Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On top of ol' smokey...

                              all covered with cheese....Sunday over spaghetti.
Tuesday night (leftovers) Meatball Sliders

Meatballs. Basically my Husband's Holy Grail food. And for 7 years (7 looooong years) I've been searching. Turning over every rock, peeking into every Italian kitchen, and trying over and over and over again.
Too tough.
Not enough breadcrumbs.
Not tender enough.
Too meaty.
Too bready.
It seemed a hopeless battle.
But I was determined to keep trying.
This past Sunday I made a meatball that surpassed all prior attempts...a meatball to which my Husband has bestowed the ULTIMATE honor. "Better than my Mom's".
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Finally.

It is a prep you probably haven't seen/used before-but it's what worked for me.

Meatballs (adapted from Jfolse)

1lb ground beef (80/20)
1lb ground pork
6 eggs
1 cup minced onion
1 cup minced celery
2 Tablespoons granulated garlic
1/4 cup chopped basil
6 slices bread (I had honey 7 grain wheat)
1/2-1 cup panko (approximately-see below)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 teaspoons pepper

Oven at 350-
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper-

Run torn slices of bread through the food processor and add to large mixing bowl.
Add ground beef, pork, and eggs
Run onion, celery, and basil through food processor  until very finely chopped and blended-add to big bowl of stuff
Add garlic, pepper, and parm-
Mix by hand. -Do not overwork!
At this point my mix was still very wet and wouldn't really hold together-so I added panko until I got a ball that would hold together but not one that was dry.
Place meatballs onto cookiesheet-I rolled mine just larger than a golf ball and got 31.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, and raise temp to 400.
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
At this point they are cooked through. You can do whatever you'd like with them.
I had a pot of sauce simmering, so I added mine into the sauce.

The basil and celery are really key ingredients here. They add a nice herby backtone to the meatballs. These set a new standard in my house. They are tender, but they hold their shape. They have flavor-so they don't HAVE to be drenched in sauce...we ate a couple before adding them to the sauce and they were just as awesome.
And since this recipe makes such a large amount, I was able to stretch it for two meals..and give the pooches the leftovers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Creamed spinach and peas

I'm no Popeye. Nope, can't do the straight spinach thing. I can do it in a cheesy dip with artichokes, I can do it snuck into a lasagna, heck, I can even blend it into a smoothie (Green Monsters!). And I'm the same way with peas. Just can't do them on their own. My old boss told me that "no good food is green"-he was even opposed to green jello. That's how hardcore he was. But I went through my freezer the other day and there was ALOT of green. My feeble attempt at healthy eating and incorporating more veggies into our meals staring blankly at me in the frozen tundra.
Last night's dinner needed something was roast, with mashed potatoes. It needed another veggie...or at least I thought it needed another.

So..I took looked up creamed peas...I know that I've heard of it..couldn't find what I was looking for. And I had 4 bags of peas in the freezer. Then I looked up creamed spinach and it let me to The Pioneer Woman (who is awesome, as is her new show!)...and who am I to disregard a blogger mom turned Food Network star (all time dream folks!!)-but of course I had to make the recipe my own.

It was good. The creamy offsets the spinach. The peas give it a nice sweet texture. And the addition of a panko top and some cream cheese just take it to the moon!

Creamed Spinach and Peas (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 stick butter
8 tablespoons flour
1 onion-chopped
2 tsp granulated garlic
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1lb frozen chopped spinach*
1lb frozen green peas
2oz cream cheese-softened
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs dusted with ranch powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Oven at 400
Melt the stick of butter in a large saucepot-once melted at the flour and mix (this is your roux)-cook it about 3-4 minutes. Add onions and garlic powder, and cook another 3-4. Add milk and cream-whisk, whisk, whisk! Add pepper and nutmeg-whisk!
Fold in spinach and peas.
Pinch in cream cheese-
Add to 8x8 baking dish-
top with panko
Bake for 15-20 or until bubbly.

Perfect side dish folks!
* my spinach was a steamer bag. if you have one of the blocks of chopped spinach you'll want to defrost it and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Homemade Ricotta

I wanted something sweet after dinner...but nothing too sweet..I wanted something creamy...and I happened to have some homemade I slapped it on a One-Hour Roll with some blackberry jam. Yum.

I've got lasagna cupcakes on the menu this week (SO excited! Stay tuned!)-and the other day at the grocery I got the stuff I needed...I thought...I got home and had forgotten the ricotta.  Our local grocery is really just a bread and milk stop...and ricotta (which isn't cheap anyway) is generally 75 cents to a dollar more expensive. Thanks Rural Living!  *sigh* So I decided to channel my inner Donna Reed and just do it myself. I'd seen it done on tv. My Dad makes cheese from goat's milk (way better than commercial cheese)-so it CAN be done.

I'm never buying ricotta again. Making it at home you can control alot of things...the amount of moisture (do you want a looser, creamier, cheese or a tighter, spreadable, cheese) and salt content. And in a life where I generally feel like I have NO reigns whatsoever...give me something I can control..and I will thank you!

Homemade Ricotta (from Kitchen Parade)
4 cups 2% milk
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

In a large pot (I used my stock pot)-bring the milk to a simmer(high heat). Once it gets there, add your lemon juice. Drop the heat to medium/medium low and stir. Stir like your life depends on it. Chant 'bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble' and cackle. You'll be stiring for awhile and there is a chance that the chanting doesn't help...but it did help me pass the time. You'll feel when the cheese starts to come together. Mine took about 20 minutes of constant stirring.
Remove from heat (but not from the pan) and let cool 30-45 minutes.
Line a fine mesh colander with a clean dishtowel and arrange that over another larger bowl and pour the curds and whey into it and let it drain. Here is where the control comes in. Check on it and when it's the texture/moisture you want, put it in a container and pop it in the fridge (or eat it straight away).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sweet potato jalapeno cornbread

This stuff right here...yeah. Delicious. As in truly, lovely, divine.
I'll admit, it made me make inappropriate mouth noises. I couldn't help it. They were completely involuntary...but they came out anyway. In akward..mmmmmms, and ooohs, and maybe even a couple of oh yeeaaahs.

It paired perfectly with the ham I'd roasted and the mashed potatoes for dinner last night. It's got the sweetness and orange-ness of fall (which is upon us-yay!!), and the subtle spice and warmth of the peppers and cumin.

Sweet Potato Jalapeno Cornbread (adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen)
1 cup flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp cajun seasoning
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 packet instant mashed sweet potatoes (cooked and cooled)
6 jalapeno peppers-seeded and diced finely
2 eggs
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup olive oil

Oven at 400
Grease an 8x8 pan
Whisk together dry ingredients
Combine wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Then combine wet to try until just mixed-
Into the pan and bake 30-35 or until a toothpick tests clean.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Italian Style Mac and Beef

Ok, I know, I KNOW there isn't much appetizing about this picture. Well..maybe the clementines in the background? But this dinner was super easy, very fast, and the children INHALED it.
And it's from my new favorite cookbook...seriously 101 different recipes using mac and cheese. There is even a cake recipe in there. I kid you not!

Italian Style Mac and Beef (adapted from here)
1lb ground beef
1/2 onion-chopped
1 container sliced mushrooms
1 cup water
1 cup spaghetti sauce
1 box mac and cheese

Brown the beef, add the onions and mushrooms and cook until soft. Add water, spaghetti sauce, and cheese packet, stir. Bring to a simmer-add macaroni noodles, then simmer for 7 minutes or until noodles are done.

No really..that's it. And even though pictures don't do it's really good. And when the kids are eating it and asking for more and more...I'm not gonna complain!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

CJane's 30 day bran muffins

I won't go into in this post how much I love CJane. I won't go into depth on how I look forward to her blog daily. How she makes me laugh. How her vlog is the one of my favorite parts of the week.
I truly think that if we lived closer, we'd be the best of friends. She'd bring her kids over and they'd play with mine, she'd gently chide me for my coffee habit (since Mormons generally don't drink coffee), and we'd go shopping for muu-muus.
But since we do live so far away, and since our friendship is basically just in my head, I have to settle for these muffins. These muffins which she touted are 30 day muffins because that is "how long the covered batter can last in your fridge without going gloopy, glopy, or sprinkled with blackish green bumps." And with that phrase alone simultaneously made me pee my pants and challenged me culinarily. Now, we're addicted to them. These muffins are good. They are chock full of good for you bran and fiber (we all need that). And they are totally mix-upable. Fridge sustainable. And I ziploc my-day olds. So that way when Little Man rolls out of bed (sometimes literally) and races to the kitchen and points to the oven-his way of saying 'muffin Ma' since he doesn't talk yet-I can just hand him a nice cool one.

30 Day Bran Muffins

4 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups boiling water
1 cup margarine
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 qt butermilk
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour
2 cups Bran Flakes

Pour boiling water over All Bran-set aside
Cream margarine and sugar.
Add eggs.
Alternate adding dry (flour, soda, salt) and wet (buttermilk), ending with wet.
Mix in Bran Flakes.
Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Now this is just a can kinda do whatever you want to with these muffins. I've melted peanut butter and mixed that into the batter. I've used butter instead of margarine. My most recent batch was 1/2 butter 1/2 cream cheese, had partial usage of wheat flour, craisins and orange zest. Yum. It's also easy to cut the recipe in half.
How do you like your Bran muffins?