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

February 4, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

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

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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Stuffed Sausage Meatballs

January 13, 2016 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

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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Carrot Pecan Pesto

November 11, 2015 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments

Pesto is traditionally thought of as a pasta sauce that is made of fresh blended herbs, garlic, olive oil, grated cheese and pine nuts. Its most common ingredient is fresh basil. However, there are a number of creative variations that have popped up over the years. I like to do a half and half blend of basil and mint, and my sister-in-law makes a delicious pea pesto. This carrot and pecan version of pesto makes for a fantastic addition to your Thanksgiving menu. It would work well as an appetizer with fresh veggies or crackers. If pasta is part of your Thanksgiving dinner, it would be a nice alternative to a traditional marinara sauce/red gravy. And you can bet that slathering it on top of a turkey sandwich would be heavenly!

Before you break out your food processor or food chopper, you’ll want to first roast the carrots and pecans in the oven for 15 minutes. This will soften the carrots for easier chopping and will enhance the flavor of both the carrots and pecans. I decided to use pecans in this recipe because I feel that their taste is very complementary to carrots. You can use walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, or any holiday nut combination of your liking.

Carrot Pecan Pesto

1/2 lb baby carrots (1/2 of a small bag)
1/2 cup pecans
vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
dash of ground ginger
1 tspn fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚. Lightly coat the carrots with a small bit of vegetable or canola oil. Place the carrots and pecans onto a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven.

Place the roasted carrots and pecans, parmesan cheese, ginger and thyme into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Keeping the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until fully incorporated. You may need to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with additional sprigs of fresh thyme.

 

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