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Friday, October 7, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Mac

Bacon Cheeseburger Mac
Since fusion food is all the rage, i decided to fuse two American classics, Bacon Cheeseburgers with Mac & Cheese. The kids love it almost as much as i do. This isn't going to win any low fat awards, but it steals the show for taste. This will make 4-6 servings, depending how big the kids are. Please don't be scared by the ingredients. This is the flavor that kid's love and this melts beautifully without a rue or baking.

8 oz (1/2 lb.) Small Pasta - went with my boy's favorite shells
4 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar- diced or shredded
8 oz Velveeta - Yup, you read it right - diced
1 lb Ground Meat - Lean Hamburger or even Turkey rocks this dish
1/4 lb Bacon - cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Onion finely diced
1 cup Milk
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Grill Seasoning

Bacon rendering
Render the bacon on medium low in a tbsp of oil to get it started. Start water boiling for pasta, cook to desired tenderness when water boils See below for sauce if you want to do everything at once.When the bacon is fully rendered and as crisp as you like it, remove with a slotted spoon to leave the fat for browning the meat, but save the bacon to top later. Saute the onions for a couple of minutes & turn up the heat to medium high to sear the meat. Sprinkle the meat in the pan with grill seasoning as you would a burger, for me a light dusting is just fine. When fully browned, remove with slotted spoon to a mixing bowl, with pasta if done.

Food Critics
For the sauce, you can cook while you make the meat & pasta, or wait until they are done if it's too much at once. Heat the milk and 2 tbsp oil on medium in a medium saucepan. Just before simmering, reduce heat to medium low, add the diced or shredded cheese and whisk until fully melted. Pour over the meat & pasta, mix thoroughly & top with your bacon. MMMMMMM!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mockiyaki Budget Steak and Grilled Chicken

Grilled Mockiyaki Chuck Steak
I absolutely love teriyaki, but do not always have molasses on hand for a "true" teriyaki marinade. If you do, you want....

Soy Sauce- low sodium
Garlic- Fresh minced or Garlic Powder
Pickled Ginger - minced fine
Molasses
Red Pepper Flake to taste
Black Pepper to taste.

I know there are no measurements, not uncommon in my kitchen. One of my biggest challenges writing recipes is deconstructing what i have done by sight, feel and taste for years into something that others can follow. I would start with about a half cup of soy, and just a tablespoon of molasses, a teaspoon of ginger and a dash of each seasoning.

I found some Chuck Steak, cut from the section just behind the rib eye, so its a delicious brother that needs a little treatment like the marinade. The chuck was half the cost of the rib eye. I pat the steaks dry with paper towel so they sear, and go about 5-7 minutes a side on a medium high grill for 1 1/2" steaks cooked medium rare. For chicken, i go about 8-10 minutes a side on a medium grill. Either way, let your meat rest a few minutes before slicing. Treat the chuck like a flank or skirt steak and cut against the grain for tender and delicious slices. The sweet potato side was rubbed lightly in olive oil, wrapped in foil and turned every ten minutes on the medium grill for 45 minutes.

My Mockiyaki is even simpler. In the freezer bags i use to marinade i squirt & add....

 
Grilled Mockiyaki Chuck Steak w Sweet Potato
 Soy Sauce- low sodium
 Sriracha - the Asian red hot pepper sauce
 Honey - always in the cupboard
 Pickled Ginger- mince
 Garlic Powder or Fresh Minced.

Shake all the ingredients in the sealed bag, add meat, and let sit overnight for best flavor. For those that have seen my stir fry method, you'll recognize thes ingredients.

Grilled Lamb Chops

Grilled Lamb Chops
There has been some recent salad activity located in Dad's kitchen, but i am still a carnivore at heart. The next couple of posts are for the meat & carb lovers out there. The grilled Lamb Chops are more abut the ingredient than the method. When I was a child, one of the staple meats was lamb chops. NOT the fancy, Frenched variety on the rack, but the bony shoulder blade chops that are quite a bit more affordable, but just as tasty. Recently shoulder blade chops have jumped in price to about $6-$7 a pound. Far more tasty in my opinion than very cheap cuts of steak for the same price. I figure 2 chops per person for servings.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mean Green Pasta
The prep is as simple as some Grill Seasoning and 5-7 minutes a side on a medium grill for medium rare chops. I served them here with my Mean Green Pasta, an Asian inspired delight, but also will throw some sweet potatoes wrapped in foil and olive oil on the the grill for about 45 minutes.

Honey Soy Sesame Salad Dressing

Trying a new salad dressing can completely wake up even your oldest , or most tired salad mix. My wife recently brought some Spinach Salad to work as a Thank You to some co-workers, but along with the Greekish dressing, I wanted to give a choice to the punchy vinegar taste of the Greekish. The sweet and tangy of the Honey Soy Sesame was the perfect option to offer a very different but equally delicious flavor. Adjust your 'dashes" below to your own taste. My 'part' when i am testing is usually a 1/4 cup.

1 part Rice Wine Vinegar
1 part Soy - low sodium if available
1 part Honey
2 part Vegetable Oil - I had Canola on hand
Sesame oil - Small Drops - can be very overpowering
1 tsp - 1 tbsp Pickled Ginger - minced very fine
Dash Red Pepper Flake
Dash Black Pepper
Dash Garlic Powder

I put everything except the Vegetable oil in my container or mixing bowl to blend well. I do this for all salad dressings, as it helps the dry spices, salt or sugar get dissolved first, and not suspended in the oil. Then i whisk or shake in the oil, tasting & adjusting pepper etc.In my local market, the pickled ginger is in the Asian foods aisle along with the Rice Vinegar and more Sesame Oil choices. I do not buy the Roasted Sesame Oil, VERY strong, tough to control, but if that is the flavor you love, make it your way. The pickled ginger and the Sesame Oil store best in the fridge.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beef Stew

Beef  Stew
Been overcast for so long, gotta go with some stew even though it's not that cold yet. Everyone has their own spin on beef stew., and i've played with a few different methods. The mood hit me today for tonight's dinner, so no marinade here. Feel free to marinate the beef overnight in some red wine, Worcestershire Sauce, garlic rosemary & thyme for extra intense flavor, but don't be scared if you want stew today and no patience. This stew is quite delicious already.

As an alternative cooking method, brown the meat, de-glaze with wine and add everything to a slow cooker on low for about 6 hours, but the potatoes get overdone in my opinion.

1 1/2 lbs Stew Meat cube into bit size pieces - about 3/4 inch
1 1/2 lbs Baby Potatoes - no peeling required - dice same - cover w  water to prevent browning
1 medium Onion- diced rough. (today's was a purple onion, so exciting)
2 Carrots - sliced bite size - i like the bias
2 Celery - sliced bite size
2 Parsnip - sliced bite size
4 cups (32 oz, or 1 qt) Beef Stock - low sodium
1 cup red wine - today's was lifted from my Mother -In -Law's Vin Rose in the big green jug!
1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp Flour
2 tbsp dry Rosemary - dried works just fine or 3 tbsp fresh if available, mince with knife or spice mill
2 tbsp dry Thyme - same as above
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil as needed

Browned Stew Meat
As you look through the ingredients, it may not jump out that this was an "on hand" recipe. After a frantic errand filled morning, i simply forgot to get Vidalias, my onion of choice, some Cabernet, my red wine of choice, and some fresh herbs. We always have dry on hand, and i am tired of being made to feel guilty about using them and the same goes for my big green jug of Vin Rose. It's been Maria's (mom-in-law) wine of choice for years and the Maria has a black belt in cooking.
Stew Vegetables

Pre-heat an 8 qt pot (cast iron works great here, need to get me some) on medium with a couple of  tbsp Olive Oil. Toss the meat with the herbs, salt and pepper. Then toss with the 2 tbsp of flour to lightly coat the meat evenly. If there is flour & herbs left in the bowl, put aside for now, but keep them. Depending how wide your pot is, you may need 2 or 3 rounds of browning the meat. Drop the meat in the pan, giving the pieces plenty of room so they do not steam. We are looking for nice golden brown char on the meat here, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a bow and replace as needed until all the meat is browned. You may need to add oil in between round, and don't worry about the bits sticking to the pan, we'll get to those.

Drop the heat t medium low, toss in the veggies, NOT the potatoes, and saute to help them develop their flavors with a little salt and pepper. When the onions start to turn translucent, add the 1 cup of wine and use a spoon or spatula to work in the bits on the bottom of the pan. FLAVOR is there waiting for you. Simmer & reduce the wine by about half. Add a couple of tbsp Beef Stock to the leftover flour and herbs, whisk together well, and add to the pan with the rest of the stock. Bring to a simmer cover for one hour, stirring occasional and tast for salt and pepper. After an hour, drain the potatos and add to the pot. Simmer for one more hour. Serve with some fresh warm bread and Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuna & Bean Salad


 For too many reasons to possibly list here, my wife is my hero. However, one of the smaller reasons is her dedication and willingness to only eat salads for work meals. She feels lighter on her feet all day, and says it makes up for our more indulgent meals when she is home. Tuna & Bean salad is just one of the alternatives that we go with when i make here lunch. She has me put it over any variety of mixed crunchy greens & hot pepper rings with some home made dressing.

1 5 oz can Solid Tuna in Water
1 16 oz can Cannellini Beans - drained & rinsed*
2 tbs Olive Oil
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Dried Parsley
Salt and pepper to taste - A dash of crushed red pepper is great!
1/3 cup each of the following  finely diced

  • Cucumber - Seeded - peel optional
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Purple Onion
I drain the tuna in a mesh strainer over the sink, easier than squeezing the can and spraying myself with tuna juice. Use a large mixing bowl just to make life easy.  Drain & rinse the beans in the strainer as well. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well, but lightly, canned beans smash easy. refridgerate for at least an hour for flavors to come together. This is a very lightly dressed salad. You can certainly add more oil or vinegar to taste when serving, but it hold up best without being drowned.

*Works great with chick peas (garbanzo beans if you prefer) or any other preference like kidney beans.

Enjoy.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Southwest Rice and Beans

In our home, we now call this house Rice, we make it so frequently. Very Tasty! The food police will be knocking on my door for Rule Breaking and using converted (par-cooked) rice again, but it just cooks too beautifully not to use. We usually serve with burritos, but as a standalone it works great with some shrimp tossed in to simmer with the rice or even leftover grilled chicken breast to stretch those budgets.


1- 1 1/2 cups converted rice - y'know that "uncle's" rice or market equivalent
1 3/4 -2 1/2 cups Chicken broth - low sodium store brand if home made is not an option.
*** More rice & stock for more servings- 1 cup of rice is about 4 servings and some leftovers***
1 medium Onion dices fine or Shallot works really well here.
1 16 oz can petite diced tomatoes - DO NOT drain
1 16 oz can Black Beans - DO NOT drain
1 16 oz can  Corn -Drained or 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen
1-2 Jalapenos cut into thin rings or seeded & diced fine if you want to cut the heat.
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Optional -Shredded Cheese or Pico De Gallo(fresh salsa) to top

Saute the onions and pepper in the olive oil over medium low heat, at least until translucent or fully caramelize for best flavor. Add the rice and toss lightly to to slightly brown. Raise the heat to high, add the stock, beans, tomatoes and corn and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.



Enjoy !

Beef and Bean Burritos Enchilada Style

One of the family favorites, these burritos are spicy, cheesy, a bit messy and anything else you might want in a great burrito. I know there are some bean haters out there, and they can be omitted, or the bean base can be substituted with a quality can of refried beans. The can of black beans is somewhere between 80¢ and a dollar, vs. double for refried and lower in sodium, fat, and additives as well. We all want to save money, right? The following will make 8-10 burritos with 8" tortillas. I frequently make a day ahead, or freezes well in a food saver or with air removed from a freezer bag. ( I use a straw.) The prep on this before it goes in the oven is about 1 1/2 hours. Well worth the time when you have it

Bean Base

1 16 oz Can Black Beans - drained and rinsed
1 Lime - zested and juiced

Meat Mix

1 1/4 lb Lean Hamburg - Ground Turkey or Chicken work well here also.
1/4 lb Bacon - about 4 thick cut strips diced
1 medium Onion - diced fine
2-3 Chipotle Peppers dice fine or 2-3 tablespoon Chipotle Hot Sauce
1 16 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained but not squeezed dry or...
1 1/2cup fresh tomato diced fine, seeds and goo removed
2 tbsp Dad's Rub( start with one if not using beans)
2 tbsp Olive oil.
Salt and Pepper to taste.

8-10 8" Flour Tortillas
1/2 lb at least of shredded cheese like cheddar or a good pepper jack. Shred a block,  better taste, $ave
Enchilada Sauce
Pico de Gallo or Salsa-Fresh is best or a good market brand


Burrito Assembly Line
Pulse beans, lime zest and juice in a food processor -same method to saute with bacon and onions for home made refried beans side dish. Slowly render the bacon in a wide, deep skillet until it is just under crisp over a low heat in the olive oil. Be patient, this can take a few minutes. Add the onions, continuing to saute slowly. I will usually fully caramelize the onions before i turn up the heat to medium high and add the beef and the Dad's Rub. Breakup the beef with your spoon, but really let it brown, don't mix too often.  That char is your friend and your flavor. Mix in the bean base and the tomatoes. Turn down the heat and let simmer for at least twenty minutes to thicken and bring flavors together.

While meat mix is cooling to a manageable temp, pre heat oven to 350 and heat tortillas wrapped together in aluminum foil for ten minutes. this makes them much more manageable without tearing. I "cut" the cooled meat mix into quarters in the pan and then half again to portion. Drop a couple of heaping tablespoons of cheese into the burrito, then spoon the mix on top. I fold the bottom over, then the sides, and then roll over the top. Place with the last folded  side down to keep them closed  into a baking pan or casserole dish lined with cooking spry to make removal easier. Spoon enchilada sauce and more cheese over the top. If just rolled, heat in the oven covered in foil for at least 15 minutes. If from the fridge, pre-made, I will heat for 45 minutes. I like to add my cheese when they come out of the oven actually, it tends to melt off completely and stick to the pan otherwise. Top with Pico and serve. We usually serve with my spin on Southwest Rice & Beans

Enjoy !


Dad's Rub

Dad's Rub is just my own little spice blend that i use for grilling and sauces and all sorts of other places.

It is simply
2 parts Chili Powder- the "Hot" Mexican on the market shelves usually isn't too spicy.
1 part each
- Black Pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Paprika
-Cumin
-Garlic Powder
-Dry Mustard Powder


Please note there is no salt in this rub. I prefer to salt to taste





Enchilada Sauce

Burritos with Enchilada -ready for Oven
A ouple of years ago when i was planning on burritos for dinner, the market was out of the canned stuff one day, and thank goodness. it forced me to make my own which is far superior, and a lot less expensive. A 29 oz can of Puree is only about $1.50, half the cost of the "Authentic" sauce.

1 29 oz can Tomato Puree
3+ tbsp Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Onion finely diced
1 tbsp Dad's Rub
2-3 Chipotle Peppers finely diced
   or 2-3 tbsp Chipotle Hot Sauce
1+ tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Olive oil
Small dash of ground cinnamon, and/or allspice, Very Easy to overpower.

Burritos w Enchilada Sauce Topped with Pico Served w Rice
Saute the onion in the olive oil.over medium low heat. The longer you let it go toward fully caramelized, the more delicious it gets. If you have the time, take the onions all the way. Except peppers or hot sauce, add everything else and whisk together, continuing medium low heat to simmer. Add the peppers or hot sauce 1 at a time to control heat. You may like your saucece more tart or more sweet as well, which explains the "+" You can always add to your preference. Simmer a few minutes to bring the flavors together.

Dad's Rub is just my own little spice blend that i use for grilling and sauces and all sorts of other places.

It is simply
2 parts Chili Powder- the "Hot" Mexican on the market shelves usually isn't too spicy.
1 part each
- Black Pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Paprika
-Cumin
-Garlic Powder
-Dry Mustard Powder



Please note there is no salt in this rub. I prefer to salt to taste

Saturday, September 17, 2011

BBQ or Barbecue Chicken Wings

Unless you're just one of those chicken haters, everyone else has their favorite variety of chicken wings. Whether you like to Buffalo, sweet and spicy, Asian sticky, orange sesame or in this case, barbecue, at some point you can't get enough of those chicken wings. For me, on the bone, slow grilled with a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce is the way to go.

Marinade - at least 4 hours, overnight for max flavor

For  4-5 lbs chicken wings, about 16 pieces, tips cut off, flats & drums NOT separated
2 12 oz beers -good ol' American light beer works great
1 Lime - zest & juice
3-4 Jalapenos sliced w seeds, or seeded & diced for heat control
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Or 1 tbsp Dad's Rub in place of Black Pepper & Garlic for extra pop.
Barbecue Sauce - Homemade or favorite store brand (try mine it's really good)

Start with nice clean grill grates, lightly rubbed with oil to prevent sticking, Pre-heat grill on high. I like to fire it up to about 400 degrees if you have a temp gauge on your grill. Reduce heat to medium low, place wings "skin" side up, cover grill and DON"T TOUCH for 15 minutes unless you get a fire flare up. For charcoal grills, don't have the grate set too low on the coals. Flip after fifteen minutes and put first light coat of barbecue sauce on the side that just cooked. If your grill is like mine, you may be switching wings around from hot spots so they cook evenly. Drop cover & let go for another fifteen minutes. Flip & sauce the just cooked side, cover & grill for 10 more minutes. Last flip & BBQ Sauce, another 5 minute should do.

Enjoy.

Sausage & Potato Casserole

You may want to cut back the ingredients if you don't like leftovers or have small family, i'm all for anything that gives a meal or two the next day also. This is a super simple prep and like all casseroles, too easy to cook. Oh, and it tastes great too.

1 1/2 lb Sausage -sliced in rings or 1/2 moons for bigger & firmer links, mix up your favorite varieties
2 lbs Potatoes, bite size, sliced thin - baby potatoes work great here, no peeling
1 medium onion, diced fine - about 3/4 cup
1/2 Bell Pepper, diced fine - about 3/4 cup - I love the red or orange for best flavor
4 tbsp dried Parsley or  a good handful of fresh if on hand.
Salt & Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees while prepping, this is fast. Most varieties of sausage slice best if half frozen, especially ground turkey. I have made this with sweet and hot Italian, Bratwurst, Kielbasa including the baloney brand turkey kielbasa, Linguica, Portuguese Chourico, Andouille, Chicken Apple, and Mango Jalapeno Chicken sausages. Each type can bring a dramatically different flavor, don't be scared. The one in the picture is the most frequent, 1 lb Hot Turkey Italian style, 1/2 lb Turkey kielbasa. Those two are my son's favorites, and as fussy as he is, if he likes it, that's what i'm cooking.

Toss the ingredients in a large bowl, and spread evenly into a large lightly oiled casserole baking dish. Cook in the oven for at least an hour, tossing to brown evenly after 1/2 hour & then twenty minutes. My son loves his with a good dose of ketchup of course.

Enjoy.

Penne & Broccoli with Pesto Cream Sauce

NOT your normal thick Alfredo Sauce at all. My wife and mother in law actually prefer thinner sauces, while i am always a fan of the cheesy goo. Dad wouldn't be Dad without the family, so I love to cook to their preferences.


1 lb Penne or other medium tube pasta, love the Barilla enriched
1 qt Heavy Cream
1 cup Grated Parmesan or Romano -Break the Rules, use the cheap stuff
4 cups Broccoli Crowns, fresh, cut off stem into big bite pieces
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup pesto, homemade or store brand (classic basil & garlic)
2-3 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a deep 12 inch skillet, saute the broccoli in olive oil over medium heat for a 2-3 minutes.Salt and pepper to taste here. Raise heat to medium high and add the chicken stock to steam the broccoli for just a couple minutes if you like it firm, as do i.

 Remove the broccoli to a bowl, leaving the stock in the pan, reducing heat to simmer, reducing stock by about half to concentrate the flavor. Whisk in the pesto and add the cream. My family loves a lot of sauce, mainly to soak up with bread. Use at least 2 1/2 cups of cream if you think the quart is too much. Let the cream heat up a bit before adding the grated cheese. If your budget allow the "good" cheese, by all means use it. Quite honestly, i would go broke if i only bought the $15-$20 per pound good stuff to keep up with our grated cheese consumption.

When I add the cheese, that is when i turn on the water for the pasta. About 20 minutes total time on my stove to boil the salted water and cook the pasta to a firm Al Dente. This allows the pesto cream sauce to thicken a bit, it's not soup after all. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Serve with fresh crusty bread or your favorite garlic bread.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cooking for Cubs - It's Not Just Hot Dogs



 The greatest benefit of working from home is is always being close to the family and being able to make time for their interests. My son's favorite activity is Scouting, which is all the camping, wood projects, pinewood derbies, great community service events and so much more than anyone could fit into a calendar. Wherever there are large dgroups of children, there must be food.
     As much as I love to cook, with Scouting I am involved in many other aspects and we frequently call upon the parents and other groups of fine volunteers to keep us fed. As often as we safely can, we involve the boys too. Many of their advancements rely upon knowing how to plan a meal, budget the plan, go shopping and execute the meal with their family or in their den. The pack runs on food, no matter how you look at it.
     The most frequent menu offering is Cub Scout Sirloin, aka hot dogs. We boil, grill, fry, campfire cook hot dogs. Scout parents are the Ninjas of the hot dog cooking world. Nutriton aside, the dogs are fast, easy and affordable.
     Beyond the dogs, our annual Blue and Gold Banquet features a fine meatball and pasta dinner prepared at the Bristol Train of Artillery, one of those spectacular volunteer groups I was telling you about. I have already told you about feeding the Elks and the reason I joined is because of the awesome spring breakfast fundraiser that they put on for us. All you can eat french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. In the dens we've cooked mini pizzas in mini ovens, shared our favorite sandwiches and at least try to help teach the boys about fruits and vegetables, giving them plenty of exercise regardless of the meal.
     The highlights of any Scout year are the camping trips. If you think we're living on cold cuts out of coolers, no no no. Of course, there will be hot dogs, but we really step it up around dinner time. the boys and their parents all prepare their own foil dinners. These are delicacies of burgers or chicken (boy's choices) with potatoes and veggies wrapped in cabbage and foil, cooked over charcoals. The cabbage really keeps everything from burning and is quite tasty on its own. Some parents have stepped up the foil dinners with steak tips and seafood too. These dinners are followed with the tastiest dessert in the world, stuffed bananas. The bananas are sliced down the middle in their skins, and stuffed with chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts, wrapped in foil and grilled on those same charcoals. Oh My Oh My!
     No camping trip would be complete without loads of snacks. Cub snacks include GORP, Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, or any blend of custom trail mix including home made granola, raisins, pretzels, mini bread sticks etc. At night, we have a parent leader who makes ovens out of cardboard and tinfoil to make pizzas on the campfire. Incredible! That same leader made eggs in a nest of ham and cheese in muffin tins for breakfast while i tried to keep up with the home fries. I'm sure that i'm forgetting something, so please send me a comment to remind me.
     If you think that your boy would enjoy any of this kind of fun, our Recruting Rally for Pack 6 Bristol is Tuesday @ 6:00 pm At St. Mary's Church or visit www.beascout.org

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hot Shrimp Stir Fry over Wild Rice Pilaf

     This is one of my more recent recipes. I have dabbled in stir fries over the years, usually dumping some new brand of Asian condiment stir fry sauce over some over sauteed veggies, with everything tasting like it came out of whichever bottle I used.  I finally woke up and just peeled it back to the basics and had yummy success that is worth sharing. The Sriracha adds the heat factor, but there is a milder version in the Asian food aisle. The wild rice pilaf is just a healthier and tastier option to the regular white rice. A bit more expensive, but a lot more yum factor. This makes three very healthy adult portions.

For the Stir Fry

1 lb Shrimp - i go with e-z peel, tails & shells off, prefer 16-20/lb count, no less than 21-25/lb
1 Red bell Pepper diced about 3/4 inch
1 large Onion - large rough dice about 3/4 inch
2 large Celery Stalk - bias cut same size
2 Whole Carrots Bias Cut about half size
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce - low sodium if available
2 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Sriracha - Asian hot chili sauce, add more after tasting if desired
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder or more to taste, or preferably a couple of cloves fresh minced garlic
1 tbsp Corn Starch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
2-3 tbsp Oil - Peanut works nice for hi temp if no allergies

     In Large Skillet or Wok, pre-heat the oil on medium high. Dump all the veggies EXCEPT  garlic at once into the pan, stirring frequently. Season with salt & pepper, remembering the soy will ad saltiness as well. They should be quick seared & heated through in about 5-10 minutes. I like them still very firm and crisp and the shrimp & sauce will add some more cooking time. Add the garlic just before adding the shrimp to center, hottest part of pan to sear. 2- 3 minute, tossing occasionally. Add the soy,honey & hot sauce, stirring to bring together. If not thick enough, add small amounts of the corn starch slurry until desired thickness

For the Rice

1 4-5oz Package Wild Rice depending on brand - I have not tried the Pecan Flavored
3 tbsp Carrot fine diced
3 tbsp Celery fine diced
6 tbsp Onion fine diced
2 1/2 cups stock low sodium, any variety is nice
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the veggies in a tablespoon of oil. Add the rice and stock and bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer for an hour and 10 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper about halfway thru the cooking time. the packages i have bought recommend 45-50 minutes, never seems done enough to me, the husk is softened enough. Perhaps i simmer to low or don't know how to appreciate an overly firm rice. Taste along the way for your preference.

Enjoy!

Chicken Salad

     Still following up on the Elks Dinner, i was asked a couple of times "What's in the Chicken Salad?" No trade secrets, i'm here to share. Nothing out of the ordinary, just my own little twist. because of the two day cookathon, these are eyeball measurements to taste. I am cutting back to family proportions also, but feel free to triple for your next big meal.

2 Grilled Chicken Breast halves - about 1 pound - diced to your preferred chunkiness
Mayonnaise - about a half cup
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Small Celery Stalk - finely diced - about 3 tbsp
1 heaping tbsp Sweet Pickle Relish
1 tsp black pepper
Dash of Salt
Dash of Celery Salt

     Unlike the my Cole Slaw, i put the chicken in the bowl first before i mix in the dressing. That way i can control the wetness by mixing in the mayonnaise slowly. Some folks like it drowned, but not me. I want to taste the chicken. I put a link in the ingredients to my chicken marinade for grilling, or if you can get your hands on some Portuguese Pimenta Moida, just mix the pepper spread with beer, black pepper and garlic powder for another tasty twist, no need to add salt with the Pimenta Moida.

Serve on top of salad or your favorite crust role.

Cole Slaw

     One of my favorite all time sides, my slaw is pretty basic, but as usual, you can tweak it easily to your own tastes. I have been trying to deconstruct my recipes as i write them for the site so i can give fairly accurate measurements, but this last slaw was made in the heat of battle while prepping the Elks Dinner, so the measurements, except for the bag of slaw, are eyeballed. The Elks dinner was actually double this amount, and i still came up short for servings next to/on top of the pulled pork, luckily i had other sides.

1 24 oz bag Cole Slaw mix - green & red cabbage, shredded carrots
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Yellow Mustard
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp Parsley Flakes - dry
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic powder
dash of Salt
Dash of Celery Salt

     Whisk everything together in a mixing bowl before adding the cabbage mix. If you have fresh heads of cabbage on hand, by all means it add to it. Taste the dressing before adding the cabbage. You might like some extra mustard or maybe some Dijon (Funky Pinkish brown Warning Here!) I'm a vinegar nut, so i definitely use another dash of vinegar.
     When the dressing is to your liking, more pepper here, less garlic next time etc., fold in the shredded cabbage mix from the bottom of the bow to blend well. Full flavor takes at least an hour or so in the fridge to really marry the flavors and let everything do its job.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pulled Pork

 I've been talking about it for a couple of days now, so finally here is my recipe for pulled pork. WARNING, Rule Breaking in Progress. Unlike tradition classic "real" pulled pork, this is not smoked. I simply don't have a smoker and while slow grilling works very well, this oven or slow cooker method is great on a nasty winter day when you just gotta have some pulled pork.

Pork Butt - 3-6 lb in the market 8-10 lb from the box stores
4 tbsp Dad's Rub
4 tbsp Salt
4 tbsp Brown Sugar
   *** for the smaller roast, 3 tbsp each should be enough***
BBQ Sauce
Cole Slaw
1-2 cups Apple Cider
1 Large Onion Sliced into Rings
Sliced Apples - optional
1/4 cup Cider Vinegar - optional
Favorite Crusty Rolls, I love Bulkie Rolls


Dad's Rub

Dad's Rub is just my own little spice blend that i use for grilling and sauces and all sorts of other places.

It is simply
2 parts Chili Powder- the "Hot" Mexican on the market shelves usually isn't too spicy.
1 part each
- Black Pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Paprika
-Cumin
-Garlic Powder
-Dry Mustard Powder


Night before, whisk together salt , brown sugar, and Dad's Rub in a bowl large enough to roll your pork butt. Roll the pork and make sure to rub the rub well into the meat, especially all thoss little openings. Wrap in plastic and store in fridge (clean bowl to catch any leakage) overnight.

In either a slow cooker or roasting pan, layer the onions and apples if using and pour enough cider and vinegar to cover about 1 inch from the bottom. Place the pork, fat side up on top of the onion bed.

Because ovens and slow cookers can vary greatly, these times are approximate. Use a meat thermometer to check for 170 degree internal temp on the thickest part of the meat not touching the bone. Slow cooker on low for 5- 6 hours fora 5-6 lb roast, more time may be necessary for larger butts. Oven on 300, roasting pan covered 4-5 hours for 5-6 lb roast, 5-6 hours for 7-8 lb pork butt. Either method, the pork butt is cover and self bastes and steams in the cider.

*** As the fat melts, you may need to remove liquid with either a baster or label as necessary, save liquid***


Remove carefully from the cooker or pan into a bowl big enough to pull apart with two forks. You can discard any excess un-melted fat or slurp on it when nobody is looking. Use some of the remaining liquid or reserve liquid to keep the meat extra moist if desired.Personally, i LOVE the onions and apples left in the pan right on top of my sandwich or on the side. You can discard if your not brave enough.

On the roll, top the pork with BBQ sauce and some slaw. Yum Yum Yum!

Enjoy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spinach Salad with Honey Mustard or Greekish Dressing

Spinach Salad
     Yesterday i ranted about running around and prepping for the Elks Dinner. Today we made the BBQ sauce, grilled 10 pounds of chicken, marinated in beer and pimento moida. a Portuguese crushed red pepper (Italian varieties are more readily available, but Mom-in-Law makes the pimenta) and made a couple of salad dressings. I will get the pics up from the dinner as soon as I have them available, and I will be assembling the Spinach Salad, Chicken Salad and the Slaw on Thursday so they are fresh for the dinner, but here is the beginning of the menu.

Spinach Salad

1 9oz pkge of Baby Spinach - pre- washed, very nice
Cole slaw mix- Cabbage Blend and Carrots - handfuls to taste
Dried Cranberries - handful to taste
Purple Onion - sliced thin or diced fine
Toasted Sliced Almonds

Toss the ingredients in a large bowl and Voila! You have Salad. Please don't be afraid of the cabbage, adds the crunch you want in salad and fantastic depth of flavor. If you have leftover rawcabbage of any variety, by all means use it. I buy the slaw mix to save some prep time and avoid throwing away unused cabbage.

Greekish Dressing

     I would call it Greek, but am not using a red wine vinegar, apple cider instead, house favorite.

1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 cup at a time
1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Sugar or tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Oregano

 In a mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients together EXCEPT the olive oil, primarily to blend well and dissolve  salt, honey or sugar. Slowly whisk in the Olive Oil 1/2 cup at a time. I really love a strong vinegar note, and it helps to cut back the oil, even olive oil, so i use onlu 1 cup instead of 1 1/2.Can be stored on the counter for several days, but oils may get goopy in the fridge.

Honey Mustard

1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup Honey
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
2 tbsp Parsley Flakes - Dry
1/2 tsp salt

     Like the Greekish, whisk everything together except the oil, then blend the oil last. Please note the low oil to vinegar ratio here. This dressing is very punch, but extremely tasty, great for using in low volume on a salad, and keeping things fit. This dressing also makes an excellent marinade.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great Mexican Food in Bristol, RI


     While wifey & i were running all the errands, we finally manged to stop in at Nacho Mamma's in Bristol, RI. They've been open for a while now, year and a half or so, we just haven't got there.... Our Loss! Since we've moved home from Arizona, we are always looking for good Mexican, and while we have found a couple of places, nothing quite as fresh or tasty as Nacho Mamma's. My wife enjoyed shrimp tacos with a great salsa verde and i had to dive into the steak tacos with classic pico, another fine choice, and you can forget about the hard shell - soft shell debate.The owner Mike grills fresh flour tortillas for his tacos, and you really get the best of both worlds. Mike was also telling me that he will only use fresh & that's why there were no fish tacos available, they didn't have what he wanted, up to his standards. We also split a basket of chips & salsa. Is it wrong not to get full blown nachos at a place called Nacho Mamma's? When Mike says hot or extremely hot, he means it. the x-hot was a really great blend do of habanero, mango & "some other stuff." Can't blame him for not giving it all up. Anyway, if you're hungry, in Bristol, (worth the trip from anywhere really) stop in and treat yourself!

Lots to Do

     Today was the boy's first day of fourth grade, so we'll have his favorite meal, spaghetti & meatballs, (recipe links to follow) for dinner tonight. Beyond today, it's my week to cook on Thursdays at the Elks, and a menu for 50 or so servings of pulled pork, homemade slaw, BBQ chicken sandwiches, beanies & weenies, chicken salad and couple of green salad offerings had to be purchased and prepped. For now, just chicken is marinating in pimenta moida, a wet Portuguese crushed red pepper and we'll rub down the pork with a good dose Dad's Rub tomorrow.

     i will be putting up the posts for the pulled pork and slaw soon, both really basic but really yummy.

BBQ Sauce

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti Sauce


Dad's Rub

Dad's Rub is just my own little spice blend that i use for grilling and sauces and all sorts of other places.

It is simply
2 parts Chili Powder- the "Hot" Mexican on the market shelves usually isn't too spicy.
1 part each
- Black Pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Paprika
-Cumin
-Dry Mustard Powder

Please note there is no salt in this rub. I prefer to salt to taste

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Muffins
     I couldn't make up my mind one day between blueberry cheesecake or blueberry muffins...


Dry

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour  
½ tsp salt
4 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Baking Soda


Twice sifted together in medium bowl

Wet

2 cups Sugar
3 whole Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
1 ½ 8 oz package Cream Cheese room temp
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) Butter (unsalted) room temp
Zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 2 Lemons - about 1/2 cup
Non Stick Spray or Muffin Liners

1 Pint Fresh Blueberries


Cream sugar, butter and cream cheese in mixer with wisk. Start on low setting, move gradually to med. high.

Add zest and lemon juice, mix on low


Add milk, mix on low

Add 1 egg at a time, start on low setting, and move gradually to med. high.

Low setting on mixer, add sifted dry ingredients slowly, about ½ cup at a time, until completely blended, move gradually up to medium until blended, but do not overblend or muffins will be more like biscuits.

Remove bowl from mixer.
Carefully fold in blueberries.

Fill sprayed or lined muffin tins ¾ full, bake in pre-heated oven 325* for 35-40 minutes for regular muffins or 40-45 minutes for jumbo. Toothpick should pull clean. Tops will be a light golden brown. Oven temps can vary and time may vary slightly.

Recipe makes one dozen jumbo muffins, or 2 dozen regular muffins.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo is the ultimate side and/ or condiment. Salsa has become one of the top American condiments and dips. If you like any jarred salsa, then you just have to try this easy Pico, which is an uncooked salsa. Lately i've gone a little crazy with it, topping not just tortilla chips but burgers and dogs, pizza, and even mixing it into tuna and chicken salad. It will add freshness, some texture, a little (or a lot of heat), and most of all, great taste! Please note that while i use plumb tomatoes in my recipe, your favorite tomato is just fine. I like the plumb tomatoes because the meat is firm, they are easy to prep, and they seem to hold up to the lime juice without breaking down too quickly. Also Any onion can be used, and purple onions work well also. This is a large quantity recipe, can be halved easily enough to try.

1 Lime
1 Tsp Sugar
2-3 Jalapenos - diced about 3-4 tbsp. Seeds optional for heat
8-10 Plumb Tomatoes
1 Vidalia Onion, Large, Diced to preference.
Fresh Cilantro
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl, zest and juice the lime. I add a dash of salt, about a tsp of black pepper for my taste (like the bite) and the sugar.Give everything a quick whisk. The tomatoes will take a little time, but this method is well worth it. I use a small knife to cut the stem area out, a small cone will usually do. Next, cut all the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Over the sink, use your fingers or a spoon to take out the seeds and pulp, leaving the firm outer flesh of the tomato. I slice ribbons lengthwise and then across to dice the tomato. If you like it chunky, go big dice. Like it fine, go small. Your Pico, Your Choice! Add to the lime juice. Add the chopped onion. I am usually looking for the onion to tomato ratio to be a little more than half. I prefer just slightly more tomato than onion, but its your call. I take a good handful of washed  & dried cilantro and chop fine, add to the bowl. I dice the jalapenos last, so if i get pepper juice on my hands, and i do every time, i am not burning my own eyes out until the end. Toss well. Best taste will come after sitting in fridge for a while for flavors to blend.

Enjoy.

Dark Chocolate Pudding Pie w/ Cookie Crumb Topping

     This is the easiest dessert to make short of opening a pint of Ben & Jerry's, but anything with pudding just has to be delicious. There are lots of pudding flavors, and another trick is to do two separate layers, separated by cookie crumbs, like the chocolate and vanilla ice cream separated by the Carvel Crunchies in the middle. This was just a straight forward chocolate, the classics always hold up.

2 5.9 oz packs Instant Chocolate Pudding
2 tbsp Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
4 cups Milk - Low Fat is fine
1 Chocolate Graham Cookie Pie Shell
8-12 of your favorite cookies, broken into big crumbs

   Whisk the cocoa powder into the milk well before adding the pudding. Sometimes they have dark chocolate pudding available, but not always, and the cocoa powder boosts the yummy regular chocolate even more. Whisk the pudding at least 2 minutes into the milk for complete blend. Please note that the Package calls for 3 cups of milk per package, i have cut down to two cups per, for a total of 4, for a thicker, more intense pie. Spread into the pie shell and top with favorite cookie crumbs, choc chip pictured above. Of course, can good dessert can be topped with whipped cream.


Chili with Black Beans

Chili with Black Beans
     Before the Food Police come out to my home again, I KNOW this is not "authentic So and So Chili" and "real competition Chile doesn't have beans" etc. The only competition i am in is for my family's taste buds, and yours as well hopefully. (My nephew, who had never made chili before, did win a Chili Cook Off among 25 or so friends doctoring this base with some ground Portuguese blade meat.)
     The following is a very basic chili base that you can doctor to your preferences in any number of ways such as more onions, fresh bell pepper or serrano pepper (really nice actually when they are available), but it is delicious just as it is. Depending on your heat tolerances, this is a medium heat by my family's thermometer, but we like spicy food here.

1 1/2 lb Ground Hamburg - 80/20 is very tasty and budget friendly here, but lean works fine
3/4 cup Onion, diced - approximately 1 medium onion
2-3 tbsp minced fresh jalapeno -seeds optional for heat control
2 tbsp Dad's Rub
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 15 oz can Diced Tomato -Not Drained, petite if available
1 16 oz can Black Beans - Not Drained
Salt
Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar - Optional to Top


Dad's Rub


Dad's Rub is just my own little spice blend that i use for grilling and sauces and all sorts of other places.

It is simply
2 parts Chili Powder- the "Hot" Mexican on the market shelves usually isn't too spicy.
1 part each
- Black Pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Paprika
-Cumin
-Garlic Powder
-Dry Mustard Powder


Please note there is no salt in this rub. I prefer to salt to taste


     In a medium sauce pan or deep skillet, saute the onions and jalapenos together over medium low heat. I prefer to take them to just before fully caramelized to really develop the flavor, seasoned with a pinch of salt.
urn the heat up to medium high, allowing pan to come to temp about a minute, and then add the beef. Break up the beef with a spatula, season with Dad's Rub ,chili powder, and a dash or two of salt. Continue browning. not stirring too often, as the meat needs contact time to char a little while browning, just another way to blast the flavor into the chili.

     When meat is browned, turn down to low, and add the tomatoes and the black beans. I don't rinse the beans hear,or drain the tomatoes, two more food police violations. The liquids combine for just the perfect consistency and flavor in the chili. Let simmer, not boil, for at least 45 minutes. I will often let it go for about an hour and a half, the flvors getting richer and deeper all the time. Top with cheese if you like.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

American Chop Suey



     Nothing Chinese here, no soy, no rice noodles, but the lunch lady, my mom, and everyone else's mom in my neighborhood called it American Chop Suey. My friend from Minnesota insists its just Macaroni Hot Pot, and i have been accused of not knowing how to make a real bolognese, but no matter what you call it, this dish is fast, budget friendly, and tasty
American Chop Suey

1 1/4 lb lean Hamburg or Ground Turkey
2 24oz jars favorite brand Pasta Sauce or
6 cups homemade, less chunky = more kid friendly
1 medium Onion - diced fine
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Dry Basil to taste

     Pre-heat large skillet or medium sauce pan over medium heat with a couple tbsp olive oil to aid browning. Brown meat & onions together, or start onions first if you prefer closer to caramelized. Depending on your sauce or your family's tastes, season here with salt, pepper, extra basil or garlic powder. When meat is well browned, a little char helps flavor, slowly add the sauce to pan and reduce heat to simmer. At this time put water on for pasta, boil to just before desired tenderness, 7-10 minutes depending on pasta. The past will absorb sauce and continue to soften, so please don't overcook. Drain past wee, toss with sauce in the pasta pot or large bowl. Serve with grated cheese and maybe some garlic bread.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
     Like i said in the meatball recipe, i'm no one's Italian grandmother, and i didn't learn from one.(i really would have loved to have had an Italian grandmother, a Nona.) There is no 7 generations of tradition in my sauce. That being said, its still pretty darn good, or my family & friends have all been lying to me just to make me feel good. The following makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta, 2 dozen meatballs, 8 sausage, leftovers, and 2 quart containers to be frozen for later use. I usually freeze 1/2  of the 2 dozen meatballs in a freezer bag for another spaghetti dinner or to slice into a lasagna.

2 29 oz. cans Ground Peeled Tomato
1 29 oz. can Crushed Tomato
1 29 oz can Tomato Puree
1 large Onion, diced fine - I love Vidalia
1/4 lb bacon -about 4-6 slices diced
1 cup Red Wine - Your Favorite Will Do
1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan Cheese, grated
2-3 tbsp olive oil.
1 tsp - 1 tbsp Minced Fresh Garlic - Garlic can be a very personal decision!
2 tbsp Basil, dry
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp - tbsp Red Pepper Flake - Adjust for your level of Spice Control, a dash of Cayenne really helps too!

     This sauce has volume, especially once the meatballs & sausage get dropped in. You will want a deep, wide pan to make life easier for stirring and avoiding boil over. I usually start the sauce when i pop the meatballs in the oven if i am making on the same day.


     Begin by rendering the bacon in the olive oil over a medium low heat. Dust the bacon lightly with black pepper to begin building flavor. When the bacon is about halfway cooked, add the onion, dusting again with black pepper. keeping the heat on medium low, stirring occasionally. The onions will soften & begin to caramelize, but it takes time. Add the garlic when the onions are almost done, i go for just before truly caramelized. Keep stirring to avoid burning the garlic, just a minute or so. Add the wine, basil, paprika, red and black pepper & raise heat to medium high.

     Simmer until wine is reduced by about half, adjusting heat down as needed. If your children, or anyone else, does not like to see veggies and bits of bacon in their sauce, you can hit with an immersion blender here or put into a stand blender. Please be careful, hold cap on blender down with a towel, i have napalmed the kitchen before! Reduce to heat  medium low if not there already from simmering. Add the tomato one can at a time slowly, whisking into the base. Slowly whisk in the cheese. Before adding salt, sugar or any more seasoning, let simmer slowly for a good ten minutes & taste very carefully, blow on that spoon twice! Depending on your wine, tomatoes & all the other ingredients, this is the time to season to taste. A really sweet wine may eliminate the sugar, some brands of tomato may have enough salt added for your family.

     Once the sauce is simmering slowly, gently add the meatballs and sausage if using. The meatballs have been cooked in the oven, but they will continue to flavor the sauce. If you are adding sausage, let simmer at least 1 1/2 hours to cook if you have not browned the sausage.(browning first adds great flavor and an extra pan to clean!) Any other pork product, like thin chops on the bone or spare ribs cut into sections, will also add tremendous flavor, but you will need to simmer longer, about. 2 hours to fully cook. The meatballs will hold up to low and slow simmering.

Serve with 1 pound of spaghetti or your favorite pasta. Enjoy!
     
     


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dad's Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
     My family is just crazy about pasta, but especially spaghetti and meatballs. Unfortunately, I never had an Italian grandmother, and while my own Nana, made tremendous blintzes, knishes, and home made bagels, tomato sauce and Italian food just weren't on the menu. My mother did make meatballs and sauce, but it was jar sauce and tough meatballs. The following recipe has been tweaked over the last twenty plus years to deliver tremendous flavor and a pillow soft, juicy texture. I don't pretend that they are authentic in any sense, but i have been making them since long before i had cable TV, or Food Network. There is a good dose of Betty Crocker in there, thanks to my wife's well used copy, and if you never buy any other cook book, that's a great place to start.

2 1/4 lbs. ground meat - I use 93/7 turkey & ground pork (80/20 best guess)
2 eggs - I like jumbo when available
1 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup Milk - low fat works just fine
1/2 cup ground Romano or Parmesan
2 tbsp dry basil
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

*** If you like really spicy meatballs, try 1 tbsp black pepper,
       or add 1 tsp cayenne or red pepper flake***

     In a large mixing bowl, the wider the better, whisk the eggs, milk, cheese, and all the seasoning together. While i love high end cheeses like i get from Salumeria Italiana, we consume a lot of grated cheese in our family. The store brand, at $4.49/ lb is just a lot more affordable. Let your own budget and taste buds be the guide, and don't feel guilty about breaking the rules.

     When the liquids etc. are well blended, whisk in the bread crumbs. We are breaking another rule here, classic recipes soak stale bread in milk and squeeze out the excess. My 2 to 1 ratio of bread crumbs to milk will give you juicy, soft meatballs, you just have to honestly get past the color when you mix them. At this point you should have a loose paste that has all the flavors you want, well blended before the meat goes in, for best flavor distribution, no spikes of garlic.

     I spread the paste in the bottom of the bowl, and start flaking in the meat, one pound at a time, using big wooden fork against the "grain" of the meat ribbons in the package. I use the big fork with a gentle hand to evenly mix without over working the meat. Fingers work well too, just don't squish everything together or the meatballs get tough. When i have the first pound fairly well mixed, I do the same with the next pound. The ground turkey and pork mix gives great flavor, and helps cut down on some of the fat. I tried the turkey because hamburger was over $5/ lb and the ground turkey was $2.99 for a 1 1/4 lb package. If you are not so concerned with fat, 80/20 hamburg and pork mixed does give that extra something, fat is flavor after all, but again, your food, your choice.

     Pre-heat oven to 425 with rack in the middle.Line a couple of baking sheets that fit on the same rack if possible, with parchment for easiest release. I use a medium plastic ice cream scoop, dipped in cold water along with my hand to form the meatballs, just a little bigger than a golf ball. The water dip help the release from the scoop and hand from getting caked with meat. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes depending on your oven, flipping halfway through. If your sheets don't fit on the same rack, rotate the sheets top to bottom to get most even cooking. You will get a nice light char on the meatballs that will add tremendous flavor to your sauce (recipe to follow)

Enjoy!