Meatballs and Lasagna.


First, the recipe.  Then, the story.  ‘Cause the other way around is a thing that everyone hates now.

Lasagna & Meatballs

Lasagna & Meatballs

I don’t measure much.  I had stuff from Aldi, Shop ‘n Save, & Giant  Eagle by the time I was done.  The kids helped.  They have been into helping to cook lately.  We like meatballs on the side, not meat sauce in the lasagna.  Get out of here with your sausage or pork or pepperoni too, this is BEEF territory.

We eventually decided on…

Ingredients:

  • A box of no-bake lasagna noodles from Aldi.
  • A 2½ lb. package of ground beef from Aldi.
  • Fresh spinach from Shop ‘n Save.
  • Fresh parsley from Giant Eagle (could’t order it from Aldi or Shop ‘n Save via Instacart.)
  • A tiny tub of Ricotta from Aldi.  (Instacart size fail.)
  • A giant tub of Ricotta from Giant Eagle.
  • 2 Aldi zucchini.
  • A 2-cup bag of “Italian Blend” cheese from Aldi.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded parmesan & romano cheese from Giant Eagle.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded mozarella cheese from Gaint Eagle.
  • 2 eggs
  • “Shake cheese” – Used both Parmesan & a Parmesan Romano blend.
  • A bag of “Italian Seasoning” croutons from Aldi.
  • Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing.
  • 3 jars of the cheap Aldi marinara sauce.  (It is way better than the supposedly more delicious and expensive ones.)
  • Condensed Tomato Soup
  • Brown Sugar
  • Various spices no, I didn’t measure:
    • “Italian Seasoning” {Whatever that is.)
    • Dried spice-rack Parsely
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • White Pepper
    • Coarse Ground Black Pepper
    • Sea Salt
    • Whatever Aldi “Seasoned Salt” that looks like the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt bottle or McCormick Season All is.

🌡️ Cook temp:  400° F

⏱ Prep time:  This isn’t Food Network, All Recipes, or Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg.  How do I know?  I had a 6 year old and a 4 year old helping.  So, it was slow.

⏲ Cook time: 20 to 25 min. for the meatballs.  (Cook to a temperature, not a time.  The USDA says ground beef needs to be 160° F so you don’t die or something.  Get a food thermometer.)  45 min. covered in foil for the lasagna, 15 min. uncovered.

Method:

  1. Get out all your pots, pans, utensils, cutting boards, and stuff before you cook.  If you have children helping, get paper towels.  Get the ingredients out.  Wash your hands.  Wash the eggs.  We used 2 large mixing bowls, and an inordinate amount of oddly shaped glass baking dishes.
  2. Chop the parsley & spinach like a madman (or mad woman, or mad person of a non-specific gender).  Have the kids help.  They love sharp knives.  It’s important that they respect them and that you watch closely.  Very closely.  We sometimes use one of those still sharp plastic lettuce knives for stuff like this.  I didn’t measure.  We used about the whole bunch of parsley & a handful and a half of spinach.
  3. Slice up that zucchini as thinly as possible.  I don’t have a mandolin, so I did that instead of the kids.  Actually, I would still do that if we had a mandolin.
  4. We divided the parsley & spinach about equally into the 2 mixing bowls.  I talked about that thing where you add the same flavors across different dishes to tie them together, but I have no idea what the word for that is.
  5. In the meatball bowl, we tossed in the ground beef & the croutons.  We smashed the croutons first.  Oh, that was fun.  It probably got out of hand, but the bag didn’t pop.
  6. We also poured in some Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing in the meatballs.  Amount?  Yes.  Until it looked good.  This is one thing I won’t bend on.  It is far more superior that any other Italian dressing.
  7. The we dropped in some Italian Blend shredded cheese & some shake cheese.  Measuring is for the timid.  Eyeball it.  Use the force, let it guide you.
  8. Mix it with your hands, roll into balls, and pop in into a glass baking dish, or 3 odd little ones.  We spaced them out.  I mean, you could use a baking sheet, and I used to prefer them in the electric skillet, but this is so easy.  We put all of the above spices in there too.  And sprinkled a bit on the outside once formed.
  9. We washed out hands again, and I set that in the oven & set the timer for 23 minutes because I couldn’t decide between 20 or 25.
  10. We poured the marinara & tomato soup in a pot, added some brown sugar (just a bit), shake cheese, parsley & italian seasnonings, & garlic.
  11. The kids stirred that.  And stirred that.  And stirred that.
  12. We put the ricotta in the 2nd mixing bowl already containing spinach & parsley.
  13. Add eggs, the rest of the “Italian Blend” cheese bag, some shake cheese, and some minced garlic… and whatever spices you want.  I told the kids here about depth of flavor in using the dried parsley vs. the fresh parsley and minced garlic vs the garlic powder… but I don’t know if they were paying attention.  They had just cracked eggs and we were about to mess with a giant gooey bowl of cheese.
  14. Go easy on that white pepper if you have it.  It goes a loooong way.
  15. Spread the sauce on the bottom of your biggest glass baking dish.
  16. We layed out the no-boil noodles.  It was my first time using them.  I think it went pretty well.  They fit 4 across and 1 at the end in our pan.
  17. On top of the noodles we did half of the ricotta mixture, the Parmesan/Romano shredded cheese, the zucchini, sauce, more noodles, the rest of the ricotta mixture, the shredded Mozzarella cheese, sauce, noodles, more sauce, and a mix of the Parmesan/Romano & Mozzarella cheeses.
  18. We like cheese.  The kids tasted the different shred varieties as we layered.  Ian liked the Parmesan/Romano & Molly liked the Mozzarella.
  19. I covered that in foil & put it in the oven for 45 minutes.  Then I uncovered it & let it go for 15 minutes.
  20. The extra sauce goes on the meatballs.

Ooh.  I snuck the story in on you didn’t I?  Wow.  Would you like to speak to the manager?  You might like my other blogs about meatballs or meatloaf or wedding soup… or any of my food stuff.  The kids went absolutely primate-poop over the meatballs.  The no-boil noodles were fine.  I liked that they were al dente.  There was enough liquid that I didn’t add any like the box suggested.  Be a rebel!  (OK, I asked for opinions on FB for that first on my page & in an Aldi recipe group.)

View this post on Instagram

Definitely firmed up after sitting more. #lasagna

A post shared by Eric Carroll (@aixelsyd13) on

Oh yeah, completely unrelated, I made these this morning too:

Found the recipe here via Google: https://tasty.co/recipe/potato-flower-breakfast-cups

 

Hamburgers vs. Meatballs vs. Meatloaf?


This thought came to mind while making hamburgers for the holiday.  I remembered the commercials for ranch burgers & I had a packet of the ranch dressing mix, so I looked up their recipe.  It contained breadcrumbs.  I always thought breadcrumbs belong in meatballs or meatloaf, but not hamburgers.  Then there’s egg.  I put it in meatloaf but not in meatballs or hamburger.  They’re all almost the exact same thing… but then they’re all completely different.

I generally always throw them all together without a recipe.  They’re easy to do that way.  I guess everyone has their own way to do things.  I make them all the same sometimes, but sometimes I add something different for fun.

I’m just wondering how other people do things?

I’d love some feedback in the comments below.  I’ll share how I generally do things.  These aren’t really recipes, and I don’t measure much, but this is typically what goes in each:

Hamburgers

Meatballs

  • Ground Beef (Sometimes Turkey)
  • Crushed Croutons (Whatever we have for the salad if we’re having one, or a nice mix of spices or whatever.)
  • Parmesan/Romano “shake” cheese
  • Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing (It spices them well, keeps them nice & moist!)
  • Black Pepper

Meatloaf

  • Ground Beef
  • Egg
  • Bread or crushed crackers.  (I like the bread ripped up more than the crackers.)
  • A1, Ketchup, Mustard, or BBQ sauce… or a combo of all of them.
  • Season All
  • Black Pepper

(Click here for a crazy meatloaf recipe.)

Of course sometimes I add garlic, or onion powder, or something crazy.  That’s the fun if it though, isn’t it?  So, what goes in your meatballs, hamburgers, or meatloaf?

Raw Ground beef

Raw Ground beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turkey Noodle Soup


So, I made some really easy turkey noodle soup yesterday.  It turned out to be pretty delicious, and I lucked out because a lot of the ingredients were on sale.

Turkey Noodle Soup!

My cell phone takes absolutely terrible photos, but trust me... this was delicious.

In the morning, I popped 2 turkey breast cutlets into the crock pot, piled on top of chopped baby-cut carrots & celery.  I added some a cup of water with a chicken bullion cube… and piled on some spices; Poultry Seasoning, Season All, black pepper, garlic, sage, and parsley.  I should have probably added an onion, but I forgot.

8 hours later, I boiled some wide noodles in 2 cans of turkey broth, 2 cans of vegetable broth, and 2 cans of low sodium chicken broth.  When the noodles were cooked, I chopped up the turkey boobs, and dumped the contents from the crock pot into the boiling pot of noodles for the soup… I added a little more water, another bullion cube, and simmered for a while.

Result?  Rather effortless yet delicious soup.

I found myself wondering if the broth & noodles would have cooked well in the crock pot.  Will noodles cook well without the boiling & just the saturation?  Would they eventually fall apart if over-cooked?

I’ve also done something similar with a rotisserie chicken… I’ll sauté the carrots, celery, & maybe garlic & onion with some butter in the soup pot, then add chicken and/or vegetable broth, boil the noodles, & add chicken.

How do you make chicken or turkey noodle soup?

How do you make your other favorite kinds of soup?

Have any secret ingredients? 

I generally put in cayenne or something else hot… but I’ve been told to cool it with the spices for a while thanks to G.E.R.D. lately.  Sometimes I add beer to soups… just because I can.  I dunno if it’d go well in chicken or turkey noodle though?

Get Stuffed.


I can’t wait to make stuffing again. It’s ridiculously tasty. I love the carb overload. Maybe I will get those goggles, and I need to pick up some Yuengling.  A week from tonight, I should be in the process of creating this awesomeness.

I’ll show you my stuffing recipe if you show me yours.

How do you do it?

Maybe this year, I’ll try to make some Potato Filling too.  There are a bunch of recipes for it out there.  Maybe stuffing balls would be good…  Now I’m hungry.

STUFFING!

STUFFING!

Yuengling Lager

Beer

Eric’s Decadent Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes


This past Christmas when we had the family over for a holiday dinner, I decided to try & make some scalloped potatoes.  I found a ton of recopies online, and took what I liked from some & what I liked from others and put them all together… leaving out the stuff I didn’t like.  They turned out really well, to the compliments of everyone.  The only problem is that I didn’t write down what I did… so I had no idea when I went to make them again for an Easter  dinner yesterday.  Last time, like everyone in the kitchen, I kept adding stuff until the sauce looked & tasted just right.

Friday night, I pulled out the same printed recipes from last time…. made sure we had most of the stuff here & popped what I needed on to the grocery list.  This time I wrote down what went into it, but I may have the portions off… Where I have “cup” or “Tablespoon”, I may have just dumped some stuff in by eye.

People have asked how I made them, so I’ll try writing it out coherently here.  I’ll add that  my wife, Bethany, washed & cut the potatoes while I made the sauce… which was invaluable… because the sauce needed to be watched, and cut potatoes that sit for any period of time get all brown.  I guess I could have cut them & put them in some cold water to halt the browning if I absolutely had to… but we get along well in the kitchen, and it’s nice to cook together sometimes.  (I offered for her to do the sauce & to put me on potato duty, but she declined in case the cause didn’t turn out well, the blame could go solely on me.)

Eric’s Decadent Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes:

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb. bag of russet potatoes
  • 2 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I buy the stuff in bags, this is 1 small bag.)
  • 2 cups shredded Colby & Monterey Jack Cheese (The store brand was 2 bags for $5 I think.)
  • 1 pint (2 cups / 16 fl. oz.) heavy cream
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 4 Tbsp. corn starch
  • Salt/Pepper/Season All to taste
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (I used the stuff minced & put in olive oil, in little jars)
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Miracle Whip or mayonnaise… (or 1 Tbsp. Each!)
  • 1 sm. bag bacon bits
  • bread crumbs (or crackers)

Stuff:

  • potato scrubber
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish
  • sauce pan
  • spoon and/or wisk
  • large bowl (if you’re gonna soak the potatoes)
  • measuring cup & spoons
  • aluminum foil
  • hot pads
  • oven
  • stove top

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Wash & slice the potatoes, store in cold water if you have to so they don’t brown… or have someone do that while you…
  3. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with the stick of butter.  Melt the rest of the butter on medium heat in a saucepan.
  4. Add the flour & corn starch to the butter to make a roux.
  5. Turn it down to low heat, & slowly stir in the cream, buttermilk, sour cream,  & mayo/Miracle Whip.  Stir like a madman.
  6. Add the bacon bits, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and salt/pepper/spices to taste.  Don’t forget to stir.
  7. Add about half of each kind of shredded cheese to the mix, keep stirring like a madman.
  8. Pull the sauce from the heat, keep stirring… add a little to the bottom of the baking dish.
  9. Later potatoes, sauce, & remaining shredded cheese… saving a nice amount of shredded cheese for the top.
  10. Cover with foil, bake at 350° for an hour.
  11. Pull it out, uncover, top with bread crumbs or crumbled up crackers, add some additional seasoning if so inclined, and pop it back in for another 15 minutes.

Well, there you have it.  Pretty simple, and nothing makes me happier than cheese & potatoes.  I noticed a lot of scalloped potato recipes don’t have cheese, but really… where’s the fun in that?  Some also used a cream of chicken or cream of potato soup… makes it too much like White Trash ‘Taters for me.  You may want to skip the breading, use chips or those crispy canned fried onions.  Everyone has their own thing that they dig.  Yukon Gold potatoes would make this really nice, probably wouldn’t need to cook as long…red potatoes might make it bitey…  A mix may be nice.  As far as the spices, I used coarse ground black pepper, I think some dry mustard, paprika, and some McKormick Season All.

Stuffing Recipe – Thanksgiving 2009


Stuffing has got to be my favorite Thanksgiving food.  I remember Thanksgivings past where my dad & I would fight over the stuffing bowl like it was filled with gold, diamonds, and (for me) guitars.  The stuff is perfect.  Alone, with turkey, with gravy… the decadent amount of carbs is ridiculously awesome.

Last year was my first ever attempt at making stuffing… and my grandma told me that it tasted just like hers.  Is there a compliment better than that?  I had used as a guide an old recipe that my grandfather & grandmother had both used when making holiday meals.  My mom lent me the old cook book with my grandfather’s notes last year, I collected some others, and I made scans for myself.

I say “guide” because it’s not always an exact science when doubling/tripling recipes… and there really aren’t any cooking directions… it’s just a guide to make the stuff.  Also, I tend to do a lot of “oh, that looks about right” and a little bit of “hey, let’s add a little of this” in the kitchen, as most people comfortable there usually do.

A lot of times I see stuffing recipes online, on TV, or in the little books by the cash register at the grocery store… and they include sausage, apples, raisins, (yuck!) nuts, or even peppers, carrots, or mushrooms (all of the latter of which I’ like to try some time).  The philosophy behind this recipe seems to be a K.I.S.S. one.  I like that.  It’s a very simple accompaniment, and the taste that my mind goes to every time I think “stuffing”.

This year, it was definitely a two person effort.  I don’t know how I would have done it without Bethany and all four of our hands.  We made a lot of stuffing.  Sadly, I didn’t think to chronicle the thing with photos like I sometimes do with new recipes… but I did want to make a guide with my own notes, so when I do this next year, I remember what I did differently this year.  I know I altered things slightly last year, but the details were a little fuzzy.  I figured that if I’m going to do it for myself, I might as well share, right?  Plus, we got compliments from two moms, two grandmas, and an aunt… all excellent in the kitchen themselves!

I did take a photo today, because really, what’s a food blog post without a photo?  Perhaps I’ll see if my mom got any with her camera and amend the post later.

Thanksgiving Stuffing 2009

This year's effort was delicious, if I do say so myself.

This is my first time really writing out a recipe… so pardon me if it’s a little convoluted or long winded.  I don’t want to miss anything, and I hope to get it all in the right order as well as make it an entertaining read.

Here’s what you’ll need to do it the same way I did…

Food:

  • 5 loaves of bread (equaled 56 cups once cubed)
  • 1 bundle of celery (3 cups, chopped – the rest can cook w/ the turkey or be a snack)
  • 2 Spanish or Sweet onions
  • The giblets & neck out of your turkey.
  • 1 can (14½ oz.) vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoons of salt
  • ½ tablesppon Season All Seasoned Salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sage
  • 1 heaping teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 10 eggs
  • 4 sticks (2 cups) butter
  • some water
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 bottle of Yuengling

Stuff:

  • 2 cookie sheets
  • cutting boards
  • small pot
  • electric skillet
  • Magic Bullet®
  • electric roaster
  • large crock pot
  • knives
  • a few large bowls
  • whisk
  • spatula
  • several large spoons
  • paper towels

OK, on to the directions…

  1. Monday night, get your loaves of bread, open the bags, and put the loaves on cookie sheets before dinner.  Leave ’em out on a table or counter while you do your thing.
  2. Right before your favorite prime time TV shows come on, set up a station on the coffee table in front of the couch with the cookie trays of bread, some cutting boards with knives, and the pans out of your electric roaster.  Cube the bread and fill the roasting pan.  When I say fill it, I mean fill it.  It will be ridiculously full.
  3. Cover it with paper towels, and set it on the kitchen table that you only use when company comes over anyway.  Over the next few days, stir it a few times a day, whenever you think of it.  This will get it nicely & slightly stale.  If you’re going to be doing anything that smells, like using cleaning chemicals, put it in the oven… but don’t turn it on.  It’s nice & warm & dry & not stinky in there.  The bread will absorb that stuff and the stuffing will taste like Mr. Clean made it.
  4. Wednesday night, get out your turkey… and pull the disgusting papery bag of giblets out of the neck cavity, and the neck out of its butt.  (Why exactly do they put the neck in the butt, anyway?  Who’s idea was that?) Boil the giblets in your can of vegetable broth, or just use plain water… or even turkey or chicken broth.  I thought the vegetable broth would add a nice flavor.  I boiled them for a nice long time, and let it cook down quite a bunch.
  5. Finely chop up your celery & onions… or use the Magic Bullet, like I did.  I’m not real big on chunks of slimy or crunchy stuff in bread-like consistency foods.  I probably had half of each chopped finely, the other half rendered to near-paste by the genius little piece of equipment that list the Magic Bullet.  I’m sure any food processor would work.. but this one is easy to pot pout of storage, use, and clean when you’re done.
  6. Then I popped out the electric skillet to sauteé the onion & celery mixture… probably in some Country Crock & a bit of extra virgin olive oil… adding some of the spices mentioned above, and maybe even some paprika… although, they don’t come the totals listed above.  These are the aforementioned “oh, that looks about right” and  “hey, let’s add a little of this”.  You’ve sauteed stuff, you know how it works.  I love this step because it turns the onions from gross into awesome… especially the Spanish onions.  The sweet onions are oddly enough not as sweet to me when cooked.
  7. Next time, I’m totally getting a pair of swimming goggles or those glasses that I’ve seen at Bed, Bath & Beyond for when I chop & pulverize the onions.  I was crying like a little girl who just watched a car run over a kitten.
  8. I popped the onions and celery into separate containers for the ‘fridge to save for Thursday morning.
  9. Next, I pulled out the giblets and chopped them into tiny pieces, & put them with the reduced broth from cooking into a 3rd refrigerator bound container to be used on Thursday morning.
  10. Go to bed.  You have to get up early.
  11. Thursday get up about an hour before your turkey needs to go in the roaster oven, and start to mix all this crap together.
  12. Add the dry spice ingredients to the now stale-ish cubed bread.  Good luck not getting any on the floor.
  13. Chop the fresh parsley.
  14. Nuke your butter in a microwave safe bowl, add it to a large mixing bowl, crack open the 10 eggs, and whisk away.
  15. Add the fresh parsley to the buttery gooey egg mixture.
  16. Add 2-3 cups of the broth from the giblets, and the finely chopped giblets to the now even gooier butterier egg mixture.
  17. This is where I got the bright idea to dump in some Yuengling.  It wasn’t a whole bottle… but I had it out & only needed about ½ cup for my butter/garlic/beer turkey injection/baste,  so I dumped some into the gooey buttery gibletey mixture, and drank the rest… all before 8:00 am.
  18. Dump the celery & onion concoction on to the bread, mix around, and then dump on the gooey buttery gibletey Yuenglingey mixture.  This is where it was imperative that there were two of us.  Bethany opted to use her hands to mix while I poured.  The mixing gets easier when it’s wet, as it goes down a little.  You should probably wash your hands before you do this.  Not that I think you’re stupid or anything… but there are signs out there all over the place… so someone somewhere must need reminded.  Use soap, and hot water.
  19. Now, this needs to come out of the roaster so the turkey can go into it… and you should be doing this around the same time as turkey prep… so stuff what you can into the turkey carcass’ various cavities, and put the rest in the crock pot.  I had Bethany scoop it into a bowl small amounts at a time as I stuffed it into the bird, so I wasn’t touching raw poultry and the stuffing that wasn’t going into the bird.  She made it clear that she wasn’t touching the raw dead bird, or sticking her hands into it.
  20. I sewed up the turkey and popped it into the roaster to cook, and then put the stuffing in the crock pot on low to cook for the same amount of time.
  21. Everyone told me last year that stuffing + crock pot = bad idea.  This is where I say that you could not be more wrong.  It was perfectly moist and heated well throughout.  I did break the cardinal cock pot rule by removing the lid every hour or so and stirring a little so it didn’t stick to the sides or burn.  This worked well, except that I didn’t get the bottom well enough.  You could add more liquid throughout if t looked necessary… or not stir if you like the crusty part as much as the other part.  If you use the crock pot enough, you get to know what works for yours.  Pop it on to warm or off a while before you eat.
  22. When the turkey’s ready, the stuffing’s ready.  Stuff yourself silly, send people home with leftovers, and eat for breakfast, lunch, & dinner the next day.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the process, and I’m sorry for jumping tenses.  I think I did anyway.  All over the place.  Maybe Dave and Kristin can give me some pointers on that.

I’d love to know what you think of this recipe, and how you do your stuffing.  I’m always up for trying things new ways… and I’m always up for eating stuffing.  In fact, even better — make some, and invite me over for dinner!