Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Spaghetti and Meatballs!

I have always loved Italian it the classical dishes from the boot or the many Italian-American version of dishes almost all of us grew up with.  When living in Arizona there was a great Italian restaurant just around the corner from our apartment that had a special deal every Monday and Tuesday on spaghetti and meatballs.  I have experimented with many recipes trying to replicate the flavor of their meatballs and the following recipe is the one that I believe to be the best of the bunch.

This recipe uses a mixture of beef, pork and veal....the last being the magic ingredient that gives the flavor notes that always seemed to be missing in any other recipe that I tried.

After mixing and forming the meatballs into the desired size you want to brown them on all size in a little bit of olive oil

After you have them all browned you want to let them simmer in your favorite pasta sauce for about 45 minutes

Then you are left with a batch of great tasting meatballs that you can decide how to use them...on spaghetti, a great meatball sub, or even just eaten alone covered with some sauce

Here is the recipe.....

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper

Mix all of that into a bowl and form into meatballs of desired size.  I use a disher so that I get a uniform size for even cooking.

Heat up a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 cup of olive oil to the pan.

Brown the meatballs on all sides, you are just browning them and not cooking all the way through

Add browned meatballs to a dutch oven or sauce pot over medium low heat with enough pasta sauce to cover and let them simmer for about 45 minutes.

**For those in the Janesville area the only place I have been able to find fresh ground veal is at Festival Foods.  Sorg's Meat Market on Hwy 14 between Janesville and Darien carries frozen packages of ground veal that also work well

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kielbasa Bites

Here comes another super quick party appetizer recipe.,,,Kielbasa Bites!  This dish takes only about 10 minutes to toss together and you are done.

Add applesauce, brown sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a bowl and whisk it up

Dice up an apple and cut kielbasa into bit sized pieces, add to the bowl and mix it up

Transfer all that to a slow cooker and set to high for 6 hours

The amounts in the recipe fit perfectly into my mini 1.5 qt slow cooker, but if you have a bigger crowd you can easily just adjust the amounts and use a larger slow cooker.

Here is your recipe:

  • 1 pound kielbasa (cut into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 apple (diced)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

  • mix applesauce, brown sugar, garlic and pepper flakes in a bowl
  • add apple and kielbasa, toss to coat
  • add mixture to slow cooker and set to high for 5 hours

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Time to talk equipment - Knives

I'm going to change it up a bit and start to introduce some information on equipment....mostly what I use in my kitchen...hopefully some of you will find these posts useful.

So the first installment will be about knives, I'm often asked the question "What knife set should I buy?"...well my answer is none!!  The problem with sets is that you end up paying more than you need to and it contains a lot of stuff that you just don't need.  Useless items just cause clutter and clutter is the last thing you want in a kitchen.  So here are what I recommend when asked about knives.

These 4 items will take care of about 95% of your cutting needs...A good 8 or 10 inch chef's knife, a 6 inch flex boning knife, a 3 1/2 inch paring knife and a honing steel.

The honing steel....remember this doesn't sharpen your knifes, it just straightens out the cutting edge on them. You should get in the habit of giving your knife a few swipes across the steel every couple times you pull it out for use.  Also keep in mind that the safest knife is a sharp one, so you should either purchase an electric sharpener or take and get them sharpened at least once or twice a year..every 6 months is a good time frame.  A dull knife requires more force to use and that is when accidents happen.  I use a 10 inch Wusthof steel and it runs between $25-50

The chef's knife....this is your workhorse and will get the majority of the use.  Now there are a wide range of brands and prices when it comes to a good quality chefs knife.  A thing to remember is that high price does not always mean high quality!

Here are 2 examples of what I have..the top one is a very pricey Wusthof ($200+) and the bottom is a super affordable Victorinox ($35)  I can tell you that they both work very well, but the Victorinox is the one I almost always use...its ultra sharp, holds its edge very well and is very comfortable in the hand.  Plus at only $35 if i were to do something stupid and bust the tip off it is very easy to replace.

The paring knife....when the job calls for a small knife you grab the paring knife. Mine is a 3.5 inch Wusthof ($40)  This thing is amazingly cutting with a razor blade.  Victorinox also makes a nice 3.75 inch paring knife that comes in around $8, i own one and its great, just not as nice as the Wusthof.

The flex boning knife....this one doesn't get used much but comes in very handy when you need it.  whether you are breaking down a fish or boning out a ham or segmenting a whole chicken.  My choice here is the Victorinox 6 inch ($20)

A few other seldom used knives that you will want to have on hand are a good bread slicer, again I go with the Wusthof Classic 10 inch ($120)...the price is a bit high but you are paying for a quality product here.  The last knife in your set should be a slicing knife, this will be used when you are carving up any cut of meat..from steaks to a turkey.  The granton edge does the best job for cleanly slicing the fibers of the meat for a clean cut with very little tearing.  For that task I turn to the Victorinox 12 inch granton edge slicing knife ($53).

Storage!!....since you are piecing a set together with the best for the job knife you need a storage solution.  some like the magnetic strip, I'm not a big fan of that for a few its easy to damage the edge if you take it off the magnet wrong, also a less desirable solution if you have little hands around your kitchen.  So I use a generic knife block from Ikea that costs me about $12

I will end here by talking a little bit about knife care...which is a very important part of keeping your tools in good working order.  Rule #1...NEVER put a knife in the dishwasher!  I can't stress that enough. All you need is a good long handles soft bristled brush and some dish soap to get the job done.

I purchase my dish soap in a very large a gallon i think and just keep filling up a condiment bottle that sits on my sink.  Don't let food particles dry on your knife and wash them as soon as possible after you are done using it.  Never put a knife in a sink full of water, its dangerous to find and also for someone who doesn't know it is in there.

So there you have a little info on how to go about getting a good set of working knives for you kitchen that will make cooking much more enjoyable and safer.  If you would like any more information or recommendation just leave a comment below!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Butterfinger Cookies

Need something to do with left over Halloween candy??

If you have some Butterfinger candy bars sitting around that you want to get rid of this is a great recipe, just chop them up in a food processor...if you don't have any candy bars or a food processor you can always pick up a bag of Butterfinger Baking Bits to use.

This is a fairly straight forward cookie recipe and not very difficult to pull off.

Cream the sugar and butter....and add the flour

Then fold in the candy

Scoop onto a baking sheet....

Bake, cool, eat!

The recipe cranked out about 40 cookies using my medium disher

Here is the recipe.

Collect the following stuff:
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 room temperature large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 10 ounces of Butterfinger bits (1 bag if going that route)
Do this with all that stuff:
  • Cream the butter and the sugar
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine
  • Add in the baking soda and the salt, beating to combine
  • Add flour and continue mixing until everything is combined
  • fold in the Butterfinger bits
  • Scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack
  • If you don't plan on eating them all right away just store in an airtight container or ziplock bag

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Caramel Apple Streusel Cheesecakes

Here comes another one of those recipes that seems to be all over your social media feeds.  Mini Caramel Apple Streusel Cheesecakes

They really are not that difficult to put together and turn out pretty darn good.

first you fill the bottom of 18 muffin cups with the crust mix and bake for 5 minutes

next you fill them with some of the cheesecake mixture

Top each with some diced up apples...

then sprinkle the tops with a little of the streusel topping...

bake for 25 minutes and let cool in the fridge for a couple of hours then top with caramel and eat!

the full recipe can be found at the following link:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pot Roast!!!!

This recipe uses the slow cooker so it can technically be used any night of the week.

There is really not a whole lot of hands on time for this recipe...maybe 15-20 minutes tops

first you mix up some cranberry sauce, tomato sauce, water and onion soup mix

sear the roast on all sides in a little bacon fat.....because why not!

add the roast to the slow cooker...

pour the sauce mix on top of the roast....

cover and cook on low for 8 hours...

now for the recipe....

Here is what you need:

  • 1 roast...shoot for about 4 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (can use olive oil if you don't keep bacon fat)
  • 1 can of whole cranberry sauce (14 ounce)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (15 ounce)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 packets of dry onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Here is what you need to do:

  • mix the cranberry sauce, tomato sauce, water and soup mix in a bowl
  • sear the roast on all sides in the bacon fat over medium/high heat
  • place roast in slow cooker and pour sauce mix over it
  • cover and set to low for 8 hours
  • remove roast, and slice
  • add cornstarch to a small dish and add a little and wisk to combine
  • pour cornstarch slurry in slow cooker, wisk, cover and set to high for 15 minutes
  • serve gravy over roast

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Everyone needs a quick weeknight recipe....and it doesn't get much quicker than this one!

It took longer for the oven to heat up than it does to get this dish together.

Season up the shrimp....

Get the topping ready...

Put the shrimp in the baking dish and cover with topping.

15 minutes in the oven and you're done!

Get this stuff together:

  • 2 Tablespoons white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Pounds shrimp
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

now do this:

  • Put lemon and wine into baking dish
  • in a small bowl melt butter and add panko...mix with a fork to combine
  • in a bigger bowl add shrimp, oil, garlic, red pepper flakes mix to coat and season with salt and pepper
  • put shrimp into baking dish
  • top shrimp with panko/butter mixture
  • bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 mintues
and that's it....hard to get much simpler!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stuffed Onion Bombs

So lets call series "Facebook requests"

and the first installment will be the stuffed onion bombs that comes by request of Lisa.  I would describe these as baseball sized meatloaves wrapped in onion and bacon

so you toss the majority of the ingredients in a bowl to mix

Form into 6 balls, roughly the size of a baseball

Wrap in the outside layers of a yellow onion

Wrap in bacon and secure with toothpicks

A detailed recipe can be found at using the following link:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Game Day food!

Brat and Cheese stuffed Pretzel Buns

When football is on you need some good game day food to eat....and what goes better with football than the combination of beer, brats, cheese and pretzels??  So let's combine them all into one easy to carry handful of goodness!

First thing you need to do is make up a batch of pretzel dough....

While the dough is proofing it's time to make the filling...

then you need to put some filling inside the dough and form it into a little bun

then you just bake them and its time to eat and cheer on the Packers!

Here comes the recipe....

Gather some stuff and make the pretzel dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Put all that in a bowl of a mixer for 10 minutes

Then add the following

  • 2 ounces melted unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Mix and knead until you get a smooth dough ball...about 7 minutes
Then place the dough ball into a greased bowl in a warm place for an hour to proof

Now lets make the filling

Find all of the following:

  • 1 pound bratwurst
  • 1 can of beer
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 sweet onion - diced
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
Heat up your skillet on medium-high heat...take the brats out of their casings and break up into the pan and cook it until browned.  

Add half of the beer and all of the bourbon to the pan, cook until there is almost no liquid left in the pan...remove from the heat...empty into a bowl to cool

Return the skillet to the heat and toss in the onion and garlic..once they have browned and softened add the rest of the beer, turn the heat to low and cover until the liquid is almost gone again, then add that to the brat mixture you put in that bowl earlier.

Once that brat and onion mixture has cooled go ahead and add the cheese and stir it all up.

By now you dough should be proofed and ready to use.  so put a pot of water on the stove and bring to a only need about 3-5 inches of water in the pot..once boiling add 2/3 cup baking soda to the water.

Now pull off a chunk of the size of an egg.  roll it out so that its about 4 inches across, then spoon some filling..2-3 tablespoons should do it into the center and fold up the edges and pinch the seams to close them up

Then drop them into the boiling baking soda bath for 15 seconds...flip them over and let them bathe for another 15 them on a parchment lined baking sheet and cut a very small slit into the top

Now put them in a 450 degree oven for about 13 minutes..once they are nice and golden brown remove from the oven, then get to eatin!!