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A Little of This and Some of That: Thinking Outside the (Pizza) Box

February 4, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments
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The big game is quickly approaching…it’s Super Bowl weekend, and I’m sure that many of you are already planning your game day party. No doubt that one of the signature foods that appears at big game parties, or any type of party or get together, is pizza. In today’s podcast I want to share with you some of my ideas and suggestions on how to put your personal touch on a home made pizza party, with a variety of ingredients and cooking methods…so today, we are thinking outside of the box…the pizza box, that is! Game on!

 

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Crockpot Meatball Stew

January 31, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments
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There is nothing quite as old-world or rustic as a hearty bowl of stew. To add a bit of an Italian flare to this dish, my family adds meatballs in place of the more traditional cubes of beef or lamb. This is a recipe that has been in my wife’s family for a few generations, and we still consider it one of our favorite comfort foods. Because our schedules are always so busy these days, I’ve adapted this dish to work perfectly in a slow cooker. By using a pound of pre-cooked meatballs (using your favorite meatball recipe, of course), and letting the stew cook on low for at least 8 hours, you can enjoy a delicious old-world meal with minimal effort!

 

 

 

Crockpot Meatball Stew

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 16-oz package frozen peas and carrots
1 29-oz can tomato sauce
1 can (29 oz.) of water (use the tomato sauce can to measure)
1 beef bouillon cube
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional spices – chili powder, crushed red pepper)1-lb cooked meatballs, rolled small

Place all ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low temperature for at least 8 hours. Add additional seasoning to taste. Don’t forget the crusty bread for dipping!

 

I was very honored to have this recipe featured in the January 2016 edition of the Philadelphia RowHome Magazine. The magazine version appears below. Please be sure to check out all of the greatness that my good friends at RowHome have to offer at gohomephilly.com

 

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My Best Dish Experience: Take 1

January 21, 2016 Menu No Comments

Over the years of writing my food blog, I’ve had a handful of opportunities come along for the chance to appear on televised cooking segments. The first, which was an opportunity to be a contestant on Rachael Ray’s Great Philly Grill-Off competition, almost seemed promising. I made it to the second phase of the phone interviews, but unfortunately the adventure ended there. Not long after that, my wife and I were both approached to interview for a potential Food Network competition show, featuring married couples in the kitchen. That opportunity went as far as a Skype interview with the Food Network, but it seemed as if that project fizzled out all together soon after that. Seeing how a lot of hope and excitement could quickly lead to nothing, I stopped pursuing opportunities to appear on TV. By this time, my food blog was really starting to take off. My recipes were being shared in both the DelCo Times and in the Philadelphia RowHome Magazine, I had a regular guest spot on Lorraine Ranalli’s Cucina Chatter radio program, and would occasionally appear with the Cucina Chatter cast on The Heron’s Nest video podcast with host Philip Heron. Considering that this food blog was all just a passionate hobby of mine, things were really working out well for me. Shooting for a spot on TV was never really part of my plan, and I was totally fine with that.

Just around this time last year, our dear friend Karen (who also happens to be a member of our extended family…South Philly Cousins!) had sent me a lead for a new cooking show based in Philly, that was looking for a host. Karen, who has always been one of my biggest supporters since day one, thought that the opportunity would be great for me. Being that I had started my podcast at this point (which I will be continuing with, I promise), along with the time that I spent on the radio and on the Heron’s Nest, I felt that I may have a chance at this. I was becoming more comfortable with actually talking about food, and was discovering my voice, so why not? I sent in the application, kept my fingers crossed, and just kept on moving along. Time went by, and the application process just became another thing of the past.

Fast forward to July…

Thinking that the opportunity to host a local cooking show was all just another pipe dream, I was both surprised and elated to be contacted in early July for an audition. I had never been on an audition, so I had no idea what to expect, and surprisingly enough my nerves were very much under control. When I showed up at the appointed location, I was asked if I was auditioning to be a host or a contestant. Contestant? I didn’t know that this was even an option! While hosting a cooking show would be fun, actually being a contestant on a cooking show was way more in my wheel house. I explained this to the person at the front desk, and she agreed to ask the people running the auditions if I could interview as a contestant. When it was my turn to head into the audition area, I was told that I would be auditioning as a contestant. Yes!

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Image courtesy of 4 Lion Productions

I walked in with coolness and confidence. Again, I never auditioned for anything, and I felt that I had absolutely nothing to lose here. I was told to stand in front of a video camera, under a bunch of hot studio lights. The set-up looked exactly like an audition scene from a TV reality series. My goodness, this was really happening! Seated behind a table in front of me were three gentleman (including producers Chris Kelly and Paul Tucker of 4 Lion Productions) who proceeded to ask me about myself, my cooking style and other various food/cooking-related questions. Surprisingly, I felt very comfortable answering each question that was fired at me. I made sure to reference my food blog as often as I could…after all, it was the passion and dedication to my food blog that brought me to this situation in the first place. Deep rooted family values and the goal of sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers has always been my main focus, and I made sure to stress this while answering the questions. The audition took all of about 10 minutes, but when it was over I felt very confident and happy with the answers that I gave. After a round of cordial handshakes and thanks to the team that hosted me that day, I walked out of the audition feeling like a winner. The gentlemen who interviewed me had nothing but the kindest words to say to me as I left, which was the perfect ending to this unique experience. Regardless of whether I was called back for another audition, or whatever the next step would be, I was given the opportunity to speak truthfully and honestly about my passionate hobby..and it was all captured on film. This was already a crowning achievement for me. I drove back to meet my family for Sunday dinner, and after sharing the highlights of the day’s events, I was brought back to the beautiful reality of making Sunday dinner with my kids, my wife and my wife’s family. Life was good.

Fast forward to mid-December…

Once again, a few months went by and I never heard anything more on the audition. As I just said, having the opportunity to audition alone was both gratifying and an honor…but I did wonder if anything would ever come of this? Well, I would soon get my answer as I listened to a message that was left on my phone…”Hi Dominic, we’re calling to let you know that you have been selected to be a contestant on the pilot episode of Best Dish!”

YIKES!!!!!

 

Next, I’ll be sharing with you my experience of taping the pilot episode of Best Dish. It was an amazing opportunity, and aside from getting to cook on camera, I also got to spend the day with a group of super talented people. You’ll be able to read all about it right here. Stay tuned!

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Stuffed Sausage Meatballs

January 13, 2016 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments
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Meatballs and sausage. Two staples on an Italian-American menu. Sunday gravy would not be the same without them! For today’s recipe, I’m combining the two into one, with a surprise stuffing in the middle. Mind-blowing, right? The easy thing about making sausage meatballs is that you don’t have to put as much effort or ingredients into it as you would a traditional meatball. The meat is already seasoned, and there are more fats contained within it to help hold the shape of the meatball without adding breadcrumbs and eggs. You can, of course, add these ingredients if you like. But they are not necessary. Another good thing about using sausage meat for meatballs is that there is a wide variety of sausages available. From your basic hot or sweet Italian sausage, to chicken or turkey sausage, to gourmet sausages filled with ingredients such as spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Dare I say you can even use the Gimme Lean vegetarian sausage substitute, if that is your preference. Any of these would make for fantastic meat for these sausage meatballs. And if you can find ground sausage loose (not in the casing), all the better! It will save you some time from cutting the meat out of the casing when you are ready to get rolling (see what I did there?).

I’m not going to get into specifics on ingredients for this dish, because you can really get creative and go in whatever direction you desire. However, I will list some interesting filling combinations that would work well with ground sausage. Keep in mind that you will need a decent amount of meat to surround the filling that you are using. Certain cheeses that you may decide to use may get very soft within the meatball. This is a good thing, but you want to make sure that the filling is fully encased, otherwise the cheese will ooze out of any crevices or openings within the meatball. You are looking at about 6 large meatballs per pound of ground sausage meat. To help contain the shape and texture of the rolled meatball, simply roll the meatballs into some breadcrumbs. This will also make for a nice, crunchy texture.

Filling Suggestions

For my sausage meatballs, I am using a nice chicken and cheese sausage that I bought from my local butcher, and am stuffing them with broccoli rabe and extra sharp provolone. Here are some of my other suggestions that would make for great stuffings in a sausage meatball.

Roasted Red Peppers
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Provolone Cheese (mild, medium or sharp)
Mozzarella Cheese (a smoked mozzarella would be fantastic!)
Feta Cheese
Black or Green Olives
Pesto
Prosciutto
Shrimp

 

Step 1: select your key ingredients. I’m going with chicken sausage, broccoli rabe and extra sharp provolone cheese.

 

Step 2: pat down a handful of meat, top with a small amount of filling. Do not overfill, otherwise the meatball may fall apart.

 

Step 3: roll the meatballs tight.

Step 3: roll the meatballs tight.

 

Step 3: roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. Lightly spray, and bake at 375˚ for 45-50 minutes, until crispy.

Step 4: roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. Lightly spray the meatballs, then bake at 375˚ for 45-50 minutes, until crispy.

 

Step 4: serve with a side of your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Step 5: serve with a side of your favorite sauce and enjoy!

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