On Meatball Bolognese…

Because I am not the best at making meatballs. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy knowing that there is something that I’m not really good at doing because it means it’s time for another experiment in methods to better my skills! But meatballs are just one of those things—specifically when trying to get a sear on them—that never seems to go my way. I have made meatballs successfully by baking them, cooking them in a crockpot, and straight up braising them in sauce, but when I try to sear them off and get that really wonderful caramelization, they just fall apart or stick to the pan, thus falling apart when I try, as gently as I can, to get them off…

So I’ve been asking myself all week, WHERE did I go wrong? Did I overmix or mix too hard? Was my attempt at using white bread (seriously drenched with water and wrung out) not as effective as breadcrumbs? Did I wring out the bread too much or not enough? I don’t think it was the meat mixture I used (all beef, 20% fat, with chopped pancetta), I had actual herbs in there, ricotta, two eggs (maybe one too many?), salt and pepper, and I used a little oil on my hands to make them into balls…so then my next questions lead to the actual making of the meatballs themselves. Were they too big? Not big enough? Was my pan too hot? Not hot enough? Did I use enough oil in the pan? Did I even use the right pan? You see my problem…but again, this is great, because now I’m in full experimentation mode!

 

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So when I get back from Vegas (work trip for my day job all next week, which hopefully won’t impact the posting schedule too bad, but hey, IT’S VEGAS AND I’M SO EXCITED!) I plan to spend a weekend trying different cooking methods of meatballs! I remember making one my first year in Chicago that had a little nugget of mozzerlla cheese stuffed in the middle, with a tomato jam on top that was awesome! I think I made those for a Game of Thrones binging session with Frankie, if my memory serves me right! But you’ll be seeing more meatballs here soon, and I plan to find the perfect balance & cooking method for my skills/needs! If anyone has a favorite meatball recipe, please feel free to pass that along to me as I’m not sure I’ll be making this recipe again, though I may! I haven’t planned that far ahead yet, but all recommendations and ideas are welcome! – Cooking Maggie

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Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs from bon appetit


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On Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad

With a renewed sense of wanting to get healthy, I thought that the best recipe to present for the New Year was a salad! I know, I know, it’s not the most exciting thing to make or eat, but there are actually plenty of salads that are incredibly delicious and filling that aren’t calorie heavy, and this is one of them! Drum roll please….Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad! TA-DA! Have I caught your attention? Excellent!

This is one of the EASIEST salads to make, AND if you want to go one step further, the Caesar dressing is easy to make from scratch, and the recipe is from one of my faves, Smitten Kitchen! Her recipe to her own Chicken Caesar salad is included below, which is where her own dressing recipe is located, and while I like me a Chicken Caesar salad on any other given day, this blackened chicken really kicks things up a notch and takes this salad to a whole other level of deliciousness! The season mix is my own concoction after a few years of playing around with amounts and components, and this is what I’ve finalized! It’s not really even that spicy, just enough to give a slight kick, so if you’re not a big fan of spice, you should still be okay with the amounts I’ve given. And if you want a little more spice, through in a ¼ more teaspoon of cayenne or paprika or chili powder (or all three if you want it to really zing)!

And in terms of the preparation, you can cube your chicken, as I did this time, or pan sear/roast your chicken breast whole and then cut it into strips, or cut into strips and pan sear them, but I like to cube them because then they are more bite-size friendly, and it reduces the cooking time for the chicken, which means it gets into my belly much faster! Plus, what better way to satisfy my healthy ideals or my healthy appetite? And the dressing? Also very easy, and quite tangy too! It might not be the bottled creamy Caesar that everyone knows and loves, but it’s certainly very close to it, and still very delicious! So if you’re looking for a way to lighten up your weeknight, or your afternoon lunch, why not give this salad a try and see for yourself! Salads can be fun and delicious! – Cooking Maggie

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Chicken Caesar Salad by smitten kitchen (Dressing recipe at the end)


Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad
4 servings

Ingredients

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into bite sized pieces or strips
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano, dried
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped or torn
  • 1 beef steak or roma tomato, diced
  • (Optional) ½ – 1 cup crouton
  • (Optional) ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Caesar Dressing

 

Instructions

  1. If you’re making your own Caesar dressing, whisk that together first, and keep chilled in the fridge. (Note: I added some cracked black pepper to the dressing as well, about 1/4 teaspoon.)
  2. For the chicken, mix all seasonings together, set aside. Heat pan on medium-high, add cooking oil. Add chicken, cook for 6 to 7 minutes until chicken turns white, then add the blackened seasoning, coat & cook chicken until no longer pink. Remove from heat.
  3. For the salad, tear or chop up your lettuce, and put into a bowl. Dice up your tomato and add to the top of the lettuce. Top with your chicken, croutons (if you’re having), and a little parmesan cheese (if having). Pour dressing over the salads, toss, serve, and enjoy guilt free!

On Resolutions & Best Last Meal of 2017

FIRST POST OF THE NEW YEAR! AH!!! And this marks the second year of my blog! DOUBLE AH! And with that, I hope and wish that everyone reading this had an incredible Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy St. Lucia Day, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year!

And as we enter into 2018, I have a few resolutions I want to share, two of which directly impact the blog itself, but not in a bad way! The first is to set a schedule, and by that, I mean a blogging schedule. This past year, I’ve been VERY sporadic with when I have posted my blogs, and this year, I would like there to be more consistency, so I am going to post something new every Thursday! These Thursday posts will either include a recipe or it’ll be a dining recommendation, but since I’m pretty darn strapped after the holidays, more likely than none it’ll be a recipe for the next couple of weeks! Bonus Posts (such as the new segment Cooking With Friends) will post either same-day or the day after. These segments will be much more video forward (Facebook Live?! How exciting and cool is that?!) than writing, but no doubt I’ll still take photos, and of course, recipe links will continue to be at the end of every post! But in having more of a schedule, it helps reduce the pressure of having to cook something new and interesting more than once a week, when sometimes old favorites are craved for last minute! And I feel that’s a schedule that’ll fit better with my day job & wedding planning, which will be picking back up pretty darn soon! T-Minus 10 more months!

Another resolution I have is to get healthy, and I mean it this time. As of yesterday, I’ll be doing Personal Training twice a week, and incorporating my own workouts two days a week as well! Which means, I am going to be really doing my research on upcoming recipes to find out ways I can substitute for healthy options without losing the overall balance and taste of the dish, as well as just looking for lighter meals in general! And to align myself with this resolution, I have even purchased a CSA share from Geneva Lakes Produce Farm! I chose them specifically because, unlike the majority of the CSA shares I researched, Geneva allows you to pick your own produce at the Farmers Market they set up at! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! I will definitely be featuring my vegetables more often once I start getting my box, so that’ll be a new and exciting adventure! And it gives me more control over what I would like to cook with, at the same time as being a little adventurous too! And for a ½ bushel, it honestly wasn’t all that expensive, and even less so because I’m even going to be sharing the box with a friend (who will likely also appear in a Cooking with Friends segment) to ensure there is no wasting of the beautiful fresh veggies I will be seriously nomming on this summer!

The only other resolutions I had were to keep reading and spend less money, which is pretty typical for me every year. What did NOT align with the spending less money was the last meal I cooked for 2017, which I took a gander at on Bon Appetit. Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Garlic & Rosemary (and Thyme, because I like Thyme), with a side of green (AND PURPLE!) asparagus and roasted garlic whipped red potatoes! AND BOY WAS IT MM MM GOOD! Frankie said it was the best thing I made all year, and I mean, I made a lot this year! Over 87 posts, 31 new dining/drinking experiences, and 80 recipes!! I mean, THAT’S a lot, not to mention all the remakes of favorites in between all the new ones! I’ve included the links below, and for the record, while the recipe says to use kitchen twine, I found I didn’t need it, so feel free to skip that! Oh and don’t forget to add a little thyme if you happen to like that on your steak as well!

And I think that about does it for the first post of 2018, which I’m sure will hold just as many wonderful moments and adventures as 2017 did! I know this wasn’t much of a reflection, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I like to reflect a lot throughout the year, and I really want to focus on looking forward with open eyes and an open heart, so here’s to you 2018 and to the excitement you hold! I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year, and I’ve already picked out a great first recipe picked out for next week! – Cooking Maggie


Roast Beef Tenderloin with Garlic & Rosemary from Bon Appetit** Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves too if you’d like!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Cooking Classy

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