Saturday, April 7, 2012

Meatballs, or is it Meatloaf Balls and Brown Gravy

Meatballs or Meatloaf Balls over Mashed Potatoes
I have been dieting recently, trying to shed the excess Winter hibernation insulation, but I am the only one in the family doing so. My mother in law is very happy to eat salads along with me, and wifey takes one every day for lunch anyway, but there is a flock of wild carb loving carnivores in the house too! The following is a twist on the old favorite meatloaf and gravy, inspired by the fine weekend breakfast buffet at the Wolf Rock's Country Kitchen in Exeter, RI!

For the Meatballs....

1 1/4 lb Ground Beef -I used 86/14 Black Angus that was on sale for these. YUM!
1 large Egg
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs - Seasoned Progresso here works great.
1/4 cup Milk - 1% is the house variety
1/2 tsp dry Thyme - I do my best to chop fine
1/2 tsp salt
Black Pepper to taste - I probably add about 1 tsp fresh ground

Meatballs or Meatloaf Balls ready for Brown Gravy
Pre-heat oven to 425. In a roomy mixing bowl, whisk egg, milk and seasoning together. Stir in bread crumb, should be a loose paste. I flake the meat in from the package using a fork. If you're a ground turkey fan or get the really lean hamburg, no worries, the milk is an old Betty Crocker tip to keep everything moist. I toss well with a fork to incorporate, but don't just mash everything & over work with you hands, can get tough.

I form about 14 golf ball sized meatballs from these amounts. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or sprayed foil to avoid sticking. I am really loving the Reynolds paper that is parchment on one side, foil on the other, it's a dream to work with. Place on the center rack for about 12 minutes, flip with tongs and cook another 12 minutes. Your meatballs should be beautifully browned and fully cooked, 160 internal. I actually make a day ahead or even freeze double batches to have ready. The warm perfectly in the brown gravy.

For the Brown Gravy...

1 qt (32 oz, 4cups depending on labeling) low sodium beef stock
1/2 medium Onion finely diced - about a 1/4 cup
1 Celery Stalk - finely diced
4 - 5 tbsp All Purpose Flour - 4 for thinner brown gravy, five for thicker
3 tbsp Butter - unsalted
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of Gravy Master (a must for Super Gravy taste, in the market near gravy packets)
1/2 tsp dry Thyme -chopped fine
Salt and Pepper to taste

Meatballs or Meatloaf Balls Simmering in Brown Gravy
Saute onion and celery in the olive oil and butter over medium low heat. Season here with salt and pepper. 5-10 minutes is adequate, but the longer you saute on low, the less sharp the onion flavor, and more sweet deliciousness. When the veggies are close to done, stir in the thyme. Add the flour, and keep stirring gently on medium low heat. The longer you cook the rue, the darker the gravy will be, but also thinner. I cook the rue until it's a light peanut butter color, about 5 -7 minutes. Slowly whisk in the beef stock, constantly stirring, then add the Worcestershire and Gravy Master.

Raise heat to medium high, stirring occasionally while coming to a slow boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer. Add the meatballs, about 15 minutes if straight from oven to add their flavor to the gravy. If you are using  frozen, I go at least a half hour to fully heat and flavor.

I serve over Mashed Potatoes, some corn or peas and Rolls on the side and Enjoy!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chick Pea or Garbanzo Bean and Tuna Salad

Chick Pea or Garbanzo Bean and Tuna Salad
Shaking off the winter hibernation usually means shedding a few pounds too. While I love a simple garden salad  and dressing, especially with some grilled chicken, I really need a variety to keep myself interested and not fall off the diet bandwagon. The following is simple, fast, healthy, and most of all, delicious. You will need....

For the Salad...

  • 1 15 oz cans of Chick Peas (low sodium if avail)
  • 1-2 5oz cans Solid Tuna in Water
  • 2-3 tbsp Red Bell Pepper finely diced
  • 2-3 tbsp Purple Onion finely diced
  • 2-3 tbsp Celery finely diced
  • 2-3 tbsp Carrot finely diced
  • 1/4 cup Cucumber - Seeded & Diced - I use English & keep the peel for color
I like to use a big mixing bowl to keep down the spill over mess. Drain and rinse the chick peas in a strainer, pat dry with towel, add to bowl. Squeeze tuna dry and flake into bowl. If very chunky, it will flake more as you toss salad. This recipe is actually 1/2 scale of what I usually make to hold me over for a few days for either lunch or dinner. For me, 3 cans of tuna to 2 cans of beans is the right ratio, but please adjust for your own tastes. Same for the veggies, you can bulk up on low calorie goodies with by bumping them up to a 1/4 cup each and even more for the cucumber. If you really don't like onion or pepper, no problem. Eat what you like! Toss the veggies in and mix with dressing below.

For the Dressing (for amount above)

  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar - personal favorite, red wine works too or rice vinegar is lighter flavor
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Dried Parsley
  • Red Pepper flake to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
Normally, I see most dressing or vinaigrette recipes calling for about 3 to 1 ratio for oil to vinegar. To help control the calories I go with a 1 to 1 most of the time. This has happened over the years and I really love a strong vinegar punch. Try the 1 to 1 here and taste it before you toss on the salad. Add some more olive oil if you need, but if you give it a chance, it will grow on you. Pour enough dressing over the salad to make your taste buds smile

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple & Pear Salsa, Tzatziki & Refried Black Beans

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple & Pear Salsa, Tzatziki & Refried Black Beans
This is for my wife and her friends who keep asking. When she takes the leftovers to work (if any) she takes several little containers, each with its own component to keep the flavors separate. Shortly following the mocking jeers from co-workers is the "What is that?," "It smells so good!" and "How do I?" This is truly a flavor explosion and delicious blend of textures. Also a very low-fat recipe as written The following feeds four with possibly some leftovers.

For the grilled Shrimp...

  • 2 lbs Jumbo Shrimp (at least 21-25/lb count, the bigger the better) peeled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Dad's Rub (see below, excellent all purpose mix, or try your own favorite blend)
  • About 8 small to medium tortillas, for easy handling.
  • Skewers for grilling, soak wood at least an hour to prevent burning

Shrimp Ready for Grill
Because it's the star, I am listing the shrimp first, but please make the salsa and tzatziki ahead of time so you are not scrambling. The tzatziki I usually do the night before so I can sample with pita chips or fresh veggies. Even the salsa can be don a day ahead as the flavors will blend.

After peeling the shrimp, pat them dry with a paper towel, coat with olive oil and toss with the rub. For best flavor, this can be done a few hours ahead. I like to use about 8" inch wood skewers, doubled through the shrimp so they turn easier. I coat the grill grates with olive oil to prevent sticking, pre-heat on high and turn to medium when I add the shrimp. Shrimp cooks quickly, about 7-9 minutes per side, depending on your grill. I have also sauteed in a skillet when the weather will not let me grill, but grilling cannot be beat. If you like, coat you tortillas lightly with olive oil and grill briefly on both sides, or heat in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes wrapped in foil.Top with Pineapple Salsa & Tzatziki.

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, depending what's on the menu and other ingredients like Soy or Worcestershire Sauce.

Pineapple & Pear Salsa

  • 3/4 cup small dice fresh Pineapple ( no problems with canned fruit, but fresh is truly best here)
  • 1 Pear, peeled & diced same as pineapple - I used a Bartlett today, have used Bosch or Red Pear also
  • 2 tsp Purple Onion - finely diced
  • Pineapple Pear Salsa
  • 1 tbsp Jalapeno finely diced - I keep the seeds & vein, remove if sensitive to heat - or try a small Habanero,   **seeded for sure for this amount of Salsa** for an extra tasty kick.
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a lime

Simply toss all the ingredients in a bowl and chill. If going for the habanero, wear some kitchen gloves and be very careful not to touch the seeds and veinand then make eye contact. Very Painful in the eyes or even on skin contact!



  • 1 cup non-fat yogurt
  • Cucumber - I use about 8" English with peel, seeded w/ teaspoon, shredded & squeezed dry in a towel.
  • 1 1/2 tsp to1 tbsp Dill - Very potent with the full tablespoon
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Simply combine and chill. Please, cut the cucumber in 1/2 the long way, scrape out the seeds and shred over a kitchen towel in a grater, like a cheese grater, not a micro-plane.Wrap the shreds in a ball and squeeze out as much water as possible. Your Tzatziki will be thick and delicious. If you prefer it thinner, add some olive oil.

Refried Black Beans.

1 16 oz can Black Bean drained, rinsed pureed to desired consistency
2 strips Bacon, diced (optional if you are keeping the fat down, but a very tasty indulgence)
1/2 medium Onion, diced fine.
Lime Juice - teaspoon to tablespoon to taste
Refried Black Beans
Chicken stock - up to 1/4 cup if you like thinner beans.
Salt & Pepper to taste, enough salt with the low sodium canned beans & bacon for me.

Over medium low heat, cook bacon until almost crisp. Add onions and saute to desired, I love them almost caramelized. Add the beans to heat to tem and then slowly add chicken stock if the beans are too thick for your taste.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Bowtie Pasta and Spinach with Parmesan Cream Sauce

Bow Tie Pasta & Spinach with Parmesan Cream Sauce
I was buying spinach for my wife's lunch salads, and I just couldn't resist the buy one - get one free offer. Having more than doubled up on the spinach needs for the week, I had to do something with it. Since I just don't have enough patience to make my own raviolis most of the time, I had to go with sauteed spinach in a cheesy cream sauce, or it a creamy cheese sauce? Some pan seared pork chops on the side, and you have an easy, very delicious dinner.

You will need...

12 oz Baby Spinach (2 x 6 oz bags, pre cleaned)
1 lb Bow Tie Pasta - Farfalle for the Purists
1 Roasted Red Pepper Diced- took mine from a jar this time, homemade  is much better if you have the time!
1 16 oz can Black Olives, Cut in half, or chopped - YUP! Canned olives, Love'm, No Apologies
1 Pint Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup White Wine - I like a nice Pinot Grigio
1/2 -3/4 Cup Quality Parmesan and/or Italian Blend like Asiago & Provolone
1 tbsp fine minced Garlic - I ran a couple good cloves through a press
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt, Black Pepper & Crushed Red Pepper to taste

About 15 minutes prep, 45 minutes to cook.
Black Olives and Rasted Red Peppers
This is one of those recipes where it is a whole lot easier to prep everything and line up the ingredients in advance, once you start it goes quickly. In a skillet large enough to toss the pasta with the cream sauce (10" & deep), pre-heat the olive olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add the olives & roasted red pepper, tossing lightly in the olive oil occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to toss lightly for a few minutes. It will seem like a ton, but it shrinks quickly. I like to seaosn here with a dash of salt, black and crushed red pepper.
Spinach Saute

When the spinach is mostly wilted, add the garlic and continue to gently toss for a couple of minutes. Add the wine, turn the heat to medium high to reduce the wine by about 1/2 and put the water on high for the pasta in a separate pan. When the wine is reduced, add the cream and lower the heat just enough to keep it simmering and thickening while the pasta cooks. I add the cheese once I put the pasta in the water with a good dash of salt.. Start with just a 1/2 cup and add to taste & desired thickness.

Taste the sauce here for seasoning. If it seems too thin, it will thicken with more cheese and the addition of the pasta. I like the sauce to feel like a slightly rich soup before I add the bow ties. The pasta should take about 10 minutes to al dente. If you overcook the pasta to a soft consistency, it can turn to mush in the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce and Enjoy!!