Stuffed!

I am not sure what inspired this. I think I saw a layered meatloaf somewhere out there in the world and thought “I can make that!”

As usual I had to put an Italian twist on things and make my stuffed meatloaf with fresh spinach, basil and mozzarella. The meat is simply a blend of ground beef, Italian sausage, 1 egg plus one egg white, Italian seasoning and S/P. No bread crumbs, no milk-soaked bread slices – just pure meat. Continuing the Italian twist I even added some Italian seasoning to the otherwise fairly traditional glaze of ketchup and corn syrup. (you can also use brown sugar but it burns easy and the corn syrup keeps the glaze glossy – a little won’t hurt you!)

This is a large and heavy meatloaf best served with a nap and some mashed potatoes!

Production Notes:

I happen to have some leftover ground beef from a big pack so not sure on the actual amounts, but if I had to guess, there was at least 1 1/2 lbs. I took two Italian sausage out of their casing and combined them with the ground beef. I added the seasonings and a dash of Worcestershire sauce (my secret ingredient for everything beef!)

Glaze the loaf initially and bake it in a hot (425 degree) oven for about 40 mins. Glaze again and bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (F)

Home Opener- A Day Later

ready for the grill

Home opener for the Red Sox was yesterday – Home opener for my grill was today!

Both have some meaning around here. Red Sox means crowded subway lines during games and neon colored tags on ladies purses worn as a small badge of pride that they were recently at a game. Home opener for my backyard grill means an entire category of cooking opens up after along winter of “same old same old.”

I was planning on cheeseburgers but since I had the grill on I decided to throw on a few other items I had kicking around in my fridge – creating the “trifecta” of baseball grill food: sausage, hot dogs and burgers.

I did put a twist on things by not just making any old cheeseburger, but a green chili cheese sauce burger. (on toasted English muffin cause everyone knows they make the best rolls!)

green chili cheeseburger.jpg

A green chili cheese sauce can easily be made by melting 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, creating a roux. Add in about a cup of milk whisking constantly till thick. A pinch of seasoned salt and some black pepper to season. Add in 2 slices of provolone cheese and about 4 oz mild cheddar cheese. Whisk in a few dashes of the green Tabasco® sauce and about 2 oz of chopped green chilies (this is half of the small can – if you want to use the whole can, double the other ingredients and make a big batch of cheese sauce for a crowd!)

Serve warm drizzled over burgers, nacho chips or just about anything!

Andy’s Dinner Remix

I have already professed my love for sauerkraut and the original “Andy’s Kraut dinner” here. But recently I made a variation on this classic and of course everything is better with bacon.

For this variation I started out by browning 1/2 lb of bacon sliced into small bits. I removed the cooked bacon – reserving some of the fat and browned the country spare ribs, kielbasa and onions. Next I piled it all back in with a drained bag of sauerkraut, plenty of celery salt and black pepper and apple juice for a flavorful liquid. Slow-cooked for a an hour or two until the pork was falling apart soft!

I think this would have been good with some kind of green vegetable but I couldn’t figure out which one so I added a brown veggie instead.

ready to eat kraut dinner

The recipe

1 17.6 oz =/- sauerkraut (bag or jar is better than canned) drained

6-8 oz of uncured bacon

1 ring of Kielbasa ( I used turkey) cut on angle into 2″ or 3″ chunks

1-1/2 lbs pork country boneless ribs

1/2 cup apple juice

1 large white onion cut into thick slices ( 1/4″)

Plenty of salt and pepper at each step

1/4 tsp celery salt for sprinkling over top

Dry rub: I mix ground cumin, celery salt and ground black pepper in equal amounts to rub onto the pork before browning. if you only have celery seed use an equal amount of salt too.

Brown the bacon in heavy bottom, oven proof pot. Remove and reserve a couple of tablespoons of the drippings. Cover the ribs in the dry rub and sear in same pan with bacon fat. Remove and set aside. Add the kielbasa and cook till just browned a bit. Remove and set aside. Add onions and toss until they start to get some color. Add the apple juice to deglaze the pan, scraping up the flavorful bits at bottom. Add the ribs and kielbasa back in – nestling everything among the onions int he apple juice. Toss the Sauerkraut on top and add the bacon bits as well. Sprinkle top with additional celery salt and some ground black pepper. Bake covered in oven for 1-2 hours in 325 degree oven.

Help Wanted

Meatloaf is a basic that I can not seem to get right!

I either get too exotic with the ingredients and it ends up with a weird flavor profile or more often than not it tastes good but the consistency is too soft.

No matter how many eggs or how gentle I mix it or how much bread crumbs I use, I just can’t get the right blend. I just want a meatloaf that holds together nicely at the dinner table and slices cleanly for sandwiches the next day!

This latest attempt was a “plain Jane” style with nothing exotic except a few shredded carrots! And while it turned out pretty tasty, it was still too soft! Maybe the carrots were too much?

meatloaf

I have tried cooking it in the loaf pan and not in the loaf pan. I have tried it with ground turkey, traditional meatloaf blends and pork/beef blends. I have made with and without the whole “milk-soaked bread” thing. Nothing seems to work. I just want a firm meatloaf – is that asking too much?

In case you want to review my ratios…

1 lb ground beef (80/20 blend)

1/3 cup finely minced sweet onion

1/2 cup finely ground saltines (15 crackers)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 medium eggs, lightly whisked

1/2 cup finely grated carrots

1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

2 finely minced large garlic cloves

1/4 cup ketchup

salt and pepper

Mixed, formed and baked 1 hour at 375 degrees. Rested well before slicing.

 

 

Patience

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is patiently making homemade meatballs.

Admittedly it was last week  on the coldest night in 58 years in Boston. So I didn’t mind staying in on a Saturday night to make some homemade meatballs.

I have a long history of chasing the perfect meatball dream. I am always in pursuit of the perfect sized, totally round meatball. I don’t always have the patience to get them all the same size, shape. They tend to get bigger as I go along rolling them. Or I rush the browning process with the pan on too high of heat – thereby burning the outside before cooking the inside.

But this time was different. I took my time. Pre-measuring the ingredients and having everything in place before I got in up to my elbows. ( or at least up to my wrists!)

 

The Recipe

1.5- 2 lbs ground beef (80-20 blend)

2 eggs, lightly whisked

4 slices of bread, toasted and freshly ground into fine crumb

1/2 fine grated parmesan

1/2 cup sour cream ( I used reduced fat)

1/3 cup grated onion (I used a sweet variety)

1 tbsp garlic powder (don’t judge me)

1 tsp each salt, pepper and red chili flake

1/2 cup each fresh finely minced parsley and basil

Mix everything together gently but thoroughly. Roll into golf ball size balls, refrigerating as you go along to keep them a bit firm. Brown in regular olive oil on medium heat till outside just has a bit of crust*. Place on sprayed/lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 mins +/- in preheated 425 degree oven till cooked through.

Always a good idea to brown/cook one all the way through to taste for seasoning before you roll/cook all of them.

 

 

 

 

Retirement Day

or as some might call it … Superbowl Sunday.

I call it Retirement Day because I am hoping a certain quarterback has enough sense to make this his last game. As a Patriots fan I think it’s better to get this guy his last ring and get him outta here.  So that is why today I root for the arch-enemy and not the new young talented star who probably actually deserves the win.

No matter what you call the day, it definitely involves food!

I suggest some nontraditional game day food of stuffed peppers. Filled with spicy Chorizo sausage, rice and tomato sauce – they are big on flavor and easy to make.

(Notice my subtle nod to team colors today.)

The Recipe

2 links ( about 1- 1 1/2 cups) chorizo sausage diced small (I use a fully cooked, locally made version, but you can use your favorite brand)

1 small (about 3/4 cup) sweet onion fine diced

2 large sweet bell peppers – your choice of colors, tops cut off and diced, seed/ribs removed

2 cups +/- cooked rice

8oz can of tomato sauce (I like the “Spanish style”)

(2) 1/4 cup hot water (separate)

1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

shredded or grated Parmesan cheese to top each pepper ( a couple of tablespoons apiece)

Salt and Pepper to taste

spray a baking dish with cooking spray, add 1 of the 1/4 cups of hot water. Place the peppers in the dish either on their side split in half (as I did in photo) or upright on their ends. Cover tightly with foil and bake 20 mins in preheated 350 degree oven. While those are cooking, saute the chorizo, onion, pepper tops, salt and pepper in a medium hot saute pan till the sausage starts to get a little crispy, the onions are browning and soft. The pan probably won’t need any oil to start as the sausage is quite fatty – but if you feel like it needs it start with a tablespoon of oil or so in the saute.  Turn the heat down and add the rice and the 2nd 1/4 cup of hot water to help re-moisten the cooked rice and de-glaze the pan. Once all combined and the water is incorporated. Add the tomato sauce and sugar and turn off heat. Mix thoroughly and taste for seasoning adjustment. Pull the peppers out of the oven, drain off excess water – they should be a little soft but holding their shape. Fill each of the peppers with plenty of filling, top with some cheese and return to oven uncovered for another 20 mins at 350 degrees.

 

 

Freezer Stew

and cabinet too.

Recently I was searching for dinner in my kitchen. I wanted something that could be prepared quickly, with ingredients already on hand, and of course healthy and delicious.  Not that I am making that cliché New Year’s resolution mistake of starting a diet or anything. no. not me. (okay maybe just a little – but to be fair the office treats were out of hand!)

I always have an assortment of frozen veggies and veggie blends in the freezer along with leftover cooked rice. ( yup I freeze that too!) Onions of course are a staple in any kitchen. Having some chicken breast was just lucky.

A simple stir-fry sauce can be made with soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.

I start my chicken pieces in a little oil and get them about 75 percent cooked before adding the frozen veggies. If you are using fresh onion – go ahead and put that in right away with the chicken. After the frozen veggies go in (bonus that the ice crystals melt and deglaze the pan!) toss everything around for a few minutes. I prefer my veggies not overly done. If you like things a bit more tender, put them in a little earlier and leave them on longer. Once all the ingredients are basically cooked to your liking, add your stir-fry sauce in. I don’t add the sauce in too soon, because it will burn before the chicken is done. The idea is to let this sauce just coat everything and cook a bit too.

As soon everything is cooked through, sauce coating everything, toss it over some rice. (leftover, defrosted or prepared fresh) If you don’t have a sesame allergy and you have some toasted sesame oil on hand… a drizzle of this would be just great on top.

Who needs take out?