A Word on Meatballs and the Resulting Chicken Meatloaf

I have been absent a long long while. And boy have I missed the blogging. I had a baby (boy) in early March and that has eclipsed my free time and basically every other time in between and so I am just now starting to come up for air. Figures that I need to go back to work in 2 weeks. Not a whole lot of quality cooking going on since the bubs arrived but I did stumble upon an accidental improvement to my meatball recipe which I am pleased about. This applies to any sort of meatball too – in fact I was attempting to make chicken meatballs and this is what happened… sorry no photo this time, but I do hope to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule soon. And by soon I mean some time before my son turns 1.

This recipe is essentially a meatball recipe which ended up turning into a chicken meatloaf instead. I was going to make some snacks to go along with the yummy mint juleps we were sipping for the Kentucky Derby  and I thought chicken meatballs would be an interesting alternative, but the chicken sort of broke down and I added an extra egg and viola! SUPER-moist and tasty chicken meatloaf:

1 lb ground chicken (dark meat is better)

1 small onion chopped small

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

2-3 sliced of bread soaked in water

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take onion and garlic, lightly salted and saute in the olive oil until soft and lightly browned. I find that cooked garlic and onions adds another dimension of richer flavor versus just adding them raw to the mix. Let the onions and garlic cool slightly. Take the bread and squeeze out the extra water and add it to the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. I like the bread a little chunky and will use whatever we have laying around (rolls, white bread, wheat, egg, etc). You could use breadcrumb instead but I couldn’t tell you what amount to use.

Add the cooled garlic and onions and mix thoroughly. If you can do this in advance and allow the mix to “marinate” in the fridge for an hour or two that is good but it will be fine if made immediately as well.

Pour mix into a loaf pan (I used a glass one but I presume metal would work fine) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees.

The extra egg and the bread soaked in water (you could also use milk) are what make this meatloaf extra moist, and the cooked onion and garlic add that extra kick to the flavor.

I eat mine with a little lemon spritzed on it, but it would be great with some tomato sauce or salsa, or a brown gravy if that’s what you prefer.

Random Bag Night – Lamb Meatballs with Sauteed Greens and Spiced Yogurt

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Random Bag Night mostly because we haven’t been home a lot so there is very little in the way of leftovers and the farm share veggies have kept us occupied on the culinary front. The following recipe is very easy, provided you can find ground lamb in your local market, and is a different spin on something I’ve made a few times for this blog – meatballs. These meatballs differ slightly (aside from the variety of meat) in their contents from traditional meatballs and the turkey variety as I added cooked shallot and garlic which I don’t normally do. The lamb meat needs a little extra flavor to tame the gaminess of it and round it out. To accompany my lamb balls, I sauteed some radish greens in olive oil and garlic and I made a spiced yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb

2-3 slices white bread soaked in a little milk (I used 2 hot dog rolls)

1/3 cup grated parmesian

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place the minced garlic and shallot in a small saute pan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic & shallots to the ground lamb. Add remaining ingredients above and mix well with your hands, making sure that all the flavors are incorporated. I like to leave the bread a little chunky so it gives added texture to the meatball.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil spray, take a small palmful of the lamb mixture and roll into a ball. Place each meatball on the tray. It’s important to make sure the meatballs are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Once oven is hot, place the meatballs in and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. The meatballs should be good and golden brown like the photo above.

For the yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow the sauce to sit for a while in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes while the meatballs cook) so that the flavor develops.

A New Spin On Spaghetti & Meatballs

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If you are anything like me, you are participating in the annual cliche of dreading the onset of summer bathing suit season. I’ve been working out more, running, spin class, weights, etc, all in an effort to combat the ever increasing size of my bum. Actually, one of the reasons for writing this blog is to help me catalogue what I’m eating so that I can 1. force myself to be more creative and varied with my diet and 2. find new and imrpoved recipes 3. have a history of recipes and eating habits. I guess it’s my equivalent of having a diary.

 That being said, I’ve never been one for crazy diets (if you check out the carb category on this post you’ll see that I’d never survive a low-carb diet) or really restrictive eating. Instead, I’m opting for trying to update a few favorites to be a little more diet-friendly and here is one of my experiments: Brown rice pasta with turkey meatballs in a chunky tomato sauce. I like the brown rice pasta a whole heck of a lot more than whole wheat pasta. It takes slightly longer to cook but otherwise, it’s actually not bad. I have been using the Trader Joes brand and I am so far very happy with it. The meatballs are baked, not fried, which is my preferred method for making traditional beef meatballs. Here is the recipe for the turkey meatballs and the sauce:

Turkey Meatballs

1 lb ground turkey (don’t use white meat turkey, it wll be too dry)

3 teaspoons of non-fat greek yogurt

1 egg

3 teaspoons of chopped parsley

3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan (cheese is good for you!)

1 pinch of salt

1 small clove of garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hand. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (I use olive oil spray). Roll the mix into meatballs, placing each on the cookie sheet about an inch or so apart. Once the oven is heated, place the meatballs in and cook for about 30 minutes, until the meatballs are nicely browned all over:

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While the meatballs are baking, you can start the pasta water and the sauce. The following is the recipe for chunky tomato sauce. It makes a light tomato sauce, with the leeks adding a mellow sweetness to the flavor:

1 can whole plum tomatoes

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 leek, white portion sliced thinly

1 pinch dried basil (3-4 fresh leaves)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Open the can of tomato, and carefully crush the tomato with your hands – this is messy so you may want to pour out the tomatoes and juice into a large bowl before you start to crush them. It’s easy to squirt the tomato juice all over so squeeze them slowly! Place the olive oil, garlic and leeks in a sauce pan on medium high heat and saute until the leeks are lightly browned – stir frequently. Once the leeks are lightly browned, add the tomatoes & juice, basil and a pinch of salt. Allow the tomatoes to simmer while the pasta cooks. 

Some notes:

1. The meatballs can be made in advance and frozen. If you do bake & freeze them in advance, once they are thawed out, add them to the sauce to warm through while you cook the pasta

2. I used breadcrumbs with the meatballs but you could easily use 1-2 slices of white bread. If you use the whole slices of bread, soak them in a little milk and forgo the yogurt in the recipe

3. If you prefer, you could use cilantro instead of parsley for a nice fresh flavor in the meatball recipe

Mmmmm is for MEAT

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Along with the craptastic winter weather, the January Gourmet Magazine arrived on Friday and as you can see from the cover, it’s an I-talian extravaganza. This immediately sent my mouth watering and my stomach growling and though we had pledged to eat lighter, my husband and I were destined to have meatballs and spaghetti with a meat gravy this weekend. It’s almost hardwired into our genetic makeup.

Sundays are traditionally the gravy day since you need to let the gravy simmer for hours to achieve maximum fabulousness. We picked up some supplies on Saturday: Pork ribs, ground pork, and ground beef. On Sunday morning, after the biscotti were done, and I had consulted the Gravy Oracle (my mom)  I took out our heavy Le Creuset pot and poured some olive oil in the pan. Here is an approximate recipe (there are so many variations so be creative!)

1. 1/3 cup good olive oil

2. 1 whole onion cut in half

3. 1/2 cup red wine

4. 2+ cans of good plum tomatoes, crushed up

5. 1 package of pork ribs (we had some leftover pork from another dish in the freezer so we threw that in too, some people make bresciole, etc etc)

6. Handful fresh or dried basil

7. 1/2 can tomato paste

8. 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic

9. salt & pepper to taste

I poured the oil into the pot and let it heat up on med-high heat. Once it was hot, I added the pork and the onion and some salt and let the meat get nice and brown. I turned it once (after about 3~4 minutes) and let it brown on the other side. I added the garlic towards the end of the browning process so it could get toasty but not get burned in the bottom of the pot and then in goes the tomato paste and the wine. Use the liquids to scrape up the brown bits and allow them to reduce for about 4~5  minutes.

Add your tomatoes and basil and a touch more salt and pepper and let the whole thing simmer on the stove on low heat for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally and it will look like this:

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I let the sauce cook down early and then shut it off. This is one of the best smells in the world. They should make gravy air freshner, I’d buy it!  To go with the gravy, I made some meatballs later in the day. You can make the meatballs early and once they are baked, you can set them into the sauce to simmer, or you can bake and eat right away. It is all good. Here is the meatball recipe I use which you can use for traditional meatballs or for turkey meatballs or chicken meatballs, etc etc:

1. 1lb ground pork

2. 1lb ground beef

3. 2 eggs

4. 4-5 slices old bread, soaked in about 1/3 cup of milk

5. 1/2 cup parmesian (feel free to add more, this is a huge flavor!)

6. handful chopped fresh parsley

7. 1 large garlic clove minced

8. salt + pepper to taste

All all ingredients to a large bowl, mix well with hands, form into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. I bake the meatballs in the oven which is easier and I believe a little healthier than frying them on the stove top. I bake them at 375 for about 25 minutes (more or less depending on how large they are).

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I reheated the sauce for about 25 minutes while the pasta cooked on the stove so it was all ready to go at the same time. Sunday comfort food doesn’t get much better than this !