Thursday, March 15, 2012

Italian Meatloaf

Throughout my cooking career, I've had limited success with meatballs, trying multiple recipes.  Some were tastier than others, and many fell apart while simmering in tomato sauce.  Forming and frying or baking meatballs is also time consuming.  Then I stumbled on the idea of Italian meatloaf--meatball flavor with the ease of a loaf!

The recipe that follows is my take on the Italian meatloaf from Desperation Entertaining and  a recipe for meatballs in Sunday gravy created by Cook's Illustrated.

Italian Meatloaf
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (more or less)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp Italian herb mix, optional
1 # ground beef, 93% lean
1-2 ounces prosciutto, chopped fine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup onion, minced
pasta sauce, optional
  • Combine bread cubes, buttermilk, parsley, garlic, egg yolk, and spices.  Mash with a fork until no bread chunks remain.
  • Add ground beef, prosciutto, Parmesan, and onion.  Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.
  • Pat mixture into a pan, cover with optional pasta sauce, and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  • Use a high quality sandwich bread, like Arnold Country White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White.
  • The Italian herb mix is optional.  You can wing it by combining oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, and/or cracked rosemary.
  • I usually prepare this recipe times six (6# meat).  I'll bake 1/3 and freeze the rest (raw) in two separate gallon freezer bags.  I freeze them flat on a baking sheet so they'll store neatly and thaw quickly.
  • If you try this x6, you'll have plenty of egg whites left.  Here's a source of ideas in case you want to use the whites instead of tossing them:  recipes.
  • Prosciutto is expensive and flavorful, so I usually use the smaller amount listed.
  • For best results, buy the tastiest Parmesan you can afford.  Real cheese is so much better than what comes in a can!
  • If you're making a big batch, the food processor can be a huge help.  Use it to grate the Parmesan, if needed.  The parsley should be chopped next, followed by (in any order now) the onion, garlic, and prosciutto.
  • At the bottom of this post I've typed in the ingredient amounts needed for a x6 batch.
  • If you use more than 1# of meat, your loaf will of course take more than 30 minutes to bake.  If you're in a hurry, shape it into a ring instead of a slab:
Buon Appetito!

Italian Meatloaf x6
12 slices hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley (more or less)
12 cloves garlic, crushed
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp Italian herb mix, optional
 6# ground beef, 93% lean
6-12 ounces prosciutto, chopped fine
3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups onion, minced
pasta sauce, optional

Friday, February 17, 2012

In a Hurry?

Try forming your dinner into a shape that bakes more quickly!
Coming soon?--a recipe for Italian meatloaf.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coffee Cake Kit

I've got several "go to" recipes for Sunday morning treats, but decided to try Carole Walters' recipe for Butter Crumb Coffee Cake anyway.  It's a winner!
A simply flavored cake with a generous portion of streusel, it's not overly complicated to make, either.  After I baked it for the first time, though, I realized that this cake is a great candidate for a make-ahead kit.  One afternoon I used the food processor to put three sets together, then stashed them in the fridge. 

On Sunday it took just 22 minutes to put everything together and into the oven.  That may not sound quick, but it seemed so to me.  If I had prepared my pan and portioned out my liquid ingredients the night before, I could have shaved off even more time.  And once the cake was baking, the counter was almost clean.  I only had to toss a few bowls and such into the sink--quite an improvement over other early morning baking sessions!

So here's my version of Carole's recipe (8-10 servings at our house, 10-12 at hers).  I increased the nuts in the streusel (fourfold!) and changed some of the technique.  First, the kits:

Cake mix
Combine in a food processor:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) soft, unsalted butter
Process again until the dry ingredients are completely coated.  You won't have chunks of butter (like when making scones or biscuits or pie crust), but a yellowish flour mixture.  Store in the fridge in a one quart freezer bag.

Streusel mix
Combine in a food processor:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon (or more)
1/2 tsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Pulse until the nuts are finely chopped.  Store in the fridge in a one pint freezer bag.

To bake:  Ideally, take the kits out of the refrigerator the night before so the butter in the cake mix can come up to room temperature.  If your daughter's crazy cat is about, hide it in the microwave or a cabinet until morning.

Mix the streusel:  Heat 2/3 cup unsalted butter until it's almost melted.  Stir to finish melting.  Stir in the streusel mix and set aside for 10-15 minutes so the flour can absorb the butter.

Prepare the 10" springform pan:  Grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the paper, and flour the whole thing.  Tap out any excess flour.

Prepare the cake:
Whisk together
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla (use the best you can)
  1. Dump the cake mix into a large bowl.  Add the liquid ingredients.
  2. Beat with a spoon or spatula until the batter is smooth, about one minute.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a large soup spoon or offset spatula.
  4. Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze gently to form a large clump.  Then break the clump apart and sprinkle the crumbs onto the batter.  Repeat until all of the streusel mixture has been used.  Lightly press the streusel into the batter.
  5. Bake the cake for about 50 minutes (the original recipe says 40-45, which is never enough in my oven), or until the top is golden brown and firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.  I like to remove the sides of the pan and work a spatula under the parchment paper.  Then I slide the whole cake onto a cutting board.
  7. The cake is supposed to be dusted with powdered sugar just before serving, but so far (3X) I have always forgotten that!  No one seems to mind . . .   ;-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Real Lemonade

We usually drink lemonade mixed from frozen concentrate.  I dilute it quite a bit, preparing a gallon from a 12 oz. can of concentrate.  It's fine, and quite popular compared to our usual beverage choices:  water, milk, and iced tea (if you're an adult or have drunk your milk quota for the day!).

Last week David improvised a few glasses of lemonade for himself and Rebecca, which she enjoyed immensely.  Then yesterday she persuaded me to make some when she and a friend came in hot and sweaty from outdoor play.  There was a warehouse-sized bag of lemons in the basement fridge, so it was easy to bring me on board.

This recipe comes from The Boxcar Children Cookbook, which makes it a sentimental favorite.  Long ago this book was one of our favorite sources as David and I prepared monthly meals together.  (Vegetarian/Redwall inspired recipes were another focus.)  Anyway, here's my slightly adapted version:

Maggie's Lemonade
adapted from The Boxcar Children Cookbook

1 cup sugar
2 quarts water, divided
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
~1/4 cup red cherry juice, optional

Combine the sugar with 1 cup water.  Heat in the microwave 1 or 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add remaining water, lemon juice, and optional cherry juice.  Chill and serve over ice.

If you're in a hurry to drink your lemonade, substitue ice cubes for part of the water.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Have you ever enjoyed bubble tea?  It's a fun treat.  There are recipes all over the internet, but it's not too hard to improvise, either.

Find large tapioca pearls at an Asian grocery store.  Cook according to package directions (usually some simmering and soaking).  This time I strained the pearls, dropped them into glasses, 
and poured on some strawberry lemonade.
The lemonade was improvised, too.  I mixed it from frozen concentrate (I use A LOT more water than the can suggests, making almost a gallon from 12 oz.), and pureed it with partly thawed frozen strawberries. 
Easy-peasy, and lots of fun! 
The bubbles are slightly gooey and slightly chewy.  They can be scooped up with a spoon, but it's especially fun to slurp them up with a fat straw.  Surprisingly, I haven't been able to find these straws at any of the Asian markets that sell the tapioca.  I finally found some at my local grocer, called "milkshake straws."  Who knew?

We've made several variations so far.  Lauren likes bubbles in hot, sweetened tea.  I've shaken them with jasmine tea, crushed ice, sugar, and cream.  We even imitated a Starbucks drink by mixing lemonade, iced tea, and passion fruit nectar (usually found in the Latino foods aisle).  The sky's the limit--have fun!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pork Lo Mein

I prefer to borrow cookbooks from the library and test-drive them before buying my own copies.  The Best Skillet Recipes, from Cook's Illustrated, is a keeper.  Several recipes have become family favorites, including the cherry cobbler and pork lo mein.  Here's my slightly adapted version of the latter. 
Like all stir-fries, this entree is quick to toss together IF you've got your ingredients prepped and ready before you heat up your skillet.  Speaking of which, a word about equipment: 

CI points out that a wide skillet is better than a wok for American stoves.  More food comes into contact with the heat, making for better browning and quicker cooking.  Once I read that, my stir fry frustrations made so much sense!  No matter how I turned my flame, the food never cooked quickly enough in my old wok, often simmering in juices rather than frying.  Anyway, try a skillet!  For this recipe, use one with a 12" diameter.

I'll write the "serves 4" version of the recipe, although it should be enough for 6 people.  If my whole family is home (8), I'll prepare 1 1/2 batches (in a deep 13" skillet) and we end up with leftovers.

Pork Lo Mein, adapted from The Best Skillet Recipes
1# pork tenderloin, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
8 tsp low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
12 medium scallions (~2 bunches), white and green parts separated, both parts sliced on the bias into 1" lengths
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (~2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded
2 Tbsp oyster-flavored sauce
2 tsp-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 # green cabbage (~1/4 medium head), cored and sliced thin
1-2 carrots, coarsely shredded (optional)

Set out your ingredients.  Pat the pork dry with paper towels and toss with 2 tsp of the soy sauce.
Scallion whites get their own bowl.  After typing the list above, I now realize I cut these too small!
Garlic, ginger (those are not slices--read about it in the notes), and red pepper flakes:
Oyster-flavored sauce, sesame oil, and the remaining 2 Tbsp soy sauce:
Cabbage, scallion greens (cut properly here), and optional carrot shreds:
(There's more cabbage in the above container than the recipe calls for because I double it to make the lo mein a one-dish meal.)

Heat 1/2 Tbsp of the oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add half the pork, break up any clumps, and cook without stirring until beginning to brown, about 1 minute.  Stir the pork and continue to cook until cooked through, 1 minute longer.  Transfer the pork to a bowl, cover to keep warm, and set aside.  Repeat with the remaining pork.
Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the scallion whites and cook until lightly browned and softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the broth.  Break the bricks of ramen into small chunks and add to the skillet.  Bring to a simmer and cook, tossing the noodles constantly with tongs or wooden paddles to separate, until the ramen is just tender but there is still liquid in the pan, about 2 minutes.
 (Cook a little more than this picture shows before moving on to the next step.)
Stir in the sauce ingredients and the remaining vegetables.  Cook until the cabbage is wilted and the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.  Return the pork, along with any accumulated juices, to the skillet and cook until warmed through, about 30 seconds.
 Serve.  Enjoy!
  • I double the cabbage to make this a one-dish meal.
  • The optional carrots add a bit more nutrition and a spark of color.
  • I typically buy a large package (4-6#) of pork tenderloin at the warehouse store.  I'll cut it all up, packing 1 or 1 1/2# allotments into freezer bags.  It's so handy to have the meat on hand and ready to go.
  • I keep processed ginger in my freezer, too.  It's a small time investment that saves me waste and time.
Here's the short-hand version:
  1. pork with 2 tsp soy sauce
  2. scallion whites
  3. garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes
  4. scallion greens, cabbage, carrot
  5. oyster sauce, sesame oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce
Cook pork in batches.  Set aside.
Fry scallion whites until softened.  Add garlic, etc. and stir until fragrant.
Add broth and ramen.  Cook until tender but some liquid remains.
Add sauce and vegetables.  Cook until cabbage is wilted and sauce is thickened.
Add pork, warm through, and serve.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

While she was home over Christmas break, Lauren discovered a recipe for pumpkin scones with cinnamon sugar glaze.  She made them several times to rave reviews.  "The best scones I've ever had!" was a typical reaction.

The basic formula is quite similar to my standard scone; I like to prepare bags of mix (using the food processor) to keep on hand in the fridge.  Today I made a pumpkin variation using my mix rather than starting from scratch.  Every minute saved is a help in the morning!

Here's what I did:
1. To one bag of scone mix, add 1 1/2 tsp cake spice (or combine cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger).
2. Combine
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup (scant) 1/2 &1/2 or milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
3. Stir wet into dry, knead (it may take a while to come together), roll, cut, and bake scones.  (See my standard recipe for the full notes.)
4. When cool, ice with
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • cream or milk as needed to make a properly thick glaze (depending on how warm the scone is)
Rather than measure, I usually just pour powdered sugar into a large (10 oz) pyrex custard cup.  This is what one exact cup looks like:

If you already know how to make scones, and just want the amounts for my mix, here goes:  2 cups flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and 6 Tbsp (regular salted) butter.