Greek Meatballs

I think lamb is hands down my favorite meat.  It’s the thing I order most often when I’m out to eat at a nice restaurant, which now that I live in the burbs and have a small child, isn’t as often as I would like.  It’s one of the things I think about making for special occasions and holidays too.  It’s also great for a kick-back family dinner at home.  Depending on the cut of lamb, it definitely doesn’t have to be fancy shmancy.  These Greek meatballs are sooo easy to make and absolutely delicious (assuming you like lamb as much as I do).

Greek Meatballs

1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
3/4 c. plain non-fat yogurt
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbls. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 tbls. chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup of the yogurt, tomato sauce and mint.  Mix well.  Form lamb into 1 to 1 1/2 inch meatballs.  Place in glass baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350.  Remove meatballs from oven and pour off any excess fat from the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, 1/2 cup yogurt and mint.  Pour sauce over the meatballs.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes longer.  Garnish with mint leaves or parsley.  Serve over rice.

Makes enough to serve 4-6.

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Chicken and Andouille Casserole

We had a dinner guest over tonight who likes a little heat in his food and I remembered this dish I had made a while back.  It’s delicious with a little kick but not overly spicy for those of us (like me) who can’t handle too much fire.  Anyway, this fantastic recipe comes from Emeril.  There’s a bit of prep work involved, but once that is done, it comes together lickity split.  Great dinner for entertaining because you can make it look fancy on the plate but it’s not fancy food, very down home.  Add a green salad and you’re done!
  Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon Essence spice mix, recipe follows
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped or sliced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 artichoke hearts, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • Toasted sliced French bread, accompaniment

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a heavy plastic bag, combine the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the Essence. Add the chicken and toss until well coated. Shake to remove any excess breading and reserve the remaining flour.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, remaining Essence, cheese, and butter and set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches as necessary (don’t overcrowd) and cook until browned on each side, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the sausage and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until almost browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and give off their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the reserved flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken, artichokes, stock, cream, green onions, parsley, and tarragon, stir, and bring to a boil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top and bake until bubbly and the top has a golden crust, about 25 minutes.  I turned on the broiler at the end for a couple of minutes to get a nice brown on the crust.
Remove from the oven and serve hot with toasted French bread.

Essence Seasoning:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup

By the way, I know I said I was going gluten-free this month.  Well, my first goal of the year failed.  I made it 2 weeks then I caved when I went to the Mad Greek Deli and was faced with some delicious warm pita bread.  Couldn’t resist!

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

It’s the beginning of a new year and I find myself thinking about what I want to accomplish this year and what changes I’d like to make in my life to move towards a place of increased happiness and fulfillment.  I’m always thinking about new and different ways to do this, often without success because I’m such a procrastinator.  This new blog of mine is going to be my big motivator to try new things, and do do do this year!!!  I’m not a big believer in setting New Year’s resolutions, but setting goals throughout the year is something I can jump on board with… it just seems more doable than creating a long list of resolutions at the beginning of the year that will most likely start to lose importance by February.

This year for my first goal, I’ve decided to try going gluten-free for one month.  I give my gluten-free friends a hard time for being difficult to cook for and now here I am becoming that girl!  Anyway, no one big reason for this bread-loving girl to make such a drastic change, but I wanted to see how I felt if I were to remove my beloved wheat-filled treats from my diet for one full month.  Would I have more energy, lose weight?  We’ll see.  Seven days into this new (hopefully temporary) lifestyle, I don’t think I notice any major differences in how I feel but I have dropped a couple of pounds which feels great!  I’m feeling good about the resolve I’ve had sticking with this change as well.  There have definitely been some situations already this week that have been soooo hard to be in and not totally cave (pizza and beer at my husband’s friend’s pizza joint this weekend for example… the salad bar, hmmm, shall we say, didn’t cut it!)

One of my go-to, pretty healthy, easy dinners calls for bread cubes which of course is a big no-no for me this month.   So, tonight for dinner I substituted some brown rice to meet my gluten-free criteria and I’m happy to report, is was equally delicious.  This recipe for stuffed acorn squash is one have made many times and both my husband and I love.  Bon appetite!

 Ingredients:
1 medium acorn squash
1 tbls. butter, melted
2 tbls. brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb. ground beef
3 tbls. chopped celery
3 tbls. chopped onion
2 tbls. all-purpose flour (I substituted 1 tsp corn starch for gluten-free)
1/2 tsp sage
3/4 cup milk
1 cup dried bread cubes (stuffing mix) or cooked rice
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cut squash in half, discard seeds.  Place squash cut side down in a baking dish, add 1/2 inch of hot water.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  Drain water from pan, turn squash cut side up.  Brush with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.  Bake 30-40 minutes longer or until squash is tender.  Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the beef, celery and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, drain.  Stir in flour (or corn starch), sage and remaining salt.  Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat, stir in croutons or rice.  Spoon into squash halves.  Bake uncovered, for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.  Serves 2.

I hope you enjoy this dish whether you make gluten-filled or gluten-free.  Happy new year and happy goal-setting in 2012!

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

I know, I know.  The holidays are over and the baking is done.  Time for the new year and shedding a few holiday pounds.  Well, not in my house!  Every year I bake all day and put together a gift basket for my dad and step-mom and this year we’re doing our Christmas this Sunday so today was all about baking and baking and baking!
Everything that I made today is great for the holidays but who says you couldn’t make them any time of the year? Not me!  I love a good cookie any ‘ol time especially with a nice cup of hot coffee.  These cookies are nothing out of the ordinary but they are some of my tried and true favorites.

Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are one of my favorites.  Made with fresh lemon juice and a nice cookie crust, they melt in your mouth and melt your troubles away!  Now if they would just melt the holiday pounds off my thighs, I would love them even more.

Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter

Filling
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp lemon rind, grated

Mix flour, powdered sugar and butter in a food processor and press into a 13×9 pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  For filling, mix eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a blender.  Blend until smooth.
Add 1/4 cup flour, baking powder and lemon rind and mix well.  Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Let cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar through a sifter.  Cut into bars are serve.

Lemon Bar Filling
Cookie number two is another bar and one of my dad’s all-time favorites.  They have just a handful of ingredients and are super easy and quick to put together. 
Walnut Bars
Dad’s Favorite Walnut Bars
2 eggs beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Beat eggs with a wire whisk, add brown sugar and mix wel.  Add remaining ingredients.  Pour mix into an 8-inch square pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Cool.  cut and roll in powdered sugar to coat.
Chocolate crinkles have always been a favorite of mine.  What’s not to love really?  Yummy soft chocolate cookie coated in powdered sugar… they’re irresistable.
Chocolate Crinkles
Chocolate Crinkles
3 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 squares (4 oz) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
powdered sugar
In a mixing bowl combine beaten eggs, sugar, melted chocolate, oil, baking powder and vanilla.  Add flour to chocolate mixture, stirring until combined.  Cover and chill for 2-3 hours.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll balls in powdered sugar to coat generously.  Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 375 oven for 10 minutes or until edges are set and tops are crackled.  Cool cookies on a wire rack.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of milk and enjoy!

This next recipe comes straight off the Hershey’s Kisses package….
Ingredients:
48 Hershey’s Kisses
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbls. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
granulated sugar
Heat oven to 375.  Beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended.  Add 1/3 cup sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla, beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt, gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Immediately press a Kiss into center of each cookie.  Cookie will crack around edges.  Remove from cookie sheet to cool on a wire rack.  Cool completely until chocolate is set.
After the baking was done, the cookies were cooled and put into tins and I had sufficiently sampled everything, I put it all together in a beautiful basket.  Along with the cookie tins I added a couple jars of homemade jam, some tea, a crock of fancy Dijon, and a few little kitchen tools and some cute napkins.  Sure, it would have been much easier to make a trip to the mall and pick up a sweater, but this gift is so much more personal and I know they will put the cookies in the storage freezer and enjoy them throughout the year. 

Salted Caramel Pie… Yum!

Okay, so I have a thing for caramel. Love, love, love it! I couldn’t resist making this fabulous, but easy to throw together recipe that I saw in Food and Wine Magazine last month.  It takes a little time but almost no effort.  I did manage to mess up the first batch I tried because I let the water bath dry up during the baking process.  This resulted in a curdled mess of goo that had to be dumped in the sink…. so sad!  Second time around I made sure to keep adding to the water and it worked like a charm.



A blurry photo, but you get the idea.  Mmmmm, good!


Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • Fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
This is what you get if your water bath runs dry.  Not good!
  • Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and light brown sugar until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool. Increase the oven temperature to 425°.
  • Scrape the condensed milk into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and sprinkle with a scant 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Cover the dish with foil and place it in a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach one-third of the way up the side of the baking dish. Bake, lifting the foil to stir 2 or 3 times, until the condensed milk is golden and thickened, about 2 hours; add more water to the roasting pan as necessary. The consistency of the caramel should be like dulce de leche. Don’t worry if it is lumpy; it will smooth out as it chills.
  • Scrape the caramel filling into the pie crust, smoothing the top. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with vegetable oil spray and cover the pie. Refrigerate until the filling is chilled and set, at least 4 hours.
  • In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the confectioners’ sugar until firm. Remove the plastic. Mound the whipped cream on top of the pie and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Cut into wedges and serve. If you’re not serving the whole pie, put whipped cream on individual pieces to serve.
  • ***One of my favorite kitchen tools is my Zyliss whipped cream canister.  You can keep cream in it for a couple of weeks and use it as you need it.  I can’t live without it!  Beats the heck out of whipping it up with a beater every time you need whipped cream and you’ll waste a lot less too.

Deep Fried Plantains

My Dad and step-mom are hosting a college student from the Ivory Coast and invited my family to dinner to meet her.  She made us the most amazing dish that night… delicious and super easy!  Growing up in Oregon, plantains weren’t something that I every really had the chance to try but apparently this is a staple where our new friend comes from and let me tell you, I’ve been missing out.
One of tricks is to choose plantains that are very ripe, ones that look like bananas that are a week past their prime.  You just peel them, quarter them lengthwise and cut into cubes then toss with a bit of kosher salt.  In small handfuls, add them to a pan of very hot vegetable oil.  (You can test to see if the oil is hot enough by tossing in one piece of plantain.  If the oil is hot enough it will bubble and sizzle.)

Let these cook in the hot oil for 20-25 minutes until they are a beautiful golden brown then remove with a slotted spoon.  Warning: let them cool for just a bit before trying one because they are HOT!  That’s all there is to it!

Banana Crumb Muffins

Every time I have a banana or two that gets a little too ripe for eating, I throw them in the freezer to save for baking.  One of my favorite recipes for ripe bananas are these delicious banana crumb muffins.  I’ve even tried a gluten-free variation using the Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking mix and they were pretty tasty too!
Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
Crumb Topping
1/3 packed brown sugar
3 tbls all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbls butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease 12 muffiin cups or line with papers. 
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, beat together banana, sugar, egg and melted butter.  Stire the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.  spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar,  3 tbls flour and cinnamon. Mix in the melted butter with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened.  Sprinkle over muffin batter.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Rocky Road

Every holiday season I make a special treat for my girlfriends that is so easy and delicious (and sweet and fattening) but hopefully nobody is counting calories too closely during the holidays!  This recipe can easily be doubled.

Rocky Road
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 oz) butterscotch chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts

Combine chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter in top of double boiler.  Place over hot water and stir until morsels melt and are smooth and well blended.  Remove from heat.  Add marshmallows and peanuts.  Mix until everything is coated with chocolate.  Spread in an 8 inch square pan lined with foil.  Chill until firm then cut into squares.

I put these in little cookie boxes or decorative holiday tins and pass out to friends. Important: These need to stay refrigerated.  Enjoy!