Best Italian Style Meatballs

I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs hundreds (thousands?) of times, but there really is something to be said for the perfect meatball. They seem easy enough, but the perfect ratio of meat to egg to breadcrumb to seasonings needs to be just right to keep them from tasting like dense little hamburgers. This recipe balances the perfect amount of ground sirloin, spice and flavor from Italian sausage, seasoned up right to simmer away in a big batch of Sunday sauce. These come out great every time.

 

 

Ingredients (makes 24 meatballs):
2 lbs. 90/10 ground sirloin
6 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
¼ onion, grated
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil (for frying)

Add all ingredients except canola oil to a large bowl. Combine with hands, being careful not to overwork. Roll into 24 equal sized meatball. Preheat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet on medium-low, then add oil. Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides until a nice crust forms. Continue cooking browned meatballs in your favorite tomato sauce for at least one hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Risotto

After making risotto in my Instant Pot Duo 60, I will never make risotto any other way. I’ve made risotto several times on the stove top; it’s quite the labor of love, between the constant stirring and making sure the heat levels are juuuuussstttt right. When I heard of people making risotto in the Instant Pot, I wanted to convert my stove top recipe and it was perfect. The creamy texture was what you would expect from a perfectly made risotto and aside from the initial sauté of the mushrooms, shallots and rice, all the ingredients go in the pot and POOF! Comes out perfect.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish):
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
¾ cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ oz. grated parmesan cheese (½ cup approx.)
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted

Press “Sauté.” When the display reads “Hot,” add olive oil and butter. Sauté shallots and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until starting to soften, then add rice and stir to incorporate. Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Hit “manual” and set timer to 7 minutes. Quick release the pressure when the timer is done and then stir in parmesan cheese and peas. Let stand 2 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings: the earthiness of the mushrooms in this dish make it a perfect pairing for Pinot Noir.  Try these recommendations:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

Sriracha Lime Shrimp Salad with Asian Peanut Dressing

I love the Peanut dipping sauce served alongside spring rolls in Asian restaurants so much, it needs to make an appearance on other dishes. And in the summa-summa-summertime, I am always looking for ways to make salads interesting. This Sriracha Lime Shrimp Salad with Asian Peanut Dressing is light, fresh and flavorful, exactly what I want for dinner during a Texas summer.

 

 

Ingredients (serves 3-4):
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. honey simple syrup
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. sriracha
Zest and juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper

1 head romaine lettuce, sliced
4 oz. sliced red and green cabbage blend
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Asian Peanut Sauce – see recipe

Garnish:
Chopped cilantro
Chopped peanuts

Toss together romaine lettuce, sliced cabbage, shredded carrots and red onion. Pour Asian Peanut Sauce over the top and toss to combine. (Note: this intentionally makes a lightly dressed salad. If you like more dressing on your salad, you might want to make 1.5x or 2x the dressing.)

Peel and devein shrimp, place in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together canola oil, honey simple syrup, chopped cilantro, sriracha, lime zest and juice (or pulse through a food processor) and pour over shrimp, coating evenly. Preheat grill pan (I love my red Le Creuset Double Burner Grill Pan) on medium low. Grill shrimp 3 minutes per side, until cooked.

Top salad with grilled shrimp, chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Carnitas

This dish made me a believer in the Instant Pot. Sure, I had heard all of the rave reviews, but I was still skeptical. Carnitas was the second dish I tried in my Instant Pot DUO 60, and I was amazed. The pork was fall-apart tender, juicy and flavorful, and they were equally delicious reheated on the second day. Not only are these the best carnitas I’ve ever had, but the entire prep time was 20 minutes. Once the Instant Pot is set on Manual, you can leave it alone for the entire cooking and pressure release.

 

Ingredients: (Serves 6)
3-4 lb. pork shoulder
Carnitas Spice Mixture (see recipe below)
2 tbsp. canola oil
⅓ cup orange juice
⅓ cup water
1 white onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Carnitas Spice Mixture
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. chipotle powder

Cut pork shoulder into six equally sized chunks and evenly coat with spice mixture. Press sauté on Instant Pot. Once display reads “hot” add oil and brown pork on all sides, working in batches. Add pork, orange juice, water, onion and garlic to Instant Pot, close the lid and hit manual. Set timer to 45 mins. Release pressure naturally once timer stops. Shred pork in a large bowl and spoon liquids over shredded pork. Service with tortillas, pickled onions, chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy!

 

Wine Pairings:
Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010
Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

Once upon a time, eating lamb was something reserved for an evening out; rack of lamb in a swanky restaurant or lamb chops passed around for an appetizer by a white gloved waiter. With that kind of swagger, it can be pretty intimidating to try making them at home, but this recipe is a breeze. If you love lamb chops, give these a try. The garlic and lemon on the lamb are a perfect match for the creamy dill yogurt sauce, and sure to have you wondering why you aren’t eating more lamb at home.

Options for purchasing pre-cut lamb chops near my house are limited; they command a steep price tag at the local butcher or Whole Foods ($25-$30 per pound!), but Costco carries rack of lamb already frenched for around $10 per pound. Most come in a 7-8 bone rack, with the bones already trimmed, so it’s just a quick slice between each bone, and we are ready to go. I will certainly cut my own for that kind of savings. They are easy to cut; stand it on its end (with the bones pointing upwards) and cut between ribs using a single stroke. That’s all there is to it!

Ingredients (serves 4):

Yogurt sauce:
½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Honey Simple Syrup
1 tsp. dried dill
½ tsp. dried Greek oregano
½ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Lamb chops:
2 lbs. lamb chops
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges

At least one hour before starting to prep lamb chops, whisk together yogurt sauce and set aside in fridge for to let flavors marinate together.
Allow lamb chops to come to room temperature before grilling. In a small bowl, grate garlic into olive oil. Season lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides, and rub garlic mixture all over chops. Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Cook until desired temperature, 4-5 minutes per side for medium. Remove from heat and squeeze with a lemon wedge. Serve lamb chops with a big dollop of yogurt sauce spread on each plate. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Il Tarocco Chianti Classico 2015
Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

The Best Damn Turkey Burgers

It wasn’t too long ago, that if you asked me what the purpose of a turkey burger was, it would be either a) for a person on a diet or b) the token non-beef burger for someone who didn’t eat red meat. Not something I would ordinarily order until I tried The Continental Club burger at Hopdoddy, a popular burger restaurant in Austin. It was incredible and I was floored. This is my take on the Continental Club; a flavorful turkey burger with the flavors of sun dried tomato and basil…these are the Best Damn Turkey Burgers…Period!

 

Ingredients (Makes 4 Burgers):
20 oz. ground turkey
10 fresh basil leaves
¼ red onion
2 heaping tbsp. sun dried tomatoes
½ cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
Pepper
4 whole wheat buns

Toppings
Bacon
Provolone cheese
Arugula
Red onion
Balsamic glaze

Add basil leaves, red onion and sun dried tomatoes to food processor. Blend until smooth and add to ground turkey. Mix in bread crumbs, salt and pepper until fully incorporated. Form into 4 equal patties and cook in cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Top with your favorite topping and enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

Honey Sriracha Pork Chops

Sweet. Spicy. Savory. Are there better flavor combinations than that?

And when something so flavorful comes together so easily, that’s even better. The sweet and spicy sauce comes together in the few minutes that the chops are searing, let it simmer all together for a bit, and dinner is practically done!

The pork loin is juicy and tender from simmering in the honey Sriracha sauce and is perfect served over rice, broccoli or brussel sprouts.

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 pork loin chops
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water
2 tbsp. Sriracha
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional, for extra heat!)
1 ½ tbsp. corn starch

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sear pork chops for 3-4 minutes per side and remove from pan. Sauté garlic in pan drippings for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, water, Sriracha and crushed red pepper (if using). Return pork chops to pan and pour sauce mixture over pork chops. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, turning pork chops halfway. In a small bowl, whisk corn starch with 1-2 tbsp. water to make a slurry. Remove pork chops from pan and slowly stir slurry into sauce to thicken. Return to a simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce is thick. Spoon glaze over pork chops. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Montgo Monastrell 2012

Chicken Fried Pork Chops

In Texas, it seems like we will chicken fry just about anything. I’ve seen pickles, short ribs and (of course) the ever popular chicken fried steak, but one of my favorites is the chicken fried pork chop. Pork loin is a very affordable cut of meat, but it can be notoriously dry if overcooked. To keep it moist, I’ve cooked it in the Sous Vide or smoked it as a roast, but the best way to keep loin chops from drying out is to chicken fry it. Pair it with some Sausage Gravy and you are in southern-fried-heaven!

For the brine:
3 cups water
½ cup brine mixture (I used a pre-made store bought)

For the pork chops:
4 boneless pork loin chops, pounded to ½ inch thick
1 cup buttermilk
Few dashes hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt. More to taste after frying (the brine is fairly salty)
Canola or peanut oil for frying

To prepare the brine: in a medium saucepot, combine water and brine mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once brine mixture is fully dissolved in water, turn off heat and let cool completely. Pound boneless pork chops to ½ inch thick and pour the cooled brine over the chops. Let sit in refrigerator 6-8 hours.

When ready to cook, remove pork from brine, rinse and pat dry. In one bowl, combine buttermilk and hot sauce (if using). In another, combine flour, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Dip the pork chops in the buttermilk, then dredge in flour mixture. Dip back in the buttermilk and into the flour again to ensure a thick crispy coating.

Heat oil on medium-low heat. Place breaded pork chops in pan when oil looks shimmery (chops should sizzle in pan). Fry for 5-7 minutes per side until crispy. Remove from pan and let drain on a wire rack. Serve as is, or topped with Sausage Gravy.

Wine Pairings:
Montgo Monastrell 2012

 

 

 

Korean Beef

I didn’t realize how much I would miss all the great take out options in New York until I moved away. Whenever I visit family and friends, I make sure to get my fix at all my favorite places, but between visits, I’ll make mine at home. I love the flavors of Korean BBQ – salty, sweet, garlic and ginger – I could eat it any time. This Korean Beef recipe is easy to make, and really tender since it simmers away in the slow cooker for hours.

 

Ingredients:
1 – 1 ½ lb. flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
2 -3  tbsp. corn starch
2 tbsp. canola oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger, grated

1 cup water
¾ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 green onions, whole
1 cup shredded carrots
Green onion, sliced for garnish (optional)

Turn crockpot on low heat, add water, soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes and green onions and stir together.

Heat heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat and add 1 tbsp. oil. In a medium bowl, toss together sliced flank steak and corn starch until each slice is coated. Add steak strips to skillet and brown on each side, then add to crock pot. Reduce skillet to low heat, add remaining 1 tbsp. oil and sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add sautéed garlic and ginger to crock pot.

Cover crock pot and cook on low for 3 ½ hours, then add shredded carrots and cover for 30 minutes more. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve over rice or with broccoli.

Blackened Shrimp and Mango Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

The holidays are over and it’s the time of year to plan lighter meals. I love salad, but in order to be a meal they have to be big and hearty. This Blackened Shrimp and Mango Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette is fresh, with tons of flavor and is so healthy! Mango and lime make this a go-to recipe during the summer, but it’s perfect any time of year you need a big healthy salad.

 

Blackened Shrimp ingredients:
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
Zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. blackening seasoning

Salad ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce
1 mango, peeled and diced
½ red onion, diced
½ red pepper diced
½ cucumber, diced
2 tbsp. green onion, sliced

Vinaigrette ingredients:
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp. honey simple syrup
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, toss together peeled and deveined shrimp with olive oil, lime zest and blackening seasoning. Set aside until ready to grill.

Meanwhile, combine diced mango, red onion, red pepper, cucumber and green onion in a medium bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and pour over diced mango mixture.

Preheat grill pan on medium-low and grill shrimp 2-3 minutes per side until cooked. Place romaine lettuce on a large serving platter, top with mango mixture and cooked shrimp.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!