Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Visions of Italy Dance in my Head. I have so very many wonderful memories of holidays and birthdays in Italy with the fam…literally suspended moments in time that are priceless. Once we had a delightful houseparty and celebrated 80th, 85th, and 50th birthdays. This marinara takes me back to Villa Gerlino, in the sweet little village of Ambra. At the end of these journeys it’s important to remember not to cry because it’s over; but to smile because it happened. Bear with me here please…it looks like a really long recipe, but it comes together really quickly!
Count your rainbows, Not your thunderstorms.

For the Sauce:
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced*
2 Tbs chopped cilantro*
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, coarse chop*
1  28 oz cans San Marzano hand crushed tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup Rotel, flavor of choice
2 Tbs sugar
1 t Kosher salt
2 t fresh ground black pepper

To Make:
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, cilantro, and basil.
Cook 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, Rotel, sugar, salt, and pepper.
Bring to simmer.
Simmer uncovered 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

* Note: If I am in a hurry, I use Gourmet Garden Garlic Paste, Cilantro Paste, and Basil Paste. They are all made with fresh ingredients, and I keep them in my fridge! They come in a tube in the produce section of your grocery. It helps tremendously when your garden is out of season or you need to get the meal going quickly.

Note: Taste sauce at this point. If it is too spicy; simply sweeten the pot! Add 2 Tbs sour cream or heavy cream and stir to combine and calm. You may also use honey, more sugar, or half cup of vegetable broth if cream products are not on hand. There is no compromise of flavor.

For the Turkey Balls:
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup panko
1/4 Vidalia onion, diced
2 t garlic powder
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 heaping Tbs Dijon mustard
1 t paprika
1 egg
1/2 t Kosher salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
Fresh Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

To Make:
Combine turkey, panko, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, mustard, paprika, egg, salt, and pepper in large bowl.
Gently mix with your hands.
Mixture should be soft to retain moisture during cooking.
If mixture is too moist, simply add a bit more Panko.
Form in to 18 turkey balls.
Heat olive oil and 1/2 cup of prepared sauce in large skillet on medium heat.
In batches, add turkey balls to skillet.
Cook 12 to 14 minutes, rotating often to brown all sides.
Transfer to plate while cooking next batch.
Serves 4 – 6.

To plate:
Place sauce on plate.
Place turkey balls on top of sauce.
Drizzle with a bit more sauce.
Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

*Note: This recipe doubles quite easily if you want extra for the freezer.
I cook the extra meatballs and freeze with prepared sauce.


Minestrone for a Crowd

Because I love soup, I gift you this minestrone recipe. A little knowledge from my Trapper Keeper…Hundreds of years ago, Italians would use whatever leftovers were in the kitchen to make this family soup. It quickly became a staple, and found a way to travel to the grand ole USofA. The first time that the don and I made it together was this past summer at the historic Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI. We spent a lot of time in their culinary center with this darling chef pictured below. When the weather snapped cool at home this past autumn, I started making it from items available in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. And I continued to create random concoctions throughout the winter and now into the spring season. The recipe that follows is really just a guide line; you do you, and make it your own! Ahhh…the sound of slurping soup.

3 Tbs olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
13 oz frozen tiny green peas
13 oz bag frozen black eyed peas
8 oz fresh haricot vert, cut into thirds
1 Tbs minced garlic
8 cups vegetable broth
6 cups hot water
15 oz tomato sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup ditalini pasta
2 Tbs sugar
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 t dried basil
1 t dried thyme
1 1/2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
3 cups baby spinach
Grated Parmesan cheese

Above right photo shows the minestrone with Puff Pastry Croutons!

In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.
Add onion and celery; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic: cook 1 minute.
Add broth, hot water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, green peas, black eyed peas, haricot vert, pasta, sugar, bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 20 minutes, storing often.
Stir in spinach; cook 2 to 3 minutes, until spinach wilts.
Top with grated cheese to serve.

Puff Pastry Crouton Crackers

How’s your Monday? Happy, I trust. This past weekend I had “The Littles” here…BTW, not so little anymore. We had friends with children over for salad, pizza, and Coach K’s farewell to Cameron game. So I had the four children making these puff pastry crouton/crackers to serve with our cheese and jam. They loved the way the dough was flat initially and then puffed in the oven…said a six year old, “so that’s why they call it puff pastry!”

Happiest little treats on the block, and simplest little treats to make.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbs heavy cream, for egg wash
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

All you need to do is this!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dust board and rolling pin with flour.
Unfold sheet of puff pastry onto board.
Roll to smooth out creases and flatten to appx 10 x 14 inch sheet.
Cut 24+ rounds of dough with 1 1/2″ cookie cutter.
Place them on prepared baking sheet.
Brush tops with egg wash.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes until puffed and golden.
And take a peak below to see how I use
them as actual croutons in my soups!

Pepper Jack Grits Poppers

Pepper Jack Popping Right In To March!
Well Daaaayaam, it’s been a little bit; but I won’t bore you all with the reasons. Believe me, you don’t wanna know!
Onward and North Starward*. Know what I mean by My North Star?  Google it and I’ll address it later! Hint: Life Changer!
So, the first time my peeps enjoyed this fine appetizer was, once again, at Diamante in Cabo. We couldn’t find the mini bell peppers, so they look a bit different but taste amazing! Thinking that they would look all fancy with the proper mini peppers, Donaldo and I prepared them at home last weekend. Same great taste…you decide which look you desire!

Cabo Version with Sections of Large Bell Peppers

1 cup hot cooked grits
1 cup freshly shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground pepper
18 to 20 sweet mini bell peppers, multiple colors

Stir together first 7 ingredients until cheese is melted.
Cover and chill 8 hours.
Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat.
Cut peppers in half lengthwise, leaving stem intact.
Remove seeds.
Spoon grits mixture into pepper halves.
Place on broiler pan.
Broil 4 minutes or until golden.
Hint: Chilling leftover grits gives them a second life.
Once solidified, cut into smaller pieces and reheat easily on high heat in oven.
So, always make extra grits!!

*North Star Commentary Coming Soon. Thank you Frances for the Initial Teaching!

Soup Freezing = Healing Energy

Sup Dog!?? My cool collegiate city has an infamous beer and hot dog spot by that very name. But my pups aren’t fans of hot dogs. They love it best when I’m prepping soups for the sweater weather ahead. They hang out quite closely in the kitchen, waiting for the accidental chicken drop! We all know food feeds the body, but I happen to fully believe that it feeds our essence as well. Perhaps that’s why my favorite meal is always warm soup. To me, it helps calm, fight stress, and heal emotional wounds, and makes the common cold feel more tolerable as well! Somewhere a fork salesman weeps, and a spoon salesman cartwheels! Any time is a great time for my homemade Brunswick Stew.

Breast meat of 1 roasted chicken, chopped
1 lb cooked, chopped pork tenderloin*
2 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth         
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans
1 1/2 cup frozen white corn
14 oz can diced tomatoes        
10 oz can Rotel     
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs basil (in tube)
*May use purchased fresh BBQ for ease if desired

Bring chicken broth to a boil.
Add lima beans and corn.
Cover and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and Rotel (both undrained), Worcestershire and basil.
Stir and cook 5 minutes.
Add chopped chicken and pork
Stir well to combine all.
Cook covered on medium low for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Serves 8.
Appx 350 for cup and a half serving.

Potatas Bravas

Back, oh, a decade or so ago, Brenton fell in love with the lifestyle and cuisine of Southern Spain. Upon her return to the grand USofA, we experimented with numerous recipes, based on her taste bud memories. One of our favorites, and a routine “go to” even in this decade is the Potato Frittata. It’s all about gaming your brain with a delicious amount of starch…and while we have you dancing around in that head of yours, here’s another starchy option, appetizer style, served all fancy! Here are the particulars!

Olive oil
2 diced plum tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

Cook tomatoes in olive oil until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add garlic, thyme, paprika, and pepper flakes.
Cook 3 to 4 more minutes.
In separate skillet, cook potatoes in olive oil until tender and golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt.
Serve in spoons over tomato sauce.
Drizzle with “aioli” sauce.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
In medium bowl, whisk together all three ingredients until well combined.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 20 spoons.

Lemony Shrimp Scampi

Good Afternoon Fine People! As the warm days are waning (thank goodness in my simple opinion!), I offer those of you who only enjoy shrimp during the summer months one more recipe to ease through your palate with brightness. As I watched the “winners” being announced during the Emmy Presentation Sunday night, I couldn’t help but to think that there are no “Category Winners” on this site. I love everything that I post; and if I attempt something that is less than suitable, it doesn’t make it “on air”, sorta like some early versions of TV shows! This is a sure red carpet winner; so go ahead, be fabulous, then sit back and wait for the oohs and aahs!

Entree Seafood Lemony Shrimp Scampi
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 2 large lemons
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper until smooth.
Set aside.

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 t kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes.
Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add shallots and cook until soft, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add shrimp, salt and pepper.
Cook until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove shrimp from skillet.
Increase the heat to high.
Add wine.
Cook for 1 minute until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add cooked pasta, cooked shrimp and vinaigrette to the skillet.
Toss until all ingredients are coated, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta.

Transfer to a large bowl, garnish with dill, and serve.

Baha Peninsula Artichoke Appetizer

I Know I Know I Know…Cabo Stories are becoming a bit nonplussed; however, to know me is to know that I love our Diamante villa in Cabo. You may find it odd that I am a very pale, natural blond, 66 year old Grand. That is to say that I don’t sit in the sun; but I am all about being out there in the pool with the fam and friends, 50+ sunscreen, most of the time in long sleeve SPF shirts, soaking up the fun. In the interim, I’m all about dreaming up new manners in which to cook our favorite bites when we gather around the dinner table! The Baha Peninsula is known for many, many things, one of which is growing artichokes. The baby ones are the best, most tender, and just yummy. So, we enjoyed them, a lot!

Above, from left: the don is mixing the cheeses. ~ the Cabo Grocery Girls couldn’t find wonton wrappers while stocking our kitchen, so…improvise. I used the Diamante Market pizza dough instead; and with no rolling pin, enter the empty Ciroc bottle to roll the dough (yes my arms did get some sun that day!). ~ Improvising again, with no cookie cutter, hello glass to cut the rounds of dough to fit into the muffin tin. Check out the results below!

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 t garlic powder
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup water packed baby artichokes, drained and chopped
24 wonton wrappers
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Mini muffin tin

In mixing bowl, combine Parmesan, mayonnaise, and garlic powder.
Mix well.
Stir in Monterey Jack and artichokes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 2 mini muffin tin pans with nonstick spray.
Press one wonton wrapper into each small muffin cup.
Bake 5 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Fill each cup with artichoke mixture.
Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes…but keep your eye on it!
Garnish with chives and serve warm.

Cinnamon Bread Pinwheels

Hellodie Hellodie and Happy Hump da Hump Day! Each post that involves my grands is especially fun for me, so come on and get happy! They may seem to be bouncing off the walls sometimes, but they’re just being children; so hold on to the magic…they grow up fast! And now, here’s a little show and tell. May your cookie jar never be empty!

4 slices cinnamon raison bread
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
4 long hors d’oeuvres picks

Cut the crust off each piece of bread, keeping it totally intact.
Start at one end of each piece of bread crust and roll it up, creating 4 pinwheels.
Secure each pinwheel with a pick.
Melt butter, sugar, and cinnamon in skillet, stirring to combine.
Add pinwheels to skillet and allow to toast about a minute per side.
Remove from skillet onto plate and allow pinwheels to cool and crispen.

Avocado Toast with Eggs and Tomatoes

Home from Cabo and happily back to life as Grand and GrandDad for the weekend. Tomorrow begins with a 5:50am wakeup call for Liam’s travel league baseball games, and then soccer matches for “the littles”. We will divide and conquer for the different locations; but we will all reunite in the Rock Dam Kitchen for a healthy brunch to refuel us all for the afternoon. Transfer the familiar into the fantastic. We’re taking all familiar ingredients and combining them in a wonderfully twisted way. So drop the mask for a few minutes to enjoy a meal…the stars are going to align on our taste buds and all the way down to our tummies! Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy, fun loving, athletic Saturday!

2 eggs
2 slices bread
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 avocado, gently mashed
1/2 lime, zested and juiced
Dash garlic powder
Dash onion powder
Fresh spinach
Gourmet Medley cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup Alfalfa sprouts
Drizzle of honey
Drizzle of olive oil

Place eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes to soft boil.
Lightly sauté tomato halves in olive oil.
Toast bread.
Spread with Dijon.
Mix avocado with lime, garlic, and onion.
Spread avocado mixture on top of Dijon.
Top with a few spinach leaves.
Top with sprouts.
Top with eggs.
Top with tomatoes.
Drizzle with honey and olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.