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
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
This recipe is so simple and so very good. It’s great to make and then have ingredients for sandwiches all weekend. Eat cold or reheat, both are good.
Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
- 2-3 lb boneless pork roast
- salt and pepper
- cayenne or red chili pepper flakes (opt)
- red wine vinegar
- favorite barbecue sauce (JeffreyW and I are both fond of Sweet Baby Rays – I like the spicy)
- favorite rolls (I like multi-grain hoagie rolls)
Remove the string ties from the pork roast. Spread the roast out, season all sections with salt, pepper and if you like, cayenne or chili pepper flakes. Roll back up and place in the slow-cooker (don’t tie it up again). Add red wine vinegar (about 2 tbsp or more as desired). Cover and cook according to slow-cooker directions – usually 8-10 hours on low. Keep that lid closed.
Once its cooked, remove the roast and pour off all but about 2 tbsp of the liquid and fat. Shred the roast and return it to the slow-cooker, add barbecue sauce, start with 1/4 cup and add more as desired. I eventually used about 1/2 cup and a little bit more each time I reheated.
Don’t want barbecued pork, how about Carnitas? Just change out the spices:
- salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, chopped
- 1 orange, cut in half
Mix together spices and oil and rub over the roast liberally. Add the roast, garlic and jalapeno to the slow-cooker. Squeeze the orange over the meat before adding it as well. Cover and cook as above. No need to drain, just shred the pork and serve on tortillas.
Serendipity was afoot last week. I had read a recipe for Nutella flourless brownies and promptly went to the store to buy a jar and make them. Turns out, on that same day, the creator of Nutella died at 89.
The brownies are pretty good and one of those recipes that taste much better the next day. The process is very similar to my Chocolate Flourless Cake, recipe here.
I prefer the chocolate cake, but the Nutella brownies were a good second. If I make them again, I will add toasted hazelnut pieces (they should be chopped fine so they don’t all sink to the bottom of the batter).
Both recipes are super easy and a make for a very moist chocolate treat. And gluten-free as an added bonus.
- 4 large Eggs
- 1-1/2 cups Nutella
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
8×8 baking dish or springform pan, oiled and lined on the bottom with parchment cut to fit
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat eggs on high for 5 to 7 minutes until they have tripled in size. Beat in Nutella on low until fully incorporated*. Pour into the baking dish. Tap the dish on the counter firmly to remove any bubbles and then bake for 30-35 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with a just few crumbs, no batter. Mine actually took about 40 minutes, but I forgot to preheat.
Cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar, cutting and serving. I found it tasted best the next day. Also it freezes very well.
*some recipes call for you to microwave the nutella, but since the jar specifically says, DO NOT MICROWAVE, I just used a spatula to scoop out most of a 13 oz jar.