Opinions on food, drink and articles/TV shows involving them

Posts tagged ‘Dinner’

Meatballs served 3 ways (3 Meals in One!)

I love making meals that can be transformed into other things: meatballs are one of those meals. You can serve them with pasta, vegetables, or on  burger. One day, I decided to make meatballs using ground beef, pork, and veal.

I like to add veggies to food whenever I can, so to the meatball mixture, I added sautéed yellow peppers and onions. I also added coconut flour, egg, salt, and pepper. With the ingredients, you might notice that this recipe is paleo. While I haven’t made the plunge into complete paleo-ism, I have enjoyed exploring cooking this way. My mother-in-law has celiac, so paleo is an easy way to make sure she doesn’t get sick when I’m cooking (always a plus!)

Although I haven’t tried a Paleo diet consistently for any length of time, I had a friend who ate paleo for a month and she said that she had a lot of energy, so I’m sure there are a lot of health benefits to it. I am a big believer that we need fat to fuel our brains, so I enjoy my steak and bacon, but balance it with other veggies and other foods!

For the meat mixture, I decided to try putting the meat into portobello mushroom caps as well as form some meatballs to enjoy on their own.

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Here is a pic of the meatballs when they were done. I baked them at 350 degrees until they had a nice golden brown on them. They were delicious! I have swallow fried them before and that way they get some char on them, but this way, they brown slightly. I would say the swallow fry might be better if you’re going to eat them all in one sitting and baking them in the oven would be better if you’re planning on freezing some for later.

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Here is a picture of the stuffed portobello mushroom cap. I decided that putting the meat in raw cooks the mushroom a little more than needed. After researching, I found that when people make something like this, they tend to cook the meat first at least slightly, then chop or grind it to stuff the mushroom. Overall, they tasted great, but if I were to do it again, I would try to cook the meat a little first.

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The third way I made the “meatballs” was to transform them into burgers. These are packaged to go into the freezer until a nice warm day when we want to grill.

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I’d definitely recommend making meatballs this way. It’s easy and you can make several meals at once, which I love doing!

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Quesadillas and Bacon Lasagna

Lately, I’ve focused on some simple, quick and easy recipes, as well as the occasional more complex one. In this post, I’ll address both of these categories.


We’ll start with quick and easy. One night, after a hard workout, I was very hungry and didn’t have a lot of time to make dinner. So, I checked the fridge and thought: quesadillas. I sautéed some peppers and onions with a little salt and pepper. I used whole wheat tortillas, but any tortilla of your choice will do. Put the tortilla in a pan that has been sprayed with a little cooking spray. On top, add the peppers, onions, and other vegetables of your choice, along with cheese (I used a Mexican cheese blend), pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Place another tortilla on top. Heat on medium low until tortilla browns slightly, then flip and heat again. Slice into wedges and serve with salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese, or any of these you have in your refrigerator.

I’ll give this recipe 3 stars. It’s quick and easy and can be tailored to your likes and dislikes. The cumin gives it a nice Mexican flavor. Meat, such as chicken or steak, or beans can also be added to made a heartier quesadilla. Enjoy!


Carla Hall, from Top Chef, recently appeared at the White House Easter Egg roll and made quesadillas. She mentions that quesadillas should be the new peanut butter and jelly and I agree. They are nice and easy, have less carbs and sugar and are packed with veggies. Here is a link to her blog where she makes quesadillas in the first video: http://www.carlahall.com/2011/04/25/white-house-easter-egg-roll/

Now, on to something a little more complex. The other day, I had some friends over for dinner. I made a couple of types of lasagna and I’m going to talk about the one containing bacon.

The past couple of times I’ve made lasagna, I’ve made lasagna rolls instead of a pan of lasagna. They are slightly more time intensive because instead of putting layers in the pan, you have to roll each one individually; however, in my opinion, they are easier to serve. They are a little messy to make, but you simply add the ingredients spread out on a cooked piece of lasagna and roll them up. Then, add them to a lightly sauced and greased pan or casserole dish, add sauce and cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.

For this recipe, I used whole wheat lasagna noodles and balanced out the healthiness with a velvety cream sauce. For the base of the sauce, I used Mario Batali’s bechamel sauce recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html. Bechamel is basically a fancy way of saying cream sauce.  Start by using a frying pan to sauté finely chopped shallots and mushrooms (about 1/2 cup and 1 cup respectively) until almost cooked, then add 1 small bag of spinach and cook until the spinach is cooked. While that is cooking, chop about 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomato and 1/3 cup of roasted red peppers. Cooked about 10 pieces of bacon until crispy and chopped them into small pieces (reserve some of the bacon grease and add it to the cream sauce for an extra bacon kick). Then I add all the vegetables to the sauce. I used about 1/3 cup of sauce per piece of lasagna and added a small slice of goat cheese before rolling it up. I also added some extra goat cheese and sauce to the pan on top of the rolls and cooked them as directed above.

Here is a picture of the sauce just as I added the bacon:

I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but I can tell you that it was very popular and went very quickly. I’ll give it 4 stars. I’m not sure that the goat cheese was able to shine through amongst all of the other flavors, but it might have been more prominent if I had used more of it or if it was used with a tomato sauce instead of a cream sauce.

Quinoa and Riesling

What the heck is quinoa? It’s pronounced “keen-wah” and is a grain that nutty and full of protein! It contains all of the amino acids, making it a complete protein, so it is excellent for vegetarians. Quinoa is also gluten-free, so those who are not able to digest products with gluten may enjoy quinoa as well. If you’ve never eaten quinoa, it’s similar to couscous or brown rice and is slightly crunchy in texture. Pictured below is a red quinoa dish that I made:


For this dish, I did not have a recipe, but made it up as I went along. I cooked 1 cup of quinoa with the recommended amount of water, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of salt (I try not to use a lot of salt in my cooking) and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. I love the taste of smoked paprika and think it makes a great addition to many foods. While the quinoa was cooking, I sautéed 1 diced green pepper, 1 diced onion, and 1 package of mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder.

After the vegetables were tender, I added some chardonnay (because I had some in the fridge) and allowed it evaporate a little bit. When the quinoa was cooked, I added it to the vegetables, mixed, added some smoked paprika on top, and it was ready to serve. It was pretty tasty for a quick meal, but probably could have used a little more chipotle pepper powder. I added some extra chipotle powder as well as some more smoked paprika on top of the dish pictured below:


With the meal, I drank the wine pictured below. The smoky flavor of the paprika made the Riesling more tart. I’ll give my meal 2.75 stars.


A nice German Riesling: Pfalz, 2007 Burrweiler Altenforst. I’m not going to try to pronounce the name as I have no knowledge of the German language; however, I’ve been told that halbtrocken translates to half-dry or semi-dry. This wine is bright, crisp, and wonderful.  It starts out slightly sweet and fruity and finishes with a nice citrus quality that makes your mouth water for more. I’m going to give this one 4.25 grapes, but I will say that I’m biased to this one as I’ve enjoyed it a couple of times before.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I decided to make meatballs because I had quite a bit of ground meat in my freezer. This dish represents me trying to finish up some of the things that I had in the fridge that were about to go bad.

When I cook something familiar, I often wing it. I put a little bit of this and a little bit of that into the mix and that is what I did with this recipe. It’s different when I’m cooking something unfamiliar, and maybe easier in terms of blogging because I can simply put up a link to the recipe, rather than having to write each ingredient down. This conglomeration consists of food items I decided might go well in a spaghetti and meatball dish.

Here’s the recipe:

Sauce:
1 jar (44oz) Classico Tomato Basil pasta sauce
1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 tbsp pepper
1 tsp basil leaves (dried)
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp ground flax seed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 onion
1 package baby portabello mushrooms

Bring sauce, tomato, and spices (excluding the onion and mushrooms) to a boil in a large pot. In a separate pan, saute onions with two tablespoons of olive oil until almost caramelized. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the onion and mushrooms to the sauce mixture and simmer for 30 minutes (longer is definitely fine). While the sauce is cooking, cook your favorite pasta to accompany the dish. I used a whole grain pasta. Here’s a picture of what the mushrooms and onions look like when they are done.


Meatballs:
1lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground meatball mix (veal, beef, pork)
1/2 tsp marjoram leaves (dried)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano leaves (dried)
4 tbsp parsley (fresh)
1/2 tsp cumin
1.5 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp basil leaves (dried)
2 tbsp ground flax seed
3 chopped green onions
1 roasted marinated red pepper, chopped

Combine all ingredients. I did so by hand because I think it is the easiest. Cook in a frying pan for 20-30 minutes on low medium heat, turning as necessary, until cooked throughout.

Here is the meat rolled up and ready to be cooked. The meat I used was 80/20 in terms of meat to fat ratio. Usually, I prefer less fat, but again, I was using up things I had. Since it was 80/20, there was not much need for oil in the pan before cooking the meatballs. If you’re using meat that is more lean, you might want to add oil to the pan to prevent sticking.

Here are two photo versions of the finished product. It was very tasty and flavorful. My meatballs never come out perfectly round, so don’t worry if yours don’t either. The flavor is what’s more important. I will say that I go easy on the salt, so if you like saltier food, I would use more of it. Also, I’m not sure that the small amount of cumin added to the meat really made a difference in terms of flavor. The addition of the roasted marinated red pepper definitely added a bit of sweetness as well as some color, so I would definitely do that again. It was a tasty dish that I’ll give 3.75 stars.

Pumpkin bonanza

The truth is that soup is really hard to photograph. Taking pictures of liquids in general is just boring. Soup also comes in a bowl, so you can’t exactly take pictures from that many angles. You definitely need to add garnish to make it look better, which I tried by adding the cilantro in the above photograph. I’m not really sure that this photo does it justice to make it look as good as it tasted, but I’ll move on to discussing food.

This Thai Coconut Soup is from Better Homes and Gardens http://www.bhg.com/recipe/soups/thai-pumpkin-soup/. I used 2 jalapenos instead of one and thought the spiciness was perfect. The soup was a nice blend of sweetness, spiciness, and creaminess. The vegetables give it a little bit of texture, but this soup could also be pureed into velvety goodness. I’ll give it 3.5 stars.

Next, watch this soup magically transform into something completely different: Thai Tilapia.

The day after I made the soup, I decided to make tilapia. I found this recipe and made a few modifications to it: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/thai-style-tilapia/Detail.aspx. I pureed the Thai Pumpkin soup from the above recipe and added some turmeric to it. Then, I cooked the tilapia in the pureed soup mixture according to the recipe. It can be served alone or with some basmati rice and Sriracha sauce. (Note: the vegetables pictures are simply from a frozen steam bag). I’ll give the pumpkin tilapia 3 stars.

Pizza Hut’s pizza bites pizza

I saw this article the other day about foods that speed weight loss and was very happy to see that cheese was on the list: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/healthieryou/7-foods-speed-weight-loss. I know that the amount of cheese recommended here is quite small (1 oz.), but at least it’s something. I think of the other foods on the list, such as coffee, green tea, peppers, and almonds as typical weight loss foods that one often hears about in the media. In this article, cheese seemed to be the fully loaded outlier.

I often choose cheese as a snack and now I have more of an excuse to eat it, not that I needed one. I don’t believe that people should deprive themselves of the foods they crave, but moderation is key to anything in life, including food. That being said, I definitely have some weaknesses when it comes to food and cheese is near the top of that list. At any rate, this article was a good excuse to get pizza!

Pizza Hut has a new pizza that I wanted to try: the Cheesy Bites Pizza. I had to try it after a long week. The crust is nice and garlicky, but a bit dry. The sauce that comes with it is definitely necessary to combat the dryness.

When I saw this pizza, I thought, why not just get a stuffed crust pizza? At the same time, food in small portions is incredibly cute and trendy, so why not market it. One thing that sets this pizza apart from a regular stuffed crust pizza is that the cheese is coming out of the cheesy bites and is a little bit charred on the edges. I think that characteristic is what makes this pizza better than a stuffed crust pizza.

I also tried the pizza as leftovers the following day and found that the crust softened, so that it was not as dry as the first day, which improved the taste. Overall, I’ll give it 2.5 starts….pretty good for a commercial pizza!