Friday, December 20, 2013

Saucy Asian Meatballs

At least once a week I'll cook something Asian inspired, from lo mein, stir fries and tofu to grilled meats using ingredients like soy sauce, hoisin, Sriracha, ginger, and sesame oil in the marinades and sauces. I'm always looking for new ideas so immediately pinned a recipe I found for Saucy Asian Meatballs.

I served the meatballs as a main dish alongside some vegetable lo mein, but they would be awesome appetizers too. The meat is packed with flavor - ginger, garlic, and green onions - and the sauce is sweet and sticky and immediately reminded me of a steak sauce I made several years ago, a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce. The sauce is so good that next time I will definitely make more to serve over rice or noodles.

The original recipe does not cook the sauce, however I did heat the sauce and let the meatballs simmer in it for a bit before dinner.

Sauce Asian Meatballs
Adapted from: Gimme Some Oven


For the Meatballs
  • 2 lbs. ground pork or ground beef
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 cup Panko or breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions
  • optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions
For the Sauce 
(note - I would double the amounts next time to have more sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Added: 1/2 cup beef broth

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • In a large bowl, mix together meatball ingredients until well-combined. Shape into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until meatballs are golden on the outside and no longer pink on the inside.
  • While the meatballs are baking, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Mix the hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, beef broth and sesame oil in a bowl and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan, sauté one minute. Add the ginger and sauté quickly. Add the sauce mixture and bring to a slow simmer; the sauce will begin to thicken. If you need to thin it out, add some beef broth mixed with soy sauce.
  • When the meatballs are done add them to the sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Top with sesame seeds and green onions for serving.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tomato-Basil Soup

Bloggers' Choice is always my favorite theme in the Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swaps. The only problem is when you get a blog that has too many recipes that you want to try!

 I was given a blog I was already familiar with, The Barbee Housewife. I went back and forth between chicken recipes, pasta recipes, and finally decided to make a Tomato-Basil Soup. I've made tomato soup a few different ways, but this one looked very simple, and I was curious to see what adding the butter at the end would do. The flavor of the soup was like some I have had at restaurants, and I think it must have been the butter! The original recipe called for an entire stick of butter, but I added it slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, while tasting it, and only ended up using half of a stick. I also added garlic because I just love garlic.

I'm so glad I made this soup, especially since we had snow twice in three days over the time I made it - it was the perfect lunch after playing in the snow for a while with my daughter!

Tomato-Basil Soup
Source: The Barbee Housewife

  • 4 cups of Whole, Peeled, Canned Tomatoes, crushed
  • 4 cups of Tomato Juice
  • Added: 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12-14 Basil Leaves
  • 1 cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1 stick of Butter, unsalted (I used 1/2 of a stick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cracked Black Pepper
  •  Combine tomatoes, garlic, and juice in a large pot over medium high heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly.
  • Add the basil leaves and puree the soup either in small batches in a blender/food processor or by using a handheld immersion blender.
  • Return the soup to the pot and add the cream and butter (I suggest adding a tablespoon at a time until you get the flavor you want) while stirring over low heat until the cream and butter are incorporated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Easy, No-Knead Dutch Oven Crusty Bread

Never buy bread again! 
This amazing crusty bread is the simplest recipe you will ever find for 
homemade bread. Only 4 ingredients and NO kneading. 

I have always wanted to make bread, but have been scared of it. I'm the girl who didn't own a rolling pin until recently - I had been known to roll things out with a wine bottle... But after receiving a Kitchen Aid Mixer for my birthday, I decided it was time to tackle another item on my cooking bucket list... bread. I read through a bunch of recipes and bought bread flour and yeast at the supermarket. Baby steps. 

Then I came across a recipe for a no-knead crusty bread using a Dutch oven to bake it. Really? It seemed too good to be true. I wouldn't even need to use my mixer.

I sat on the couch for a while reading and re-reading the recipe, and finally worked up the nerve to go in the kitchen and make the dough. It was 9 PM on a Saturday night (crazy night, huh?) and I was going to make dough for my first loaf of bread.

I wouldn't lie to you - this bread is seriously the easiest thing to make. If I can make this, so can you. 

First, you mix up the dough ingredients, put it in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap so the magic can happen. Make sure to store it in a warm place (if it is too cold it will not rise properly). I was so protective of this dough that I took it up to our bedroom and set it on my dresser since we turn the heat down really low downstairs at night. I was not taking a chance!

The next morning I got up to see that the dough had risen. About an hour and a half before I was ready to eat dinner (and enjoy the bread), I turned it out onto a floured surface, and it looked like this.

I floured my hands to form it into a large ball and was a little nervous at the sticky texture, but the recipe assured me that it was just right. After rolling and forming (note - not kneading), it looked like this -

At this point, you cover it with plastic wrap while your Dutch oven preheats. Then you put it in the oven and let it bake. That's IT.

Knowing of my past baking mishaps and how I don't like to measure, my husband had low expectations. But then we sliced into the bread and it was perfectly - PERFECTLY - crusty on the outside and airy and soft on the inside. I don't even remember what dish I served this with. Honestly, I could have eaten the bread alone and been happy.

Although I still want to try some "harder" bread recipes, this was the perfect recipe for my first time, and I can't wait to make it again. It's so easy that I don't think I'll ever need to write the words "crusty bread" on my shopping list again.

If you want to change the look or shape of your bread, grab some food-safe string or twine and a sharp knife or scoring tool. To make the "pumpkin" shape below, I placed 4 pieces of twine out on a floured board, intersecting in the center, so it almost looks like 8 slices of pizza. Flour the top of the bread, and then tie each string up into the center. If you want to do more decorating, score each of the 8 sections of the bread with 3 lines using a very sharp paring knife or a scoring tool. 

No-Knead Crusty Bread
Source: The Comfort of Cooking

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (active dry or highly active dry work best)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • Special cookware needed: Dutch oven or any large oven-safe dish/bowl and lid* Parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast.
  • Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a shaggy but cohesive dough.
  • Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours. Dough will bubble up and rise.
  • An hour and a half before you want to eat the bread, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Place your Dutch oven, uncovered, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • While your Dutch oven preheats, turn dough onto a well-floured surface and, with floured hands, form the dough into a ball. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest.
  • After the 30 minutes are up, carefully remove the Dutch oven. With floured hands, place the bread on a sheet of parchment paper and then transfer to the Dutch oven. 
  • Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake for 7-15 minutes more, uncovered (just keep an eye on it as cooking times will vary).
  • Remove the bread and place on a cutting board. Slice and serve!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Perfect Bite - Endive with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Crushed Pecans

Thanksgiving was a hit this year. It was a Thanksgiving of many firsts - the first one celebrated in our new home, the first one shared with my godparents and cousins, and the first one where my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their 2 awesome boys were living on the same coast and could be with us on this day.

It was a loud and busy day, but in the best possible way. So much talking and laughing, crafting and cooking, and of course three crazy kids having so much fun running, playing, and just being kids. Loud kids :)

When we have people over to our home, I love to feed them. Jon's always complaining that I go overboard or make too much food, but that's how I like it. I love the preparation and planning that goes into it, and even loved making my timeline (and adjusting it three times until it was perfect). And perfect it was.... I wrote everything out with the goal of having our feast on the table by 3:00 PM. Once the food was ready and in serving bowls, I called everyone for dinner and happened to look at the clock. Yup, 3:00 on the dot. I'll be saving that timeline for next year!

But before the big feast, I put out some appetizers - a nice cheese and meat plate, nuts, crackers, fruit, and one fancier app that to me was the perfect bite. This app was sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, and surprisingly was even enjoyed by a few people I thought would never even try it. Besides all of that, it was super easy to put together, making it the perfect appetizer for a busy day.

Endive with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Crushed Pecans
Adapted from: Not Enough Cinnamon

  • 1 head endive
  • 1/2 of a ripe pear, peeled and cubed (small cubes, but not diced)
  • 3 Tbsp Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Tbsp pecans, crushed
  • Cut off the bottom of the endive. Gently pull apart the leaves being careful not the break them. Wash and dry, again being very gentle.
  • Mix the pear and Gorgonzola in a bowl. Spoon mixture into the yellow end of the endive leaves.
  • Sprinkle with the crushed pecans.