef Soup

: Simplified Albondigas

: This is a weeknight version of the classic Albondigas or Mexican Meatball Soup

  • 2lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 small cans diced green chilies
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes or use an equivalent amount of fresh, diced tomatoes about 2.5 cups
  • 1 bunch green onions – chopped, include the bulb, but set aside and chop that separately
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced or pressed -divided use half in the beef half in the broth
  • 1 bunch cilantro – chopped
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 qts beef broth or stock (low sodium if possible, if not, I recommend using Better Than Bouillon
  • salt, pepper, and Tabasco or Chalula to taste


  • In a large, heavy pot brown the ground beef with the bulb portion of the green onions and about half of the garlic.
  • Drain any fat.
  • Add the 2 qts of stock or broth and increase the heat of the burner.
  • Add the green chilies, diced tomatoes, the rest of the garlic, 1/2 cup of rice, and about half of cilantro and green onions.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook until the rice is done. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • Add the last of the cilantro and green onions just before serving -this adds a bright, fresh taste.
  • Serve with warm, flour tortillas

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Thai Inspired Beef and Cabbage Skillet

Heather says:

I’d like to thank Bobbie for helping out with the name of this quick beef skillet, I was staring at it last night and drawing a blank. This ground beef cabbage skillet recipe will feed six, more if you serve over cooked rice or noodles. Feel free to play with the ingredients as that would be exactly how I came up with this recipe. I found Cooking Light’s Thai Beef Cups. I used it as a framework to build this recipe for the cooking basics series I’ve been slowly building. If you’re looking for a more traditional beef and cabbage skillet, Bobbie and I both have versions: Bobbie’s Beef and Cabbage Skillet and Heather’s Beef and Cabbage Skillet. All three are great, quick meals, that are handy to have in your kitchen arsenal, cabbage stores for-freaking-ever in the bottom drawer of the fridge and if you’re not vegetarian I ask you why you don’t have at least one emergency pound of ground beef in the freezer. That’s pretty much required to stave off an emergency drive-through run.

As far as the cooking basics series goes, I know so far there are a lot of ground beef recipes, but don’t worry, we’ll start adding chicken, pork, and fish soon enough. I’m still sorting out the whole work life balance thing and not doing so hot at either, if you must know.

So, back to the skillet. Feel free to use red or green cabbage, heck you could use broccoli slaw or any cruciferous greens, as long as they are shredded pretty finely. Just remember the goal isn’t to cook this dish until it’s dead, but rather to keep a little crunch in there for texture. AND if you don’t want to use peanut butter, don’t, just use 1/4 cup of salted peanuts like the original recipe described. Someone swiped my peanuts, that’s the only reason I experimented with -and rather liked- the peanut butter in the first place. Skillets are experiments, give yourself permission to try something different once in a while, who knows you may have a new family favorite. (FYI the minions call any version of beef and cabbage skillet, Kung Fu Skillet as I got tired of them asking what’s for dinner and they were on a Kung Fu Panda kick at the time)

Thai Inspired Beef Cabbage Skillet Recipe

: Thai Inspired Beef and Cabbage Skillet

: A simple one dish meal with a ginger, peanut, twist

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, peeled and minced – substitute 1 tsp ground ginger if you need to
  • 2 TBSP lime juice -I didn’t measure, just a couple of GOOD squeezes, yes I used the store bought kind, this was a clean out the fridge kind of meal, if you have fresh… awesome.
  • 1 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce -you can use fish sauce if you have it
  • 1 small head of red or green cabbage, sliced thinly or shredded
  • 1/2 cup or 1/2 a bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter or 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • Soy Sauce to taste – when served

  • Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and ginger -fresh or ground. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to soften. Reduce the heat if the garlic starts to turn golden. You don’t want to over cook this.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until no longer pink. Drain well.
  • Return the skillet to the burner and completely stir in the lime juice and hoisin sauce.
  • Add the cabbage to the skillet and cook until crisp tender.
  • Add the peanut butter -if desired- and cilantro (yes, you can omit this, if you’re one of those).
  • Stir until thoroughly combined.
  • Serve immediately as is or over rice or noodles.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6


Simple Philly Skillet

Heather says:

This simple Philly skillet is another in my impromptu, unorganized, and johnny-come-lately decision to really dive into cooking basics here on Home-Ec 101.

I try my best to stay out of the center aisles of the grocery store. Yes, there are some pantry basics on some aisles that I must have, but for the most part, if you want to have a healthy diet, stick to the perimeter, that’s where you’ll find largely, fresh ingredients. Shelf-stable items, in general, are the less healthy choice.

Still, there’s that one aisle and we’ve all walked down it. There used to be that this large, cheerful glove with eyeballs large eyeballs that would stare at customers as they figured out what they’d serve for dinner. Over the years the glove has gotten smaller, but the options have grown. I agree on the premise,  everyone needs a handful of meals that come together as quickly as those options, so I thought it might be fun to do a make-it yourself series based on these skillet meals. You see, trademark is a very big thing, so I’m purposely being vague. These skillets in no way represent an actual skillet living or dead any resemblance to a skillet living or dead is purely -ahem- coincidental?

I am not copying their recipes, first of all because I don’t have access to fun things like stabilizers and I’m helping reduce your sodium intake while I’m at it. Additionally, these items are designed to hit the middle of the palate bell curve. If you make it yourself, you can always increase or reduce the spices and have something much more tailored to your own palate. I look at the title and figure out what *I* think it should taste like and get to work.

Last week’s Taco Skillet was the first and this week we’ve got today’s Philly Skillet and guess what? This version does not have cream of something soup, so it’s super easy to make it gluten free, if that fits your family’s dietary needs. Don’t eat beef? No problem, swap in ground turkey, pork, or chicken. HECK, live on the wild side and use seitan if that’s what you prefer. (When substituting out the beef, you’ll probably want to add the optional Worcestershire sauce, which does have some glutamates in it, but you’re in control of how much goes into your food)

Ready? Oh and for what’s it’s worth, this project does not involve photogenic foods, so yay. (Sigh)

Simple Philly Skillet: Simple Philly Skillet

: One dish, Philly skillet, use ground beef, turkey, pork or chicken

  • 1 lb ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 rounded tsp garlic powder
  • 1 optional tsp salt* only use this if you use homemade beef or chicken stock, otherwise you’ll lose the benefit of reducing your sodium intake
  • 1 optional tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dried pasta -we used elbows just because.
  • 2 cups beef stock -hot- divided (1/4 cup and 1 & 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 oz provolone cheese**
  • 4 oz American cheese**

    • Brown the ground meat over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Drain off the fat.
    • Add the sliced onions to the pan and 1/4 cup of the beef stock. Use your spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the onions just start to look translucent -more clear than raw onions, add the garlic powder and optional salt to the pan. Stir.

Add bell peppers

  • Add the bell peppers and beef stock and slowly add the milk, while stirring. Add the pasta and stir often until bubbles appear. Reduce the heat until you have a gentle simmer happening -bubbles coming to the surface but not breaking the surface tension. Any hotter and your sauce will look a little grainy, it’ll work just fine, but it won’t be pretty.
  • Cover. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes until the pasta is done.
  • Add the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.


Add the cheese

  • Serve


**use 8oz of any cheese that you’d like, you’ll have better results with provolone and American because they melt well. Anything like cheddar *real* cheddar and it’ll “break” and you’ll get a grainy sauce. It’ll taste good, it just won’t be pretty, not that this is a pretty dish to start with.

**If you choose ground turkey or chicken, you may want to substitute chicken stock for the beef.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Turkey or Beef Taco Skillet

Heather says:

Taco Skillet?

Yep. We’re Home-Ec 101 here and one of my goals for 2013 is to go back and share those simple recipes that we assume everyone already knows how to make. This is as close to Hamburger Helper™ as you can get without opening a HH box. Sometimes dinner is just thrown together with what’s on hand. This Taco Skillet uses very basic pantry ingredients (including cheese and milk) and is great for those, oh crap, I don’t want to think and I don’t feel like leaving the house, but these people expect to be fed, kind of nights. Steam some vegetables on the side and you’re good to go.

Use ground turkey or beef, it’s up to you, just be sure to drain off the grease. Increase the cheese if you’d like and once you have the concept down, try variations like adding diced onion or bell pepper. Throw in a few handfuls of fresh spinach, a can of black or pinto beans, diced tomatoes. The choice is yours, just remember if you use a packet of taco seasoning to NOT add the salt.

It’s not a pretty dish, but sometimes pretty isn’t needed.
Easy Taco Skillet

: Taco Skillet

: Simple one-dish, weeknight meal

  • 1 lb ground turkey or beef
  • 2.5 TBSP Taco Seasoning or 1 Packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt*
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1.5 cups hot water OR chicken stock** OR Beef Stock**
  • 2.5 cups milk***
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese****

  • Heat your skillet over medium-high heat until it passes the water test.
  • Cook the ground beef or turkey in the skillet, stirring frequently until no longer pink.
  • DRAIN off the fat -not into your sink, into a container.
  • Stir in the taco seasoning.
  • Add the water or stock and milk and pasta. Stir frequently, being sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the mixture starts to bubble turn the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until the pasta is done, about 10 – 12 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes. -If you use a gas stove and have thin pans, you’ll have to stir almost constantly.
  • Add the cheese and serve.

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

*Do not add salt if you use a taco seasoning packet
**Do not add salt if you use commercial chicken or beef stock
***Use a total of 4 cups of liquid, feel free to play with the ratios until you find what you like
****I don’t measure the cheese, I just grate about 4oz of cheddar directly into the pan, stir and call it good. Do whatever you’d like


Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet Recipe – Hearty Winter Fare

Bobbie SezBobbie says:

Winter was almost ignoring us here in south central Pennsylvantia:  not too frigid and hardly any snow, and heck, I even wore shorts last week. Well, indoors, at least.  Then that stupid groundhog saw his shadow on February 2, signalling six more weeks of winter. And then, someone must have passed the message along to Winter,  because it started paying attention again. Now everything’s completely white, and it got cold. I hate groundhogs and I hate cold weather and snow, but hey, at least the food’s good. Perfect for a cold winter’s day, Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet is hearty and filling, but still budget friendly.  Oh, and delicious.

To be honest, the first time I cooked this combination of ingredients, I was being kind of selfish: I love cooked cabbage, and I thought I was kind of alone in that. At least, I knew my husband hated cabbage rolls, and although this has no rice or tomato, and is almost completely unlike cabbage rolls in any way, aside from the cabbage and meat, I still felt as if I was throwing caution to the wind.  I was amazed. My husband kept saying how much he liked it, so he could be sure I’ make it again. Talk about win-win. And cheap-cheap, too. Cabbage was recently as low as 49 cents per pound at my favorite store, and even when it’s not “on sale” it’s still one of the best deals in the produce department. Learn to love cabbage  and your budget will love you.

Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet Recipe

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • an approximately 2 pound head of green cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  •  2 bay leaves

Choose a large, heavy skillet or pot with a lid with a capacity of at least 6 quarts. I used my 8 quart stock pot, which gave me plenty of stirring about room. Set it over medium heat, and add the ground beef.

Peel and coarsely chop the onion, and add it to the meat, stirring it up a bit with a sturdy spoon. Stir the meat and onions occasionally while you prepare the cabbage and carrots.

Using a large chef’s knife, cut the head of cabbage in half from the top, through the core, then cut each half again, so you have 4 pieces approximately equal in size. Carefully slice away the core and discard. (If you don’t get all of it, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe to eat – it’s just a bit tough sometimes.) Roughly chop the cabbage – neatness doesn’t count, cleanliness does, so keep it off the floor. I usually cut the cabbage into approximately one-inch chunks, which works pretty well.

If you have a box grater or other tool for shredding foods, use that for the carrots. Otherwise, just use the chef’s knife and finely chop them. Sometimes, I leave them out if I’m in a huge hurry, or just don’t have carrots.

Once the meat is browned, stir in the salt, pepper, and bay leaves (these are NOT optional – their flavor is essential to the results),  then add the carrots and cabbage. Stir to mix well. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook until

cabbage and carrots are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You shouldn’t need to add any liquid – the juices that cook out of the meat and vegetables should be sufficient, but if it seems dry, add up to 1/4 cup of water. ) Remove bay leaves and discard.

Makes 4 generous servings.


Serve Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet with mashed potatoes or some crusty rolls and butter for a simple, comforting meal.


Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer and Generally Shy Person, Except On The Internet. She lives and breathes and tries to keep warm and sane in Gettysburg, PA. If you’ve a mind to, contact her at