Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Delicious Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs

      "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie....that's Amore!!!"

     This is not your Grandmother's spaghetti and meatball recipe! This starts with a slightly spicy tomato and basil marinara made from scratch. That is then doused over big, hearty meatballs made from ground sirloin, Italian sausage, fresh parsley and parmigiano reggiano cheese among other yummy things, which is then smothered with freshly grated mozzarella and topped with a shower of basil leaves and more parmigiano reggiano before being baked off until hot and bubbly!  Is your mouth watering yet?

     Of course this recipe stems from non other than one of the "Ultimates" from Tyler -the most amazing chef- Florence.  I am a big fan of his, and he made me a big fan of meatballs!  I didn't even like them before this recipe! These are juicy and packed with so much flavor. They pair perfectly with this marinara sauce that is a recipe that I came up with, and we love it!!  I use this for just about everything Italian...pasta primavera, chicken parmesean or just plain with pasta.  The sauce is made from scratch and you can tell a difference in the taste from this and a jarred kind.  I think the dash of olive oil while it simmers makes it so rich and delicious, along with fresh basil.  (I really need a basil plant for as much as I like it.)  My husband loves it so much, there are times that he actually craves it!  So being paired with these incredible meatballs, you have a home cooked meal that's dressed to impress without being fussy.

     It's pretty simple to make, even though there are a few steps. I like to prepare the meatballs ahead of time and have them in the fridge ready to cook when the guests are about to arrive.  Also, I have made the sauce the morning of and put it in a crock pot on low until dinner is ready.  Doing that actually intensifies all the flavors in the meatballs and sauce even more.  I just made this a couple of nights ago when some good friends of ours came over for dinner and a movie.  The spaghetti and meatballs were a huge hit, although I made way too much!  I tend to do that--cook about 3 times as much as I need.  Good thing we love leftovers!

     These spaghetti and meatballs are truly comfort food that will make you feel good! So, make a fresh Caesar salad and toast some bread to dip in olive oil and try this to change up your same ole spaghetti routine for Sunday's dinner!

Hearty Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs

kosher salt

extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped (I used pre-minced)

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh italian parsley

1 c. milk

4 slices firm, white bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes
(this time I used 2 cups of dry bread crumbs instead and loved it)

1 1/2 lb. ground sirloin

1 1/2 lb. mild italian sausage

1 egg

1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Freshly ground black pepper

Homemade Marinara (recipe follows) or good quality jarred tomato sauce

1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated

basil leaves

1 lb. spaghetti

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

Heat 3 Tbsp. of oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and allow soften for a few minutes.  Add the garlic cook for a couple more minutes.  About 10 minutes all together.  Take pan off heat and let cool.

Pour Milk over the bread in a bowl and let soak while veggies are cooking.  If using dried bread crumbs, do the same thing.  Combine meats in a large bowl. Squeeze out excess milk from bread crumbs. Add egg and moistened bread crumbs and season generously with salt and pepper.  Add cheese, parsley and onion mixture and mix well.  Your hands are the best tools here!  Shape into about 20-25  meatballs.  I think I made about 25, and froze just a few for a later time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a "3 count" of oil in the skillet over medium heat, and brown meatball on all sides, about 10 minutes.  I like using a cast iron skillet for this.  Transfer them to a baking dish and spoon about half the sauce over.  Shower the mozzarella and scatter about half of the basil leaves on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Put meatballs in the oven and bake, about 28-30 minutes. Serve atop spaghetti with homemade marinara and more basil leaves for garnish. 
Serves 6-8

Homemade Tomato and Basil Marinara

2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

1 small can tomato paste (didn't use this time, and wish I did)

1 onion, diced

2-3 cloves minced garlic

15-20 basil leaves

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 1/2 tsp. tsp. dried italian seasonings

1 tsp. sugar

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Add garlic and red pepper and cook a couple more minutes.  Carefully add the crushed and diced tomatoes.  Stir in tomato paste.  Add sugar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and fresh basil leaves.  

Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add about 2 Tbsp. olive oil for an incredibly wonderful, rich and flavorful sauce. Bring to a soft boil for about 5 minutes, and reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes -- the longer the better. If using, transfer to the crock pot after letting the sauce simmer for just a few minutes.  Turn crock pot on low and cook until ready to use.  Pour in drained pasta and stir together before plating with meatballs.

I'm linking up with Savvy Southern Style

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Dishes

   A sweet friend that I work with offered me two sets of china for a price I couldn't refuse!  The first set is  Johann Haviland from Bavaria.  There isn't a name to this particular set on the dishes.  The second is Farberware "Sydney Rose."  They are both so pretty and Victorian.  I played around with a couple of table settings for Spring...

      (While I'm showing you around my table, I might as well fill you in on my growing dish collections.)

If you can't already tell, I am quite the girly-girl who is very detail oriented.  
I think the detail of these sweet, cornflower blue flowers on a platinum lined fluted edge is exquisite!

I love having different sets of mugs for different drinks and occasions, which include my winter coffee mugs, hot chocolate mugs, wassail mugs and assorted spring coffee mugs!  Now, I have more tea cup and saucers...Yay!  

I have a relatively inexpensive but pretty, French Provencial style set of dishes we got for our wedding, which is the only set of  everyday dishes I have.  I love them and they are the "work horse" of my table, for they have seen many meals and cycles through the dishwasher! 

I have an absolutely beautiful set of  Noritake "White Palace" china that I registered for and really love, but since we don't have a china cabinet right now I'm afraid to keep them out in the cabinets with everything else.  So, unfortunately they stay in boxes in my kitchen. :(  One of these days, they will be beautiful to display!

Don't you think these tea cups are dainty? 

I am gradually getting my beautiful Johnson Brothers Christmas dishes here and there, as I find them.  (You can see one,  holding some yummy Sticky Buns.)  I am in love with the detailed, old fashioned pattern they have.  I love anything that looks like it could have come from my great grandmother's kitchen! 

I love the way these tablecloths look together.  Both so detailed and pretty, especially with my new china!  How perfect for a garden party or shower!

These sprigs came from another arrangement in the house, but I thought they would add a pretty garden look on the table!  I also like the contrast of the distressed black flower stand on the bright white table cloth.  Just kinda fun to play with decor!  

Here is the Sydney Rose.  What a pretty Victorian looking print on a more modern shaped plate and tea cup and saucer. 

I softened the tablecloth by gathering it more for a romantic touch.  I also added my new tulip arrangement Mom gave me!

I think this table setting is ready for a girl's luncheon...or even Easter dinner!

I've already used these cup and saucers.  Mom liked that they are a little larger than traditional china and had a smooth round shape, and my husband liked that they were easier to hold.  I guess his hands are a lot larger than mine, so he appreciates things like that!  

I love these colors and textures together!

I'm so thankful for my new dishes, and it was fun to do these table-scapes!  As you know cooking is my thing, but I also enjoy showing you a little more into the life of my kitchen with posts like this one!

Happy Spring!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Visit From Mom Calls for Lemon Meringue Pie!

I was reminded of all my blessings yesterday, with a delightful visit from my mom!  Right now, I'm living about 1 1/2 hr. from my parents so a visit is a real treat!  I was off work and she is a stay at home mom and wife who needed her hair colored and cut (I'm a stylist if you didn't already know).  Turned out we both needed some girl time to open our hearts and ears to one another--we've always been very close to each other, and even more so now that I'm grown and married. 

She greeted me with a beautiful spring arrangement for my table!  Tulips in all shades of yellow...aren't they pretty!  Tulips are a sign that Easter is coming and spring is here!  They represent life and joy.  Yes, I may be little dramatic, but that is how I feel whenever I see this arrangement.  Maybe one day if I ever host Easter dinner, this can be the center piece!  I'm not sure that Mom will ever give a holiday dinner up, though...

I love the little wooden and wicker basket it's in.  Mom knows exactly what I like, because it's usually whatever she likes!

That was just precious of her to come and give me a gift for spring, although not surprising.  My parents are very thoughtful!  Mom knows that I love and appreciate even the smallest of things in life.  I think I got that from them.

I knew I wanted to make a dessert to go along with our afternoon coffee, and since I had some Meyer lemons in the fridge, I decided to make our favorite Lemon Meringue Pie! (There is the recipe:)

Mom has always l-o-v-e-d lemon meringue since she was a little girl!  In fact, every year for her birthday whenever my Granny (her mom) would tell her she would make anything for her, Mom would never ask for a cake but always lemon meringue pie.  So, I knew since she was coming and I had those beautiful lemons, lemon meringue it is!

The pie certainly turned out delicious.  Maybe even better than usual!  Mom was surprised, excited and so thankful.  I was just thankful she was here with me and it turned out perfect!

Yesterday was a beautiful, warm day and that really helped me make a good meringue.  It fluffed up well and spread to perfect little peaks that browned to heavenly goodness!  I always make a graham cracker crust homemade. (Mom would have no other!)  So of course I beat the crackers into crumbs that were a large crumble to soak up all the butter.  MmmmMmm!  I love the contrast of crunchy, buttery crust with the creamy, tart pie and fluffy vanilla meringue!

So the pie was a big hit!  We ate it while drinking coffee out of my new china teacups.  The pattern of the china is called Sydney Rose and it's so pretty and feminine.  Never took a picture with the coffee in it.  (Oops!)  Soon I'm going to post about my new dishes and you'll get to see them all.

I just loved the look of my new arrangement on the new tablecloth with the Lemon Meringue Pie.  Almost too pretty to eat....almost!!

Later we went outside and I showed her all of my new plants and flowers.  I love being outside on pretty days.  We finished the night by making Chicken Fajita Quesadillas together with our favorite, homemade guacamole.  It was so fun to cook together!  We had a great time, and the food turned out so yummy!!  My hubby was excited about the Mexican supper and pie, too.  He knows when we have company over, nobody goes hungry!

Mom and I had a great day spent together while cooking and eating, laughing and crying--doing what any good friends do whenever they reunite!  And that is why I'm reminded of my blessings.  All of the love I have in my life....is a gift from the Lord!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thai Mango & Chicken Curry


     Thai food is something that my husband and I really enjoy eating whenever we go out. My hometown has an amazing authentic Thai restaurant where we fell in love with the cuisine! It's called Jasmine's, and it's one of the most popular places in the small college town.  Everything from the pineapple fried rice to the drunken noodles to the curry dishes...we love it all!  Thai food is kind of like Chinese food with a spicy kick! My favorite things about Thai dishes are the vividly colored fresh fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, pineapple or mango...like this mango curry!

     This dish is a myriad of colors and flavors.  The color is kind of like a beautiful sunset with flecks of red from the pepper. The base of the curry is basically onion and red peppers (I added some orange pepper, too). Then I add more flavor punches like garlic and ginger, with the spices curry powder and cumin.  I love all of those things combined with the sweeter things like juicy mango, plump golden raisins and coconut milk that all make a delicious Thai dinner!  I serve it over a scoop of nutty brown basmati rice, but it's a meal in itself!

     I'd like to thank my friend April, who gave me this recipe, who is also a big fan of Thai food! She said she needed to find a recipe to her (Jasmine's favorite) mango curry, to make at home.  When I saw this one of hers, I knew I had to try it!  Especially right now, since I am living in a town without a Thai restaurants to be seen.  (Hardly a decent Chinese place either...)  So, I've decided to learn how to make it at home.  This was my first attempt and I'm pretty excited about the way it turned out!


     The only changes I will make the next time is: cut down the curry powder to about 1 1/2 Tbsp. instead of 2 (so that is how I have written the recipe), and I would do a few dashes of Sriracha (hot chili sauce) for some spice.  Other than that, YUM!  You could most definitely substitute pineapple for mango and it would be just as good!  The original recipe called for cream or coconut milk, and I went for Lite coconut milk for a healthier and naturally sweeter taste.

     This was a fun dish to make, and it got me out of my traditional Western culture comfort zone into a more exotic and exciting style of cooking!  This will not be my last Thai dish to cook...until then, you all should really try this recipe!  I'd like to know what you think about it and if you have any other Thai suggestions? :)

Mango Chicken Curry

3 Tbsp. (or more) of canola or olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger (I used ground ginger in a jar)

2 Tbsp. yellow curry powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

2 mango peeled and diced (I used frozen)

2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 1/4 c. water

1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 in. pieces

1/3 c. golden raisins

1/2 c. coconut milk or heavy cream

Salt and Pepper

Cilantro for garnish

1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add more oil if needed.  Add curry powder and cumin, cook for a few more minutes. Add more oil if anything begins to stick, b/c the veggies will absorb the spices.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

2. Add vinegar, water and half chopped mango into the pan.  Increase heat to boil, then lower to simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan fro heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth.

3. Add chicken pieces and raisins to the pan.  Return to a low simmer, cover the pan, and cook for about 8-10 minutes.  Chicken should be just cooked through.  Cut into a couple pieces to make sure it's done.

4. Add remaining mango pieces to the pan and stir in coconut milk. Let it cook low and uncovered for a couple of minutes. Do not let boil!  Adjust seasonings and add Siriacha here, if using.  A little goes a long way.  I also needed to add a little more salt and pepper.  Add a little more vinegar if too sweet.  Serve over rice and enjoy!
Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cannolis Delivered with Love!

     The chocolate chip mini cannoli from The Fresh Market is one of my favorite desserts ever, and my husband knew that whenever he came home, from a long trip out of town, and surprised me with three of them!!  Did I mention that he's the very best?  6 years of marriage and he keeps the sweet surprises coming!

     Although I did not make this...I did enjoy every. single. bite!  I think these cute little pastries are inspiring me to do a cannoli twist on on something, like a cupcake or trifle.  How good does that sound??  Some kind of dessert that has the same sweetened ricotta or even marscapone cheese and a cinnamon-y sugar pastry-esque comination, plus some yummy fillers like chocolate chips or lemon zest....Hmmmm, I need to get on that!

     Don't worry Friends, the cooking blogs are coming back very soon!  Unfortunately, I've just been too busy to do much cooking lately, :( although I am coming up with some new ideas of things to whip up!  A friend just gave me a really good recipe for mango curry, and I'm thrilled to try my hand at it soon.  (Yes I love Thai food, but have never cooked it.)  So you can look forward to that and couple of strawberry dishes, too.

     As you know I've been trying to reorganize my kitchen for spring, and just today I bought two (new to me) sets of china!  They are both quite pretty and will be beautiful to set my table with!  One has a Victorian looking rose pattern and the other has a very delicate, powder blue-gray flower design that ever so gracefully danced around the dishes.  I'm thinking pictures should follow soon!

     In the mean time I will enjoy this time with my husband, the new found sunshine, and I look forward to sharing my next recipe with you!


     Oooooo!  I almost forgot to share with you the lobster mac n cheese he also brought home to me!  Ah-mazingly delicious!  I said he was the best ;o)