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Dine In: Meatloaf Bombs

Meatloaf BombsThis post is an homage to an account I follow on Instagram. The owner of the account, whose real name I don’t know of course, is a grill aficionado, with new, delicious-looking temptations on his account almost daily. The man must live on his back porch (which sounds like heaven-on-earth to me).

He posted a picture recently that made me stop and do a double-take. It looked amazing. It made me actually consider commenting and asking him what his secret was. After I thought about it, I knew I had to do more than consider the question. I commented and he answered! He didn’t give away all his secrets, so I had to guess at the recipe when I recreated it on a recent Friday night, but he did tell me enough to cook it perfectly. We’ll be making this again and again.

Meatloaf Bombs

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup panko or seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs parsley, dried
1 tsp garlic salt
2 Tbs ketchup or tomato paste
2 large white onions
8 slices bacon

Mix ground beef with breadcrumbs, egg, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, ketchup and garlic salt. Form into 4 balls.

Peel white onion and remove ends. Using the tip of a sharp knife, slice through the outer ring of onion and remove. Remove the 2 outer layers of onion (the 2 largest ones) from each onion. Wrap onion around each ball of meat, forming kind of a shell. Wrap 2 slices bacon around meat balls, crisscrossing over the top and securing with a toothpick to hold the mixture together.

Preheat grill to 400° F.

Place meatloaf bombs on the grill over indirect heat. Cook until internal temperature reaches 160° F for medium, 170° F for well-done. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 634, Calories from Fat: 294, Fat: 33 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 205 mg, Sodium: 1669 mg, Potassium: 975 mg, Carbohydrates: 21 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 60 g.

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Dine In: Homemade Bread Bowls

Homemade Bread Bowls I remember when serving soup in a bread bowl was all the rage, and I’ll never forget the first time I had it served that way.

I was in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, and a class I was taking in public relations only had four students registered for the course. We only met once a week for three hours on a Friday morning. The professor elected to have class in a small bistro near campus in downtown Austin. We’d arrive and order breakfast with a never-ending pot of coffee, from which we got more than our money’s worth, and we’d pour over the lesson and engage in lively discussion and banter. It was one of my favorite classes, mostly for the ambiance and the readily-available caffeinated beverages.

Then, there was the soup in the bread bowl. I usually ordered breakfast, but remember, it was a three-hour class. If I’d eaten breakfast before my two-hour commute to class, I was hungry again about an hour into class. It was that odd time when either breakfast or lunch would work, and soup tastes good at pretty much any time of day or night.

This café served a velvety tomato soup in a whole-grain bread bowl that was sustenance enough for two meals, especially on those rainy, chilly days of the winter semester. I could savor the soup, then pick at the saturated morsels of whole-grain bread until there was nary a crumb left on my plate.

I made bread bowls recently for a soup we were going to have on a cold, Friday night, and my kids thought this was the most brilliant, novel idea they’d ever heard of.

Using instant yeast made this a practical meal for a Friday night after a long week of work.

Homemade Bread Bowls

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbs instant yeast
1 Tbs sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour, more as needed
2 tsp salt
spray bottle with warm water

In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy.

Add 3 cups of flour and the salt, and mix at medium speed of the mixer until well-combined.

Mix in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth, only slightly sticky to the touch and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead until smooth. Place the dough in a bowl greased lightly with olive oil or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Shape each piece into a ball, and place on a lightly-greased baking sheet.

Score the top of each roll, then spray with warm water and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Bake for 2 minutes, spray again with water, then reduce the heat to 425° F. This will give you the crisp crust on the bread.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Using a paring knife, score a circle on the top of the bread. Remove ring of outer crust and soft, tender interior, leaving a thick shell. Reserve the removed bread for other purposes. Spoon soup into the bread bowl; serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 427, Calories from Fat: 12, Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1171 mg, Potassium: 238 mg, Carbohydrates: 89 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 13 g.

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Dine In: Bacon Cheese-Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls

Bacon Cheese-Stuffed Mashed Potato BallsThe other morning, my friend Judith tagged me in a post on Facebook for a recipe for Bacon Cheese-Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls. I was inordinately excited. Judith tags me in all kinds of yummy recipe posts, and is probably single-handedly responsible for my most-recent 10 pounds.

It’s worth it. I was so excited to try these when Paul came in from the grocery store.

“Do I smell like potatoes?” he asked.

I was confused.

“What? Why potatoes?” I asked.

“Because I ate three potato logs at Brookshire’s while I was shopping,” he responded.

Potato logs? Were those anything like potato balls?

The coincidence was compelling.

Turns out, a potato log is more like a big steak fry, but I was quick to show Paul the post about the mashed potato balls.

We’re going to make these on Friday night, if Paul can keep from stopping at Brookshire’s for some deli potato logs.

Bacon Cheese-Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls

2 cups mashed potatoes, cold
1 egg, lightly beaten
10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes from a larger block
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs
oil, for frying

Let mashed potatoes come to room temperature. Mix in the egg, onions and bacon. Shape into 1-inch balls. Press block of cheese into the center of each ball; form potato around it, completely covering the cheese. Roll balls in breadcrumbs.

Let rest for 15 minutes.

In a deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil to about 375° F. Fry potato balls in small batches for about 3 minutes each or until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 461, Calories from Fat: 268, Fat: 30 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (15 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 110 mg, Sodium: 1293 mg, Potassium: 477 mg, Carbohydrates: 21 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Dine In: Basil Garlic Chicken

Basil Garlic ChickenThe first time I went to Italy was around this time of year. It was cold and gray in Germany where I lived, and almost at the spur of the moment, a friend and I decided to flee south to what we hoped were warmer temperatures and sunny skies.

We got one out of two.

Crossing the Alps, chugging through Switzerland on an overnight train, lulled to sleep by the swaying rhythm of the wheels on the tracks as we lay in our tight berths, we doubted we’d ever be warm again. The snow-capped mountains didn’t give us much hope of warmer weather in Italy.

It wasn’t much warmer in the northern part of the country, but it was sunny.
We stopped first in Milan, the fashion capital of the country, if not of Europe itself.

After sightseeing all day in the cold while fairly sleep-deprived, we found a little trattoria tucked down a side street near our hotel. The lights were bright, the fireplace was blazing and the long, planked benches were crowded with festive folks.

We ordered this chicken dish, which warmed us from the inside out. The matron insisted the secret was the butter, which she probably churned herself.

I don’t churn my own butter, but I certainly enjoy making this dish at home. When tomatoes aren’t in season, you can substitute a can of diced tomatoes. Don’t skip the butter, though.

Basil Garlic Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 to 6 Roma tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh basil, shredded
1/4 cup salted butter
8 oz whole-wheat spaghetti

Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Pound to an even thickness using a mallet, about one-inch thick.

Remove the chicken from the paper, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dice the tomatoes, mince the garlic and shred the basil.

Cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is fragrant and shimmering, add the chicken and pan fry until golden-brown on each side. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan.

Cool pan slightly. Add tomatoes and simmer until they’ve cooked down and are releasing juices. Add the garlic and butter; combine until butter is melted. Add the chicken back to the pan and baste with the sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until the chicken is well-coated.

Just before serving, stir in the basil.

Drain pasta; serve with chicken and sauce.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 571, Fat: 25.9 g, (9.5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 113.3 mg, Sodium: 64.7 mg, Carbohydrates: 49.4 g, Fiber: 3.9 g, Sugar: 5.6 g, Protein: 34.9 g.

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Dine In: Cilantro-Lime Rice

Cilantro-Lime RiceMy parents were in town for Christmas, and we had a blast celebrating together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The day after Christmas, the six of us (my parents, me, my boys and my boyfriend) went and tried one of those escape rooms. You know, where you have to work as a team to figure out clues, open locks to get more clues and eventually escape the last lock on the door. It was so much fun! It was so DIFFICULT! The room we tried was the most difficult level. It was pitch black in the room with only glow-in-the-dark features which served the dual purpose of being clues and our only light source, save for a small flashlight. We had the benefit of knowing each other well and how the other people in the group worked together, but I can’t imagine trying this with a group of strangers. Ultimately, we did not succeed in getting out of the room in the time allotted, but I want to go back and try a different room soon.

After the adventure, we went out to eat. We grabbed Mexican food because my parents, being from Virginia, don’t have access to Tex-Mex on every corner.

The waitress suggested cilantro-lime rice to complement my dish instead of the usual Mexican rice. I don’t usually eat all the rice at a Mexican restaurant. I can take it or leave it, but I ate every morsel of the cilantro-lime dish. It was delicious enough to try to recreate it at home!

Cilantro-Lime Rice

2 cups water
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 Tbs butter
salt, to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp lime zest

Bring water to a boil. Add the rice and butter, and then add salt to taste. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until cooked through and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. When rice is cooked, stir in cilantro, lime juice and lime zest. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 195, Calories from Fat: 29, Fat: 3 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 8 mg, Sodium: 27 mg, Potassium: 66 mg, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 3 g.

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Dine In: Spicy Black-eyed Peas

Spicy Black-eyed PeasHappy New Year!

I love the first day of the year; there’s so much potential, so much joy, so much hope.

The best part is that the clock striking midnight or the calendar page turning over isn’t the only way to signify a new beginning. It’s my personal belief that we are constantly renewed by the grace of the Lord, and that can happen at any hour of any day!

Back to New Year’s Day… Even though I grew up in the South, I had never been introduced to the traditions of eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day until I moved to Germany, of all places. My friends in the apartment across the hall were invited for New Year’s, and I asked them what they wanted to eat. “Collard greens and peas” was the answer. I was shocked. I’d never heard of this! I opened up my red and white-checked Betty Crocker cookbook and went to work.

That year, I thought the collard greens stunk to high heaven when simmering all day in my small apartment, and I didn’t eat any of the black-eyed peas. I think I still had a lucky year regardless of what it was I ate, however.

I’ve come to appreciate black-eyed peas so much more. Collard greens, well, not so much, but I can always swap it out for spinach, which is still leafy green and a promise of good fortune in the new year. In fact, this recipe originally didn’t call for the spinach, but I added it in and it worked just fine, not to mention killing two traditions with one stone. Or something like that.

Happy 2016, friends!

Spicy Black-eyed Peas with Spinach

4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg dried black-eyed peas, washed
1 (12 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
3 cups fresh baby spinach
4 Tbs hot sauce

In a large heavy saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserving the grease; crumble bacon. Set bacon aside.

Add the onions to the bacon grease in the pan and sauté until translucent and tender. Add the peas, tomatoes and green chilies, salt, chili powder, pepper and water.

Cover and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Add spinach and hot sauce; cook until the spinach is wilted.

Serve topped with crumbled, crispy bacon.

Note: You can even serve this over rice for a heartier dish.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 280, Calories from Fat: 117, Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium: 1949 mg, Potassium: 560 mg, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 4.5 g, Protein: 18 g.

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Dine In: Merry Christmas

Cranberry ChutneyMerry Christmas!

It’s one of my favorite days of the year. Not only do I get to wake up to the squeals of excited boys, but my parents are here visiting from Virginia. My heart is full to overflowing.

Growing up, we always had a big Christmas breakfast. Mom would start the day before, making cinnamon roll dough from scratch. It would rise twice and then she’d roll it out, covering it liberally with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. The rolls would rise again overnight and be ready to be popped into the oven Christmas morning then topped with a warm, gooey glaze as they were served. We had those with Little Smokies sausages. Seriously, I could have eaten those out of the pan. We never seemed to have them any other time but Christmas, so I took full advantage when they were simmering on the stove.

The rest of the day, we usually snacked. It was such a novelty not to have to sit at the table and eat a well-balanced meal three times that day that we all loved it! Often, “lunch” would be one of the many varieties of Christmas cookies my mom had baked: sugar (which we decorated, another family tradition), snowballs (or Mexican wedding cookies, my favorite), peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies (peanut butter is a viable lunch, right?) or a peanut butter chocolate swirled roll-up cookie that I also loved.

Sometimes she’d set out bowls of nuts or plates of appetizers like cheese and crackers or an appetizer dip.

I think I’m going to do the same thing today. We’ll grill steaks later, but for midday, it sounds like the snacks have it!

Merry Christmas and happy eating!

Cranberry Chutney

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup water
12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup Granny Smith apple, finely diced
3 Tbs prepared horseradish
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
assorted crackers

In a heavy pan, stir water and sugars together to mix. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in cranberries; return to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Stir in apple, horseradish and mustard.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Place a block of cream cheese on a decorative plate and surround with assorted crackers. Spoon a heaping mound of the cranberry chutney on top of the cream cheese to cover it.

Scoop the cranberry cream cheese mixture on top of a cracker and enjoy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 178, Fat: 8 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 25 mg, Sodium: 114 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Dine In: Italian Festive Bread

Italian Festive BreadSome might say the words “Italian” and “Festive” go together like pepperoni and mushrooms, and I have to say I agree.

In Italy, every meal is a celebration; at least, that’s what I experienced in my trips to the motherland. Food is celebrated, quality ingredients are a cause for joy and food and family go hand-in-hand. I’m pretty sure the expression “food is love” originated on the shores of the Amalfi Coast or in the hills of Tuscany.

So, it’s not a stretch to use the term “festive” for this bread. I used to make something like it when I lived in Europe, although I baked the meats and cheeses right into the bread and served the peppers on the side. It was perfect road trip food, combining carbs, protein, fat and the peppers to cut the fat. Plus, you can eat it with your fingers.

You can use almost any combination of Italian meats and cheeses in this bread, and the note at the end explains how to exchange the mayonnaise for butter.

Italian Festive Bread

1 loaf baked Italian bread
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
4-5 basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbs pepperoncini brine from the jar
4 oz sliced salami (or large slices of pepperoni)
4 oz sliced provolone
4 oz sliced mozzarella
4 oz sliced Muenster cheese
1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers, diced
1/4 cup red onion, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Slice the bread into 1-inch slabs, being careful not to slice all the way through to the bottom. Place on a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Mix the mayonnaise, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme and pepperoncini brine. Spread the mixture liberally over each slice of bread. Place a slice of salami between each slice of bread and add a piece of cheese, alternating varieties. Finish by adding pepperoncini pieces and red onion slices between each slice. Wrap tightly in foil and bake about 25-30 minutes or until the outside is crispy and all the cheese is melted.

Note: We don’t all like mayonnaise in my house, so I softened 1/2 cup of butter to room temperature, mixed the herbs into the butter and used in place of the mayonnaise.

Serves 4-6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 733, Calories from Fat: 354, Fat: 40 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 78 mg, Sodium: 1566 mg, Potassium: 135 mg, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Fiber: 3.6 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 31 g.

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Dine In: Meatball Sub Bites

Meatball Sub BitesIt’s Christmas party season, and I have two to go to this weekend!

I love good holiday party food. I mean….a good holiday PARTY. Family, friends, food. Did I mention the food? I love the food.

Party food is just fun, and I love gatherings where guests bring their favorite dish. There’s never a shortage of delicious and varied treats.

I also just love a good party atmosphere, too. Laughing, talking, mingling and reconnecting with family and friends make the season bright for me.

I try to make something different when it’s up to me to bring a dish to share. I’m going to bring these Meatball Sub Bites to a party this Friday night. I have a little extra time on Fridays to bake these, as the workday ends a few hours early on Fridays. I’ll probably triple the recipe, too.

Meatball Sub Bites

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
12 frozen meatballs
1 1/4 cup marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with cupcake liners.

Roll crescent roll dough into a rectangle; press seams together. Cut dough into 12 squares, and press each square into muffin pan.

Mix cream cheese with Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Place a heaping spoonful of the cheese mixture on top of dough in each muffin cup. Top with a meatball. Drizzle with desired amount of marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden-brown.

Makes 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 306, Calories from Fat: 158, Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 37 mg, Sodium: 718 mg, Potassium: 133 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Dine In: Double Chocolate Snowball Cookies

Double Chocolate Snowball CookiesSnowballs were my FAVORITE Christmas cookie as a child. I didn’t know then that they are also known by the name “Mexican Wedding Cookie,” nor the tradition behind them. I only knew that my mom made them at Christmas and that I loved them.

When I was growing up, it felt like we made all our Christmas cookies at one time. While we had scads of choices (“Snowballs,” decorated sugar, peanut butter Hershey’s Kiss, etc.), it almost felt like cookie overload (if there’s such a thing). All the cookies were concentrated into one weekend and consumed over a one-week period.

I like to spread the love a little. Plus, let’s be honest. I don’t have time to make four different kinds of cookies at one time. If I make one different type of cookie each week through the month of December, we have a variety of goodies all season long!

Double Chocolate Snowball Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
additional powdered sugar, for rolling (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)

Make dough ahead of time, and freeze for about 2 hours until well-chilled for best results.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cocoa and vanilla together with an electric mixer until butter is light yellow and the mixture is light and fluffy. Slowly stir in flour and salt. Do not overmix.
Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

Place in freezer for 2 hours.

Roll dough into approximately 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. While still warm, roll in a small bowl of 1 cup powdered sugar, and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack to cool.

Makes: 4 dozen

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 79, Calories from Fat: 45, Fat: 5 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 51 mg, Potassium: 14 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 1 g.

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