Itsa meatball!

I made meatballs for the first time ever. Well, not never, but I made them by myself for the first time. I can’t eat red meat so if I want meatballs, they have to be turkey and it usually means I eat them at home after buying them.

When I was little I remember making meatballs. My mum would put all the ingredients into a bowl and dad would let us help roll and cook them. I think as a kid I probably thought she was “letting us help” but it was probably more that she doesn’t like to handle meat with her hands because of the “ick” factor.

We would get some cooking and then make a big one with all the remaining mix and giggle relentlessly before continue to roll them.

Even after buying some frozen turkey meatballs at Trader Joe’s (theirs are the best!). I decided to make some and they were AMAZING, if I do say so myself. This is a prime example of a simple meal, made with really great ingredients, and letting them speak for themselves.

Ingredients

¾ pound ground turkey
2 links sweet Italian sausage
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup milk
2 tbs parsley
2 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs Parmesan cheese
½ cup red wine
salt & pepper

Directions

Remove sausage from casing.
Mix bread crumbs and milk. Let sit a minute.
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Combine ground turkey, sausage, egg, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, wine, salt and pepper. Add breadcrumb mix and combine well.
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Form into balls depending on your size preference. I went with larger ones.
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Heavily oil a baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees, turning every 10-15 minutes to evenly brown.
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I was so happy with these! I thought sausage would provide enough fat for moist meatballs instead of proscuitto or bacon, but those would be good too. I was super diligent about turning them to ensure that they cooked evenly. I could have fried them but baking them was way easier.

I’ll continue to purchase them but they weren’t a big deal to make myself. The wine was a HUGE flavor enhancement. A few glug glug glugs of a pinot noir that was already open definitely added some depth of flavor.

They smelled simply amazing! Have you met my sous-chef Windsor? He was standing by, under my feet in our tiny kitchen as usual. I think he was super excited to see what delicious item was coming out of the oven! Even with that cute face he still doesn’t get anything I make.
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Part of my inspiration to make some came from another blog I love We Are Not Martha. Theirs were featuring prosciutto and were pan fried. I literally read the recipe and thought, ooo red wine would be good with these as I channeled my wine-loving college roommates as inspiration. Parsley isn’t my favorite so I just used dried parsley. Rosemary would be good.

I served these with a basic red sauce and spaghetti. I thought my meatballs were good enough and deserved to shine! I’m so proud!
meatball_plate_290_200I didn’t make a ton of meatballs but now that I know this recipe is a winner I’m sure I’ll make more and freeze them. I will probably also make some cute little ones to freeze for appetizers or soup. They aren’t that much effort and I keep thinking about all the exciting additions! Spinach very finely chopped would be good, sun dried tomatoes, maybe a little nugget of mozzarella? Mmmm the possibilities are endless. I also love sweet & sour meatballs which would definitely highlight these guys.

Dinner from the Depths of the Fridge

Every now and then meals should be easy to whip together or comforting…or both!! They can’t all be amazing, sometimes the goal is simply dinner.

I was digging around looking for inspiration in the fridge when I realized there are a few items in my fridge I couldn’t recall buying. Totally uninspiring. Cleaning out the fridge went onto my to do list but dinner was still a necessity.
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Anywho. I found some fresh spinach, some chicken sausage, a too-small-for-pizza-dough-ball. Time for a little experiment!I decided to try wrapping the chicken sausage in some dough and balancing the weight with a side of wilted spinach.

Ingredients:

2 bamboo skewers
2 chicken sausage links
pizza dough (size of a tennis ball)
salt, pepper, garlic powder mix (also known as Jane’s Krazy Salt)
3 cups fresh spinach
½ cup roasted red peppers, sliced
2 tbs lime juice

Directions:

Skor the sausage and insert a bamboo skewer in each to keep the shape.
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Stretch the dough out and wrap around the sausage. Secure each of dough on the skewer. Lightly roll in olive oil and season generously.
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Gently wilt spinach and roasted red peppers.
Flavor with lime juice.
veg_limedress_290_200Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees, turning to ensure even cooking. The chicken sausage is fully cooked so only the dough needs to cook through.

I used my fav lime salad dressing. It goes with everything! This dressing is great for a touch of citric acid or Mexican salad. It makes a great marinade too.

The dough was ok, but puff pastry or crescent rolls would have worked better. I didn’t want to encase the sausage because I thought it wouldn’t stay perfect and the look of this was half the interest. I was going for a pigs-in-a-blanket appearance.

Maybe this isn’t my signature dish but it was yummy and was ready in 30-minutes. Serve with some mustard and call it dinner.

Love-ly Potluck

My office decided to have a Valentine’s Day potluck with the theme: food we love. I made sis guess our theme for Valentine’s Day and she guessed: food that bad for your heart. Also, a fun theme…for another time.

I love breakfast so I made Ebelskiver. These stuffed pancakes are fantastic and highly portable. Potlucks are so much pressure because reheating with only a microwave and toaster oven doesn’t do everything justice. Also, since I travel to work on public transit my choices can also be limited.

These stuffed pancakes became fast favorites of ours after I gave the pan to Mr. J for his birthday. I did 2 fillings: raspberries and chocolate chips. Some other favorite fillings are: jelly, sausage, brown sugar, coconut, and peanut butter.

Generously spray pan with non-stick spray. Pour pancake batter half way, add filling ingredient and add more batter on top.
ebilskiv_choc_290_200Williams Sonoma sells fancy turners but after a $40 pan I decided we would get creative. I can whole heartedly recommend cheap bamboo skewers.
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Some other loved items at our potlucks include:

Somebody loves: Thai Noodles in Peanut Sauce with Asparagus and Cucumbers
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Somebody loves: Matzo Ball Soup
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Somebody loves: Kale Salad with Mango & Sunflower Seeds
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Somebody loves: Queso Dip
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Somebody loves: Care Packages (you can’t see the neutella brownie inside and I ate it before taking a photo)
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Some others love salad and pasta salad.

It was such a fun theme. Some of our past themes have been: picnic food; dip day; and back to school lunch food. I can’t wait for our next potluck!

Cheers to a Wine-Off

Once upon a wintery Saturday night, some friends hosted their annual Wine-off. This competition is not your average wine and cheese night.
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This is a night each couple brings their a-game in the form of an inexpensive wine ($15 or less per bottle). Each is covered and everyone drinks & scores. There were 16 entries before the crowning of the best as well as the Golden Stink Award.
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I was really looking forward to this after thoroughly enjoying it last year AND it was a fun night out after a big work event that day! I’m the wine drinker of the apartment so I pulled a wine out of my wine rack to bring. I never spend more than $15-per-bottle anyway so I was all set! I chose a Malbec, thinking it would be a crowd pleaser and would hopefully score well.Malbecs are a grape variety originally from the Bordeaux region of France but more recently grown in Argentina for this red wine. It pairs with food very well and will stand out against ordinary Merlots or Cabernet Savignons.
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We scored just above the middle of the pack. I wish we brought a chilled white wine since there were so few and after alllll the wine they were refreshing and different.

Ingredients:

friends bringing wine to your apartment
paper wine bags
scorecards
a scoring method to calculate results quickly!
appetizers
dump cups for any heavy handed pours or stinky wines

Directions:

Invite your friends to bring cheap wines to your cocktail party.
Have extra wine bags on hand to conceal the wines.
Make a score card and prepare to tally the scores at the end of the night.
Serve some simple aps.

Presto, you have a wine-off! I love opportunities to have lots of opinions and try new things!

I was so impressed with Miss M’s scorecard. They were so professional it made me anticipate a scantron machine to tally our choices! Cardstock? Bubble choices? Wow!
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Miss M & Mr. R also invited guests to submit a song to the playlist for the night. What a great idea? It was super fun to hear a wide variety and see reactions when somebody’s song came on.

It’s not too late to message your friends and have an impromptu Valentine’s Day get together, or anti-Valentine’s day bash! Careful, it is Monday. This is a great winter party.

I had a small Pumpkin Beer tasting around Thanksgiving which was a lot of fun. I’m thinking about some sort of taste-off for my birthday.

A Comeback with Chicken

I know a few of you felt cheated with the Brownie post. In an effort of full disclosure: I love all food. I love to make things myself and I love that which others make for me too. There are not as many restaurant reviews as I originally anticipated but winter in New England makes us hole up inside sometimes.

I’ve been sick so I agree that my recent posts are not all AMAZING. The other night I did make a pretty amazing meal. Without further ado…I present to you: Smoky Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa. Boo-yeah.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
marinade
spice rub
1 ½ cup chopped mango
1 cup chopped tomato
½ cup chopped roasted red pepper
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Marinate the chicken and then dredge into the rub. I used my fav lime salad dressing and a rub blend I got Mr. J in Seattle from the famous Chef Tom Douglas.
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Grill the chicken until cooked through. Since our chicken breasts were so enormous I cut them each in half (yes, those are 2 breasts cut in half, woah!)
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Chop the mango, tomato, roasted red pepper pieces. Add vinegar, oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Roughly mix with a fork to incorporate all the flavors. Let stand while chicken finishes cooking.
mango_salsa_290_200Serve over rice with salsa spread on top.
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This was so easy and was wonderful! The chicken was veryyy spicy because of the rub but I liked that combo with the sweet salsa. Mr. J may not have been expecting the kick during his first bite! I hadn’t been sure what to make for dinner when I defrosted chicken early that morning but this was almost all pantry/freezer items!

I used frozen mango chunks that I keep handy for smoothies or when we’re just out of produce and I’m in fruit-withdrawal. Since mango can be so pulpy or fibrous I probably should have chopped it while frozen, but I didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect. Pineapple would be a great alternative!

We ate the chicken & mango salsa over instant brown rice to cut the spice. I steamed some pea pods on the side. I really enjoyed this flavorful & instant dinner! It was refreshing and was a perfect amount.

Save The Day and Send ‘Em Brownies

I’m not a baker so I just LOVE baked items from others! I also love saying thank you with food. I’m lucky that at work we were thanked with food! We got a mixed box of Fairytale Brownies.Yay for treats in the conference room. Also, it happens to be a very warm part of the office so these delicious brownies seemed more like freshly baked goodies!
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We received a big box of snack-sized brownies. Snack size was perfect sample a bunch of different flavors. My favorites were toffee crunch and espresso nib.
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Nib: (plural) crushed cocoa beans. Who knew? Now you can use that in Jeopardy.

These will be a fun thing to send, especially for a group!

Spinach & Cheese Muffin Bites

Spinach-Cheese Bake

I really love quiche but when I pack it for lunch it seems soggy and the crust flakes. I tried this crustless spinach and Monterey jack cheese version and made it in a muffin tin.
crustless_quiche_done_290_200There isn’t anything super special in this but I was glad I went with a lighter protein & veggie option for a few days worth of lunch. It would be good for a bunch item but this didn’t rock my socks.

Ingredients

4 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/3  cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups milk
4 eggs
1  teaspoon  salt
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground red pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 13 x 9-inch baking dish or muffin tins with cooking spray. Place chopped spinach evenly in bottom of dish; sprinkle evenly with cheese.
crustless_quiche_spin_290_200Combine flour and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended.
crustless_quiche_liq_290_200Pour milk mixture over cheese. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
crustless_quiche_assemb_290_200I omitted 1 teaspoon of baking powder, by accident. These turned out a bit more spongy than I expected, probably because I forgot the baking powder.

Deeeeep Dish Pizza

The hunt has been on for deep dish pizza since I went to Chicago in June of 2010. I can’t believe it is so hard to fine. There’s a fake out in Central Square Cambridge called Chicago Pizza. Not at all like any pizza I saw in Chicago.

When I discovered I could buy pizzas frozen from Lou Malnati’s I got a deep dish pizza for my sister’s birthday AND I got Mr. J a deep dish pan for Christmas.The frozen one was pretty good but I made one and it brought me back to Giordanos. It was very exciting to make a good one!!
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Ingredients

refrigerated pizza dough
2 tbs pesto, if desired
2 links chicken sausage, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded mozerella
1 ½ cup tomato sauce
4 tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Prehead oven to 400 degrees. Chop fulled cooked chicken sausage (I used sun dried tomato sausage) and brown in a skillet until crisp. Remove and lightly cook green pepper. (I know everyone knows how to saute but how cute is the cast iron skillet pot holder Mum made for me?!?)
deep_dish_potholder_290_200 Generously spray pan and press dough into the bottom and up the sides. Make a few fork pricks on the bottom and spread with pesto if desired. Chicken sausage doesn’t have much fat so I wanted to assure there was enough moisture.
deep_dish_dough_290_200 Layer sausage, then green peppers, then cheese. Cheese in between layers makes it even more cheesy! Shimmy the “filling” and press everything to settle and leave room for it to rise a bit.
deep_dish_assemb_290_200 Spread top with sauce for the authentic Chicago deep dish look. Bake for 30-40 minutes until edges are golden. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. It is tempting to cut into it early but it will really crumble. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
deep_dish_baked_290_200 We LOVE LOVE LOVED it. So good! It didn’t stay together perfectly but was mouth watering. The crust was doughy and crisp enough. Some recipes advised cooking it on top of a pizza stone for a crisper bottom. I recently acquired one but I forgot this tip…until next time.

I worried the sauce could make everything watery or soggy but it didn’t! Every ingredient behaved perfectly.

The pan is $20 online. It is a 9 inch aluminum pan, similar to a circular cake pan. I was surprised how lightweight it was but that’s the key. I saw online that some use a cast iron skillet but the weight is extremely different.

There will be more deep dish pizzas in my future.

Raving about Pumpkin Ravioli

Pumpkin Ravioli

I was thumbing through a Cooking Light magazine and came upon this recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce. I don’t love Gorgonzola but I was up for the challenge of making my own ravioli.

They definitely tasted amazing but the final product didn’t look 100% perfect. This was a great meal with wintery tones from the pumpkin, nuts, and cranberries. Sage would have been a good addition but since I love it, I tend to be heavy handed with it and Mr. J doesn’t love it like I do.

Ingredients

½ canned pumpkin
2  tablespoons  dry breadcrumbs
2  tablespoons  grated Parmesan cheese
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
30  wonton wrappers
1  tablespoon  cornstarch
½ cup butter
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup toasted walnuts
¼ cup toasted cranberries

Preparation

To remove some excess moisture spoon pumpkin onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels, and spread to 1/2-inch thickness and let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl using a rubber spatula. Stir in breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
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Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time, spoon 1 teaspoon of pumpkin mixture into the center of wrapper. Brush edges of wrapper with water and fold in half, pressing edges firmly with fingers.
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Then pinch the end points together to form a tortellini shape. Place on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers and pumpkin mixture.
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Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Add half of ravioli to pan. Cook 4 minutes or until done stirring gently. Remove ravioli with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.

When the second batch goes into the water start on the sauce. Melt butter in small saucepan. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Drizzle over ravioli, sprinkle with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries. Serve immediately.
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I was patient and really tried to take the time to seal each ravioli really well. I didn’t want them bursting in the water and that helped. I could have been more conscientious about the air inside and spreading the filling more. Otherwise, these were a hit!

I thought about making a brown butter sauce but wasn’t sure if my spreadable butter substitute would work for that. Any know about that or has anyone tried?

Rachael Ray’s Balsamic Pan Gravy is delish

Rosemary Pork Chops with Balsamic Pan Gravy

I thumbed through Rachael Ray’s Express Lane cookbook features meals with 10 ingredients or fewer. Her recipes always take me longer than 30-minutes but I like that she often substitutes ingredients and features everyday ingredients. I had trouble tracking down the recipe online but I saw it on another blog too.

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I adapted it and didn’t make the sides Rachael Ray made with this dish. I’m a strong believer that if I’m making something new or different then I’m better suited to focus on one new or one more challenging item and one easy or tried & true. Sauces aren’t my forte but I was intrigued with this and Mr. J likes anything with a sauce!

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Ingredients

5 tbs olive oil
2 slices of thick cut bacon (RR reccomends 12 thin slices soppressata)
2 center cut pork loin chops 1 inch thick
salt and pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary sprigs stripped and finely chopped
1 tbs garlic, diced
1 cup vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs butter (RR uses unsalted)

Directions

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat to cook bacon until crispy, about 4 min and then remove from pan. While the bacon is getting crispy, season the pork chops with generous salt, pepper, and rosemary on each side. When the bacon is done disgard drippings, put bacon to the side and heat olive oil.

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Cook pork chops 5 minutes per side. Once the pork chops are done, transfer to a platter and cover with foil or keep in warming oven.
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Heat garlic and balsamic vinegar, cook 30 seconds and add stock. Bring to a bubble and cook 5 more minutes or until there is only 1/2 cup of liquid left in the skillet. Turn heat off and add butter, stir until butter is melted and add bacon back into the sauce.
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I loved this and thought the baslamic flavor was great and would definitely make it again. I thought it would be great with wilted greens and white beans.

I made steamed broccoli and some Trader Joe’s cornbread stuffing. The stuffing was only ehh but was handy to have around.
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