Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Slow Cooker Meatballs with Red Sauce

There is something satisfying about coming home after a long day at work or school, opening the door, and having the wonderful aroma of dinner wrap around you!  I love slow cookers!  I love them so much, I have three different sizes!

This recipe is a great addition to your slow cooker recipe box.  Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce can be used for an appetizer, in sandwiches or over pasta!  It even freezes beautifully!

If you decide to use the Meatballs as an appetizer, freeze the leftover sauce in meal size, resealable bags, and you will have a quick, flavorful sauce for a fast pasta dinner.  Add a salad and some bread and you have a meal on the table in 30 minutes!

A gadget I wouldn’t do without in my kitchen is a portion scoop.  You may think of them as ice cream scoops, but these handy little scoopers come in different sizes!  I use them for making meatballs, filling muffin tins and making cookies! 

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce

¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
½ cup ketchup
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground beef
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 – 28 ounce can tomato puree
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried Italian Seasoning Mix
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

In a large bowl, mix bread crumbs, cheese, ketchup, eggs, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper together until well blended.  Add ground beef and knead all ingredients together until completely blended.

In large slow cooker, mix together diced tomatoes, tomato puree, onion, chili flakes, remaining salt and pepper.

Form ground meat mixture into meatballs (I like using portion scoops), approximately the size of a half dollar.  Drop into the sauce.

Heat meatballs and sauce on high for 4 – 5 hours or on low for 8 – 10 hours.

Serve as an appetizer, a pasta sauce or in meatball subs.

Remove any leftover meatballs from sauce, place on a wax paper lined baking sheet and freeze.  When meatballs are frozen, place in a resealable plastic bag and store in freezer.  Freeze any remaining red sauce in portion sizes in resealable plastic bags.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Big Game Snack

The BIG game is coming up quick!

Having been in advertising for many years, I know better than to use the actual name for the extravaganza that occurs each year to determine whether the Champions of the NFL will be an AFC or an NFC team!

I could not afford to pay the royalties associated with using the actual name!  OK, now that I have covered my derriere (I am SOOOOO continental - that's just a fancy word for back end) and hope that the NFL will not come down on me, here is an idea for an easy and flavorful Super Bowl party snack!  Besides, anything with bacon in it HAS to be good....right???


Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes (24 pieces)
1 can (4 ounces) water chestnuts, drained, cut into 24 pieces
12 slices bacon, cut in half (24 pieces)

Mix soy sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic together in a bowl (or resealable bag), add chicken and water chestnuts.  Mix well.  Marinate in refrigerator for 6 – 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place one piece of chicken and one piece of water chestnut on a slice of bacon, wrap bacon around the chicken and water chestnut and secure with a toothpick.  Repeat for remaining chicken and water chestnuts.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until chicken and bacon are cooked thru.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Microwave Poached Eggs

I love poached eggs, but, don’t always want to pull out the pan, heat up the water, put the egg in a bowl, swirl the water and wait for 2 or 3 minutes until the egg was cooked, hoping all the time that the water wasn’t too hot or the whites held together.

So, while working on some other microwave recipes, the thought occurred to me to try poaching eggs.

After several attempts, which included bringing the water to a boil first, using a large container, using a small container, using a little bit of water, using lots of water, cooking for one minute, 90 seconds, 45 seconds and covering the bowl with plastic wrap, I came upon the perfect microwave poached egg.

You’ll need a microwave safe custard cup (I use Pyrex) measuring one cup, ¼ cup cold water, a couple of drops of vinegar, an egg, a toothpick and a microwave safe cover (I use a plate).

Place ¼ cup cold water in custard cup, add a few drops of vinegar.  Carefully, break the egg into the water….DON’T break the yolk!  Poke a little hole in the yolk with the toothpick….just in case!

Place the cup in the middle of microwave, cover and microwave on high.  

The perfect time for my microwave, that produces the perfect white and runny yolk is 55 seconds.  My microwave is 1250 watts.

Remove it from the water with a spoon, dry It on a paper towel or napkin and enjoy. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day After Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict

These could also be called the Day After The Day After Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict.....or just have them whenever you want, if you happen to have some leftover stuffing and gravy!

So, you may know, that stuffing is my FAVORITE part of Thanksgiving....what I mean is, it is my favorite FOOD part of Thanksgiving!  (Feel free to read my previous post about stuffing and dressing!)

There are MANY Thanksgiving leftover recipes!  Everyone has their favorites....I am no exception!  I have my favorites, most of them include stuffing!  I mean, there is always the creamed turkey or turkey pot pie or turkey soup....and who doesn't like turkey with mayo on white bread.....simple, yet SOOOO soul satisfying!

So, instead of the typical turkey hash for breakfast this morning, I decided to take a classic, Eggs Benedict, and spin it....ALOT! Using my Stuffing Croquettes recipe with some leftover giblet gravy and a poached egg, I came up with The Day After Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict....I hope you like it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuffing Croquettes

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.....it's about family and food and the memories created by bringing those two "F" words together!

Thanksgiving is about traditional dishes with one or two "newbies" thrown in for good measure!  But, I usually fall back to my old favorites, mostly because they have been handed down to me from mom.

After all, Thanksgiving IS tradition and memories!

I'm often asked what my favorite food is at Thanksgiving....is it the turkey?  Is it the pie?  Is it the Savory Corn Pudding?  Those are all wonderful dishes!  But, my true favorite.....
STUFFING!!!!  I LOVE stuffing!

AND, by stuffing....I mean stuffing!  NOT Dressing!  To me, it can only be stuffing if it has been stuffed into the turkey....dressing is made in a dish.....it pales by comparison to STUFFING!

Every year, I make my mom's stuffing....the recipe has never been written down, the recipe lived in mom's memory and now it lives in mine and I recreate it every year!  It tastes incredible BEFORE it is roasted inside that turkey, BUT, once it has soaked up ALL of those turkey juices.....oh my!  It is heavenly!

The only thing that is missing from stuffing are those little crunchy pieces that are created on the edges when you bake dressing in a dish....you know what I mean....the crispy, golden brown goodness that forms on the top and along the edges of the dressing!  If only stuffing had those crunchy, yummy goodies....it would be perfect!

That's how Stuffing Croquettes was created in Sylvia's Kitchen.....stuffing with crispy goodness!

Stuffing Croquettes
2 cups leftover stuffing
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup Panko Bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In large bowl, mix together stuffing and cheese until well blended.

Mix in egg until fully incorporated.

Place Panko bread crumbs in small bowl.

Measure 1/4 cup of mixture and form into patties approximately 1/2" thick and dredge both sides in bread crumbs.

Place in single layer and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place oil and butter in saute pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add stuffing patties and fry until golden brown, approximately 5 - 7 minutes, flip and fry until golden brown on other side.

Remove from pan and serve!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Chop or Not To Chop.....

How often do you see these kind of directions in a recipe:
Cut Size Comparison - Far
Left: Chop (Example #1)
Far Right: Mince (Example #3)
Bottom:  Large Dice
Center: Medium Dice
Top: Small (or Fine) Dice (Example #2)

1 cup chopped onions (Example #1)


1/2 cup diced onions (Example #2)


1 tablespoon minced onions (Example #3)

What does the recipe author mean?  Aren't those the same thing, don't all of those mean to cut things into pieces?  Well, YES and NO! There are some differences, though somewhat subtle, differences all the same!

I would like to shed some light on these often used, often interchangble, but frequently misunderstood terms!  Here, I have included detailed information on each of these terms, plus pictures showing cut sizes with a dime in each photo for comparison.

Let's start with CHOP:  The definition of CHOP according to On Cooking, A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals, To chop is to cut an item into small pieces where uniformity of size and shape is neither necessary (for example, coarsely chopped onions for a mirepoix that will be removed from the stock before service) nor feasible (for example, parsley)."  So, for the first example, the chopped onions do not need to be uniform, this can also be termed "rough chop".


The term DICE will often be defined further by the addition of another word, such as the term, "small dice", "medium dice" or "large dice".  In culinary terms, there are specific measurements for each of the dice sizes and each piece should be of uniform shape and size.  If the recipe calls simply for the ingredient to be diced, it most often means medium dice.

Left: Large Dice
Bottom: Small Dice
Upper Right: Medium Dice

Small Dice (sometimes referred to as Fine Dice):  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 1/4" x 1/4" x 1/4"
Medium Dice:  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 3/8" x 3/8" x 3/8"
Large Dice:  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 5/8" x 5/8" x 5/8"

The term MINCE is defined as cutting an item into very small pieces.  The terms finely chopped and minced are often used interchangebly and are most often used when referring to garlic, shallots, herbs and other foods that do not have to be uniform in shape, but must be cut very small.


I hope these explanations and pictures help to clear up any confusion about cuts and sizes referred to in recipes.  If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment!

Drop by my website, Sylvia's Kitchen, for some tasty treats!