Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tasty and Not Greasy Meatballs Pasta Sauce over Fettuccini

Which Meat?

 I’ve experimented with different compositions of meat:

100% beef-just not flavorful enough
Blend of Pork/Beef- not bad but I find that it’s the pork that makes it more tasty (just my preference)
Turkey – not bad, a healthier option, but it lacks that ‘je ne sais quoi’-actually what we call ‘flavor’ (even with good seasoning choices)-but it’s not a bad alternative….
Lamb – I love lamb but many don’t. Lamb has to be cooked just right, but otherwise it has a gross side flavor.  Either way, good ground lamb is hard to find (at least around here) and some people really hate it, so it’s not a good choice for every day dinner.
Chicken – I think ground chicken makes the most flavorful, yet healthy meatballs

I prefer, Kosher Ground Chicken.  This is the most flavorful ground chicken I’ve eaten.  After researching this, I realized that this flavor is due to the Kosher method of processing the meat.  It’s sort of like brining. I can only find Kosher Valley at Whole Foods.  The ground chicken goes fast (I've had to call the butcher and they only get this delivered on Fridays-by Saturday they are mostly gone).  While not the cheapest, it is very tasty and doesn't have chemicals (hormones and antibiotics).

How to Prepare?

I’ve pan-fried meatballs but don’t like the grease factor and the time it takes to pan-fry and continuously turn them. Recently on Diners, Drive Inns & Dives (Food Network), I saw these great meatballs that were baked.  I’ve heard of baking meatballs but never tried it.

Baked chicken meatballs


½+ c. breadcrumbs
¼ c soy or non-dairy milk
Chopped parsley (optional)
2 eggs
Hint of maggi (optional-it’s a German flavor type ingredient-sort like Worchester sauce or soy sauce)

1 tsp. organic onion flakes
½ tsp. organic garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
Some freshly ground pepper
1-2 tsp of 365 Organic Ketchup (not only is this ketchup healthier, but it also won in taste tests conducted by Chicago Tribune)-optional. I forgot to add this once and it still tasted great.

Paprika (to sprinkle on meatball after it's on baking sheet)

Pasta sauce (home made, or even a shortcut one)

16 oz. organic fettuccini (or another noodle)

Gently beat 2 eggs and combine with meatball ingredients (exclude pasta sauce and fettucini).

Line a pan with foil (if you can find non-stick) and spray with a cooking spray (I use Spectrum).  Make balls (roughly walnut size-they will expand). Sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Bake on 375 for about 30 minutes (may need to turn the meatballs about 2/3 into the cooking cycle).

Remove meatballs from oven and simmer with pasta sauce for about 15-20 minutes (or more if you have time).

Cook fettuccini a la dente (it’s not just a joke in the movie My Cousin Vinny). Most pasta I've eaten in restaurants is way too mushy.

Drain pasta, shock with cold water and reheat with some olive oil.

Serve hot fettuccini and pour meatball sauce over it. 

There are no leftovers with this dinner.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanksgiving/Holiday Guide Part II

My original intention was to add photos of the cooked food photographed in my prior blog entry along with recipes.  Between work, daily obligations and so forth-I haven’t been able to get around to it.   Better late than never…so I have the photos for most of the  items.  Instead of adding specific recipes for each, I will simply address some keypoints/highlights for making this a successful dish.

The Pumpkin pie (dairy free, made with organic pumpkin) was not photographed.  It was attacked before we took any photos.  Hopefully I will make another one soon.  It’s fairly simple to make and tastes delicious.  The ‘overflow’ of the filling that I made turned into pumpkin brulee.

So in the spirit of “it’s better to blog at some level than not to blog at all (and have the blog be totally outdated)”-here are some holiday pointers:


Completely made from scratch.  I baked a dill bread (added fresh chopped dill to the dough).  Cube the bread and bake it on low heat (275) for a while (maybe 45 minutes) the day before Thanksgiving.  Then the next day make the stuffing.  There are many fresh stuffing recipes out there.  The main points are to sauté and season the vegetables (with Earth Balance soy butter).  Then in a very large bowl, mix the vegetables with the cubed bread.  Pour some organic broth over it to moisten.  I also add 2-3 beaten eggs.  This mixture is then baked for about 45 minutes on 350 (covered).  For the last 15 minutes I add some of the drippings from the turkey to improve the flavor and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.

The stuffing is delicious.  We also used it for a tofu casserole. 


Once you brine you never go back….so I used Alton Brown’s Turkey brining recipe.  I also use his recipe for roasting the turkey.  Pointers such as put the turkey in for ½ hour at very high heat to get crispy skin are handy.  I also like the turkey armor he makes with foil for preventing burns. 
This method makes for such tender and tasty turkey.  The drumsticks are not fibery or chewy at all.  The breast meat is moist and yet cooked.

Traditional Sweet Potato Dish:

I refuse to use that Princella (or whatever it’s called) canned sweet potato.  Instead, I use my Cuisinart food processor to thinly slice real sweet potatoes.  I have refined a recipe for baking (brown sugar, a little Kahlua,  soy milk,  cinnamon, nutmeg, soy butter).  For the last 10-15 minutes add the marshmallows.  This year I used the mini ones. 

Tofu Stuffing & Vegetable Casserole:

I can’t claim credit for this dish.  It’s delicious.  The main steps are sautéing some vegetables, seasoning them as you also make a great thickened sauce (roux).  Separately  fry tofu cubes.  Layer just right, bake and sprinkle the top with Daiya cheese and breadcrumbs.  This is Shanti’s signature dish.

Green Beans Dijonaise:

Another classis dish for us.  No processed / canned green beans.  Instead everything is fresh.  The sauce consists of soy butter/dill/Dijon mustard. 

Traditional mashed potatoes and gravy:

Again, all from scratch.  Gravy is very simple to make…as the Vegan Black Metal Chef dramatically states: “Gravy is broth and fat.”   I use the turkey drippings with organic free range chicken broth to make it. 


Played around with the cupcakes as well as made a pumpkin pie (non dairy from organic pumpkin).  I don’t have a photo of the pie.  We were too impatient and forgot to take one.

The day after:

Turkey Soup:

Fresh soup made from the turkey carcass…delicious.  Although it looks ‘fatty’ in this photo, I scrape the fat off.  I served it with Hungarian vermicelli noodles and it was delicious.

Turkey Tetrazzini

I used to make this dish, but then stopped because we don’t consume dairy.  This year I was able to make a delicious non-dairy version.  Practically the same steps as the dairy version.  Jordan had two servings (not typical).  I need to make this again.

While cooking:  Caviar and Alaskan Wild Sockeye Salmon

This was a treat for waiting. Quick snack-toffuti cream cheese on homemade bread, fresh dill.  The paper plates-the dinner was going to generate a lot of dishes...and my dishwasher was broken.

Now it’s time to think about the Christmas meal.  I bought the free natural (no antibiotics, vegetarian fed duck) today.  The rest is yet to be figured out. Traditionally, in Budapest we had an elaborate dinner on Christmas Eve and then also more special meals on Christmas Day.  

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving / Holiday Guide – Part I

First shopping trip - Whole Foods

As the holidays are approaching, there are certain ‘staples’ that I need to have a tasty yet healthy and allergen free Thanksgiving.  Certain ingredients need to be acquired from Whole Foods and a few others.  So today I shopped at Whole Foods for the fundamental ingredients:  the turkey and some baking ingredients:

The turkey-I need a turkey that has no additives, no ‘pre basting’ – not stuffed with antibiotics, hormones…and it would be nice if the turkey was somewhat ethically treated:

Christmas I usually make duck (my son LOVES it)-again don't want an over processed duck that doesn't even taste like duck.  Again, it is pricier than the cheaper frozen duck you find in typical grocery stores....

Since I'm at Whole Foods, I may as well pick up some uncured bacon and bratwurst (my son loves both-and I don't have to feel guilty about all the nitrites I'm feeding him):

My mother used to make great goose...I have yet to do this-but I need to make sure I master this technique before I make it - this goose is $100

Since I'm here I may as well pick up some drumsticks for oven baking (my son loves this)

When roasting turkey, chicken broth needs to be under the turkey rack...this is a reliable allergen free broth.  Some may say why bother with free range?  It turns out what's good for the animal is also good for your diet.  Free range chickens eat a healthier diet, which ultimately affects the nutrients in the the chicken that humans consume.

How I spend 50% of my time in the grocery store-found a new product...read the ingredient list to make sure I see no dairy derivates (or shellfish, nuts and peanuts)-no casein, no whey, no lactic acid starter culture from dairy. I also have to read the allergen information on what type of facility the product is made to assess the risk of cross contamination. 

In the "dairy section" - some great soy based butter (I can make the best desserts with this...no butter needed).  The Tofutti cream cheese is dairy free and is great on bagels or as a base to wild salmon.

 Free range organic eggs are more nutritious than the ones from the tortured chickens (again, being ethical has health benefits). They are higher in Omega 3s because of the diet of the chicken.

Regular Olive Oil has a lower frying temperature than this one.  So this is an expeller pressed (less processed) canola oil.  

I don't even like cranberries but these are good....
 Reread ingredients EACH time...just in case they changed something

The 365 Organic Ketchup was rated the highest in a taste test conducted by Chicago Tribune.  My son agrees...he no longer likes Heinz (which also is not composed of  the best ingredients)-he now eats food just so he can have this ketchup with it.

This is the shortening I use for frosting and other baking...(combine with Earth Balance shortening for cookies though).  NO crisco

What would Thanksgiving be without a pumpkin pie?  Yes, one can have a dairy free creamy pumpkin pie....this is one of the ingredients.

Sometimes it's nice to have some ready made cookies though.  Jovial cookies are delicious.  They are made in Italy and are made with an old world flour.  But mostly, they are delicious.  Usually quite pricey, but today they are on sale....time to stock up.

Creamy sauces...need a thick milk substitute.  This is one of my favorite ingredients for making cream sauces.  Clearly dairy free, but also soy free (many are allergic to soy)

We also make some Tofu dishes...this is a fairly new discovery.  I like it because: 1. it doesn't need draining and it's already firm, 2. I can use just part of it and put the rest back, 3. is higher in protein than the usual tofu.

And for a treat....caviar and wild salmon.  This will make a great appetizer.

Now I still need to plan the menu...acquire the vegetables...and start cooking...brine the turkey, make bread for stuffing (best stuffing is 'made from scratch') and dig through my recipes-most likely pumpkin pie, mocha cake - all free of dairy.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Garlic breadsticks in the comfort of your home

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything.  I have plenty of new additions, I just have to take the time to write it down.

As I resume the blog, it’s best to start with a simple addition-garlic bread sticks.  Some people go to Olive Garden for this.  We all know that most restaurants will not use the most wholesome ingredients.  The food is at best partially pre made and it’s not that fresh.  When you cook at home, you are in control of the ingredients, flavor and hygiene.   Yes, it’s more work….but we all know it’s better for you.


Pizza dough/breadstick dough


1 ½ cups of warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour (I use Bob’s Redmill Organic non bleached flour)
2 ¼ tsp. dry yeast (package)

Use bread machine to knead dough


Preheat oven 375 (this is convection oven)
Take a cookie sheet and line with non stick foil paper

Make bread stick shapes and lay them out on cookie sheet
Lay them out on cookie sheet
Brush top with extra virgin olive oil
Put coarse kosher salt and garlic powder on top (not garlic salt)
At this point you can add other herbs if you choose….

Bake for about 25 minutes…but when top starts looking dry – about 20 minutes into it….take a pat of butter and run it over the breadstick top.

Bake until golden brown (total 25 minutes in convection oven)
 And enjoy while warm.

Note:  Pizza/bread stick dough can stay in the refrigerator for days; just make sure you bring it to room temperature before baking.

Why the paper plate?  This was a nighttime snack while working and doing dishes wasn’t appealing.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Finds

Nutella no more

I’m always looking for something new, something tasty and something that won’t cause health issues and always something that maybe replaces a food that Jordan lost due to allergies.  Here is a recent mix of recent favorite finds

No nuts, not dairy and not hydrogenated NUTELLA like

One of the things my son misses the most is Nutella.  But due to his dairy and nut allergies it’s not even a possibility. 
This one took a long time to find.  But this is safe for his allergies and is a vegan Nutella like item as well (no dairy). 

It’s a Kosher PARVE chocolate spread that I found in the kosher section of  Garden Fresh.  I first discovered it at a kosher store when I was shopping for wheat/soy free items.  When my son was off of wheat/soy-Kosher for Passover was a great option for his diet.  These items were mostly available around Passover.  The Kosher diet actually lends itself nicely to a diet that needs to cater to food allergies (and various dairy free options).  You can find out more by researching Kosher diet, but in a Kosher diet you cannot mix meat and dairy. This is ideal for us. 

Recently I did try Nutella-the fact is that it wasn’t as good as I remember.  I like the flavor of rich dark chocolate and don’t like that flavor of milk chocolate.  Nutella tasted too sweet and diluted.  It’s what we are used to.  Maybe by now they have a dark chocolate version.  But as much as I love hazelnuts, I can’t bring them in the house due to my son’s allergies.  This is a great substitute for Nutella.  It would be great for crepes.  My son loves it over white bread (homemade).  Make sure you get the PARVE version (there is a non PARVE version that has dairy).

 Wasabi without Sushi

This snack is for me.  For anyone that loves wasabi , this is a nice way to get the wasabi flavor with a rice cracker.  As you can tell by the label, not fried, nothing hydrogenated.  It’s a flavorful snack.  It is made in a facility with nuts, so only I eat this one.

Smart, tast and easy

This is another quick little snack.  I love the flavor of wings.  But we don’t go out for wings anymore, and I actually like the flavor more than the meat.  It’s high in protein, not fat and very easy to make.  The only bad part is that so far I can only find this in one store (Woodman’s) - safe for my son's allergies.

Taco Tuesday-one more version

Taco Tuesday-sometimes I use vegan chorizo or a non processed chorizo (see prior blog on tacos).  Recently Whole Foods was sold out of both (I didn’t realize this blog had that many readers - J).  So I picked up some low fat, kosher ground turkey instead.  I didn’t expect this to taste so delicious.  I’ve made turkey tacos before, but the flavor of this meat is great.  It doesn’t have the gross side taste.  There really is a difference.

Ancient wheat from Tuscany

These cookies are great and addictive.  But they are not your typical overprocessed cookies.  Also, they are not too sweet as most American cookies are. They are made with Einkorn wheat (not over processed wheat).  Here is the ingredient list:

Organic Einkorn Flour, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Organic Eggs, Organic Cocoa, Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate, Baking Soda), Salt.
Contains wheat and eggs.

The cookies are crafted in Italy.  Although they are made in a facility they state:
 “We use milk, tree nuts and soy in our facility. Strict sanitary practices and batch testing prevent cross-contamination.”

They also make gluten free cookies.  So far, I’ve only found these at Whole Foods.  They also have an informative website.

This was the only food I could find for lunch at work....so it was a great find....at work.

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