Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related


pittsburgh food blog

garden chili with turkey… eating a rainbow.

So this is a quick thrown together “off the cuff” fresh twist on traditional chili that allows you to use a pound of lean ground turkey and a whole host of colorful vegetables.  Our goal, when able, should be to eat a rainbow… so this is an effortless way to achieve that goal.   Start with olive or avocado oil,  so your base is healthy.  I like to make dishes like this that i can freeze into lunch sized portions for an easy and smart choice the following week when strapped for time.   I wrote this recipe as i cooked it, which is what i often do… and the documentation you see here is purely from memory recall and a couple of photos i snapped during and after.  I love cooking this way and it’s what i like to refer to as ‘being in the zone.”  some of my best creations have been from daydreaming about ingredients and pairing flavors and textures in my head, hours later bringing them mind to bowl.  I always say, if i ever became one of those lucky lotto winners, i’d do three things. ONE:  I’d travel around the world exploring various cuisines and cooking methods, soaking up as much real-time knowledge as i can.  TWO: i’d do medical missionary work in places like Guatemala to maintain my nursing skills and be of true service in remote locations.  I’ve done this once and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.  THREE: when not traveling and home spending time with family in SW Pennsylvania, i’d love to collab with a younger, like minded foodie with loads of entrepreneurial spirit, in need of bankrolling… and find an old church to rehab and turn it into a wicked kewl local brunch spot.  It would be called Soul in a bowl and i’d help create some of the most fantastic spoon worthy dishes you would ever have the pleasure of eating!!  It would be open from 10:30 until 2:30 four days a week.  Of course i’d be using all of my culinary knowledge acquired from number ONE above!  Never stop dreaming, right? you need to have a plan should the universe drop something in your lap.  True story. 

What you need:  (please read entire recipe before beginning so you understand the process)

1 lb ground turkey 

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz large can)

Half a can of tomato paste (maybe two heaping tablespoons?) 

Half of a large onion diced 

Two or three large carrots peeled and small dice

One yellow or red bell pepper small dice

Four cloves of garlic finely chopped or minced

Half a head of purple cabbage, thinly sliced

Four large leaves of swiss chard, sliced and thinly chopped (bite size the leaves)

Any fresh herbs you have… stir in at end.  (think basil, parsley, fresh thyme or cilantro) 

Any shredded cheese you have for topping once you serve it up.  (i used shredded gouda from Aldi) 

Diced green onions optional for topping at end

1 cup of quinoa, cooked per package instructions. 

Chicken stock or broth (carton)  you may not use all of it, you will be adding it later


1 tsp ground chili powder

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt (add more after if you like)

½ tsp black pepper (add more if you want)

I added a few shakes of turmeric,  chipotle powder, coriander and nutmeg. 

You do you… think about how you want it to taste. 

Same with dried oregano, etc… just pepper in to your taste. 

Get a large dutch oven and do a generous swirl of olive oil.  Once hot, add some red pepper flakes.  Add in your ground turkey and cook until pink is gone.. At that point add your onions and bell peppers and cook them over md high heat along with the turkey, stirring frequently.  Par cook the onions and peppers this way… and then add in all of your dried spices and stir… allowing them to hit the high heat a bit and activiate.  At this point you can start to add in all of the other ingredients… the veggies, the can of tomatoes, the beans… give a stir to combine.  Add enough of the chicken stock just to cover the contents of the pot and give everything a liquid in which to cook.  Think about the fact that you’ll be stirring in cooked quinoa at end, so you want enough extra liquid to accommodate that, but you don’t want a soup either.  Doing things like this where you have to think ahead and consider vegetables absorbing some of the liquid etc, will increase your cooking confidence and have you flying “off the cuff” on a regular basis.  Allow this to come up to a light boil, and then stir lightly & place a tight fitting lid and reduce heat to md/low.  Set timer for 15 mins.  After 15 mins give it a stir and add in the cooked quinoa and any fresh herbs you like.  If you don’t want to add all of the quinoa, you don’t have to.   You can reserve some for salads, etc through the week.   Allow to sit and cool a bit on the stove, lid off… and then serve up a bowl with some shredded cheese and a cold beer or glass of iced tea!  You’re gonna love it and it is super good for you!  Eat a rainbow yo! 

Peace and love.  Spags


Pasta Carbonara ~ a new fave!


about a month ago I yanked this recipe from a website as I was surfing along food sites, jumping to and fro between blogs and ingredient research… as I usually do.  this activity usually leaves me salivating and chomping at the bit to get in the kitchen and CREATE!  I printed this particular recipe, and decided I would make it the very next  night for my pasta loving Italian hubby.  the guy would eat pasta every night if i’d let him.  hell who am I kidding- so would I!!   so this recipe came from a website called – and believe it or not, I followed it to a T.  so this is pretty much a reblog…. giving full props to whoever wrote this recipe, because they’re a friggin genius!  when I first thought about pasta carbonara, I thought it had cream in it… probably based on looks alone… I mean how creamy does that pic look above?? yeah, no cream. not a drop.  what creates that beauty is the raw egg quickly combined with grated cheese and scalding hot starchy pasta water. (you gotta work fast with this one people, be ready… and giddy up.)  it’s comes together like magic.  -and I can happily say…. this is now my  husbands FAVORITE pasta dish that I make. follow the instructions verbatim, especially the procedure for cooking the bacon (which is genius) and you will be in noodle nirvana in less than an hour.  get busy yo.


8-10 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (just leave it how it is outta the package and slice it up, no need to separate the pieces.)

1/2 cup of water

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 lb. linguini or spaghetti (we like linguini)

1 and a 1/4 c finely grated parmesan cheese (don’t you DARE use that shit in the green can, spring for a package of grated parm at your cheese counter people)

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp each of salt and pepper

chopped fresh parsley for garnish



Add bacon and 1/2 cup of water to a large non stick skillet and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Allow it to simmer like this (stirring occasionally) until the water evaporates and then switch to md-low and cook until crispy (stirring occ).  Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass bowl and strain bacon, reserving all of that money oil…  set aside. to that very pan, add a tsp of the fat back in, while the pan is still hot.  take your minced garlic and saute it in the oil for about thirty seconds… then add it to a medium sized mixing bowl.  set aside.  here is a pic of the bacon once I strained it….

IMG_7605now here is what I want you to do next.  get out a sturdy pot, and add 8 CUPS of water to it.  no more, no less, because you want the ultimate starchiness from this water once you cook the pasta in it.  bring it to a boil and add your pasta, cooking according to package directions. WHEN YOU STRAIN THE PASTA IN YOUR COLANDER…. DO SO OVER A LARGE BOWL SO THAT YOU RESERVE THE PASTA WATER!!! be careful…  do not get burned people.

IMG_7604OK so while your pasta is cooking, get back to the bowl with your garlic in it.  Add to it a Tablespoon of the bacon fat. (I think I added an extra teaspoon, bc I love the bacon-y flavor!)  then add in your eggs, salt and pepper and your parm cheese. whisk this all together nicely. now you are ready to focus on your pasta. don’t overcook it yo!

once you strain the pasta over a large bowl, carefully give a shake to the pasta and set the colander aside. now take a one cup measuring cup and scoop out a cup of HOT water. (I took an extra cup just so I had back up in case it spilled or some shit.)  empty the rest of the water down the drain and then transfer your pasta to that hot bowl.  head over to your egg/cheese mixture and while whisking, pour in about a half cup of HOT water…. whisk whisk whisk…. this is cooking the eggs…. then immediately pour this mixture OVER the hot pasta…  and add the bacon.  toss toss toss…. more cooking of the eggs… more magic happening right before your eyes as this turns into a beautiful creamy dreamy dinner. take and drizzle more HOT water in as you toss as needed. this is an eyeball thing… if it looks good to you and isn’t clumping, you’re golden. Oh, toss in the parsley if you want, or take and garnish with a little parsley shower each individual bowl you serve up.  either way, you do you.   let pasta rest for two to four minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a little bit before you serve it.(however, this IS best served HOT)   Just enough time to open a bottle of wine and pour two glasses and toast your accomplishments!  (if you’re anything like me, the bottle is already half empty, as I like to imbibe while I cook!!)

enjoy!!  peace and love, spags.








Egg noodle stir fry with crispy Turkey Kielbasa! (a modified version of my ‘pittsburgh pasta’)

Aside from being wickedly colorful, this dish is wonderful for you, because it is loaded with antioxidant rich veggies and healthy fat from the olive oil.  yes, it could be lightened up a bit by using ‘yolk free’ egg noodles… but i usually just roll with plain old.  ‘And yes, there ARE healthier alternatives than the Turkey Kielbasa…. but honestly, it MAKES the dish here.  you will see what i mean when you cannot stop sneaking pieces of the crisped up discs off of the plate while you finish the dish! 🙂  when i wrote that last line, it occurred to me that i had blogged something with Kielbasa in the past where i warned you about the yum factor of these crispy pieces of meat.  i looked back, and it (linked the article) was quite similar to this dish i am about to blog, but a bit more fussy, as it used some red wine and tomato paste to give depth of flavor.  this one is a bit easier, and the perfect week night meal, with enough for a work lunch the next day.  anyway, here’s what’s up dude:



two bell peppers of varying colors (not green tho)  – i used red and orange for this one.

one large onion

package of wide egg noodles

package of turkey kielbasa

15 oz can of diced tomatoes (i had the seasoned ones)

1/2 cup of water (can use some of the hot water from cooking pasta if you remember to reserve some)

your favorite spices (i used a few shakes of: chili powder, cumin, coriander, dried parsley, dried oregano and dried basil, and a big pinch of nutmeg)

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

i added about a cup of spinach leaves that i roughly chopped- i stirred these in at the end- totally optional- but i feel like it gave this one more bright fresh color, as well as adding wickedly good nutrients.  your call. (i always have a bag of spinach in my fridge because i put it on all of my sandwiches and burgers in place of lettuce)


get your egg noodles cooking according to package directions. drain, rinse and set aside. (scoop out a half cup of the water and set aside prior to draining)

slice or dice your two colorful bell peppers into whatever size you like.  peel your onion, cut it in half, and then thinly slice those halves. set aside with the peppers on a plate.  slice up the turkey kielbasa. thin but not too thin.  open your can of tomatoes.  get out the largest non stick skillet you have (i use a wok sometimes for this)  and hit it with some olive oil. start it up on high, and once it is hot, add in the kielbasa.  stir fry it until done to your liking (crispy edges) and remove to a plate.  add one more whirl of oil, and toss in the peppers and onions.  stir fry over medium-high heat until soft and looking yummy. while you are doing this, add in your spices right on top. cooking them intensifies their flavor. add salt and pepper last.  then go ahead and add in the tomatoes and the half cup of water. bring to light boil and reduce heat to low. stir the kielbasa back in, and add the spinach if you’re rolling with it.  stir around for a min and cut the heat. place the egg noodles in a LARGE bowl where you’ll combine everything. hit the noodles with a swirl of olive oil.  dump the mix right on top of the noodles.  Stir to combine all.  taste it. needs more salt or pepper? Add some.  At this point if the fam is ready to eat, serve it up.  If not, go ahead and add this back over into your big hot pan and toss a lid on that bitch.  You’re gonna love this dish. honest.

before the mix
before the mix


homefries. plain and simple.

the homefry.  i’ve finally unlocked it.  after using several different pans and skillets and oodles of cooking methods, i nailed it.  the trick? a large enough cooking surface, plenty of olive oil, and a uniform cut.  my favorite potato to use is the yukon gold, hands down.  i find it to be the rockstar of all potatoes.  it fries up like no other, maintaining its sliced shape all the while.  not to mention the skin of the yukon is so paper thin, there’s never any reason in the world to remove it for a homefry. ever.  simply wash, dry and slice.  the size of your slice is a personal preference.  i find a width of 1/4 inch and an overall size of about an inch and half to be ideal to work with. it’s a trial and error game, for sure.

gaining a brown crust

here’s the gameplan: get the largest non stick cooking pan you own.  coat bottom with olive oil. (swirl to coat- don’t prep a drowning pool) prepare your potato on cutting board, so that you’re ready when your pan is calling. crank on the heat.  high first, and then just below high. add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. once you see the flakes sweating and dancing, it’s go time.  add your potatoes.  rearrange them so each and every one has plenty of contact face down in the oil.  see visual. now the hard part for us type A’ers… don’t mess with them.  this allows the down side to take on a beauteous brown hue, and a heavenly crispness.  this crisp side is critical to counteract the softness you’ll achieve at the end.  a plate of mush is what you’re trying to avoid at all costs.  salt the raw up side generously. check one after about 5 mins with a fork.  if you like what you see, take your spatula and flip it upside down in your grip. this is the way you wanna free your lovelies from the skillet.  you have to be fast, and apply a downward pressure toward the skillet surface at a 45 degree angle.  make attempts to rearrange with brown side upward. dust lightly with garlic powder and a sprinkle of dried parsley or oregano. (no need for pepper, as the red pepper flakes you tricked out your oil with will provide all the heat you need here)  obviously there are 50 ways you could flavor your potatoes.  i’m giving you the most basic recipe, with flavorings most every reader would have in their kitchen.  personally, i love mine with coriander powder, dried oregano, and even a pinch more salt.  if it’s summer and i have lots of fresh parsley outside… i’ll chop a bit and rain it down over my plate to finish. ok, back to cooking… cook like this for a few more minutes, and then add a 1/4 cup of water to hot skillet- IMMEDIATELY applying lid to steam them for a bit.  reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for 4 minutes or so.  stir- check for doneness, cooking a bit longer uncovered if needed.  enjoy with your favorite condiment. Heinz ketchup is a natural local partner for us Pittsburghers. -see visual.

perfect and simple anytime meal…

made even more perfect.

cook over high heat for five minutes

spags in red
relaxation 101

these are the first key strokes toward a dream of mine for many a change of season. the year has just turned fresh, and i decided… why keep dreaming?? Make it happen sister. my love for cooking has been a rock solid one for greater than ten years now, since i was gifted a fire engine red KitchenAid mixer. one of the first things i whipped out was a Pavlova… with fresh whipped cream and seasonal fruits. i was smitten. the posts to follow will contain some of my tried and true recipes ~ chocked full of wacky measurements and explanations along the way for why you ‘need’ to do it this way or that.  the bulk of these recipes have been stuck in my head for a decade, and will finally make their way to some formal arrangement.  this will delight not only myself, but i’m sure the many lovelies over the years who have asked me for the recipe to this or that… only to have me forget the request and fail to deliver.  my apologies en masse.

i am admittedly a dump cook, and thrive on grabbing recipes by the arm and yanking them around a bit.  these new recipes will someday become old faves, and that, my friend is what it’s all about.  it’s food evolution…. one household at a time.  discovering what works – what doesn’t – and wondering why.  it’s the wonder that the passion clings to.  once you gain the confidence in your cooking skills, the possibilities are truly endless.

video tutorials will appear for your viewing pleasure as well. special guests will rotate, and the vino will flow alongside the food. a G rating can almost never be guaranteed, aside from maybe my initial clip on how to section a grapefruit like a rockstar.

begin fun. begin creative river flow. begin opportunity.

take one pee pee step away from The Man.   prestige worldwide baby!!!! renew you.

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