Rosemary Butter

Here’s a quick but awesome way to keep that great rosemary flavor available to enhance nearly anything you might want. Try it on bread, eggs, steak, or fish!

Chop enough rosemary to make about 2-3 tablespoons. Check out my totally cool mezzaluna knife!

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Melt a stick of butter, add the rosemary and swish it around while it’s still hot. When it cools a bit, transfer to a container. The rosemary will sink to the bottom. Stir occasionally, especially as the butter starts to harden, so the herbs are well distributed.

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Then simply slather it on anything and everything! (Seriously!)

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Posted in Dinner, hors d'oeuvres, Italian, Make Ahead, Paleo, Side dishes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rosemary!

Ok, so it’s been a while since I trimmed my rosemary plant…

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Stay tuned to see what mischief I can get into with it!

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Italian Meatballs

I’m very excited to start writing up some classic Italian dishes that I grew up with!  These family recipes get tweaked slightly over the years — but only for the better, of course.  This is a pretty standard offering, though.  I made these meatballs most recently for my dad’s 80th birthday party and they were definitely a hit.  I hope you try them with your next favorite Italian meal.

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Italian Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground meat, ideally a beef, pork, and veal mixture
  • 2 pieces “day old” Italian bread
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • garlic powder or minced garlic to taste
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning mix or dried parsley

Preparation

Chop the Italian bread into small cubes.  Let it sit out a bit if it’s still very spongy.  Soak the bread in the milk for a minute and then squeeze it out, discarding any extra milk.  Try to separate the cubes again as much as possible.

Combine the bread and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Add more bread crumbs if necessary.

With a tablespoon, form the meat into balls and pan fry in olive oil.  Don’t crowd the pan — cook them in multiple batches as necessary.

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You can make these as large or as small as you like.  Larger meatballs can be finished in the oven if they won’t cook through before browning too deeply.  Just pop them in a baking dish in a 375 degree oven and check them with a thermometer.

Now all you need is a good pasta or other classic Italian dish to server them with.  For that, stay tuned and I’ll have some options for you soon!

This recipe can be doubled as necessary, but a pound of meat should make about 12-15 medium sized meatballs.

I hope you give this a try!

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Zesty Ham and Pickle Salad

Hey folks!  Unlike the meatloaf recipe I posted the other day, this is something my wife really loves, but the kids, not so much…  Anyway, this is a great lunch option (I like it on toast with a slice of tomato) or a really neat hors d’oeuvre served on small toast rounds or crackers.  The horseradish in this salad gives it a nice kick.  Even better, you can literally whip up a batch in about 10 minutes.  Give this a try and I know you’ll be making it regularly!

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Zesty Ham and Pickle Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lbs deli ham
  • 4 pickle spears
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 1/2 Tbsp horseradish sauce
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

Preparation

Roughly chop the ham and the pickles into 1″ pieces and place in a food processor.

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Pulse until well chopped, scraping down any larger pieces and reprocessing until everything is nicely combined.  If you don’t have a processor, you can simply finely chop the ham and pickles separately with a knife and mix them together.  Place the mixture into a large bowl.

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Add all the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  I tend to make this fairly dry, so if you prefer more mayonnaise, by all means add to your taste.  Of course, you can adjust the horseradish amount as well.  I would say the 1.5 tablespoons is a moderate amount of kick in this recipe.  Speaking of the horseradish, I used a deli “sauce” but a mayo-based version would be fine as well.  Top with a little more parsley and you’re ready to eat!

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Again, this salad makes a great sandwich with your favorite bread and veggies, but this time we served it as an hors d’oeuvre with some Kalamata olives.  The accompanying hors d’oeuvre in the picture is a very simple beet recipe (minus the salmon) from Fine Cooking that is just tremendous.  It goes great with the ham salad, and it really is just too good not to share.

I hope you make this really easy ham and pickle salad.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

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Posted in hors d'oeuvres, Lunch, Make Ahead, Salad, Sandwiches, Weekday | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Parmesan Meatloaf

Hey there!  More snow in New England tonight – time for some winter comfort food.  The kids actually really love my meatloaf, but let’s just say I tend to make it on nights my wife has a dinner meeting.  This recipe definitely has an Italian feel. I stumbled on the idea to add the cheese somewhat randomly, but it really worked out.  The cheese crisps up on the edges and adds a nice flavor throughout.

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Parmesan Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground meat combination (beef, pork, veal, and/or bison)
  • 3/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or Northwoods Fire, optional
  • 2-4 slices of bacon (depending on the shape of your loaf), optional

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all ingredients except for the bread crumbs in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  When everything is incorporated, start to add the bread crumbs slowly.  Depending on your meat and the size of the eggs, you might need a bit more or a bit less than the 3/4 cups.

A note on meat combinations… In the meatloaf pictured, I used half beef and half pork.  My supermarket usually carries a pre-packaged mixture of beef, pork, and veal, but I could not get it this time around.  If you like bison, it’s a great add-in as well.  It’s very low fat and a different consistency than the other meats — if you use it, that’s another reason to monitor your bread crumb amount.

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I use a loaf pan, as you can see, but you can use a baking pan also.  Fill the loaf pan or shape the meat on a baking pan as desired.  Cover with the bacon, if using.  In the loaf pan, this 2 lb loaf took about 60 minutes.  Your time will vary based on the shape and the type of pan (glass, metal, etc.) so keep an eye on it.  I use a meat thermometer to be sure it’s cooked through in the center.  Check out how the cheese browns and crisps up in the picture below — love that!

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P.S. I take thin slices of the leftovers, fry them in a pan a bit, and make a great sandwich with lettuce, mayo, and ketchup.  Awesome!

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Bacon and Cheese French Toast Bake

Hey there!  I’m taking a stab at a breakfast recipe this time, but honestly this would be a great dinner option as well.  My daughters eat a lot of cereal for breakfast before school, but they complain that it doesn’t always hold them over until lunch.  Getting them something more substantial might mean getting up earlier in the morning and cooking something.  Well, try as I might, that just didn’t work out either.  Enter the French Toast Bake.  The couple times I’ve made versions of these it has been for Christmas morning.  I’d put the whole thing together Christmas Eve, pop it in the oven while we opened gifts the next morning, and then sit down to a nice brunch about an hour later.  This is a quick and easy variation on that theme, one that you can cook the night before and just heat up quickly in the microwave before school (or work, of course.)

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Bacon and Cheese French Toast Bake

Ingredients

  • 12 slices “sandwich” bread (the smaller denser type bread, not a Wonder bread type)
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 14 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • Pepper, parsley, scallions, etc. as desired

Preparation

First things first:

  1. Coat a 9 x 12″ glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Cut the bread slices into quarters.
  3. Fry the bacon until fully crisp and set aside.

In a very large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk until well combined.  Add any ground pepper, scallions, or herbs you like at this point.

Lay down half the bread to cover the baking dish.  Top with half of the cheese.  Crumble the bacon slices as you add them over the bread.

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Lay down the remainder of the bread in another layer.  The baking dish should be chock full at this point – you don’t want too much empty space.

Pour the egg mixture into the dish.  As the eggs even out through the dish, push down the bread to make sure everything is soaked through, leaving no dry spots.  Add some more milk if necessary.  Let things sit for at least 20 minutes, or refrigerate up to overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 350 while the dish rests.  Just before baking, top the entire dish with other half of the shredded cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the eggs in the center are set.  The bread will rise in the dish a bit as it heats through.

Enjoy immediately, or let it cool before refrigerating for tomorrow’s breakfast!  We ate ours with some maple syrup.  Now it’s just a matter of spooning out a portion and reheating to get the kids off to school with a full belly.  Hope you give this a try and hope it helps you get a few more minutes of sleep in the morning, too!

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Open-Faced Chicken and Pesto Sandwich with Salad and Avocados

This dish was so much fun to serve.  The recipe is really a “spark” recipe – you can customize it dozens of ways from the original idea.  In fact, that’s exactly what happened here.  We were having a friend over and needed a quick, healthy, and tasty weeknight dinner.  My wife found a recipe in a magazine that only slightly resembled what we actually ate that night, but it gave us the inspiration we needed.  In the end, it felt a bit like a “taco night” – we were all using different toppings on our chicken and trying different salad combinations – everyone got what they wanted.  Kids don’t like pesto?  No problem – they can use mayo.  Someone doesn’t do avocados?  No worries – go with cucumbers.  You get the idea — just like this recipe — get an idea and go with it.  Then change it up and have a different combination for lunch tomorrow, too!

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Open-Faced Chicken and Pesto Sandwich

Ingredients  serves 4

  • 4 large slices of Italian or Ciabatta bread
  • 4-8 Tbsp pesto or other spread (hummus, spinach-artichoke spread, tapenade, etc.)
  • 1 lb packaged, pre-cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (optional, any variety)
  • 4 handfuls of lettuce (Boston, Iceberg, Arugula, etc.)
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Favorite salad vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, and olives all work)
  • Favorite salad dressing

Preparation

Place the bread on a baking sheet and lightly toast under a broiler (or use your toaster if the bread will fit).  Chop the pre-cooked chicken into about 1/2″ pieces.  Wash and chop the lettuce and prepare any salad vegetables you are serving.  For the avocados, serve in slices lengthwise or in cubes.  See my guacamole post for a tip.

Spread the pesto on each slice of bread and generously top with the chicken.  If desired, top with the cheese and then put the sandwich back on the baking sheet and in the broiler for 1 minute to melt.

Serve the sandwich with the lettuce on the side, adding the salad vegetables and dressing as desired.  Alternatively, you could do what we did and actually serve everything separately on the table, letting everyone assemble their own plates their own way.  The kids will love that!

You can literally go a hundred different ways with this recipe, and I hope you do!  Let me know any ideas or successes in the comments.

Paleo variation: use a Paleo bread.

Posted in Dinner, Lunch, Paleo Variation, Salad, Sandwiches, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment