Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs

It seems the cauliflower craze has managed to last longer than just about any other that’s come before it. A total superstar when it comes to all the popular diets currently on everyone’s radar, including keto, paleo & whole 30. All signs point to cauliflower becoming the longest lasting food trend of all time.

Cauliflower ….. a naturally gluten-free food that just requires heavy seasoning, is healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Its an entirely blank canvas for all your cooking needs because you can make it taste like ‘anything’ you want.

Last summer, Brion & I stopped for lunch at a popular take-out restaurant. He decided to try their much advertised ‘plant-based burger’. He was not impressed. Let’s say … it was not as advertised!!

In a previous blog, a while back, I had made cauliflower pizza crust and we had really enjoyed it. So today I am making meatballs stuffed with cauliflower in a cauliflower cheese sauce. I guess, this is my version of a ‘plant-based meatball’. Hopefully that works out better.

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Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a large pot, cook head of cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the stem & cut off florets. Set STEM aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, with eggs, onion, garlic, mustard & spices. Mix well. Divide meat mixture into 7 equal amounts & flatten each piece in your hand (one at a time). Place a cauliflower floret in the middle of each, then seal the meat around it forming a meatball.
  3. Wrap a slice of bacon around each cauliflower meatball. In a saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat & cook the meatballs on all sides.
Cheese Sauce
  1. Chop the reserved cauliflower stem. Shred cheese & place in a food processor with milk, seasonings & chopped cauliflower stem. Puree mixture until smooth.
  2. Pour the cauliflower cheese sauce over the meatballs in the pan & allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted & smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Shrimp Pot Pie

There are many kinds of comfort food. The humble pot pie seems to be one that fits into that category quite well. In 1951, the first frozen pot pie was created by the C. A. Swanson Company and was made of chicken.

If you do a search for a seafood pot pie on the internet, very often what you find is basically a copy of chicken pot pie with seafood subbed in. The sauce or gravy is a ‘cream of whatever’ can of soup. Nothing wrong with that, but I find if you use a combo of clam juice, half & half cream and some seafood spices, you can come up with a more defined flavor.

The nice thing about a pot pie is that it can be made to feed a crowd or as an individual meal. Whether it has a bottom crust or not is up to you. Toppings can vary from mashed potatoes to cornbread or biscuits etc., etc. Above all else, you can make some extras to freeze for another day. As the saying goes … its all good!

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Shrimp Pot Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword shrimp pot pie,
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Instructions
  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry in refrigerator. Keep chilled until you are ready for it. The pastry will be used for a top crust ONLY. Butter the bottom & sides of your casserole dish; set aside.
  2. In a large pot, pour the clam nectar; bring to a simmer over medium heat & add the shrimp. Poach shrimp JUST until they are opaque & cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Pour the broth & shrimp into a bowl & set aside.
  3. Return the pot back to the stove; over medium heat & melt the butter. Stir in onion, celery & mushrooms; saute until vegetables are translucent, 5-6 minutes then stir in the garlic, flour & seasoning. Cook, stirring for 1 minute then add the shrimp & broth. Cook for several minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Add 1/3 cup half & half & simmer gently for a minute or two. Remove from heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. In a small saucepan, place potatoes & peas. Add enough lightly salted water to barely cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce the heat & cook at a low boil until the potatoes are just tender, 7-8 minutes. Drain. Taste the shrimp sauce; add salt & pepper to taste. Add potatoes, peas & tomatoes (if using). Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish.
  6. Place the chilled pastry over the filling, tucking it down between the filling & the dish or drape it over the sides. Poke a steam vent in the top with a paring knife. Place the casserole on a baking sheet. Beat the egg with remaining Tbsp of half & half. Lightly brush the pastry with egg wash.
  7. Bake casserole until filling is bubbly & top is golden brown about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Rice has always been a staple at our house. I think Brion could eat rice almost everyday without problem. Although the steamed long grain would be his favorite, I can’t resist making a risotto periodically.

A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn’t run across the plate, nor should it be stiff and gluey.

Risotto’s signature tenderness is traditionally achieved by slowly adding spoonfuls of liquid while the rice cooks. This shortcut version eliminates most of the stove top stirring, but produces equally silky results.

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Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until golden. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add chicken & cook until browned through. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mushrooms & cook until light golden. Add to bowl with chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  4. Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste. Add the chicken & mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
  6. Add butter & Parmesan cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Parmesan if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Risotto is best made with Arborio rice which is starchier than other types of rice, making it essential to achieve a creamy risotto.
  • In order to use this 'no stir' method of cooking risotto, you MUST use a large pot or deep skillet so the rice & liquid is spread out & not too deep.

Turkey Meatloaf w/ Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese

Although, the classic meatloaf seems to come and go, it probably never really goes out of ‘style’ in some form or another.

Great meatloaf is not just a hamburger shaped in a loaf pan. Experimenting with different flavor combinations will add new dimensions to this vintage meal. Don’t overlook the benefits of a good meatloaf, not only is it comfort food, but the leftovers make great sandwiches.

I recall, my brother and I thought ‘any’ leftover in my mother’s fridge was fair game for a sandwich filling. To this day, I still love sandwiches. As far leftovers go, its hard to top meatloaf. Of course, I’m not talking about just any random joining of bread and meat. It needs to be well-crafted with varying textures and flavors that compliment and contrast, arranged between slices of preferably fresh, wholegrain bread, not your average ‘squishy’ loaf.

Sandwiches can be just about anything … simple, on-the-go street food, affordable to the masses or luxurious creations. They can be sweet, savory, hot, cold, big or small. Sometimes they even offer a glimpse into traditions and customs of the regions from which they’ve sprung. Sandwiches bridge gaps between cultures and classes. No matter where you go, odds are you’ll find a variation on that ‘starch and something delicious’ formula known as the ‘humble sandwich’.

In this turkey meatloaf, instead of bread crumbs, I’ve used packaged stuffing mix. Roasting the tomatoes on top not only gave the meatloaf some extra flavor but added to the sandwiches made from the leftovers. You could say its one of those ‘cook once … eat twice’ meals.

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Turkey Meatloaf w/ Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except tomatoes & fresh basil, just until blended
  3. Press mixture into prepared loaf pan; top with tomatoes. Bake 50 minutes or until cooked. Garnish with fresh basil (or thyme) if you wish.

Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots

As I was preparing this meal today, the same question that I’ve pondered many times, came back to me. Why do we serve (garlic) bread with a pasta meal? It makes no sense! Pasta and bread are both starches so why do we eat them together?

After a lot of research on this subject, I now think I have the answer. When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in America from Southern Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they couldn’t get good quality olive oil, the right produce or arborio rice, but were instead able to afford ample quantities of cheese and meat. They pioneered a culture of ‘abbondanza’ (meaning in abundance), building on traditional recipes and creating new ones; always sure to use as much of a good ingredient as possible. The result … a hearty, delicious cuisine that has never seen the light of day in the land that inspired it. ‘Italian garlic bread’, as found in North American restaurants and grocery stores, does not exist in real Italian cuisine. It is an Italian-American creation that nobody in Italy would recognize.

Ok, so now I have the answer and you’ve probably noticed, I made Garlic Knots to go with our pasta!

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Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
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Instructions
Garlic Knots
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt; whisk well. Add yogurt, mixing with a fork until incorporated. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough about 15 times. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces & roll into strips about 9-inches long. Tie each strip into a 'knot-like' ball; place on baking sheet. Bake about 18 minutes or until golden then allow to cool 5 minutes.
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter, add garlic & cook until golden about 2 minutes. Brush the knots with the garlic butter & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Veggie Shrimp Pasta
  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until tender but firm; drain & set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, peppers & mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, spices & shrimp; stirring for another 3 minutes or until shrimp is opaque.
  3. In pasta pot, place soup & milk; when hot add half of the Parmesan cheese, pasta & shrimp/veg mixture. If necessary, cook a few more minutes just to make sure everything is hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese before serving.

French Onion Chicken Meatballs

Although ancient in origin, French onion soup underwent a resurgence in popularity during the 1960’s due to the greater interest in French cuisine.

French onion soup is a type of soup usually based on a meat broth and onions. At some point in time, the French decided that the onions should be caramelized to bring out their natural sweetness. Then, to top things off, its garnished with Gruyere cheese on a slice of baguette and broiled in the oven.

These chicken meatballs put a bit of a different spin on that iconic soup. Made with all the classic ingredients, but turned into a main course meal. Nice to serve with either pasta or rice.

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French Onion Chicken Meatballs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chicken Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & rub with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, Gruyere, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 16 meatballs then place on prepared baking sheet & bake until golden & cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions & cook until very soft & golden, 25 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic & cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add broth & thyme & season with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & let simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Pasta
  1. Boil egg noodles in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes; drain & add to sauce. Grate Gruyere & Parmesan cheeses & combine.
Assembly
  1. Divide pasta/sauce between 4 serving plates. Top each with 4 meatballs & divide cheese combo between them. If you wish, microwave each plate for a couple of minutes to melt cheese before serving.

Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

While there are numerous ways to enjoy spaghetti squash, I favor stuffed. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to stuffing. Beef, turkey, chicken along with rice and a nice smoky cheese like Gruyere or even mozzarella and Parmesan work really well.

It’s called spaghetti squash for a reason. Just steam, microwave or bake the squash in its shell and scrape out the flesh with a fork or spoon. No need for a spiralizer as it separates its own flesh in slender pasta-like strands. It makes for a remarkable stand-in for pasta dishes and with such a mild flavor you can chose from any number of sauces to give it a flavor boost.

This stuffed squash is the full meal deal. Along with veggies, you have chicken, sausage and cheese. Super good!

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Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
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Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle cut sides of spaghetti squash with oil & season with salt & pepper. Place cut side down on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Using a fork, break up squash strands. Set aside.
Filling & Topping
  1. In a large skillet, scramble-fry sausage in olive oil; drain on paper towels. Add another Tbsp oil to skillet; saute onion & pepper about 3-4 minutes then add tomatoes, zucchini, garlic & lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper & Italian seasoning & cook 3-4 minutes more. Gently stir in squash, cooked chicken & sausage & remove from heat.
  2. Divide mixture between spaghetti squash halves (or quarters). Top each spaghetti squash portion with mozzarella cheese & return to oven to melt for 5 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan & serve.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Is there anything potatoes can not do! Many cultures make some form of potato cakes with any kind of filling you can imagine. Sauteed cabbage, ground meat, egg and onions, you name it, the possibilities are endless. Mushrooms are by far, one of my most favorite fillings.

Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety. The difference is just age.

The white button mushrooms, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.

The Portobello is the most mature mushroom; it’s really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.

The Cremini mushroom is just in between these two varieties. It’s a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom. Mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms. Who knew!!

These stuffed potato cakes are such a nice addition to a winter meal.

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Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until soft. Drain & mash.
  2. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms & garlic in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & add chopped parsley.
  3. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl; add egg, butter, grated Parmigiana cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine well. Divide mixture into 8 equal patties. Roll into balls & then flatten into patties. In the center of 4 of the patties place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture. Top mushrooms with a cube of mozzarella cheese. Place one of the remaining potato patties on top of each filled one & gently press edges to seal.
  4. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Brush with some butter & fry stuffed potato patties to a golden brown on each side. Be careful when turning as they will be quite soft.

Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp

Comforting, creamy risotto is one of those dishes that isn’t difficult to prepare but it can be quite time consuming. I find it works best for me when I’m doing other things in the kitchen at the same time.

Risotto is typically made with arborio rice, but pearl barley is a good substitute; it produces a similar texture but with a nuttier taste.

Over the years, I have made various kinds of risotto. Brion is the eternal rice lover. He could eat rice everyday of the week. Even though his favorite is just plain white rice, I can’t resist adding risotto to the mix now and again.

As a rule, if you are using corn in risotto, it would probably be fresh. In February, ‘fresh’ is not happening in our part of the country yet. One of the most favorite canned vegetables in North America is corn. Personally, I love corn no matter if its canned, frozen or fresh. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, I found that Green Giant Steam Crisp was real nice for this recipe. It’s supposedly picked at its peak and then quickly steamed in the can to preserve as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. I added some bacon and mushrooms to give it some extra pizzazz!

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Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. In another large saucepan, saute bacon until lightly browned but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat & wipe out pan with paper towels.
  3. Add butter to pan & melt over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates; add onion & green pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender crisp then add barley (or rice) & hot chicken broth; simmer, stirring occasionally until all broth is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. If you need to make more broth, do so but be sure it is hot before adding it.
  4. When barley (or rice) is cooked & broth is absorbed, remove from heat & stir in corn, butter, Parmesan & parsley. Season with salt & pepper & transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to skillet & heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot & red pepper flakes & cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp & cook until pink & beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth & let simmer until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt & pepper & stir in basil. Add risotto & bacon back to skillet, stirring to combine with shrimp. Serve.

Lemon Chicken Meatballs

As I mentioned in the previous blog, new year’s eve food = finger food. I thought I’d post one other recipe for the occasion. Meatballs seem to check all the right boxes. Crispy, savory, spicy and can be eaten in a single bite. These lemon chicken meatballs are kind of an interesting blend of chicken and bacon. The lemon sauce is a bit unusual in that it uses lemon jelly powder but rounds out nicely with some garlic and ginger spice.

The idea of being able to do some of the prep work ahead of time always appeals to me. These meatballs can be made anytime and frozen raw or cooked. Just perfect when you are ready to serve them.

I’ve probably said this before, but deep fried food never appeals to me. Baking these little morsels still achieve’s a great taste. Hope you give them a try!

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Lemon Chicken Meatballs
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Ingredients
Lemon Sauce
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Ingredients
Lemon Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Fry bacon until crisp & drain on paper towel. Crumble & set aside.
  2. To skillet, add onions & garlic. Saute & remove with a slotted spoon. In a large bowl, combine bacon, onions & garlic with remaining ingredients; mix well.
  3. Form into 1-inch size meatballs & place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Lemon Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine dry jelly powder & cornstarch. Add broth, dressing, garlic & ginger; stir until jelly powder is dissolved.
  2. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Pour over meatballs & stir to coat. Serve with picks.