Replay: Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites

>> Monday, October 26, 2015

pumpkin patch cheese balls - appetizer

This is one of my favorite appetizers ever - and they're not all that difficult to make! Once I made these during a cooking demonstration, and the whole group loved them. They taste a little bit like Merkt's cheese spread...did you eat that as a kid like we did in our family?

These are perfect for a Halloween party, or any occasion in the fall. Yum!

Get the recipe here: Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites

Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites - Appetizer


Buffalo Chicken Mini-Meatballs

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Mini-Meatballs

There's a restaurant chain in New York City called The Meatball Shop and they specialize in -- you guessed it -- meatballs. They grind their own meat and they can even name the farms that sourced each of their ingredients. And yes, they have all the fun they can have on this side of tasteful with the word "balls". 

One of their best-sellers is Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, which was a revelation to both of us. Just when we thought the Buffalo Wings phenomenon had gone as far as it could, here is something new. Bonus: it's a lot healthier than wings fried with their skin on. 

These nuggets make great party appetizers or a mid-week dinner, like the one Joe and I enjoyed last week after we found a great sale on ground chicken. 

Adjust the amount of hot sauce to your own temperament - and you can always add cayenne pepper if you need an extra kick. This version of the recipe is a compromise between Angela's wimpiness and Joe's immunity to spicy foods.


Hungry Lovers Hot Wing Sauce

1/3 cup butter 
3 cloves garlic – crushed 
1 tsp cornstarch in 1 tsp cold water
1 cup Louisiana hot pepper sauce 
1/2 tsp sugar 
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper 


Heat a medium sauce pan on medium low heat, and then add in the butter melting it until bubbling stops. Add the crushed garlic and sauté for about a minute. Whisk in the cornstarch mixed with cold water until it is smooth.

Pour the Louisiana hot sauce into the pan, and mix well. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a slight boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes to blend all the flavors and thicken the sauce.

If making hot wings or chicken tenders, drizzle enough sauce onto the meat to coat, then toss and serve. Otherwise let the sauce cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator. You can also can the sauce. Canning instructions can be found at Hungry Lovers Canning Basics.

For the meatballs

2/3 cup Hungry Lovers Hot Wing Sauce, divided
1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a cookie sheet or baking dish with oil.

Stir together half of the hot sauce and all other ingredients until well mixed. With your hands, scoop up enough meat mixture to make a 1" meatball (about the size of a walnut). Roll into a firm ball. Place the meatballs on the baking pan in rows, keeping the meatballs close together.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until they are browned and cooked through. Toss them with the remaining hot sauce before serving. We like these with a variety of fresh crisp vegetables and blue cheese or Green Goddess dressing for dipping.

Makes 30-40 1" meatballs.


Pork Chops in Adobo Sauce

>> Monday, October 12, 2015

Pork chops in adobo sauce

Have you ever been shopping and you couldn't remember if you had a certain ingredient for a meal, so you buy some more, and then find when you get home that you already had plenty?

Joe and I kept forgetting whether we had ancho chilies, which are dried or smoked poblano peppers. So we ended up with three packages of anchos, and let me tell you, a little of these smoky-sweet peppers goes a long way.

Luckily, we were also looking for new ways to cook porkchops, so the adobo sauce Joe whipped up was perfect for the meat. Since then we've tweaked our recipe and I'm sure it would also be excellent on rabbit, chicken, or duck.

Adobo is not a spicy-hot sauce; Mexicans call such chiles "sweet". We served the pork chops with sweet potatoes poached in orange juice, butter, and a little garlic. Yum!

Note: start this recipe the day before and let the meat marinate overnight. The sauce can be made well ahead of time and then refrigerated. It will last up to a month in the fridge after it is made.


 Adobo Sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
4 large dried ancho chiles (about the size of your palm)
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup white vinegar


For the Adobo sauce
Remove the seeds from the anchos and tear them into large pieces. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the anchos when the oil is shimmering. Fry until they begin to darken and blister, then place them in a bowl. Pour hot water over the peppers and let them soak for about 15 minutes. It helps if you weigh them down with a plate or something heavy.

Put the chiles in a blender along with 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Add all other ingredients and blend until it is a smooth paste.

For the Chops

1/2 cup adobo sauce
6 1-inch thick pork chops, bone removed
1/2 cup white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves

Spread the adobo sauce on both sides of each chop and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours. I would recommend marinating overnight. Grill the chops or fry them in vegetable oil until just done - if you overcook them, they will be dry.

If you use a meat thermometer, take them off the heat when the thermometer reads 145 degrees in the center of the chop, and cover them with foil for a few minutes, until the temperature reaches 150 degrees. This makes them warm and juicy.

Garnish with sliced onion and fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Serves 6 with plenty of sauce for another night. If you're following Weight Watchers, a 4 oz. portion is only 6 points.


Spaetzle with Swiss Cheese

>> Monday, October 5, 2015

Spaetzle dumplings

After eating spaetzle my whole life, a favorite recipe of my grandmother's, I was startled to find that the culinary world is now into spaetzle. It's popping up on menus and in food magazines all over the place.

If you haven't heard of spaetzle before, they are little noodles or dumplings made of flour, milk, and egg pressed through a colander or spaeztle press. My sister brought me an authentic Kull metal press from Germany 30 years ago. We also use it for juicing lemons and limes.

Kull Spaetzle Press

People pronounce it either SHPET-zul or SHPET-zlah or SHPET-zlee (regional differences, maybe?). They can be fluffy or a little chewy, depending on the cook and the recipe. Spaetzle can be used in place of any starch like pasta, polenta, egg noodles, dumplings, mashed potatoes, or rice. I loved it when my mom or my grandma made a savory pork roast with plenty of gravy poured over all those little noodles.

But spaetzle with Swiss cheese is a long-time family favorite which is also a main dish that's cheap and quick to make. It's a German version of mac and cheese, really. Like all family recipes that are passed along for years, people in my family make it slightly differently. My mom makes a very simple version; my Aunt Monica browns butter very darkly before tossing with the noodles, and we like to add pepper and garlic and a bit of seasoned bread crumbs because, well, you know we love more flavor.

At the famous Mader's Restaurant in Milwaukee, and the Chicago Brauhaus, I've had spaetzle that was pan-fried as a side dish. I've tried pan-frying the noodles in butter after boiling them, and it works particularly well with the grated cheese. You might want to try it both ways and see what you like best.

This basic spaetzle recipe is just a start. Try adding chopped herbs or spices, or some mustard, or sour cream, for extra flavor, as it suggests in this Chicago Tribune article on spaetzle.


Basic spaeztle noodles

4 eggs (my mom estimates 1 egg per person)
1/2 cup of milk, plus extra for consistency
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

For the topping

4 cups grated Swiss cheese (measure after grating)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)


Whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients. Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring constantly. The batter or dough should be similar to a very thick, slightly sticky bread dough, depending on how tender or chewy you like the dumplings. After you make it a few times, you'll figure out the consistency you want. Add more milk or water if you want to adjust the texture.

Spaetzel dough

If you want light, fluffy noodles, stop stirring as soon as the ingredients are combined; for firmer noodles, stir for five minutes before cooking.

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Place a large scoop of the dough in the colander or spaetzle maker and press the dough through the holes. They should fall through in a solid stream; you may have to cut off the noodles to free them from the holes. Stir the noodles immediately to keep them from sticking together.

Kull Spetzle Press

Boil for 5 minutes, then drain well. Repeat with the rest of the dough, while keeping the finished noodles warm.

If you want to pan-fry the noodles after they are cooked, heat up the butter in a frying pan until the foaming stops. Dump in the noodles and stir them around so they're coated with butter. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip over and brown the other side.

Otherwise, melt the butter and stir into the noodles. Toss the noodles with the Swiss cheese, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs before serving.

My mom always serves Spaeztle With Swiss along with homegrown peaches she canned herself, and I can't improve on that combo.

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish. 

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