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Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I was raised in what I call the Betty Crocker kitchen. My mother, being an exceptional wife to my dad and and even better mother of young children in the '70s and '80s made dinner each and every night. ...And we sat around the table as a family and had dinner! (A lost art it seems.)

While not a gourmet cook, my mother was an excellent cook. And many of her dishes were the quintessential ‘Betty Crocker’ recipes. You know, the ones that came out of the red and white checked, wire spiral bound book? The ones that included two descriptive adjectives connected with an ‘and,’ or that often ended in a ‘bake.' Cheese and bacon get-togethers, chicken and broccoli casserole, Louisiana shrimp bake…and these gems—sweet and sour meatballs.

I loved these growing up. Coming home from school to meet the sour-sweet smell coming from the Crockpot, wafting through the door when I would walk in.

My mom made these with beef and served it over white rice. I use ground chicken or ground turkey or a mix—use what you like. While there are not a lot of ingredients, and some come from a can, as most of Betty's did in the day, you can choose to use fresh ingredients if you choose.

This is so easy, all the ingredients into the Crockpot and, come dinner time you have a sweet and sour and savory dish with a luscious sauce full of caramelized pineapple and juicy meatballs. Its childhood heaven in a bowl. I garnish with cilantro, something my mother didn't do, but it plays well off the Asian flavors of the dish.

  • 1 lb. ground meat (lean beef, chicken, turkey or mix)
  • 1/2 GF cracker crumb, or bread crumb (use GF crackers, or even GF pretzels-whatever you have to crush into crumb)
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 15-oz can crushed pineapple with its juice
  • 3 tbs vinegar (any kind)
  • 3 tbs GF soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup (not packed) brown sugar (or use agave, but use 1/4 less)
  • 3 tbs. corn starch 
  • 1 medium bell pepper cut into large dice
  • Salt and pepper
Blend ground meat, egg, bread crumb and salt and pepper (few pinches of each) until mixed. Form into meatballs the size of golf balls. Set aside.
Into the Crockpot add: the pineapple with juice, the GF soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and bell pepper. Stir until blended and the cornstarch is mixed in. Lay the meatballs on top of the sauce and lid the Crockpot. Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Cook on high shorter.
Serve over a brown rice or other grain, like millet or quinoa.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eggplant and Artichoke Penne

Vegetarian night came early this week, Sunday lunch. Its eggplant season with my farmshare, so we have it in abundance! We had no meat defrosted, so lunch was this. The eggplant and onion, when sauteed on high heat take on a caramelized, nutty, roasty note. This recipe will serve 4, or 2—with leftovers enough for lunch at work next week.

  • 1 box or bag of GF penne pasta
  • 1 medium eggplant, cubed or diced small (about 4 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, any kind, diced (we used a combo of shallot, white, and Italian red onion, because we had them, use what you have and like.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded or chopped
  • Pats of butter, or olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
Cook your pasta according to package directions. While its cooking, in a medium or large saute pan add 2 tsp. olive oil and over high heat saute your onion, garlic, artichoke and eggplant. Salt and pepper to season it. Stir often as it cooks. It will begin to caramelize and brown, then after a few minutes some of the moisture will come out and the vegetables will begin to become soft. Continue to cook until soft. If it looks too dry, add 1 tbs water to the pan to deglaze and prevent burning. When soft, turn off the heat.
To serve, dish a serving of penne into a bowl, and add a pat of butter (use olive oil if you don't want to use butter, about 1 tsp.) Toss the butter or oil with the penne to coat. Then top with the eggplant saute mixture. Add a sprinkling of basil, and we like to add Parmesan cheese to the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gluten Free Monday Night Cornbread...

Cornbread is gluten free, naturally. Did you know that? I didn't for years. I thought that cornbread had to be a blend of wheat flour and that the corn meal was there merely as an accessory to the wheat. Well, the truth is cornbread can be made solely with corn meal! I was enlightened one evening a year or more back when Alton Brown on the food network made a cornbread this way.
My recipe is inspiration from his. And its so easy, easy enough that it can be a Monday night side dish to whatever you have going on. It doesn't even take a mixer, just your grandmothers wooden spoon and a bowl. If you have all the ingredients in the pantry (and you should), it takes literally 6 minutes to combine, then it bakes for 20 while you prepare anything else you are having.
The corn meal gives the cornbread an incredible corn flavor that is very pronounced. The corm meal alone lends a crumbly chewiness to the bread, while some of the corn meal bits have a satisfying crunch. The corn kernels in the cornbread offer a sweet pop as you enjoy it dripping (or lightly) buttered. The bottom is golden and crisp with that chewy browned goodness you only get from a cast iron skillet (more on that in a minute).
Here is the recipe:

• 2 cups yellow cornmeal
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup buttermilk (if you don't have, use milk)
• 2 eggs
• 1 can creamed corn. Or use kernel corn-drained.
• 4 tablespoons oil (olive or canola), divided
• 1 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven to heat. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, 2 tbs oil, eggs, and corn, whisking together to combine. Then add the cornmeal, salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and stir to combine.
Open the oven and bring the hot cast iron skillet out and place on top of stove. Add 2 tbs oil to the hot cast iron skillet. Immediately pour the batter into the skillet. Immediately return to the oven and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back in the center upon the touch, about 20 minutes.

About cast iron skillets: invest in one. Nothing makes a perfectly charred, golden, brown crust better then a cast iron skillet—on everything. From asparagus to steak to chicken breast, the cast iron skillet cannot compare to any other cooking vessel. It goes from stove top to oven, is naturally non-stick once seasoned, and makes the best crusts on the underside of corn bread.