Greek Meat Balls (Keftedes)

Keftedes

Last week’s Greek soup led me to another Greek dish I have wanted to try: Greek Meatballs, or Keftedes.  Since a couple of family members are eating gluten free, I experimented with using Gluten Free bread crumbs and Gluten Free flour for dredging. The flavor was wonderful, but I think the gluten free items made the meat mixture a little looser, and also a bit harder to brown. I hope to try these again and see if my theory is correct. I will also try the optional cooking method, baking the meatballs in a very hot oven.

My favorite ingredients, and the things that added unique flavor to these meatballs were the fresh herbs added to the meat mixture (mint and parsley).  I also made homemade Tzatziki sauce which was a perfect addition to the plate of meatballs and warm flatbread.  Tzatziki recipe coming up next week!

Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 large onions, finely chopped in food processor

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 cup frresh mint, minced

2 heaping Tablespoons Penzey’s Greek seasoning (optional: 2 Tablespoons dried oregano)

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

 

Oil for frying

flour for dredging

Combine all ingredients except the cooking oil and flour in a very large bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients, folding over from the bottom and kneading for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be smooth and well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 2-3 hours.  Shape meat into ball, dredge in flour and place on a parchment or foil covered baking sheet.  In a heavy skillet (I used 2 iron skillets), heat enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan, adding more as needed. Cook the meatballs in batches, uncrowded in the skillet, reducing the heat to medium during cooking. I found that 10-12 meatballs at a time worked best. Brown well on both sides, making sure they are well cooked through. Remove to paper towel covered baking sheet and repeat the process until all meatballs have been cooked. Serve as an appetizer, or on a platter with a stack of flatbread as an entree.  Makes at least 4 dozen meatballs. Optional method of cooking:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for about 20 minutes or well browned.

 

 

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

When I want to put a simple but hearty meal on the table for a family gathering, I like to use one pan dishes like this one. Any combination of veggies can work, but an assortment of root vegetables sprinkled with salt and chopped rosemary from the garden is one of my favorites. I you do not have a large baking pan like this one, do the same thing in 2 smaller Pyrex dishes. This recipe serves 10.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

10 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3 -4 cups small red potatoes

2 red onions cut in large pieces

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil (add more if needed to coat all vegetables).

Spray a large (commercial size) baking pan with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towel and line sides of baking pan. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour into center of rows of chicken, filling in spaces around the chicken. Sprinkle all with chopped rosemary. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is done and vegetables are fork tender. If you wish, put the pan under the broiler for 2 or 3 minutes to brown the chicken breasts. Serve in pan or remove to large platter with one or two fresh rosemary sprigs as garnish.

 

 

 

Parker Cheese Grits

The most requested side dish for any holiday or potluck offering from my kitchen is Cheese Grits. Every year about this time I can count on making it at least 3 times – once for our church Thanksgiving dinner which is always the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, again for our family Thanksgiving dinner table, and again at Christmas. Years ago, I usually included it for Christmas morning breakfast, but as our family grew older and larger, I began to make a double recipe for heartier meals. I originally used a recipe from a cookbook titled The Texas Experience, given to me in 1984 from my friend Sondra Skaggs. I make a variation of that recipe now because some of the ingredients it called for are no longer available, and I long ago memorized it. But I still open that cookbook and read Sondra’s inscription “To my very best friend with much love . Merry Christmas 1984. Sondra. Then the book practically falls open to the most used page with its directions for “Zippy Grits.”  In my opinion, print cookbooks like this one will never be replaced by online recipes! Thank you, Sondra!

 

Parker Cheese Grits

1 cup quick grits

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup butter

2 cups shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (may use only cheddar if desired)

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, well beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Bring 4 cups water to rapid boil, add salt and garlic powder. Add grits, stirring.  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Turn off heat.  While grits are still hot, add butter and cheese, blending well. Add milk to beaten eggs.  Drop a spoonful of hot grits into egg and milk mixture and stir, tempering eggs before adding to pot of hot grits. Stir to combine, then pour into buttered  8X11 inch casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until mixture is set and top is golden brown, 45-55 minutes

 

Lemon Picatta Chicken Casserole

lemonpicattachickenbakeIf you try this, you may never want to go back to the tried and true way of making chicken piccata!  My son deconstructed his normal oh-so-good way of making this dish with delicious results. The method could not be simpler. Try the recipe below or use your favorite Lemon Picatta Chicken recipe. Farfalle (Bow-Tie) or Penne pasta adds to the appearance and texture of the dish.  After you cook the chicken breasts, transfer to cutting board, cool slightly, and cut into bite size pieces to combine with pasta in your favorite baking dish. Our family may rename this Ben’s Chicken Picatta.

Lemon Chicken Picatta Chicken Casserole

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, pounded to about 1/4 inch thick
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Fresh lemon slices for garnish

16 ounces Farfalle, or Bow-Tie, Pasta, cooked al dente.

Set three wide, shallow bowls on a work surface. Add flour to the first one, beaten eggs to the second, and panko and Parmesan cheese to the third. Mix panko and Parmesan thoroughly.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Season chicken cutlets all over with salt and pepper. Working with one at a time, dredge a cutlet in flour with your left hand, shaking off excess. Transfer to egg dish, then turn cutlet with your right hand to coat both sides. Lift and allow excess egg to drain off, then transfer to bread crumb mixture. With your left hand, scoop bread crumbs on top of chicken, then gently press, turning chicken to ensure a good layer of crumbs on both sides. Transfer cutlet to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining cutlets.

Fill a large skillet with 1/4 inch oil. Heat over high heat until shimmering. Working in batches and using tongs or your fingers, gently lower cutlets into the pan, laying them down away from you to prevent hot fat from splashing toward you. Fry, rotating cutlets for even browning, and adjusting heat as necessary until bottom side is browned and crisp, about three minutes. Flip cutlets and fry until other side is browned and crisp, about three minutes longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt right away. Repeat with remaining cutlets, topping up oil if necessary.  When cooled slightly, cut chicken into bite size pieces.

Drain all but one tablespoon oil from skillet. Add wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cooking about two minutes while scraping browned bits from skillet. Add capers and butter, whisking until butter has melted. Lower heat to medium and continue whisking and reducing until sauce is smooth and creamy. Whisk in lemon juice and parsley, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

0Add chicken pieces and cooked pasta to sauce in large baking dish, tossing to combine.  Sprinkle top with shaved parmesan.  Place in oven just until heated through but not brown.  Scatter chopped parsley over top and add a few fresh lemon slices at serving time.

 

Kale with Cherries and Apple

kale

Even though our garden beds are newly planted, we have lovely winter greens that have begun to thrive in recent cooler weather.  Kale is a favorite, so we planted both red and green ruffled kale as well as Cavallo Negra, or Tuscan Kale.  For a side with baked chicken this week, I sauteed kale leaves, chopped apple, and dried tart cherries. Delicious! For this skillet, I only cut 3 large kale leaves!

Kale with Cherries and Apple

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Kale leaves, stems stripped, and chopped

1 Honey Crisp apple, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

salt and pepper

balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in iron skillet.  Add kale tossed with apples, and cherries, and saute until kale is wilted.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 

Saturday Pancakes

Pancakes3Saturday after a week of unpacking and resettling seemed like a good time to celebrate with a hearty breakfast. While Joe lined a baking sheet with foil and a rack to bake a pound of peppered bacon,  I pulled out ingredients for pancakes.  I enjoy Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman blog and television series so I try her recipes often and thought I would try her recipe for Perfect Pancakes!

Now that there are 5 of us regularly around the table again (and soon to be 6!), it is necessary to cook quite a stack of pancakes, so Pioneer Woman’s method fit the bill. I did not vary from her offering except for using regular unbleached all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. I could have made a substitute cake flour by substituting part of the flour I used with corn starch, but silly me, I did not look that up until after we had eaten the pancakes and declared them delicious!  I thought they were a tad dense, so I checked and sure enough, that was the reason.  The main difference in the 2 flours is the protein content (which becomes gluten). The protein content of cake flour is about 8%, while the protein content of flour is about 10-11%.   Next time I will either have cake flour on hand or try this simple substitution:  For each cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 Tablespoons and add back in 2 Tablespoons of corn starch!

When we were clearing the table, my son declared these pancakes the best he had ever eaten!  Thank you, Ree Drummond! And next time I will do it right!

Perfect Pancakes

  • 3 cups Plus 2 Tablespoons Cake Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
  • Butter for the table
  • Maple  Syrup

Mix together dry ingredients in large bowl.

Mix together milk, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl.Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring very gently until just combined.

Melt butter and add it to the batter, stirring gently to combine. Stir in more milk if needed for thinning. Batter will not be smooth. Do not overmix.

Pancakes1
Ladle about 1/4 cup for each pancake onto a greased or sprayed griddle over medium-low  to low heat until golden brown. The pancakes will brown too quickly if the heat is too high. When they dry slightly around the edges and begin to bubble, turn and cook a few seconds more on the other side.  Serve with a pat of butter and maple syrup.
Pancakes2
My parents owned a small cafe when I was growing up and Daddy made the best pancakes. I think he would have liked these.

Spiced Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and Apple

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Since we bought both green and red cabbage at the Farmers Market last week, I wanted to make red cabbage and apples.  This skillet dinner with pork chops was a hearty and delicious meal. The list of ingredients is long, but the layers of flavor produced are worth it!

Spiced Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and Apples

Step 1. Thyme and Dijon Butter (optional)

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried French Thyme

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

4 TBSP softened butter

Blend all ingredients together  and refrigerate until pork and cabbage is ready to serve!

 

Step 2.  Pork and Cabbage Skillet

4 center cut pork chops, 1-inch thick

2  TBSP olive oil1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup  diced onion

1/3 cup diced carr0t

1/3 cup finely diced celery

1 small head red cabbage, quartered, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 clove garlic

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried

1 small bay leaf

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 TSBP balsamic vinegar

 Trim excess fat from outside edge of the chops, leaving a small rim.. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and brown chops well on both sides. Remove and season with some of the salt, thyme, and pepper. Saute onion, carrot and celery in the pork drippings for 5 minutes. Add cabbage, apples, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and saute for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage has begun to wilt. Season with the remaining salt and pepper; add wine, broth and vinegar. Arrange chops in the pan, basting with the cabbage and juices. Reduce heat, cover and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, turning and basting once or twice, until chops are tender and cooked through. Arrange cabbage on hot serving plates, removing the bay leaf and garlic clove. Place a pork chop on each plate and top with the mustard-thyme butter.
Note: The butter can be omitted

 

 

 

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

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Someone asked me this week about my favorite type of food to cook. I quickly replied: “Soups!”  Of course, I love to cook many things, but this is my answer because there are so many wonderful, nutritious soups, often the main course of a meal. Most are very inexpensive per serving. I like trying new recipes, too. This one definitely belongs in Kitchen Keepers. I used fresh mini potato gnocchi found at Costco.  Make your own if you if the time, but these were perfect for the recipe. Is there any prettier soup on the table for a cold Christmastime evening?  The hearty, creamy goodness was just what we needed.

 

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups half-and-half
1 (12-ounce) package gnocchi*
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth (if you enjoy thick soup, use just 1 can)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh kale (original recipe used spinach, but I have kale in my garden!)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

*You can find dried gnocchi in the pasta section of most grocery stores; some stores also sell fresh or frozen gnocchi. You may want to cut your gnocchi in half before cooking if it is large, or purchase the mini size if available.

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Let the flour mixture cook for about a minute and then stir in the half-and-half.

2. Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, add the carrots and chicken to the roux. Once the mixture has thickened, stir in the chicken broth. When the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings; simmer the soup over medium-low heat until it is heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed.

Texas Pecan Pie Bars

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Maddie helped with baking Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie Bars for our Thanksgiving feast. She is recently very interested in history, so it was fun to talk about the history surrounding this recipe. I found the recipe in a cookbook I bought over 30 years ago while visiting Colonial Williamsburg, a wonderful living history site. The Williamsburg Cookbook, compiled by Letha Booth, is one of my most favorite cookbooks. It is a collection of nearly 200 traditional and contemporary recipes adapted for home kitchens – a good way of remembering my trips to Colonial Williamsburg.  I have never tried a recipe from this collection that was not delicious. Not surprising, since many of these are served in different Inns there.  Christian Campbell’s Spoonbread and Chowning’s Tavern Brunswick Stew have become family favorites as well as Williamsburg Inn Pecan Bars. I adapt this recipe to include Texas pecans and Meyer Lemons grown in my back yard. Pecan pie in small bites!

Texas Pecan Pie Bars

      Bottom layer, or crust

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

zest of 1 whole Meyer lemon

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat overn to 375 degrees. With baking or cooking spray, coat 2 nine inch square baking pans.  Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, lemon zest and mix.  Add flour and baking powder and add to creamed mixtures.  Combine well. Pull dough into a ball and chill for 15 minutes to provide easier handling.  Divide in half and press each half into bottom of baking pan.  Bake 12 -15 minutes but remove from oven before browning. Add pecan topping which can be assembled while crust is baking.

        Pecan Topping

1 cup butter

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup honey

1/3 cup whipping cream

3 cups of pecans, chopped coarsely

Change oven setting to 350 degrees. Combine butter, sugar, and honey in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes, add cream and pecans and mix well.  Spread topping evenly over baked crust with a buttered wooden spoon.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool and cut into 1X2 inch bars.

 

 

 

Stuffed Baked Potato

IMG_3513While I don’t ordinarily think baked potatoes require a recipe, I include it because it is a simple supper that has long been a family favorite.  Advantages of baked potatoes for supper include ability to choose size of potatoes,  ease of preparation and the fact that family members can tailor the stuffing to their own preferences.  If I am making a pan of these for a bunch of people, I simply bake the potatoes and set them out along with bowls of a variety of toppings.  The photo here features a small baked potato with salt and pepper, butter, a sprinkle of grated cheddar, and crumbled bacon. Joe and I first enjoyed stuffed baked potatoes at a restaurant called Valian’s* on South Main in Houston 50 years ago!  We often have this for a meal along with a salad, but a baked potato is also a great side for grilled meats.

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 medium to large baking potatoes

Butter

Grated cheddar

4 strips bacon, cooked to crisp and crumbled

salt and black pe pper

chopped green onions or chives  (optional)

Note:  Many other ingredients can be used for potato toppings!  Try spooning chili or chopped broccoli into potatoes. Chopped barbeque brisket or pulled pork can also be delicious.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash potatoes and poke 2 or 3 vent holes in each with a fork. Oil or butter the skins, sprinkle with coarse salt and place on baking sheet. Bake potatoes in oven until done, about 1 hour. (Poke with a fork and if fork goes in easily they are done). Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Cut a slit lengthwise and squeeze slightly to loosen pulp before adding butter, salt and pepper, cheese, and bacon.  Sprinkle chopped green onions or chives on top if desired.

*Valian’s Restaurant opened in Houston in 1955 but closed in 1980 and was also known for introducing “Pizza Pie” to Houston!

Valians