Category Archives: JeffreyW
I bought a griddle iron, a thing to weigh down bacon and such like on a griddle to keep it from curling, and found it pretty useful as a burger patty flatten-er. Roll a ball of ground beef and place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bear down on it. The patty comes out fairly round and about as thin as you want.
I could have called it a pork lover’s pizza – it has bacon, pepperoni, prosciutto, ham, and Italian sausage along with provolone, Parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, and Romano. My dough-fu was weak today, the dough was too wet and sticky to get a good stuff going into the outer rim of the crust. You can see a few places where it bubbled out.
This is a family favorite. You can make these as fancy or as plain as you wish, depending on the time you have or just your mood. I usually make these in a glass casserole but the big cast iron pan caught my eye this morning while I chopped onions.
Brown a pound or so of ground beef and toss in a chopped onion and a couple chopped ribs of celery and sweat the veggies down before spooning out the excess grease. While that’s working boil about half a pound of pasta per package directions, and start the cheese sauce. For this use about three tablespoons of flour with a like amount of butter, a dash of nutmeg and a teaspoon of dry mustard. Cook the roux down for a few minutes without letting it get much color and whisk in three cups of milk or more – these baked pasta dishes end up way drier than you might imagine. After the white sauce thickens start stirring in your cheese – today it was cheddar and provolone. Mix everything together in a large bowl and dump into a greased pan and bake at 350, covered, for 30-40 minutes. Uncover and add more cheese to the top and bake until the top toasts a tad.
Things are not slowing down here. I put a bid in on a cute little Victorian house, only to face 15 other bids this past week. I did not realize house hunting was going to turn into a full-time job that feels like an episode of the Bachelor, where I go home without the rose each week. Between that and raising a rambunctious 10-month old Great Dane, the weeks are slipping by. Speaking of the Beast, I had to clean out the freezer to make room for his frozen apples halves (apples were on sale, so I stocked up) and his giant beef bones (again, on sale, so I stocked up and boiled a good two week supply). Deep in the freezer, behind the pumpkin, cranberries and leftovers, was a pint of ricotta.
Decided I needed to use it up, so I dug into the archives looking for my vegetarian meatball recipe. That became tonight’s featured recipe, and I pulled up the previous recipe exchange where it was featured and said, “hey, that looks good.” In other words, tonight is a repeat. Next week, though, I’m planning on sharing some fun recipes I’ve been playing with this week.
To start tonight, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has made it and if you click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe and photos here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here).
A quick Skillet Lasagna (recipe here) is great for weeknights and a breeze to make.
And a yummy dessert from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above and found here.
Finally, for the pet lovers, a Bixby update from the pup himself. If you click here, be prepared, he’s a Beast, standing at his full height on his hind legs.
What’s on your menu for the weekend? Anyone else house hunting? Have you started your gardens in earnest yet?
Now on to the featured recipe. These are very simple to make and are delicious. It’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. My second round of these, I added a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara
Wow, six days since the last post! I am so lazy! We have been busy in the kind of laid back style that meets our definition of lazy. We installed a new yard hydrant near the back barn to replace one that wasn’t sited just right and was getting increasingly difficult to open and close. The old hydrant was in the back, next to the mulch, we are bringing it closer to the front of the barn. It was wetter than ideal but we managed to get the ditch dug and the hydrant hooked up and tested out. We were tardy getting a hummingbird feeder up although it hasn’t been exactly overrun since we got it going – we saw one the other day. The “Eskimo” Viburnum is just now hitting its peak with tons of compound white blossoms, reminiscent of Hydrangias. We’ve been working the grill pretty hard. This sammich is from country style ribs that smoked for a few hours. They got a dry rub and a taste of a BBQ sauce, then were chopped and reheated in a skillet atop the stove to get a nice little crisp going on the edges. The potato salad is another batch of the loaded potato salad that has become our fave picnic style side dish.This is an older female cat, 5 yo, an owner surrender. Mrs J says she is starting to come around from the trauma of separation. We have no info on why the previous owner dropped her off, could be any number of legitimate reasons, and it’s good that she wasn’t just turned out on her own. We see that a lot.
I have a start on the herb garden. From the bottom: Basil, chives, parsley and another to feed to the caterpillars, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. In the back are two determinate variety tomatoes, iirc they are “Mountain Fresh”, one has been broken over and may need replacement although there is still a leaf left intact with the rest of the stem. In the foreground are various peppers: Sweet, hot, and ornamental. I have sweet bananas, serranos, cayenne, and a sweet Italian red pepper, “Carmen”, that looks similar to the banana peppers in the little photo. I started some fernleaf dill but it’s looking puny today. Katie and Jack are keeping a lookout for squirrels and those geese that have found where Mrs J leaves the corn for the deer.I do the veggies and herbs, Mrs J keeps up the flowers. She has the biggest job. Our 2002 ATV started acting up, right in the beginning the season, so we opted for this shiny, new 2014 model. I told the dealer guy to show me one that is as close to the old one as he had, and he came very close. He was tickled at the low mileage on the old one – we don’t do trail rides, just haul stuff around the place, run to the mailbox, and visit the neighbors on occasion.We’ve been eating sammiches or dropping by the local Chinese buffet. We hit the buffet yesterday at the perfect time, I think, everything was freshly cooked and waiting for the lunch crowd, which we beat.I rarely put up a photo of a large dog, Mrs J works inside with kittens and puppies, but she took this one of a stray that a local police officer brought in. He said he would rather St Francis had it that the folks at the county humane shelter down the road. Mrs J says they are required by law to post photos of strays, she posted the photo to the shelter’s Facebook page to be shared around, hoping the owner will see it and step up.
Sloppy joes are an old standby. I usually brown the beef with chopped onions and add whatever comes to hand for a sauce – easiest is adding a favorite BBQ sauce but I rarely stop at that. Ketchup, a squeeze of mustard, steak sauces, soy sauce – I’ve used all of these either singly or in combination. A few minutes before serving, lay slices of cheese atop the mixture, cover, and let the cheese melt down. Scoop a portion out with a broad spatula and slide it off onto a waiting bun.Mrs J called for grilled hamburgers now that the Weber is set up on the front patio. I’m usually a pickle, onion, and mustard guy but I like ketchup on occasion. This one has a slice of provolone that’s just starting to sag. In a skillet on the stove top I let the cheese melt right on down but I’m not a huge fan of scraping burnt cheese off of a gas grill.
I found this recipe while looking for salad ideas and decided to give it a try. It’s pretty good, not change your life good but it is a nice change of pace. My mandoline doesn’t like the little fiddly jobs so I used a knife but it went pretty well, I didn’t do a whole lot of them. I added a packet of Splenda to mine, and a splash of rice vinegar because I thought it needed just a tad more tart.The meat of the menu was this pork tenderloin all pounded thin and breaded. I ate mine with a little chili sauce. The plate was rounded off with more of that loaded potato salad. I made a different batch with red potatoes this time but otherwise about the same. I did drop a glob of yogurt in with the sour cream and mayo for the dressing.
Last week I found a nice, small pork roast on sale and decided it would be perfect to make a slow-cooker pulled pork. That reminded me that it would be a good idea to revisit JeffreyW’s smoking adventures with his backyard smoker. I’ve pulled a few recipes, but if you search for “smoker” on the blog, you’ll find a whole lot more of his mouth-watering pictures and recipes.
Let’s start with my slow-cooker Easy Pulled Pork, I posted two ways to make it here.
Next up, JeffreyW makes an assortment of goodies in his smoker:
Here is his recommendation for a smoker and some tasty Ribs.
Homemade Pastrami (click here) – serious mouth-watering photos.
Smoked Chicken (photos and recipe here).
My youngest brother also jumped on the Smoker band wagon and sent me photos of a great meal that included Smoked Macaroni and Cheese (link here). He didn’t include a recipe, but I think it’s safe to say, make your favorite Mac ‘n Cheese, place in an aluminum pan, cover and smoke it for about 45 minutes to an hour at 165-180 degrees.
Smoker people seem very passionate, so if you’ve got the bug, hit the comments and share your experiences and expertise. What delicious things do you have planned this weekend? Anyone getting the grill out yet?
Tonight’s featured recipe from JeffreyW:
I thawed a beef brisket and was thinking corned beef but changed my mind. I have a fresh made pastrami on hand so I decided on a straight smoked brisket. The procedure is much the same as with making a pastrami except you are starting with a fresh beef beef brisket rather than a corned one. I suppose you could use the same dry rub for both but I wasn’t sure how the juniper berries in the pastrami rub would taste so I went with a more traditional rub. I was tossing various ingredients in and didn’t keep track of the amounts of each so I can’t do more than list them from memory: Black pepper, kosher salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, ancho powder, regular chili powder, fresh ground cumin, some powder out of a bottle of Goya “Adobe Seasoning” (it’s yellow – go figure), creole/Cajun seasoning, oregano, and probably a few more.
I placed it on the top rack of my electric smoker, threaded the temp probe through the vent and into the thickest part, placed a drippings pan with an inch of apple cider under the meat, added the soaked hickory to the smoke chamber, closed the door and fired it up. It’s been cold and snowy so I knew it would take a good while to get to the “done” temperature but I wasn’t thinking 23 hours. That’s how long it spent in there before I pulled it. The probe was registering 176 degrees.
I pulled the first drippings pan out because I think it was keeping the inside temperature in the smoker too low and replaced it with a dry pan after about 12 hours. The quart of cider plus the drippings was reduced to what you see above. If I could make it by the gallon I’m pretty sure I would be a millionaire in short order. Awesome stuff.
That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, but he turns 10 months old this weekend, so I’ll put something together soon. Have a great weekend. – TaMara