Saturday, May 28, 2011

Authentic Italian Meat Balls

“Authentic”, don’t you love that word in a recipe title? As if somebody got everybody in Italy together years ago and said, “here isa da way we goin to makea da meatAball.” It never happened but having grown up in an Italian family I can tell you there are some things that are common and often not copied by cooks in other countries. Probably the biggest thing is bread. Most of us don’t use bread crumbs, we use slices of bread that are pulled apart into small pieces. Another is meat, we include veal when at all possible.

But like I wrote, we didn’t get together and come up with the “authentic” recipe so if you want to add pine nuts, diced prunes, ricotta, pecorino, mint, chives, or tarragon, go ahead.

About 3 slices of bread. I like a white bread for this because of the absorption factor.
¾ cup Milk. Whole milk is normal but I use what I have, including non-fat
20 oz Meatloaf mix (lean beef, pork, and veal)
2 Eggs
2 cloves Garlic
¼ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbl Italian parsley


1. Pour the milk into a large bowl.
2. Cut the crusts off the bread. You wont need it anymore so use it for crutons or at least give it to the birds.
3. Put the bread into the milk and press down with your hands or a large spoon. Don’t use much pressure though, you just want the bread to absorb the milk. Flattened bread won’t be any better than bread crumbs.
4. Put the meat into a bowl. If you had to purchase the beef, pork, and veal separately then mix them together by hand.
5. Squeeze the milk out of the bread, tear it into small pieces (about a half inch wide), and add to the meat.
6. Add the eggs, garlic, Parmesan, and parsley.
7. Mix everything together with your hands. Feel free to add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Pull out small portions of meat and form into balls of about 1 ½ inches thick.
9. You can cook these in several ways but I really like to just drop them into a tomato sauce. It will take about a half to three quarters of an hour and help flavor the sauce at the same time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beer Ribs

Everybody believes they make the best ribs and the assumption is usually based on their bar-b-q sauce.  The ribs themselves are probably under or over cooked, a little tough.  I wasn’t an exception until I talked to my friend Tim who has won rib cook-offs, been in the restaurant business for years, and truly makes the best ribs I ever ate.  Using some of his secrets I came up with the following idea and, if I must say so myself, has a fantastic deep taste.

Even more important though, it doesn’t take very long and you can buy most of the components if you want so you are not stuck in the kitchen while all your friends are having fun.


1 or 2 slab of ribs
2 or 3 cans of beer
Some marinade
Some Bar-B-Q sauce


First; buy yourself a nice marinade and bar-b-q sauce.  If you don’t want people to know they are from the grocery store just pour them into jars and tell everyone you made them.  If you do want to make them yourself I will try to help you in a separate post.

Second; freeze the ribs.  I know, people say they can taste it if meat has been frozen but the truth is, they can’t.  Pretty much all meat is frozen to transport without spoiling.  Besides, all you are doing here is making it easier to remove the membrane.

Third; remove the membrane.    This is a lot easier if the ribs are frozen and you use a sharp knife.  The membrane is that thin white thing on the back of the ribs.  Start in one corner and carefully run your knife between it and the ribs until it is removed.  Tim can do this in such a way that he can take the entire thing off in one sheet but I can’t.  Just keep working at it and don’t cut yourself.  Nobody wants food that you have been bleeding over and a trip to the hospital can really ruin your timing.

Then run your knife between each rib and over each rib on both sides and cut the entire thing into two or three rib sections.

What you have accomplished is the removal of the one thing that prevents the heat, marinade, and sauce from penetrating the meat.  If you just do this and plop the ribs on a grill it will be better than anything your neighbors cook.  But you want it even better.

Fourth; pre-cook the ribs.  You can steam them but if you don’t have the correct hardware you may want to try this method.  Put the ribs in a large Dutch oven and pour the beer over it.  If that doesn’t cover the ribs then add water.  I usually put the water into the used beer cans, slosh it around, and then pour it in.  Why waste the beer taste?  I usually use a Lager for many reasons, the primary being that I drink Lager and it is handy.  Guinness would be good also since it is one my favorite drinking and cooking beers.  The key here is to add flavor to the liquid or else you are just boiling the meat and that can cost you in flavor.,

Fifth; bring the ribs to boiling, turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for about an hour.

Sixth; put the cooked ribs into a container and pour the marinade over it.  Stir it around to make sure everything is coated.  Cover this and let it sit for a while.  Look at the directions on the bottle/envelope to get an idea of the timing.  Put it in a cooler or refrigerator for this phase.

Seventh; cook it on the grill.  You can also cook it in your oven at 350 degrees.  Flip the ribs about every 5 minutes or so and baste them with the remaining marinade.  When you have about 10 minutes left then baste with the bar-b-q sauce and throw the remaining marinade away.

Unless the ribs are real thick you should see the meat separate from the bone.  You are probably done at that time unless you want jerky.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This is an old Irish idea that can be made into a full meal or side dish. There are several variations using kale, leeks, Canadian bacon, ham, cream, beer, etc. and I encourage you to look into them. The general ingredients are common and inexpensive and the entire meal is fairly simple to make. I believe it is a great alternative to simple mashed potatoes or rice and much easier than polenta. It also has a good starch and vegetable so all you need is meat.

• 2 ½ cups cabbage, coarsely chopped or shredded
• 2 cups water
• 5 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup chopped green onions
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 Tbl butter, melted
• 5 strips Crumbled cooked bacon
• minced fresh parsley

1. Pour the water and cabbage into a large skillet and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes until tender.
3. While the cabbage is cooking peal, wash, and quarter the potatoes and put them on the side.
4. Cook the bacon (I use the microwave).
5. Put the cooked bacon between two paper towels to blot off the grease.
6. Drain the cabbage water into a medium saucepan that you will later use to cook the potatoes.
7. Put the cover back on the cabbage and place it out of the way to keep warm.
8. Put the potatoes into the saucepan you have the cabbage water in (step #6) and add enough water to cover the potatoes.
9. Bring the potatoes to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15-17 minutes or until tender. I used an electric range so I covered the pan right in the beginning of this step so it would boil quicker.
10. A few minutes before the potatoes are done pour the milk and green onions into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
11. Drain the potatoes and pour them into a large bowl.
12. Mash the potatoes and stir in the milk mixture.
13. Melt the butter while mashing the potatoes.
14. Stir in the cabbage, salt and pepper.
15. Add the melted butter, bacon and parsley.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fettuccine with Sweet Pepper-Cayenne Sauce

You’re driving home from work and remember that you have not done anything about dinner. Sound familiar? How about a good taste meal that needs 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cooking? Well here is something I found at All that will put you in front of the TV screen with a smile.

2 red bell peppers, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 ounces dry fettuccine pasta
Cooking oil spray
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil
2. While the water is warming prepare the red bell peppers and garlic and put them in a small open container (a bowl will do) and sprinkle the cayenne over them
3. Add the pasta to the water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente
4. While the pasta is cooking spray cooking oil in a large skillet and heat to medium
5. Pour the bowl of peppers, etc. into the skillet and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes
6. Drain the pasta then pour it back into the pan you cooked it in and cover. Do I have to tell you to take this off the heat first?
7. Stir sour cream and broth into the skillet and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes
8. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheese
9. Pour the peppers and sauce into pan with the pasta, season with salt and pepper, and stir everything until combined. Don’t get carried away stirring

See, 15 minutes and a full meal for 4. Eat what you want and put the rest away for a great leftover meal. Don’t leave it too long though.

Want more than 4 servings? Click on the Recipe title and will compute what you need.

Malty Mustard

One of the charms of the BBQ season is getting together with friends and family, trying some new recipes, and drinking beer over a hot grill. It brings more smiles than a new car. Everybody usually brings some beer, potato salad, or baked beans but maybe you’re Kitchen Challenged or want something different to impress everyone. Why not make and bring a jar of good homemade mustard for everyone to enjoy on their brats?

Mustard can be a little difficult but our friends at Beer Cook site have a fantastic recipe that wont take you long, is easy to do, lasts about 2 weeks refrigerated, and is quite tasty. All you need is the ingredients, a blender or food processor, and a double boiler mechanism which is pretty simple.

If you don’t have a double boiler just get a sauce pan and a Pyrex, stainless steel, or heat proof glass bowl that is larger than the opening of the sauce pan. This is important because you don’t want the bowl to fall in or the steam to work its way into the food. This comes in handy for melting chocolate also.


1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark ale
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons powdered mustard
1 / 2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/ 2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter; melted


1. Pour about 2 inches of water into the saucepan.
2. Heat the water on low to medium heat until the water begins to simmer.
3. Blend all the ingredients in the blender and run it on high until smooth.
4. Spoon the mixture into the top of a double boiler.
5. Put the double boiler together, cover and simmer until it is thickened and steaming. Steaming, not smoking. This should take about 10 minutes. Whisk it a lot so it doesn’t curdle.
6. Watching not to get burned, take the pan off the heat and the bowl off the pan. Let everything cool to room temperature.
7. Scrape the mustard into a re-sealable, sterilized glass jar. Can’t sterilize, wash it out real good. You just don’t want to contaminate the mustard with anything.
8. Chill the mustard before serving.

This should yield about 2 cups. If you are going to serve more people, make the recipe again. I never tried doubling the ingredients so I can’t tell you if that works. The mustard should last about 2 weeks which means you can make it well in advance.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pumpkin Bread, Cooked in Coffee Cans

Here is a different recipe with a great taste that can be assembled and cooked with your young children.  Depending on their age though you may want to keep the kids away from anything that is sharp or hot.  I found it at The Gourmet Coffee Shop site which is a great place for you to visit and learn even more about coffee.

First; you will need two old metal 1 pound coffee cans.  Wash them out and remove all paper and glue from the cans.

Second; you can make your own pumpkin purée or buy it at a grocery store.  Doing it on your own is pretty simple but the end result may not be what you expect.  You see pumpkins don’t have much taste and the Jack-O-Lantern type are the most bland.  When you are at the store look at the pumpkin pies and you will see that they contain a great deal of squash and seasoning which is the real taste.

·   2 Coffee Cans (one pound each, no lip)
·   Butter for greasing the cans
·   1 ½ cups   Flour
·   1 cup        Sugar
·   1 tsp         Baking Soda
·   1 cup        Pumpkin Purée
·                Eggs, beaten
·   1/2 cup     Olive Oil
·   1/4 cup     Water
·   1/2 tsp      Nutmeg
·   1/2 tsp      Cinnamon
·   1/2 tsp      Allspice
·   1/2 tsp      Salt
·   1/2 cup     Walnuts, chopped (optional)
1.           Take all the paper and glue off the coffee cans then wash and dry them.
2.           Grease the inside of the cans with butter.
3.           Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4.           Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a mixing bowl.
5.           Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them (after you have smelled them for freshness and taken out the egg shells.
6.           In another bowl mix the pumpkin purée, eggs, olive oil, water, and the rest of spices.
7.           Now pour the bowl of dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients but don’t over mix them.
8.           Stir in the walnuts if you decided to include them.
9.           Pour the batter into each of the coffee cans. Do not fill more than half way because the bread needs room to expand and you don’t want to spend hours cleaning your oven.
10.      Put the cans into the oven and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes.
11.       You can test the doneness with a toothpick. Insert the toothpick into the center of the exposed bread and if it comes out clean, your good.  Don’t cook until the smoke alarm starts or the Fire Department shows up.
12.      Once done, remove the bread from the coffee cans and let them cool on a rack.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Don’t Throw Away Those Coffee Grounds

I was reading the Coffee Forum & Review at and ran across this posting by havasu who gave me permission to repost it.  I believe there is a lot of good information that you can use to save some money.  Take a minute to read it over and I’ll get back to you at the end.

“Used coffee grounds have many uses, from mulching to compost building. This is one ubiquitous material it's hard to have too much of. If you decide to mulch your beds and borders with ground coffee, here's a hot fashion tip: Remove the filters first. Those raggedy white papers look too tacky for words when left fluttering around your flowers. White or brown, you can shred the filter papers and mix them into the compost, where they'll break down nicely in short order.

Ground coffee is high in nitrogen, making it a very good mulch for fast-growing vegetables. Many organic growers swear by coffee grounds as mulches for tomato plants, both for the nitrogen boost this heavy feeder appreciates and for coffee's ability to help suppress late blight.

Years ago, I noticed that my coffee-bean pathways produced terrifically robust seedlings of several fusspot plants. My observation was confirmed by several soil scientists, who explained that coffee contains a number of substances that promote healthy plant growth.

Perhaps we should be sharing the end of the pot with our houseplants and watering any prima donna garden plants with leftover coffee as well. On second thought, the border belles probably would prefer for us to brew them a special batch of their own, rather than accepting secondhand or second-best coffee.

Starbucks makes spent coffee grounds available year-round to its North America customers on a first-come, first-served basis. Grounds are packaged in reused coffee bags and come with simple directions for using the grounds in the garden or compost pile.

Coffee-ground mulch also can help reduce the ravages of slugs and snails. At a recent class, one participant announced that she always mulched her hostas with coffee grounds each day and had never before understood why they were never bothered by slugs.

Coffee grounds can be used to mulch plants that slugs love to feast on, such as hostas, ligularias and lilies. Try them for daffodils and other spring bulbs as well. You also can rid areas of slugs and snails by mixing up some instant coffee and making it two to three times stronger than you ordinarily would. Spray this concentrated coffee where slugs roam free and you'll notice a definite drop-off in damage.

Recent studies have demonstrated that when slugs or snails travel over soil or pathways where a strong caffeine solution has been sprayed, their slimy foot takes up the caffeine with fatal results. Theoretically, you also could kill slugs with tea, but you would need a far more concentrated batch than you would even think about drinking.

Pound for pound, tea has more caffeine than coffee, but a pound of tea makes many more cups than a pound of coffee. To get a strong enough concentration of caffeine to deter pests, you'd need to use more tea than would be practical. However, the stewed ends of the teapot are well worth sloshing about the garden. Like coffee, tea has many compounds that help plants grow well. Houseplants are famously fond of being mulched with used tea leaves, and all kinds of tea leftovers can be mixed into the compost with impunity, including paper wrappers and tea bags with strings. The only materials to avoid are metal (like tea bag staples) or plastic coated wrappers that won't break down.”

See, start a little vegetable garden and use your stale tea, stale coffee, used grounds, and tea bags to help everything grow and kill bugs at the same time.  All this from something you have been throwing away. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crab Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

Here is an appetizer that caught my eye because of the crab so I wanted to pass it on to you.  I found this recipe at, a great place for recipes and inspiration.  If you make your own beer, is a good place for those recipes also.

It isn’t a difficult recipe and can actually be done in two steps so you are not doing six things at once.  You can do the first 6 steps early, cover with plastic wrap and chill for later in the day.  Then finish the recipe when you are almost ready to serve and serve.  Your friends will think you are a genius.

·         12 large  Jalapenos Peppers
·         4 oz.       crabmeat, well drained
·         1/3 cup   minced red onion
·         1/4 cup   minced green bell pepper
·         1/4 cup   cream cheese
·         1/2 cup   all purpose flour
·         3/4 cup   Corona beer
·         Oil for frying
·         All purpose flour for dredging

For Garnish
·         1/2          avocado, peeled and diced
·         1/2 cup   salsa
·         1 Tbl       mayonnaise
1.      Starting just below stem, cut Jalapenos lengthwise in half, leaving stems attached. Remove the seeds.
2.      Place Jalapenos in medium saucepan.
3.      Cover with cold water and bring to simmer.
4.      Drain. Repeat process. Dry the Jalapenos.
5.      Combine crab, onion, bell pepper and cream cheese in small bowl. Season with
salt and pepper.
6.      Fill Jalapeno cavities with crab mixture.
7.      Press the pepper halves together to compress filling.
8.      You can do steps 1 through 7 ahead of time, cover the results and chill.  Not too far ahead now or you will lose the flavor, texture, and color of the pepper and things could get ugly.  All joking aside though I’m telling you that you don’t have to make this just before everyone eats.  Put it together in the morning and then finish it off just before serving.
9.      Place 1/2 cup flour in bowl.
10.  Gradually whisk in beer. Let stand 30 minutes.
11.  Heat oil in heavy deep pot to 375°F.
12.  Whisk batter until smooth.
13.  Dredge Jalapenos in remaining flour, then dip into batter to coat completely and deep-fry until golden brown.
14.  Remove peppers from oil and allow to drain.
15.  Combine avocado, salsa and mayonnaise in small bowl, and use this to garnish the peppers.

You can see this at