Monday, October 24, 2011

Turkey and Zucchini Meatloaf

I've tried several turkey meatloaf recipes but none of them has really interested me much... Not until I made this one. The peach and mustard glaze give this dish a sweet yet tart flavor, and the turkey meatloaf stays nice and moist with the addition of grated zucchini. This is definitely mew new go-to turkey meatloaf recipe, and you definitely can't beat that it's much healthier than its all-beef cousin.

Ingredients:
Meatloaf mixture

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (I did a combination of grated carrots & zucchini)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/4# ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup dry seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 splashes Worcestershire sauce

Meatloaf Glaze

  • 1/4 cup peach preserves (or orange marmalade)
  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a shallow-rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a small sautepan, add the oil. Once the oil is heated, add the chopped onion, grated zucchini and minced garlic. Saute until soft.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sauteed mixture and remaining meatloaf ingredients and mix well. Shape mixture and place it on the coated baking sheet.
  4. Bake meatloaf for 45 minutes. While the meatloaf is baking, stir together the preserves and mustard in a small bowl.
  5. Remove from oven. Spread the glaze over the top of the meatloaf. Return to oven, and bake until thermometer inserted into the center registers at 165 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.
  6. Transfer meatloaf to a platter, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes to reabsorb all juices. Slice and serve.
Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ginger Glazed Carrots

I feel as though I am always lacking a good vegetable side. After cooking the main dish, we are usually so hungry we rarely want to spend any more time in the kitchen than we need to. However, this really is no excuse.

While we usually just opt for a quick salad or a microwaveable vegetable bag, I know there are plenty of sides that take little time and effort. Since we had picked up some carrots in bulk recently, I started scouring Food Network and saw this recipe with many positive reviews. I incorporated it into one of our meals and we both instantly took to it. It is a great and quick side dish that will pair lovely with just about any meat entree.


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound carrots, approximately 3-4 medium, peeled and cut on the bias 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Heavy pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup good-quality ginger ale*
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. In a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat, combine the carrots, butter, salt and ginger ale. Cover and bring to a simmer. 
  2. Once simmering, remove the lid, stir, and reduce the heat to low. Cover again and cook for 5 minutes. 
  3. Remove the lid, add the chili powder and increase the heat to high. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the ginger ale is reduced to a glaze, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. 
  4. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.
Source: Alton Brown


* Note: The first time I made this, I used Canada Dry Ginger Ale... and the ginger flavor was really lacking. I used a much higher quality ginger ale by Reed's Ginger Beer (you can purchase it at Trader Joe's) and the ginger flavor was just perfect. Another ginger brewI would recommend is by Maine Root (Whole Foods). 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Turkey Veggie Meatballs

When it comes to a ground turkey meatball recipe, I have found "the one". It is perfect in just about every way- it is flavorful, it is moist without crumbling at each bite, and a nice substitute to beef meatballs. Well, I thought they were perfect... until I decided to add more nutritional value to it and sneak in some grated veggies. I served these meatballs with a marinara sauce, served it to Darin, and held my breath as he took his first bite. Would he notice that I've altered his favorite meatball recipe? 

"Mmm, I just love these meatballs, Sara!"

Release breath. Now, I don't want to give the impression that Darin doesn't try new things because it is a rare occasion when I make a recipe twice. He is always great about trying something new. But when you have a favorite, you really don't want to mess it up... or even alter it. Because it is already perfect. But now, Darin can have his favorite meatballs, and I can know that I can add some veggies in it and make it even more nutritious.

Ingredients:
Meatball recipe

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions (roughly 3 onions)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated carrot (roughly 1 carrot)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely shredded zucchini (roughly 1/2 zucchini)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground chicken or ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp grill seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup Kraft Shredded Parmesan, Romano, & Asiago
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • Handful of chopped parsley leaves (1 Tbsp dried parsley)
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  1. In a medium sautepan, add 1 tsp oil on medium-low heat. Add the green onions, carrots, zucchini, and minced garlic. Saute until the veggies are nice and soft- about 4-5 minutes. Place the sauteed veggies into a large bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large shallow baking sheet with foil, and spray it with cooking spray.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients with the sauteed veggies and stir well.
  4. Shape mixture into (30) 1.5" meatballs (I used my medium OXO cookie scoop). 
  5. Place the meatballs onto the baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes or until done.
Source: Slightly adapted from Cooking Light


Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken #2

If you Google "Sweet and Sour Chicken" recipes, there are a ton to choose from. I was looking for a recipe that didn't have ketchup in it (since I already hav a good one here), and had an assortment of fresh vegetables in it. I came across this Food Network Kitchens recipe and started reading the reviews. Overall, they were positive, and I adjusted the recipe to what we had on hand.

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavors of this dish. The chicken wasn't deep-fried, the sauce was homemade and flavorful, and there were plenty of vegetables. I also liked that it came together quickly as I'm always looking for easy weeknight meals... And it is relatively healthy too.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (Can increase to 1 tsp for a spicier taste)
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 tsp peanut oil, divided
  • 1.5# boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red & yellow)
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peas (I used frozen)
  • Serving suggestions: Rice

Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, chili-garlic sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice and cornstarch; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, coat the chicken with 2 tsp oil and season the chicken to taste with salt and pepper. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook the chicken, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon, 2 minutes. Transfer the partially-cooked chicken to a plate. Reserve the pan.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tsp oil in the pan; add the peppers, scallions, and peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the reserved chicken; whisk the sauce again and add it to the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  5. Serve over rice.
Source: Adapted from Food Network

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

You know how if you eat something that tastes horrible, you really don't give it a second chance? Well, this is how it is with Darin. Some time in his life, he was handed a turkey burger and it left such a bad taste in his mouth, he vowed never to eat it again.
When it comes to his burgers, he only wants beef. In an attempt to eat healthier (which means cutting out a lot of red meat), I've been trying to substitute ground turkey for all ground beef recipes. I've been wanting to try this recipe for awhile, but I continued to put it on the back burner because it contains turkey. But when I came across it again during my weekly meal planning time, I decided to go for it. Why? He loves my chicken parm meatballs, and this was essentially the same thing but in burger form.

I assembled the burger meat in the morning and when I was patting the meat into burgers, Darin says- "mmm, that looks good!". I attributed the (much lighter color) of the turkey meat to either the kitchen was kind of dark.... or maybe it wasn't too contrasting in color since he is color blind?

I cooked them in my dutch oven which gave these burgers an amazing crust. The burgers were moist and flavorful, and Darin.... ended up really liking them. Next time, he'd prefer them on a bun but otherwise, he gave it 2 thumbs up.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 Tbsp fresh basil, minced, divided
  • 10 sliced Italian bread, thickly sliced- 8 slices toasted, 2 slices crusts removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1# ground turkey or chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced finely
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 think slices of Mozzarella cheese
  • 4 large Radicchio leaves (I used baby spinach leaves)

Directions:
  1. Combine marinara and 2 Tbsp freshly minced basil in a small saucepan. Transfer 2 Tbsp of marinara mixture to a medium bowl. Heat the saucepan on low and keep warm.
  2. Combine the diced bread, Parmesan, and remaining 2 Tbsp of basil in a food processor. Pulse to form a fine crumb.
  3. Transfer half of the bread crumbs to a shallow dish and add the remaining bread crumbs to the bowl with the 2 Tbsp of marinara.
  4. In the medium bowl with the marinara and bread crumb mixture, add the ground turkey, 1-1/2 tsp olive oil, onion, and salt. Combine well, and form the mixture into 4 patties. 
  5. Coat the patties with the bread crumbs in the shallow dish.
  6. Heat the remaining 1-1/2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until the bottoms are crusted- about 4 minutes. Flip the patties over, top with cheese, and cook another 3 minutes. Cover and cook an additional minute until the patties are cooked through and cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  7. Assemble burgers with bread, radicchio, basil leaves, and warm marinara on toasted bread slices.
Source: The Jey of Cooking

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Boo" Berries

I made these to bring into work for a Halloween Snack Event. My co-workers loved them! I loved that they were creative, included fruit, fit the Halloween theme, and were easy to prepare. Can't beat the ingredients list (only 3 items) either. These would be a great fit at your next Halloween party or event.

Looking for other Halloween ideas? Here are some sweet &savory Halloween ideas: Dead Man's Foot Meatloaf, Witches' Brooms and Witches' Hats, Candy Corn Cupcake Bites, and Mummy Dogs.

Here are some tips I wanted to share with you in making the "Boo" Berries:
  • I would definitely recommend you make these on the day of the event- I made them the evening before (kept them refrigerated overnight), and the strawberries had "shrunken" a bit from being in the fridge
  • The larger the strawberries, the better- It was easier to handle the berries and dip them into the chocolate (took less time than with smaller berries)
  • Save yourself the headache and purchase candy melts! White chocolate is extremely finicky and has always posed a huge disaster for me when using as dipping chocolate. Go and get Candy Melts (~$5-$6 per bag)- they can be found at Walmart, Hobby Lobby or Michael's. Candy melts melt beautifully with no hassle, and taste great. I purchased the vanilla-flavored white candy melts

Ingredients:

  • 30 fresh strawberries (the larger, the better)
  • 8-oz vanilla-flavored white candy melts
  • 1/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry.
2. Prep your pan- Lay a sheet of wax paper on top of a large baking sheet.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the candy melts according to package directions.
4. Dip strawberries into the white chocolate mixture; place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts' tails.
Tip: Don't place the berries too close together, or the melted candy melts will "pool" together and it is difficult to separate.
5. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes.
6. Repeat steps #3-#5 until all berries are coated and eyes are put on. Freeze for 5 minutes.
7. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the remaining mini chocolate chips; stir until smooth.
8. Dip a toothpick into the melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face.

Source: Taste of Home

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos with Southwest Cream Sauce

We loved the combination of flavors in this dish. We made a citrusy marinade that the shrimp soaked in for about 30 minutes, cooked the shrimp, and assembled the shrimp into the tacos. We topped it off with the Southwest sauce and called it a winner.


The shrimp tasted great, but this made a lot of sauce and we felt it was a bit bland. Next time, I will definitely reduce the amount of yogurt but keep the measurements for the seasonings (recipe is edited below). A light and healthy meal that is quick enough for the weeknight busy schedule.


Ingredients:
Shrimp Marinade

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1 tsp adobo liquid
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

Shrimp Tacos

  • 8 small (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce or cabbage
  • 1/2 lime, cut into wedges or slices 
Southwest Cream Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Directions:
  1. Prepare grill. 
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the marinade, through the salt and pepper, and process until smooth and well combined.  Pour over shrimp in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the Southwest cream sauce.
  4. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, and grill on a well-oiled grate 1-3 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through.  Use the grill to heat the tortillas as well. (Since it was col and rainy outside, we sauteed the shrimp.)
  5. Remove tails from shrimp, and divide among tortillas.  Top with shredded lettuce, cream sauce, and lime wedges.
Source: Shrimp tacos and Southwest Cream Sauce recipes originally from Southern Living, Adapted from Pink Parsley

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Candy Corn Cupcake Bites

Aren't these just adorable? These were all the rage a few years ago, but I never took to it since I don't like candy corn. When I looked at this recipe closer, I realized that these don't taste like candy corns- they just look like them. 
Candy corns are symbolic this time of year, and I couldn't resist how cute these were. They were easy to make (read: boxed cake mix), and (like Molly Jean), my co-workers all asked me from which bakery I purchased them from. They were excited to learn they could make them right in their own kitchen. 
I added too much yellow batter... Make sure to do even amounts of orange & yellow batter

Ingredients:
  • Boxed white cake mix
  • Ingredients for the cake mix (mine were 3 egg whites, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1-1/3 cup water)
  • Food coloring- Red, Yellow
  • Frosting- Canned is fine, but I used my favorite buttercream frosting
  • Candy corn (for decoration)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake tin with paper liners.
2. Prepare cake batter according to package directions. 
3. Divide the batter into (2) bowls. Add the red food coloring (it will turn orange) to 1 bowl and the yellow food coloring to the other bowl. Mix well. Add more food coloring until you reach the desired color.
4. Pour the yellow batter halfway into the muffin well first. Then, slowly add in the orange batter on top.
5. Bake as directed (mine took about 18-20 minutes). Allow the cupcake bites to cool down completely.
6. Once cooled, add a swirl of frosting and decorate it with a candy corn on top.

Source: Rookie Chef

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gadget Rave: Chef'n Juicester Citrus/Reamer

I already had a lemon/lime citrus juicer, but more and more recipes I was reading called to use freshly squeezed orange juice. Unfortunately, the orange halves were too large to fit into my current juicer, and I didn't want  to purchase a larger juicer when I already owned one.

So I procrastinated. Are there comparable products out there that taste like freshly squeezed orange juice? Hmm, pretty close, but unless you live in FL, Simply Orange is the closest tasting thing to the real thing. But still, it's not as good as freshly squeezed.

Was it only $13? Yes, but it's the principle, people! I didn't want to buy something I (somewhat) already had, and clutter my kitchen with yet another gadget. So I stood strong. And set aside those recipes.

... And then I saw a smoothie recipe and I was craving it. Like I almost drove 30 minutes to the closest Smoothie King just because I was craving it so badly. But I persevered and made it using some Simply Orange OJ sitting in my fridge. It was good... but could it have been better with freshly squeezed orange juice?!


I finally (finally) pulled the trigger. $13 (and 2 days thanks to Amazon Prime) later, I was excitedly opening up my new juicer. I had a bag of oranges in the waiting. I made this smoothie. Then I made these chicken fajitas. And I have a few more recipes waiting in the wing.

This juicer was terrific. First of all, it plowed through my halved lemon with little time and hardly any effort:
Not only does it have a plastic insert for smaller citrus (lemon/lime), you can take it off easily and then use the actual citrus reamer for both oranges and grapefruits. The pulp also stays right inside the juicer without going into your juice:
I love how the bottom portion measures the juice for you:
.. and it makes juicing easy with its non-skid bottom:
Once you've juiced enough for your recipe, just pour it into your bowl:
Once you're done using it, you can pop off the clear plastic reamer (if you're using it), and then pop off the actual orange reamer top. Washing it is a breeze.
Overall, I am very happy with this purchase, and it continues to get a lot of use in my kitchen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Foil-Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn

I'm always on the hunt for healthy and quick weeknight meal ideas, and this recipe foots the bill. You essentially make a black bean and corn "salsa", place the fish on top, top it with a compound butter, and then wrap it in foil and bake. The citrusy compound butter melts into the fish and gives it a light taste.

These reminded me of back when I was in elementary school and we went out on camping trips with one of my most favorite teachers Francine. We would assemble various chopped vegetables, wrap them in foil, and bake them on top of the campfire to accompany our burgers and hot dogs. This time, however, it is much healthier and a bit more sophisticated without any additional effort. The fish was succulent, and it paired nicely with the black bean and corn salsa.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless white fish fillets (6 to 8 oz each), 1-inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce , divided
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 (16-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups corn kernels (Used 15-oz canned corn)
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (Roughly ½ orange)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
Directions:
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 450 degrees.
  2. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Using a fork, mix together the butter, 1 tsp chipotle, orange zest, half the garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a medium bowl until well-combined.  Spread butter mixture over the fish.
  4. Combine the beans, corn, onion, scallions, 2 Tbsp of cilantro, orange juice, remaining chipotle, remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.
  5. Lay four 14-inch lengths of foil on the counter and divide the bean mixture evenly over the lower half of each piece of foil.  Top with fish, and fold the foil over the fish, folding the edges to seal.
  6. Arrange the packets in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the fish is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.  Carefully open the packets and sprinkle with remaining cilantro.  Serve.
Source: Originally from America's Test Kitchen: The Best Simple Recipes, As seen on Pink Parsley

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cook's Illustrated Easy Vanilla Buttercream

I went back and forth on whether or not to create a separate post on a frosting recipe, but I wanted to share with you my favorite vanilla buttercream post. I've tried quite a bit of buttercream recipes: Gale Gand (too sweet), Magnolia Bakery's buttercream (even sweeter than Gale Gand's), and Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue buttercream (love the taste but hate the process). 

Not only is this an easy vanilla buttercream frosting, but it is easy to work with and looks great on cupcakes and frosts well on cakes. Once, I ran out of heavy cream so I substituted in milk and it definitely did not have the "whipped" buttercream texture (that I love about this recipe), so I would definitely recommend using heavy cream in this recipe. Make sure to whip it well at high speed for several minutes. I am convinced that this gives it its nicely whipped texture.

Ingredients:
  • 20 Tbsp (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
  • 1/8 Tbsp table salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream

Directions:
1. In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. 
2. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. 
3. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.
Yield: 3 cups
Source: Cook's Illustrated

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Crockpot Cheesy Italian Meatballs & Marinara Sauce


I have been looking for another crockpot spaghetti & meatball recipe, and what makes this recipe so different than the others I've tried is that there are both Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese in the meatballs. Who doesn't want meatballs with cheesy goodness within? Another interesting step in this recipe is that once the meatballs are formed, you put them in the microwave briefly. This allows some of the fat from the meatballs to render out so the sauce wouldn't end up being too greasy. I was a bit skeptical on this approach (fat = moist = flavor), but rarely has Cook's Illustrated recipes failed me. So away in the microwave they went. When the timer went off, I noticed that the meatballs didn't hold their shape well. I read and re-read the recipe, but kept on assembling the remaining ingredients, put my crockpot on LOW, and went to work. I came home and the kitchen smelled intoxicating- garlic, tomatoes, basil, yum. 

Photo courtesy of Cook's Country

The taste was great. I felt that the sauce had a bit of an acidic taste to it (which I countered with1 tsp of sugar), but otherwise we both loved the flavors. It was after an email and re-reading the recipe for the 3rd time, I noticed that I should have used 85% lean ground beef- I know I used ground beef with a higher fat content (which would explain why the meatballs didn't hold their shape well). Luckily, it didn't alter the taste at all, but going forward, I will definitely make a mental note of this. 

To make it easier to make the morning of, I made the tomato sauce and meatball mixture the evening before, and then microwaved them the day of. Then I placed the marinara sauce into the slow cooker, add the briefly cooked meatballs, and cooked it on LOW all day. This recipe made a lot of sauce (almost filled up my 4-qt crockpot), thus I would double the amount of meatballs next time since we love meatballs (recipe is edited for this). We packaged the remaining meat sauce into these freezer jars and plan on making more spaghetti or possibly using it to make lasagna. Either way, this recipe is a winner.

Cheesy Italian Meatballs & Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:
Onion Mixture

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 onions, chopped fine
  • (2) 6-oz cans tomato paste 
  • 12 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Marinara Sauce

  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
Cheesy Meatballs

  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 2-1/2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 6 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • Minced fresh Italian parsley for garnish
  • Pasta
Directions:
  1. Make the Onion Mixture: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, 12 garlic cloves, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt and cook until golden, about 13-15 minutes.
  2. Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl; set aside.
  3. Make the Marinara Sauce: Add wine to pot with remaining onion mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to slow cooker.
  5. Make the Cheesy Meatballs: Add 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, sausage, eggs, salt, and garlic to bowl with reserved onion mixture. Mash with potato masher until smooth.
  6. Add beef and cream to bowl and knead with hands until well combined. Form mixture into (24) 2-inch meatballs. (I used my large OXO cookie scoop.) 
  7. Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes.
  8. Nestle meatballs in slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. (I cooked mine on low all day, 8-9 hours.)
  9. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Season with salt.
  10. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.
* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare the directions as noted above for sauce however allow the sauce cool and set aside. Prepare the directions as noted above for the meatballs however nestle meatballs in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish discarding rendered fat; allow to cool. Alternately, you can cool the meatballs and place in a gallon sized freezer bag. Cover the meatballs with the cooled sauce (either in the baking dish or freezer bag). Cover/seal and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost.

If making in the oven - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking dish with foil and place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.

If making in the slow cooker/crockpot - Place contents of freezer bag in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.

Source: Originally from Cook's Country, Adapted from What's Cooking, Chicago?


Monday, October 3, 2011

Bacon Ranch Pasta

This was another rollover recipe from last week, and I kind of hemmed and hawed whether it would work or not. We love big flavor, and I was worried this recipe would fall short. However, this blogger was raving how delicious it was (and I had seen it on other food blogs as well) so I decided to give it a shot. Darin helped me cook this in the kitchen, and he kept repeating- "I swear we've made this before and it just didn't turn out well". I had a sinking suspicion he was right but decided to go against my gut and give it a (second?) try.
Verdict: Um yes this was sooo delicious. We gobbled all of it down for dinner. The cream-based sauce was perfectly seasoned, the bacon was a nice addition, and we just loved it. One of the best dishes we've made in a long time. Next time, we both agreed that we would like some shredded chicken (or breaded chicken breast) to round out this dish so I'm including this in the list of ingredients below.

Update: I used frozen breaded chicken breasts- baked them, then diced them up and tossed them into the cream sauce. Worked great!

Ingredients:
  • 12-oz center cut bacon (we cooked our bacon in the oven)
  • 1# short cut pasta (we use 12-oz box of 100% whole wheat penne)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 bag baby spinach (omitted)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, undrained
  • 1/2# cooked chicken breasts, diced or shredded (Rotisserie Chicken would be an easy substitute, or even breaded chicken)
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon until crisp. Allow bacon to cook, then crumble.
  2. Combine parsley, pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and thyme in a small bowl.
  3. Over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil in a saucepan or saute pan large enough to hold the pasta.Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, add the seasoning mixture (from Step #2), spinach, and tomatoes. Cook until the spinach wilts and the sauce thickens. (We simmered it for 15-20 minutes on medium-low.)
  5. Once the sauce has reduced and thickened, add the cooked pasta, crumbled bacon, cooked chicken, and toss to combine.
  6. Add grated cheese on top. Taste for seasoning.
Source: Originally on Taste of Home Cooking, As seen on Sweet Beginnings
 
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