Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ann Burrell's Delicious Meatballs & Spaghetti (delicious!)

NOTE: I apologize for the lackluster quality of this photograph.  I was at the beginning stages of food photography, and this is my old point-and-shoot. One of these days, I'll re-shoot this recipe, as it's worth making.  Pinky Promise!

I'm at the tail end of cleaning out my freezer. I found a package of ground pork and ground beef that I wanted to use, before it expired. I remembered watching one of my favorite (new) Food Network chefs (Anne Burrell, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef) making a recipe for meatballs. That must've been months ago, but I decided this would be the best way to use these meats.

I have to tell you, that this really is an excellent recipe for meatballs. Those of you who have been following my blog (and I sure appreciate all of you) know that I like to show how I make things-- me, being highly visual myself in how I learn.

Let's just say that something happened on the way home from the office and I felt cranky... downright ornery. Many of you foodies understand the therapy that goes with chopping and being in "the zone". It's that forcefield that I put up that my husband interprets as "don't come in the kitchen...don't talk to me and don't ask me when dinner's going to be ready". He quietly read a book and I got to work...and I worked...and then I realized that this recipe should be made on a lazy Sunday. Too late! I was on a mission to finish this recipe but the natural light was fading (and I try not to do flash photography).

I abandoned focusing on photography, because I didn't want eat late. I sure hustled on this meal. My photos do not do justice to how delicious this meal turned out to be.

I got 24 meatballs... a little bigger than a golfball...

I browned these in 3 batches and then roasted in the oven for 15 more minutes.

As for marinara sauce, I stopped buying bottled spaghetti sauce years ago-- though I love Trader Joe's Tuscan style marinara sauce for quick dinners.-- I have an easy recipe here. So many of you have your own way.

My son claimed that these meatballs were the very best he's ever eaten. That's a huge compliment. I have to say, that the combination of ground pork, beef (and I bought 1/2 pound of ground veal), the parmesan-romano blend (all I had), eggs, cooked onion and garlic and freshly cut flat-leaf parsley was really good.

I ended up freezing half of this meal for one of those nights when I just don't have the energy to cook.

Here's the recipe card:

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quick Tagine-Style Chicken , Morrocan Style

Before I share this recipe with you, I have to tell you that I have not learned to appreciate Indian food. I really want to, but I have an aversion to yellow curry that I have tried to overcome-- but to no avail. When I was dating my husband, I knew he loved Indian food. So, for one of my "seduction dinners", (about 5 years ago) I made this recipe by Rachael Ray. This isn't "Indian" food, but I thought the spices would be exotic enough to impress him. I was very nervous about making this recipe, because tumeric is found in yellow curry, and the color reminded of that awful Chicken Curry recipe that my mother made us eat, as kids. That's where my aversion came from...

I love kitchen gadgets, but I have not been able to justify buying a genuine tagine. This isn't authentic tagine, but I think that Rachael Ray has captured a perfect blend of spices that lend this dish a nice Moroccan flavor. I have come to love this recipe... and my husband did propose to me (but not the night I served this) and we've been married for 3 1/2 years.

I had completely forgotten about this Rachael Ray recipe until yesterday...when I thawed the last of the chicken breasts that I buy at Costco. I was tidying up my pantry (that's in my garage, because I do not have a pantry in my kitchen) and I found my stash of dried fruit.

If anything, I can tell you that the spices are so aromatic! I used paprika, tumeric, coriander, cumin and cinnamon.

I've been cooking lots of meals-- in my head-- but I have been lacking the energy to make any kind of meals that require a lot of time and energy. I think I overdid my swimming, because my muscles are barking! I was hungry, but I wanted something really fast. Calling Rachael Ray!!

This delicious dinner truly came together in 30 minutes. No lie! Okay, maybe 40 minutes.

The original recipes uses golden raises and prunes. I like to add dried apricots.
Rachael Ray serves this dish with couscous. My husband cannot stand couscous (bummer). Instead, I sauteed some onion toasted some white rice and cooked it with chicken stock and a little bit of saffron...just a pinch.
Cooking this meal came together super fast-- in olive oil I browned the chicken (seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning...and I have to admit that I use this all the time) for about 2 minutes, then added the fruit, onion, the spices and the chicken stock.

At the risk of sounding like Rachael Ray-- wow, this smells so good! Honestly, I was getting pretty hungry by this time.

With a lid on, the dish is cooked for about 8 minutes. That gave me a chance to cut some cilantro, from my herb garden and to slice some scallions as garnish. Rachael calls for chutney as a garnish, but we're not big chutney people.

This is an kitchen gadget that I have really bonded with. It's by OXO and it chops herbs. I find that I get less wear and tear on my good kitchen knives this way-- besides, I'm a gadget freak.

I keep my secret weapon on standby when I do make Rachael Ray dishes... for some reason, her sauces don't thicken up the way she says they should. I make a slurry of water and some corn starch, whisked together on standby.

I add about 1 Tbsp of it at a time, until it thickens to my liking. I prefer my sauces to be a little thick-- but not like wallpaper paste.

I have learned to plate and photograph, before calling my boys to dinner. Once I yelled "dinner!" the men emerged with their noses in the air. Suddenly, they were calling out difference spices, trying to figure out what they were smelling. Still, they seem to know when dinner's ready.

I still haven't learned to fall in love with yellow curry, but I have learned to love this spice blend. I'm going to make extra, for future quick meals. By the way, you can use tofu or lamb if you want-- I am sure that either one of these would be a fantastic substitute.

Forget fancy plating for my boys--my son ate two helpings. There is one serving left. That's for my lunch tomorrow. I call dibbs!

I promised my son I'd bake chocolate chip cookies. I need a second wind. We shall see-- then again, how many laps in the pool will I need to work those off? I can tell you that this dish is actually low in fat?

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Classic Broccoli Salad

Goodness! I'm behind in posting pictures of recipes I've made! I am cooking, but I'm too tired to blog on work nights. I'm also taking a night class on Digital Photography, so I have been extra tired. You won't be seeing anything new and exciting with my photography...yet... but, I will tell you that I've discovered bells and whistles on my camera that I never knew existed! What a concept... read the manual!

I digress. Back to broccoli. In my C.S.A. (Consumer supported agriculture) box, I received a lot of fresh broccoli. We love broccoli-- roasted, steamed, raw. I haven't made broccoli salad in ages, so I decided to go for it. Since I had a lot of broccoli stalks, I also decided to make cream of broccoli soup.

I didn't measure, so I will do my best to help those of you who like to follow recipes to the "letter". I thought I'd admit to all of you that, when trying a brand new recipe, I tend to follow it precisely. I rarely improvise, unless it's something I feel really safe with. I make notes, and the second time around I'll improvise.

That's what I did with my broccoli salad. I checked around for recipes, and I decided that I wanted to use dried cranberries, instead of raisins. I also wanted to use rice vinegar (unseasoned) so that I could use less sugar. I decided to use sliced almonds and so I got busy:

My florets are a little on the chunky side. You can cut them teeny tiny, but I like shortcuts...

In boiling water, I blanched the broccoli for 2 minutes.

Using one of my favorite kitchen gadgets (my "spider") the broccoli was immersed into an ice water bath.

I had cooked bacon from a previous recipe that I re-heated in the microwave. I'd say it was about a cup of bacon...maybe a little less. I used about handful of sliced onion, about 1/2 cup of red onion (be careful, or it can overpower your salad, about 1 cup of dried cranberries, a handful of sliced almonds and I was ready to add the dressing...

I used approximated one cup of mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar and whisked it as my dressing. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste.

This is about the time that my boys show up. How do they know when something is almost ready?

My son, who has usually been skeptical of broccoli took a taste. He loved it!

Personally, I think this salad tastes best fresh. The next day, I find that it can become soggy. But, that's me...

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mexican Rice Casserole - South of the Border Comfort Food

I have to thank Pam, from "For the Love of Cooking" for this recipe inspiration. Pam loves Mexican food as much as I do. I had all of the ingredients, and I am still emptying out my freezer, so I decided this would be tonight's dinner. I made a few changes, because I have a lot of canned goods in my pantry I want to start using up. If I'm not careful, I tend to hoard food!

From the freezer, I thawed about 1 1/2 pounds of pre-cooked and frozen ground beef. (This is a great time saver for work night cooking).

The rest of my ingredients included El Pato Mexican tomato sauce (can pack some heat) and regular tomato sauce, olive oil, onion, garlic, an orange bell pepper (that was nearing the end of it's life).
My cilantro is thriving in my herb garden, so I cut what I needed.

I really liked Pam's choice of spices, so I decided to mix up a larger batch so that I can use this for other quick Mexican inspired meals:

Cumin, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder and oregano... I save spice jars for my own blends.
I love the colors!

While the rice was cooking (40 minutes of time) I prepared the meat mixture:

Since the meat was pre-cooked, I shoved it off to the side of my non-stick skillet, and I cooked the onion and bell pepper with a little olive oil. Fresh garlic was added, for just 1 minute and then the meat was combined with the cooked vegetables. I added 1 Tablespoon of my Mexican Seasoning. Wow, that smelled good!

Now, for the liquids-- one small can of diced green chili and then the tomato sauces were added (I like a combo if El Pato sauce and regular tomato sauce-- the heat is just right). I didn't have fresh tomatoes, so I used one can of petite diced cut tomatoes. I was so tempted to add corn and sliced black olives, but I resisted. Next time...

I added about 2 cups of brown rice, fresh cilantro, and gave this a stir...

After tasting the meat filling, it was perfect. I didn't feel a need to add salt, pepper or red pepper flakes. Then into a baking dish (coated with olive oil spray)...

Last, a nice layer of cheddar and Monterey Jack was added. You can use any kind of cheese, but this is what I had on hand.

I liked Pam's idea of coating aluminum foil with non-stick spray (clever girl) so that the cheese won't stick.

Into the oven at 350F it went, for 20 minutes. That gave me time to tidy up the kitchen, and whip up some guacamole (I use avocado, salt and pepper, fresh lime juice and a smidgen of minced garlic (or garlic powder).

Pam, you are an inspiration! This was really delicious!

If you haven't paid Pam's blog a visit, please do. She's an amazing cook and quite the photographer.

This recipe is a keeper!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Juicy Pineapple, anyway you slice it

I absolutely love pineapple! My favorite way to eat pineapple is cut up with cottage cheese. For real. It's one of my favorite snacks.

I bought a pineapple, last week, that was as green as they come. It was on sale for $2.75. Sweet! For one week, I let that beautiful fruit sit on my kitchen window sill and ripen. On Sunday, it was ready and I want to show you one of my very favorite kitchen gadgets.

If you already own one of these, then you know what a great invention these are. If you don't own one, they can be found at Williams Sonoma, or Cooking.com.

Watch how easy this is:

Cut the top off...

Position the pineapple slicer so that the cylinder is in alignment with the core...

Keep turning, clock wise, until you feel it has reached the bottom...

Now start to pull up....


I gently fan this spiral cut pineapple and cut these into individual slices...

Imagine the possibilities that you can make with this perfectly carved out pineapple!

I am so going to tease you... I've been very busy grilling, and making soups, salads and all kinds of great meals. I'm just a bit overwhelmed with work to blog about this recipe. It's my own version of grilled chicken teriyaki burgers with grilled pineapple-- and I made the sauce myself... and it was fantastic!

Oh. I've also been very busy doing this...

Enjoying the purple carpets of spring lupines in the cattle pastures off Highway 68 between Monterey and Salinas...

A cattle chute, still used for calf branding. I've helped out here...back in the day...when I was much younger and appreciated a good lookin' cowboy in tight Wranglers.

I'll be sharing more recipes by this weekend. It's been in the 90's, so I've been swimming after work and grilling and eating salads.

I love this Spring Weather!

Spring flowers in the neighborhood

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Strawberry Blintzes, Tyler Florence Style (kinda/sorta)

Before I tempt you into wanting-- no, lusting, for this wonderful treat-- I want to share with you one of my closest guarded secrets. I grew up in Carmel, California. Yes, that place where Clint Eastwood was mayor-- long ago. I graduated from Carmel High School-- long ago. I'd drive my mother's 1965 Mustang and cruise along the Carmel Beach to drool at the surfers-- long ago.

Still, one of my favorite haunts is a closely guarded secret-- it's a restaurant called "The Little Swiss Cafe". This local's haunt doesn't take credit cards and there is always a wait (unless you go during the week-- except summer-- and early. I went to high school with many of the servers, who have worked there for decades. There are two menu items that are a "must have". They are their cheese blintzes and eggs benedict. When my former classmates see me, they know... 1/2 order of each. I can't decide. It's the best. I swear. I have been ruined, for life, in how I expect my cheese blintzes to taste. They have set the bar really high for the best cheese blintzes.
Oops! My secret is out. So, if you are in Carmel, California please let me know. I'll split an order with you!

Now then... I saw Muneeba, from "An Edible Symphony's" entry for Tyler Florence Friday was for Blueberry Blintzes. If you haven't checked out her blog, please do so. She gives beautiful step-by-step photos (and I appreciate those) and she's also very funny...hysterically funny. After studying how she made them, I knew I could do this. Muneeba, this is for you!

Before I launch into how I adapted the recipe (sorry Tyler, but I'm not a huge fan of blueberries...I like them, but I adore strawberries) I finally took a hard look at my authentic French crepe pan. Last July, my husband treated me to a culinary class on making peach crepes at the beautiful Culinary Institute of America (C.I.A.) in the Napa-Sonoma area. One week later, I went on a serious exercise and diet (and I lost 20 pounds), so I never made these.

There's my blonde head, paying rapt attention to the chef. It was a lot of fun!

Isn't that a cool setup? You don't want to know how much it costs to take private classes...

The Little Swiss Cafe serves their blintzes with sour cream and strawberry preserves. I had some Driscoll berries that were reaching their prime, otherwise I would never cook these! I decided to make a strawberry compote using some water, corn starch and sugar-- and a little orange zest.

I remember C.I.A. chef's comments that you should always let your crepe batter rest-- even overnight. So I made the batter and I swam for an hour in our lap pool (part of my subdivision...I'm not that rich!), showered and returned to the kitchen.

I read the instructions on how to season the pan "cook potato peels in fat or oil and then toss them away...your pan is now ready for use". Really? Like a little lamb, I followed the directions.

Now, it was time to make the filling. The little Swiss Cafe makes the BEST filling! Can I replicate it?

I wanted to add my own little touch with orange zest. In retrospect, I should have used half of this, but still I'm glad that I added it. I tasted the filling, and decided to put 2 more tablespoons of powdered sugar-- and then 1 teaspoon of vanilla. That's what makes The Little Swiss Cafe's blintzes so good-- they are sweet, but not over-the-top sweet.

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