Monday, October 26, 2015

Baked Meatball Parmigiana

 We're comfort-fooding it up all over the place around here. While still keeping it simple. Because I think we all love comfort food if, you know, your grandma makes it. But then when you have to hang out for four hours while the roast cooks and dice 800 potatoes and shred two pounds of cheese and simmer down the sauce until it's a nice balsamic glaze and then get everything onto the table at just the right moment so nothing gets cold--well then fried eggs start to sound a lot better. And while there's nothing wrong with fried eggs, how about some hearty comfort food that's a little easier to pull together.

Baked meatballs are a new and glorious thing for me in general. In the past, I've always stood by the oven, rolling meatballs around in a skillet while the fat spit everywhere and the balls got too brown on the outside while still being a bit too pink on the inside. No more. Now that baked meatballs and I have been introduced, there's no turning back. They're so much easier and neater, juicier, and more evenly cooked.

This dish builds on the beauty of baked meatballs and adds to it. All you've got to do is roll meat in to balls. It takes about 10 minutes and then you're "work" is done. You do need 45 minutes to an hour for these to cook, so plan for that. Otherwise, a pot of pasta later, you're done.

Baked Meatball Parmigiana
adapted from Hugs and Cookies
Serves 4
prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-60 minutes
Cost: $6.50 (even with a box of pasta, this comes up to less than $2.00/serving)
beef: 3.00, bread: .05, Parm cheese: .75, eggs: .20, tomato sauce: 1.50, mozzarella: 1.00

1 lb ground beef
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 C bread crumbs (I just used one slice and put it in my little blender)
3/4 C Parmesan cheese (I used the shredded, but in this recipe the powdery stuff might work too)
2 eggs
salt to taste
36 oz. your choice tomato sauce
1-2 C mozzarella
some pasta to serve it on if you're too proud to just spoon it out of the dish and eat it

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine ground beef, garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. I squish it together with my hands like a boss (naturally). Then roll it into meatballs. Larger meatballs will have a slightly longer cook time than smaller ones. We made 14 or 15.

Put a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Then add your meatballs.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Then add sauce, stir around the meatballs to coat and cook for another 15 minutes or so. (Note: Around this point, you want to start boiling your pasta water, so your pasta will be ready in time.)

Then throw on the cheese and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Cut one open to check for meatballs doneness and, uh, while you're at it you better taste it to make sure it's okay and stuff.

Serve over pasta or with bread.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Easy Peasy Halloween Bars

Ah Halloween. I have a bit of a love hate thing going on with it. When I was a kid, I loved it--everything about it--the candy, which I would group according to how much I liked it and then eat in a tidy rationed way so that one year it lasted me all the way until Easter (I learned that year that chocolate has a shelf life). I loved the costumes--the chance to make myself into someone else--someone interesting or dangerous or historic. I went all out with my costumes and would also be in character throughout Halloween (yeah, one of those kids--that was me).

As a grown up, however, I've struggled at times to not hate it. There's the candy orgy for starters. Certain of my children have proved to be slightly less moderate/hoardy than me with their candy. Certain of my children may or may not have eaten so much at Halloween parties that they actually puked afterwards. And then there are the costumes. Now, instead of girls making themselves into anyone interesting they can dream up, the theme seems to be making them into a) a princess of some variety or b) someone fit for child sex trafficking. That's kind of not my thing. If you're 20 and want to be sexy Dumbo or whatever, then I guess you can (though I still think you're selling yourself short). But there's no reason that my ten-year-old should have the choice of really short skirt with plunging neck line, or get out the sewing machine cause you're making your own. The sexiest costume I ever imagined was this space fighter in purple--I wanted purple leggings and a purple shirt and hair (so, apparently the closest I got to a "sexy" costume was a little like dressing up like Barney). I never got this costume because where on earth was my mom going to find purple leggings--we lived in a little town and there was no internet. There went not-so-sexy space girl/Barney impersonator.

My solution for all of these Halloween problems has been to slightly ignore Halloween. I let my kids pick a costume they like--it has to be cheap or they have to buy it, or--heck--they can just go pull one out of the dress up bag if they want. And then we attend whatever events friends of ours dream up, but I don't really fuss over Halloween or put any effort into it at all. Maybe that's sad. Maybe it's just a healthy step into adulthood. Either way, you can now be lazy (but still awesome) with me. These bars take all of 10 minutes to prepare and then you can be out the door with them if need be. They're tasty and Halloweeny and could also be used as vehicles to use up leftover candies from Halloween or leftover cereal from normal life. I really think they're infinitely adaptable. But did I mention still awesome.

Easy Peasy Halloween Bars
adapted from Suzie the Foodie
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: $3.60
corn syrup: .35, sugar: .25, peanut butter: 1.10, cereal: 1.00, chocolate chips: .90

1 C corn light corn syrup
1 C sugar
1 1/3 C peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 C cereal (I used rice crispies, but any bland cereal would work--Cheerios, Special K, cornflakes, whatever)
1 C chocolate chips
assorted candies, optional

Heat corn syrup and sugar over medium heat. Let sugar dissolve and bring to boiling. Boil gently (so turn that heat down if it starts to get really bubbly) for two minutes (you might want to time it; cook it too long and it will get weird).

Stir in peanut butter. Add vanilla. Then stir in the cereal.

At this point you can also stir in some chunks of leftover Halloween candies. Just chop up some leftovers and mix them in. I think almost any chocolate would be good.

If you don't want to sacrifice your chocolate Halloween candy, that's fine. Just make it plain.

While it's still warm, put the chocolate chips on and let them melt. Then spread them around. If they don't melt put them in an oven on the middle rack, and set the oven to broil. Leave them in for only a minute or two and then take them out (seriously--don't forget they're there or everything will burn). Then your chocolate should be melty enough to spread.

If you wish add Halloween candy to the top. We used candy corn and it was great. But almost anything chocolate-y or nutty will work.

Cut and eat warm or cooled.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Mulligatawny Soup

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I had Sarah from Sarah's Kitchen for my blog. Originally from Kent, Sarah has been in the states for 13 years. I thought that was pretty intriguing, and because of that I really wanted to try a British recipe (although I am also dying to try the shrimp she just recently posted and this slow cooker recipe). The one I settled on was this soup. I mean how do you pass up a soup named Mulligatawny. It is a British soup after an Indian recipe--or at least that was the favorite definition I found on the internet. It also explains why this soup that I knew as a British soup had curry as a main player. The translation of mulligatawny (again, per the handy Internet) means pepper-water. It was better than that.

I also liked it because it came together in an easy 30 minutes and has a bunch of healthy players in its line up. It's great to make if you've got leftovers like chicken, rice, and some veggies. Seriously, you could take a chicken/rice dinner and totally turn its leftovers on their heads with this dish. Warm, comforting, and rich, it's a lovely autumn soup if you get bored of the standard winter squash variations (not that they're not awesome, of course).

Mulligatawny Soup
adapted from Sarah's Kitchen
Makes 6 servings
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $4.15
butter: .25, onion: .10, carrot: .10, celery: .20, tomato paste: .20, curry: .25, apple: .40, coconut milk: 1.50, chicken stock: .30, chicken: .75 rice: .10

Note: If you haven't got coconut milk, you can sub cream or half and half, but you'll want to add it near the end of cooking and warm, not boil it.

1/4 C butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped or grated
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp flour
2-3 Tbsp grated ginger (or half that much powder)
1 grated green apple
3 C chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
1/2 C cooked rice (I happened to have this so I used, but you could skip if you don't want to make a small amount of rice)
1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

If your chicken is raw, cook it. You can do this by boiling then shredding or by stir frying it in a bit of butter and salt.

While it's cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add onion, carrot, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes.

Add tomato paste, curry powder and flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add ginger and apple and stir a couple more minutes. Add cooked chicken.

Add stock and coconut milk. simmer until thickened. Add rice if using and heat through.

Season to taste.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Squash-Haters Butternut Soup

There are plenty of reasons to love butternut squash. It's orange and healthy and good. Unless, of course, you dislike squash. In which case it doesn't much matter to you if it's orange and healthy because you don't want to eat it. But maybe with this new soup you will. It involves butternut squash of course, but the squashiness does not overwhelm at all. It's silky and smooth and the browned butter gives it a rich caramelized (but not sweet) sort of flavor. I love regular butternut soup and I was skeptical that this somewhat similar soup would really be that different. But then it kind of was.

Despite the title of this blog I guess I can't promise that true squash haters will love this soup, but I think it's definitely got a shot among the squash dislikers. And even the haters might find that--while it's not their favorite soup ever--it's still worth the orange and healthy and goodness. A gateway squash soup if you will. Try it. You might like it.

Squash-Haters Butternut Soup
adapted from Wannabite
serves 6-10
Prep and cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes (or 30 minutes if use microwave method below or if you have leftover butternut squash from a previous meal)
Cost: $4.65
squash: 3.00, half and half .65, butter: .40, stock: .40, sour cream: .20

Note: I halved this.

Note: If you don't want to roast your squash in the oven or are pinched for time, cut them in half, take out the seeds, and then put them face down on a plate with a bit of water. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and microwave for 10-20 minutes or until the flesh of the squash is easily pierced with a knife.

2 large roasted butternut squashes
1 pint half and half
3/4 stick butter (browned)
2 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 C chicken stock
Creme fraiche to garnish (or sour cream if creme fraise is not yet something in your cooking database)
rosemary for garnish

Cut the squash in half. Take out the seeds. Lightly coat it with oil, salt and pepper. Roast the squash (open side down) on a large baking sheet for about an hour.

Near the end of your roasting time, add the butter to a small saucepan. Melt and heat until it begins to brown. You can do this quickly over medium high heat if you stir it with a whisk as it begins to bubble and brown (don't let the light-colored frothy bubbles on top fool you--underneath it could be browning--so smell it and whisk it--it should smell nutty and when whisked the bottom oily part should be browning). Or you can do it on low heat and let it heat and brown gradually. This always takes too long for my short attention span, but you don't have to pay it too much heed. When it's browned pour it into a glass dish (if you leave it in the pan it will continue to cook and burn).

When it's easily pierced with a knife, scoop out the flesh (it should come out easily). Put this in a blender, add the half and half and the chicken stock.

Blend well. Put this in a pot on medium heat.

Add browned butter, oil (which I actually forgot when I made this and didn't miss, but maybe it would be even silkier), and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until the desired warmness.

Garnish with creme fraiche or sour cream (and, yes, you really should--it's just delicious).



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