Sunday, December 27, 2009

Baked Ziti and Meatballs: Sopranos Style

For the Meatballs
1 pound ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably homemade
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly. Rinse your hands with cool water and lightly shape the mixture into 2-inch balls. (Note: If you are making meatballs for lasagne or baked ziti, shape the meat into tiny balls the size of a small grape.)

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the meatballs and brown them well on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to a plate.

Note:  The recipe goes on to say that you should finish cooking the meatball in the sauce . . . we didn't do that.

Thank goodness for comfort food.  I imagine that when an Italian girl eats baked ziti, she feels the way some people (Meredith) feel about macaroni and cheese.  I had made sauce a while ago and froze it, so I knew this wasn’t going to be an all day affair.  It might as well have been.  I defrosted two pounds of meat so I doubled the recipe.  Anyone know how many grape sized meatballs that makes?  A LOT!  That’s how many.  Also, I added hot Italian sausage to my baked ziti.  So, after cooking three batches of mini meatballs, I cut up some sausage and cooked it in a frying pan.  I've made this so many times before so I already knew how delicious it would be.  What’s not to like about pasta, sauce, cheese, meatballs and sausage?  I loved it, as always.

Mmmm... mac & cheese! Oh wait- that’s not what we were making? Italian Mac & Cheese! Close enough I suppose. Let’s get down to it: I, too, had sauce already made and in the freezer (non-Italians do this too!) so that part was done. I made the meatballs for Christmas dinner so they were already done too. So what DID I do today? Oh- I boiled pasta and grated cheese. But let me go back to the meatballs – they were absolutely delicious. It took a batch, but I finally figured out how to get the meatballs browned on all sides and not to stick to the pan. That I’m very proud of. I may make them my signature dish. Don’t tell Tony.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Forecast: Chili With a Chance of Cornbread

I’ve made chili before, but certainly not enough to wing it.  Here’s the recipe I used.  It's just a little different than the original recipe.

2 pounds ground beef
2 (16 ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
1 can Mexicorn with bell peppers
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Light sour cream

In a skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a slow cooker. Add the next ten ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours. Garnish individual servings with cheese and sour cream if desired.

I love chili so I’m always going to have high hopes for it.  It’s a really easy recipe.  Next time, I’d either add more jalapeño peppers or maybe some cayenne.  It was a little spicy but I definitely needed more heat for my chili.  We also decided to make cornbread.  This was new to me.  I used the regular Jiffy mix and added a jalapeño to it. 

The verdict:  Chili was great but could have been spectacular with a little more heat.  Cornbread was easy and super tasty. 

I’d definitely make this again.  I feel like chili is something that I’d like to research a little more.  I’m thinking maybe try out different recipes until I find my favorite.  Maybe it’ll replace my quest for the world’s best nachos.  You know, now that I know where to find them.  (Lucky’s at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT.)  Anyway, maybe next time I’ll get up the nerve to try a recipe with cinnamon in it.  Oh, and one more thing.  Anyone know why we brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker?  We throw all sorts of raw meats into the slow cooker.  What makes ground beef so different?  Just curious, really.  Whatever the reason, it works and it’s pretty yummy so I’m not going to go changing anything.

I’ve never used a recipe for chili so I certainly wasn’t going to start now! I typically cheat and start with a packet of Chili-O but since I was blogging this batch, I figured I’d go au naturale and just spice it up from the cabinet. So- I started by putting 93% lean ground beef in the skillet and once browned I added random amounts of: chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, cayenne and salt & pepper. While that simmered, I sauteed a diced Vidalia onion and two jalapeños in olive oil. Then I combined the meat and the cooked veggies and let that hang out while I started opening cans. Into the crockpot went: two cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles and two cans of dark red kidney beans (all undrained). The same combination of spices went on top of the tomatoes and beans and stir. Next I added the meat and cooked veggies to the pot. Stir well.Two more cans of tomatoes and more spices in the pot. Stir again. Finally I add one more diced onion, a diced green bell pepper, two more jalapeños and a can of corn. Oh, and more of those spices! Stir well, simmer for at least 4 hours.

You know- this was probably one of my favorite batches of chili I’ve ever made. It was spicy, zesty, tasty, comforting, chunky, smoky, veggie-licious WITHOUT all that sodium from the spice packs! I had mine with shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, Fritos and a little dollop of (light) Daisy. OH! the cornbread! Saturday afternoon I picked up a bag of Southwestern-style jalapeño cornbread mix from the Napa Valley Pantry at Marshall’s on clearance. I would definitely recommend this to a friend. It tasted like corn cake with jalapeños in it. Really, really worth the three bucks. (P.S. Luckys! Luckys! I want nachos NOW!)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Salted Peanut Chews

1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
3 cups miniature marshmallows

2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 10-oz package peanut butter chips
2 cups crisp rice cereal
2 cups salted peanuts

Heat oven to 350.  In large bowl, combine all base ingredients, except marshmallows, at low speed until crumbly. Press firmly into bottom of ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with marshmallows. Return to oven and bake 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows begin to puff.
In large saucepan combine all topping ingredients except cereal and peanuts. Heat until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and peanuts. Immediately spoon over marshmallows, spread to cover.
Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until firm.

When we decided we were going to do a dessert this week, I dragged out the little recipe book my mom made for me shortly after my grandmother died. I knew I'd find something in there that was both nostalgic and tasty. These salted peanut chews were exactly that. And so, I thank Mom (grandmother mom) for making these for us every Christmas. I think technically it's a Better Crocker recipe or something since you can find it all over the internet, but I'm sticking with believing they are a family treat!

These were really easy to make.  Perfect for someone who can't bake.  I mean, if you use 3 1/2 cups of marshmallows, you aren't going to ruin anything.  It took no time at all to make them.  The longest measure of time was the 45 minutes that I had to patiently wait while they cooled in the fridge.  I loved them.  They were chewy and delicious.  I'm taking them to a party tomorrow, but I'm saving some here for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Green Chile Quiche


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook peppers and onion until tender. Transfer to a bowl and mix with feta, sour cream and salt.
  • Spread bottom of pie crust with Monterey Jack cheese. Top cheese with pepper and onion mixture. Mix eggs and milk in a bowl; evenly pour over onion and pepper mixture. Top with Cheddar cheese.
  • Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is melted and eggs are firm.


Would you serve this to company? UH HUH! It was SO good. Savory, buttery, cheesy... Delicious!

Even though this was my first attempt at a quiche, I was hesitant to follow the recipe as written - I'm such a rebel... I refuse to believe that feta had any place in this ingredient list and so I substituted it for some shredded Parmesan. A couple other tweaks - I used added garlic, 4 eggs, 1% milk, light sour cream and about half the cheese. I'm not quite sure how the entire recipe worth of cheese would have fit into my 9" pie pan. That being said, the recipe was easy and makes me want to try my hand at adding just about anything to eggs and throwing it in a pie crust. I will be the Top Chef of QUICHE!


I love quiche.  I've never made one before, either.  I made a few changes . . . I used jalapeno peppers instead of chile peppers.  Whenever, the recipe called for cheese, I used 75% fat free sharp cheddar.  Finally, I added a can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos.  I drained them really well and cooked off the rest of the liquid with the onions and jalapenos.

I will say that I learned a few things during this process.  Next time (and there WILL be a next time), I plan to cook the pie shell just a little bit before filling it.  I feel like the bottom of the quiche should have been just a little crisper.
All in all, a very nice vegetarian option.  It'd make a great brunch item, too.  I had a salad with caesar dressing on the side.  That's all I needed.