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
Mrs J drove into town to do her part at the shelter so I fiddled about in the kitchen. I knew breaded meatballs were a thing but I’ve never tried any until today. The meatballs were basic Italian sausage with lots of Parmesan, chopped parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, an egg, a splash of milk and salt and pepper. I knew the breading would burn if they had to cook for a long time so I made mine fairly small – about an inch or so. Smaller than golf balls, anyway. I tried one rolled in just the breadcrumbs and it did OK, but the rest of them were floured, dredged in egg, and then rolled in the breadcrumbs.I used olive oil and watched the heat, keeping it medium low, and tried to roll the meatballs to keep any one side from getting too brown. You pretty much need to stand over the pan the whole time. This skillet is pretty full because it’s the last batch and my legs were tiring.This is the photo the whole effort was leading up to. I buttered both halves of one of my buns and toasted them before adding the meatballs and spooning on sauce. After grating Parmesan over it all they went back into the toaster oven for a minute or two.
I have been fighting a cold this week and all I want is orange juice and homemade soup. So, of course, that’s the theme for tonight’s recipe exchange. Soups. And there are plenty on the blog, because both JeffreyW and I love soup. Just search on soups and you’ll come up with almost 300 entries.
Here are few selections:
Cream of Chicken Soup, click here.
From Joshua D (Yutsano), Cauliflower Beer Cheese Soup, click here.
From JeffreyW, three soups:
Vegetable Beef Soup, picture above and recipe here
Moroccan Spicy Lamb Soup, recipe here
Parmesan Potato Soup, with Bacon, click here
What’s cookin’ in your kitchen this weekend? What must have recipe gets you through cold season?
Tonight’s featured recipe takes very little effort, so you can have quick and easy homemade soup for a weeknight dinner or when feeling under the weather.
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 8 oz sliced carrots
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 tsp oregano, crushed
- 1 tsp basil, crushed
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
- 20 oz pkg frozen tortellini
- 4 oz grated Parmesan
Add all ingredients to saucepan, except spinach, tortellini & Parmesan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & let simmer for 15 minutes. Add tortellini and bring to boil again, reduce heat, let simmer 10 minutes, add spinach and let simmer additional 5 minutes, until tortellini is tender. Serve with Parmesan garnish.
That’s it for this week. I’ll try and have a Bixby update later…he’s been sleeping a lot the last two days, so I’m thinking, growth spurt. – TaMara
Mmm… shred some potatoes and cook them down in chicken stock for the base soup – then start with those little flourishes that make cooking fun. This one has onions, celery, and carrots along with the potatoes. Let them cook down a while then hit it with an immersion blender. I used some Swiss that I’ve had in the fridge for too long for the cheese component, then stirred in some heavy cream at the end. Bacon or ham works well in this sort of thing. Shave some Parmesan on top for a garnish.
I’m repeating the holiday gift series this week. We’ll start with flavored popcorn:
One of my favorite things is the mixed can of flavored popcorn. Unfortunately they can vary in quality and price. And if you’re paying a premium, well let’s face it, it all hype, because popcorn is cheap, as are most of the ingredients that go in flavored popcorn. So I thought I’d pull a few recipes together this week so you could make your own variety tin of flavored popcorn. I actually have a tower of gift boxes that I’m thinking of filling with different flavors. You can use decorative plastic and ribbon, or holiday tins, or zip-lock bags placed in pretty gift bags.
For the first recipes, I thought something cheesy.
White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn
- 8 cups popped corn
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese powder
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard
- dash of cayenne
- salt to taste
It might be easiest to do this in two batches. In a large bag, toss popcorn thoroughly with butter to coat completely. Mix together cheese and spices, toss with popcorn in the bag until everything is well coated. Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging (this keeps it from becoming soggy).
- 8 cups popped corn
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tsp chili powder
- dash of garlic
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan (I’d use the Kraft style for ease)
- salt to taste (the Parmesan may make it salty enough)
Again, you may want to make this in batches. Mix together butter and spices and toss with popcorn in a large bag. Add cheese and toss again until well coated. Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging.
Additional flavor ideas:
White cheddar cheese powder and taco seasoning. Parmesan and dry packaged buttermilk ranch dressing seasoning.
Originally posted Dec 2011
Mrs J makes a killer pie crust using the smittenkitchen.com butter recipe. We like these with crusts on the bottom, too. I bought some 6″ anodized aluminum pie pans a while ago and these pies came right out of them without greasing the pan, Lots of butter in the crust.Sometimes I mix the fillings with the white sauce, these were assembled in layers – veggies then meat then sauce, then the same again.I cooked a white sauce with a little nutmeg and a teaspoon of dry mustard. It seemed lacking so I turned it into a mornay sauce by grating in a few ounces of Parmesan. It would have been a little better with more half and half, these came out a bit drier than I like.Top them with another crust and seal the rims with a fork, trim the excess dough, then give them an egg wash. This wash was a whole egg beaten with a dollop of dairy.Pop them into a 350 oven until they get some nice color, about 30 minutes.
This turned out pretty well. The bacon made that a foregone conclusion but the Parmesan was an experiment gone good. I simmered potato pieces in chicken broth until they were soft and then pureed everything in the pot with an immersion blender. The bacon crisped up in a separate pan and was added after the blender did its job – save a little for garnishing at the table. There’s some milk in there to thin it, lots of grated Parmesan and some cheddar I had leftover from burritos. Seasonings include dried thyme, oregano, fresh ground black pepper and salt. I used the same microplane grater I grated the Parm with on a little bit of carrot that you can see in the photo if you look hard.Since I am lunatic I took the chance to add a little color to the plate with a healthy slug of my hot sauce. It was good but I wouldn’t let the lack of it dissuade me from demolishing a future bowl of this soup.
This is another one of those doughs that stayed out on the counter all night – two cups of bread flour, a quarter teaspoon of yeast, one cup of water, a wee pinch of salt and a sprinkle of sugar. I massaged it into place in my pizza pan and let it rise there for another hour then par baked it at 425 for five minutes. There isn’t a real sauce, per se, just some roasted grape tomatoes that I made last summer and then froze just for something like this. It also has bacon, thin sliced coppa, some ham, a caramelized onion, mozzarella, and some nice Parmesan grated over it at the table.
I’ll just pop these leftover slices into the freezer just like this and then seal the individual slices in vacuum bags, they make great grab-’em-and-go lunches for Mrs J when she heads out to the shelter.