Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy

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Another day, another Giada recipe. January 31, 2008

Filed under: Pasta,Turkey — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 5:18 pm

 

Last week I needed something quick and easy for dinner, but I didn’t really want to eat Bag O Frozen Pasta & Chicken or something equally as boring and preservative-laden.  So back to the Giada book I went, and what I came up with was her recipe for Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs and Marinara.  Growing up my mom made a mean spaghetti with meat sauce, and while my taste buds have adapted to appreciate more “refined” foods, I still cannot find a sauce that I like better than hers.  Now, I probably should’ve given Giada’s marinara a chance, but seriously guys it has like three ingredients–tomatoes (in a few varying forms) salt and pepper.  Call me crazy but I’ve GOTTA have some spices in my sauce.  So I decided to make my mom’s sauce, sans meat, and throw Giada’s meatballs on top.  Turns out, it’s a pretty fab combination, as the Hubby declared it the best plate of spaghetti & meatballs he’d ever had.  Bold words from a guy that usually only rates my dishes on a scale of 1-10.  :o)

Giada’s Turkey Meatballs

1/4 c. plain dried bread crumbs
1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs (I subbed Eggbeaters)
2 tablespoons of milk
1/4 c. grated Romano cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. of ground turkey
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil (1/8 of a cup seemed more than enough, but to each her own.)

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, 1/2 c. of the cheese and the salt and pepper.  Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork  the meat.  Shape meat mixture into bite-sized balls.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame.  Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving or turning the meatballs until brown on the bottom.  About 3 minutes.  Turn the meatballs over and brown on the other side, about 3 minutes longer.  Continue to cook until all the sides are browned and meatballs and cooked through. 

*Since it’s a heck of a lot easier to throw these into the oven rather than flipping them around on a pan, I tried baking a few of these to see how they’d turn out.  Not so well is how they turned out actually.  The cheese sort of oozed out of the meatballs and stuck to the pan.  All in all it looked pretty gross and they didn’t taste very well. 

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

2 cans of tomato sauce
1/2 can of tomato paste
garlic powder
onion powder
dried oregano
italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Directions 

Basically you just throw all the ingredients into a pot and let it simmer for a bit.  If you’re making a meat sauce, add the meat (ground turkey or beef) to a skillet, cover with spices and brown.  Then add the sauce.  Because my mom never measures anything, that’s the way I learned to make her food.  Yeah, trial and error isn’t the most efficient way of cooking, but that’s how it went in my house.  Use your best judgment on what you like.  Go heavy on the garlic if you love it, and light on the oregano if you don’t.  Also, I’m sure fresh herbs and onions would work better, but again, this is how my mom made it (mainly because my little brother wouldn’t touch something if he so much as suspected an onion might be in it). 

 

IT’S BACON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! January 16, 2008

Filed under: Bacon,Cookies — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 11:23 pm

 

Back in December, as I was perusing Never Bashful With Butter I stumbled upon what might just be the most incredible culinary creation since cheesecake. Bold words for me, I know. CONFESSION: Back in my college days when I drank more than I ate, slept and studied (combined), my girlfriends and I were notorious for stumbling into Whataburger at 2 a.m. desperate for munchies. One of us (usually Cas) would order for the group and when it was my turn to give her my order I’d just shout: BACON!!!!!!! It was my drunk-munchy of choice, apparently. And truth be told it is probably the one thing that keeps me from going completely veggie on days when I begin to think too hard about where exactly my meal came from. While I can completely turn down Cow any day of the week, I cannot say no to the Pig. It is WONDERFUL. Sorry to any veggies out there, but I triple puffy ❤ bacon.

Anyway…back to the real story…See Muffin of NBWB and her husband were discussing how fabulous bacon is, and how virtually everything could be improved by adding it. Salads? Yep! Baked Potatoes? Oh yeah. Burgers? No doubt about it. Breakfast tacos? Bring it! Then the conversation turned to what wouldn’t go so well with bacon. And it was suggested that maybe cookies wouldn’t be so good with bacon. However, lucky for us, Muffin paused and thought, “wait a minute…” And behold *trumpets sounding and angels singing* the Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie was born.

I gave this recipe a shot on Monday night and oh my gawd. My house never smelled so good. The Hubby and I ate about a half dozen straight out of the oven and then promptly went to bed so as to not eat more. Everyone at the office either loved them, too, or didn’t dis-like them, but couldn’t get passed the idea of bacon in a baked good. But I say go for it, and ENJOY. Because seriously, bacon and chocolate go so deliciously well together.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes ~4 dozen)

1 cup of unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups bacon bits

*An important note- Be sure to use real bacon bits, not Bacos.  Also, you can make your own bacon bits, just make sure you pat down the bacon chunks with paper towels to remove as much extra bacon grease as possible.  It takes about 2lbs of bacon to make 2 cups of bacon bits.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat together the butter, sugars, flavouring and eggs until creamy. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir together. Dough will be slightly soft. If you want a cakier cookie, add another half cup of flour. Add in chocolate chips and bacon bits. Stir until well integrated. Place dough on a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove dough from fridge, pinch off 1 1/2 inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Set dough balls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough balls slightly with your fingers in the center.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, or until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on a cooling rack while you ready the glaze.

*Muffin uses a Maple Cinnamon Glaze with her bacon cookies, but I don’t.  I gave it a shot on one of them and thought the maple over powered the bacon.  If you’d like her recipe click on the link above.

 

A Weeknight Italian Experiment. January 10, 2008

Filed under: Chicken,Pasta,Veggies — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 10:17 pm

 

I received at least half a dozen cookbooks for Christmas (yay!!) so that means there’s going to be a lot of experimenting going on in our kitchen this year.   Last night I went out on a limb and tried a recipe from Giada’s Everyday Italian:  125 Simple and Delicious Recipes.  I looooooove almost every one of her recipes that I’ve tried, so the reason I say “out on a limb” is because I made an Italian dish–moreover an Italian pasta dish–without sauce.  While the concept isn’t completely foreign to me, it is to the Hubby.  In fact, the Hubby’s favorite words are:  “it needs more sauce.”  He says this about everything, including some of my soups.  He loves sauce like I love cheesecake.  You get the picture.  But much to my surprise he really, really liked this one.  Shows you how much I know about him, huh?

But back to the dish…this recipe is really simple and easy.  Perhaps that’s what makes it so good.  The flavors are perfectly balanced (unless you buy sausage with the word “garlic” in it) and the three different textures contrast well.  I ended up substituting a few things, but didn’t stray too far from the gist of the recipe. 

First, I used Chicken Garlic sausage instead of Italian pork.  Call me crazy but I can’t stand even the slightest hint of fennel, and fennel seeds are all over Italian sausage.  Plus, I wanted to go a little leaner and chicken fit that bill better than pork.  But let me warn you.  If you buy Central Market’s Chicken Garlic sausage know that they really mean Chicken SUPER DUPER WARD OFF VAMPIRES GARLIC sausage.  Before I cooked this I had the sausage wrapped in butcher paper and then wrapped in a plastic bag and I could still smell the garlic in my kitchen after closing the refrigerator door.  Fortunately I had the good sense to nix the extra garlic that the recipe calls for. 

Second, I also had to sub regular broccoli for the broccoli rabe.  I really didn’t want to do this, but my gourmet market was fresh out of broccoli rabe, so I didn’t have much of a choice.  I think this would have been better with BR, but eh whatcha gonna do?  The regular broccoli worked well enough that in the future I would go back to it in a pinch. 

Like all the other Giada recipes I’ve encountered this one was fantastic, so give it a try if you’re in the mood for something other than your standard spaghetti and meatballs with sauce.  Never forget the sauce.  Well…almost never.

 Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Salt
2 bunches of broccoli rabe (or regular broccoli)
12 oz. of dried orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lb. spicy pork sausage, casings removed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cook until tender crisp, about 1 minute.  Strain the broccoli, reserving all the cooking liquid.  Set the broccoli aside.  Cook the orecchiette in the same pot of boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occassionally, about 8 minutes (or longer depending on your pasta).  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon until the sausage is brown and jucies form, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the broccoli and toss to coat.  Add the pasta and enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 c. at a time, to moisten.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese, salt to taste and black pepper. 

Serves 4

 

Happy New Year! January 9, 2008

Filed under: Beans,Breads — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:57 am

 

Better late than never, huh? 

The Hubby and I spent most of the second half of December traipsing across the midwest and eastern US.  And while we had a blast staring in awe at Richmond’s Tacky Light Tour and scarfing down more White Castle than I’d like to admit, it ended up wearing us completely out.  By the time we got home we were both sick with something I suspect my germ-factory niece passed on.  (Those germs are sneaky, sneaky…disgusing themselves in the form of an adorable and hilarious 3 year-old.)  In fact, it was well into the first weekend of this year before I really felt like doing much of anything, including cooking. 

BUT!!  This nasty bug did not stop me from upholding the most southern of new years traditions–black eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  These humble little legumes are supposed to bring luck to those who eat them on the first day of the year.  And since the general consensus is the more you eat, the more luck you’ll have, we always have a huge pot going each year.  And really, what’s not to like about a big ol pot of black eyed peas?  Especially when you pair it with a good batch of homemade cornbread.  Slather the bread in butter and you’ll have a decent amount of “grease” to coat your (possibly) hung over belly.

I have to admit, I didn’t make this cornbread on new year’s day.  (I made it in early December for an office potluck.)  I felt like poo on NYD, so I used a box mix.  But had I been feeling better, I definitely would have put out the teensy bit of extra effort this recipe requires.  Because seriously guys, this is the Best. Cornbread. You. Will. Ever. Have.  I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but it’s the creation of Jack Gilmore (executive chef and owner of Z’Tejas).  Back in November I took a cooking class of his and was lucky enough to get this as well as a handful of other recipes.  I know at least one of the ingredients will have you scratching your head, but I promise that if you give it a try you will not be disappointed.

Black Eyed Peas

 

24 oz. of fresh black eyed peas
3-4 oz. of salt pork, chopped into 1/2″ chunks
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 yellow onion, finely chopped

In a large pot, add peas, onions, garlic and pork.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until tender.  Don’t forget about your peas, or they’ll start losing their outter “skin” (see my pictures below). 

 

Sweet Corn Cornbread 

 

1 1/2 c. Lamb’s corn meal (or other stone ground corn meal)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. + 1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 c. of nonfat plain yogurt
1/3 c. + 1 tablespoon of cream corn
1/3 c. + 1 tablespoon of frozen corn
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
3 large eggs
1/3 c. + 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven and 10″ castiron skillet in a 400F oven. 

Mix all dry ingredients together.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk all wet ingredients together (including corn).  Add dry ingredients to form batter. 

Pour half of batter into skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Test by using a toothpick in the center of the cornbread.  Toothpick should come out clean, but moist.  Turn skillet over to remove and start second batch.  Do NOT store cornbread in skillet.

*Do NOT try to force all the batter into one skillet.  If you do you’ll end up with this:

In order to keep the spillage off the bottom of my oven, I put a cookie sheet under the skillet and ended up with this pretty ring o’ cornbread.