Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Southern Breakfast


If you live in the South, buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy are very familiar to you.  It's a staple in the South sitting on many breakfast tables every day.  It's a lavish treat that can't be eaten every day, but, on occasion, this is our family's favorite go-to meal.

These biscuits are super buttery and flaky and soft.  It's a foolproof recipe that is simple to make.  A little messy, but simple.  If you're new to making breads, this is the place to start.  And I also have a foolproof gravy recipe that will work for any type of gravy.  You take 1/4 C fat (bacon grease, shortening, vegetable oil, etc.), 1/4 C flour, and 2 C liquid (milk, chicken stock, beef stock, etc.)  For instance, if you want cream gravy, use your choice of fat and milk.  For chicken gravy, use shortening and chicken stock.  You get the picture.  And this simple ratio can be doubled, tripled, even quadrupled with ease. 

So get your boots out and apron and get ready to cook, y'all!

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS WITH SAUSAGE GRAVY

FOR THE BISCUITS:
4 C flour
2 T baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 C real butter, softened
2 C buttermilk
More flour for dusting
2 T melted butter

FOR THE GRAVY:
1/2 tube of breakfast sausage, like Jimmy Dean's
1/4 C bacon grease
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.  Get a board ready and generously coat it with flour.  Using your hands, mix in the butter until no large pieces remain.  Make a well or a dent in the center of the flour.  Pour in the buttermilk.  Knead it together with your hands.  This will be a gloppy mess, but don't worry.  That's what the floured board is for.  Turn the dough out onto the board.  Knead the dough and add in enough flour until the dough is a drier consistency and can be rolled out, folding it in on itself as you go.  When the dough is ready to be rolled, roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Using a glass to cut out circles or a knife to make square biscuits, cut them out and put them on a sheet pan.  Gather up the scraps, knead them back together, and keep cutting out circles or squares until there's not enough dough left.  You should get about 16-18 biscuits.  Cook 20-25 minutes. During the last five minutes, brush the melted butter over the biscuits.

While the biscuits are cooking, cook the sausage in a skillet until browned and cooked through.  Remove from skillet.  In the same skillet, melt the bacon grease.  Whisk in the flour until there are no lumps.  Pour in the milk and whisk again, making sure there are no lumps.  Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally until bubbly and thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir the sausage back in and serve over the biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits


BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
4 C flour
2 T baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 C real butter, softened
2 C buttermilk
More flour for dusting
2 T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.  Get a board ready and generously coat it with flour.  Using your hands, mix in the butter until no large pieces remain.  Make a well or a dent in the center of the flour.  Pour in the buttermilk.  Knead it together with your hands.  This will be a gloppy mess, but don't worry.  That's what the floured board is for.  Turn the dough out onto the board.  Knead the dough and add in enough flour until the dough is a drier consistency and can be rolled out, folding it in on itself as you go.  When the dough is ready to be rolled, roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Using a glass to cut out circles or a knife to make square biscuits, cut them out and put them on a sheet pan.  Gather up the scraps, knead them back together, and keep cutting out circles or squares until there's not enough dough left.  You should get about 16-18 biscuits.  Cook 20-25 minutes. During the last five minutes, brush the melted butter over the biscuits.

Monday, January 28, 2013

SUPERBOWL!!!


So here's my collection of Superbowl recipes.  I think you'll enjoy them.  There is an Insane 21-Layer Dip.  There are Amazing Chicken Flautas.  And who can beat Individual Queso Fundido Cups with Homemade Chorizo or Bacon-Fried Sliders.  And then there's Easy Fried Cheese Sticks along with Buffalo Chicken Bombs.  All of the recipes are under my Appetizers tab.  I hope you'll enjoy them all!

Insane 21-Layer Dip! Genius!


This is Insane!  21-Layer Dip!  I know, it's crazy, but I did it!  I'm not going to list individual recipes for each layer, but please comment on any layer you want and I will answer with the recipe.  I took this to work, and 13 people DEVOURED IT!  I swear it's good!  The picture doesn't do the recipe justice, but I swear you'll love it.  I'll stop swearing now.



INSANE 21-LAYER DIP

2 layers of refried beans mixed with taco seasoning
1 layer of cooked, diced bacon
1 layer of homemade guacamole
2 layers of Fiesta Ranch Dip
1 layer of homemade queso
1 layer of chopped lettuce
1 layer of jalapeno nacho slices
1 layer of chicken fajita meat, cooked
1 layer of taco meat, cooked
1 layer of cream cheese mixed with salsa
1 layer of salsa
1 layer of black olives
1 layer of tomatoes, chopped
4 layers of cheese, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, and Asadero
1 layer of sliced green onions
1 layer of queso

Layer the layers however you want to.  I try to layer according to thickness of the layer and color.  Refrigerate at least an hour to set flavors.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Bacon-Fried Sliders! What???




This is crazy.  Really?  Bacon-Fried Sliders?  You bet!  Amazing.  And some giant sour pickle chunks on top to really make this insane.  Just try it.  Trust me.  You know you want to.

BACON-FRIED SLIDERS

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 C bacon grease
Cheese slices, your favorite (like Blue Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, Habanero Sliced, Swiss)
4 ounces mushrooms, sauteed in butter
3 T red onion, sliced and sauteed in butter
8-10 bacon weaves (see my recipe under Breakfast Stacks under the Breakfast tab)
8-10 Soft Savory Butter Rolls (see my recipe under the Breads tab)
1 batch of Chipotle-Lime Mayo (under my Dips/Sauces/Relishes tab)
2-3 large very sour pickles, cut into 8-10 chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ground beef with a little salt and pepper.  Spread the meat out on a cutting board.  Cut the meat into 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 inch squares.  Heat bacon grease in a skillet until melted.  Fry the patties in the bacon grease and drain.  Place the patties back in the skillet, top with desired cheese, and cook until the cheese is melted.

To assemble, cut the rolls in half.  Spread the Chipotle-Lime Mayo on each half.  Top with a beef patty, mushrooms, onions, and the other roll top.  Put a pickle chunk on top and spear through with a long toothpick.  Yum!

Queso Fundido with Homemade Chorizo!


So this is Queso Fundido.  It's a baked cheese dip.  The saltiness of the Asadero Cheese and the creaminess of the Monterrey Jack Cheese and the flavor of the homemade chorizo...out of this world!  And a roasted poblano to boot!  

QUESO FUNDIDO WITH HOMEMADE CHORIZO
FOR THE CHORIZO:
3/4 lb ground pork
2 Guajillo peppers
2 T white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T bacon grease
2 T red onion, minced
1 T lime juice
2 T chopped cilantro
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons red chili flake

FOR THE QUESO:
2 C Asadero cheese, crumbled or diced
2 C Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 roasted, peeled poblano, chopped

Put the guajillo chilies in a small pot and cover with water.  Boil about 10 minutes.  When soft, place guajillo peppers, vinegar, garlic cloves, bacon grease, red onion, lime juice, cumin, cilantro, chili powder, salt, chile flake and 1/2 C cooking liquid in a blender.  Blend until smooth.

To roast the poblano, place it on a cookie sheet and in a 400 degree oven.  Cook and turn occasionally until it's blackened and charred on all sides.  Let it cool enough to handle.  Peel as much skin off as you can.  Take the stem and seeds out and chop the poblano.

Put the ground pork in a bowl.  Mix in the guajillo mixture and poblano.  Cook the pork mixture in a skillet over medium heat, breaking it up and cooking until it's done.

Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the cheeses and the pork mixture together.  Put the dip into an oven safe skillet.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is all melted and the top is lightly browned.


NOTE:  I originally wrote this recipe as individual mini cups with tortillas and the cheese baked in them.  Here are the instructions.  

You will need 24 corn tortillas.  Cut the tortillas with a round cookie cutter or a glass to about 3-inch circles.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  First, spray a 24-count mini muffin tray with pan spray.  Press the cut out tortillas into each muffin tin.  Spray each tortilla liberally inside with pan spray.  Cook 10-15 minutes or until crisp.  Remove them from the oven.

Fill each tortilla cup with as much cheese/pork mixture as you can.  Bake them in the oven for about 5-6 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Easy Fried Cheese


Here's a quick way to enjoy a classic restaurant appetizer favorite.

EASY FRIED CHEESE

8 ounces of Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch by 2 inch slices
2 C Italian bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Peanut oil, for frying
Marinara sauce, for dipping (see my Marinara Sauce recipe under the Basics tab)

Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese.  Dip the cheese sticks in the egg mixture, then in the bread crumb mixture, being sure to get some to stick.  Repeat this process, making sure no cheese shows through.  Freeze at least an hour.

Preheat the oil to 350 degrees and drop in the cheese.  Fry only 2-4 minutes or until golden brown.  Keep in a 200 degree oven until all cheese is fried.

Amazing Chicken Flautas!


These flautas are my husband's second favorite food.  The first is fried chicken tied with Cadillac Queso.  If I make the mistake of asking what he wants for dinner, he almost always says fried chicken.  Of course, I can't give him that all the time, just sometimes. 

But sometimes, when we have "Party Food Night" or "Appetizer Night," these definitely have to be on the menu.  Now, it calls for a Mexican tomato sauce with the brand name of El Pato.  Don't worry.  If you can't get El Pato, use regular tomato sauce and spice it up with cayenne or red chili flakes.  But, if you can find El Pato tomato sauce (try Dollar General, of all places), you will love it.  

CHICKEN FLAUTAS
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (throw some cumin and garlic and onion powder in the pot when you cook it)
1 4-ounce can green chilies
1 7-ounce can El Pato tomato sauce
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder
1 C chicken stock
10-12 corn tortillas
Peanut oil for frying

In a large skillet, coat the bottom with olive oil.  Put your chicken in and green chilies.  Add in the spices and seasonings.  Add in the tomato sauce and chicken stock.  Cook over medium high heat until most of the liquid has cooked out. 

Soften your tortillas by wrapping them in a damp towel and microwaving them for about a minute. Take each tortilla and spoon a thin line of the filling down the center.  Roll them up.  They should look like thin cigars.  Place seam-side down on a cookie sheet and freeze at least an hour. 

In a skillet, preheat the oil on medium high heat.  Place the flautas in the oil seam-side down.  Fry a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all flautas are fried.

Buffalo Chicken Bombs!


I can't just make anything the way it was originally intended.  Oh, no.  I have to go messing around with the recipe and put my spin on it.  If you are a traditionalist, please forgive me.  But I really like to take a recipe and put my individual spin on it. 

Like this case.  People love chicken wings, bone-in or bone-out.  I prefer bone-out, but bone-in is good too.  And, while I haven't perfected my own Buffalo sauce recipe yet, my husband and I prefer the Hooter's wing sauce that you can get in the grocery store.  But you should use whatever you like.

Now, here's where I really jacked up the wing.  I stuffed it with cheese (of course I did).  But it's not ground meat, so the task became a little tricky.  How do I wrap cheese with chicken and make it look like a ball?  Well, I'll give you the brilliant answer that my genius husband thought of.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it.  That's right, plastic wrap. 

So what I did was cut about three average-sized boneless chicken breasts in half lengthwise.  Then I pounded the meat out a little.  Then you take a sheet of plastic wrap, lay the chicken on it, lay the chesse on it, and gather the plastic wrap up and around it and twist the ends, making sure it looks like a ball and no cheese shows through.  Voila!  A star is born!  Here's the recipe.

BUFFALO CHICKEN BOMBS
3 average-sized boneless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
2 Mozzarella cheese sticks, cut into about 10 pieces
Saran wrap
1 1/2 C flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 T garlic powder
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
2 C buttermilk
Peanut oil, for frying

Prepare the chicken balls as discussed above.  Freeze at least an hour.  Mix the flour and spices/seasonings in a bowl.

When the balls are frozen, preheat your oil in a deep fryer or deep skillet to 350.  Dip the balls into the buttermilk and then into the flour mixture.  Dip them again in the buttermilk and then into the flour mixture.  Fry until golden brown, 5-8 minutes.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all balls are fried and chicken is cooked all the way through.

Soft Savory Butter Rolls


These rolls are my take on the King's Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls.  They are super easy and darn tasty!

SAVORY BUTTER ROLLS

2 packages of highly-active yeast
1 C milk
1 C real butter
1/8 C sugar
1/3 C warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
4 C flour

Mix water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Meanwhile, heat butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan until butter melts.  Don't boil this.  Let it cool slightly and mix in the two eggs.  Add the milk mixture into the yeast mixture and stir with the dough hook.  Mix in the flour and salt.  This will be a really gloppy dough.  Don't add more flour, or the rolls will be tough.  The dough comes together surprisingly well during rise time.

Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl three times its size.  Cover and let it rise one hour.  After the first hour, scrape the dough out onto a really well-floured board.  Kind of fold it in over itself, making sure to incorporate some flour.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let it rise another hour.  After the second hour, divide the dough into about 20 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place them in a greased glass casserole dish.  (You can use a metal pan, but the end result is a much browner and crispier bottom.)  Cover the rolls and let them rise another hour or until the rolls grow higher than the top of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the rolls anywhere between 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven and when the rolls are browned on top.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Better than Takeout





Who doesn't love pizza?  (Rhetorical question.)  Most people do.  And, as great as takeout pizza is, perfecting your own soft homemade crust with hand-picked toppings gives you such a self-gratifying moment.  Plus it's probably a lot cheaper.  Last time we ordered takeout pizza and wings, we spent about $40 which seems excessive. 

And, if you've figured me out by now, I can't just do it simple.  I have to do it two ways.  I love Barbecue Chicken Pizza, but my husband and kids love Meat Lovers.  So I made both.  Just use the recipe for Pizza Dough/Stomboli/Calzones under my Breads tab and double it if you want to make two.  This dough rises up ridiculously well.  I even stuffed the crusts with Mozzarella cheese.  The barbecue sauce is under my Dips/Sauces/Relishes tab,  and the marinara sauce is under my Basics tab. The rest of the toppings, of course, are up to you.  Go crazy!  Add whatever you like or take away whatever you don't like.  I have pizza stones to cook them on which is preferred, but a cookie sheet will work just fine.  It may take a little longer than takeout, but your family and friends will give you high-fives and pats on the back for this one.  Mangia!



MEAT LOVERS PIZZA

1 Pizza Dough (click for recipe), rolled out into a circle (or rectangle if you only have a cookie sheet)
1 1/2 Italian sausages, removed from casings, cooked and crumbled
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 C ham
Pepperoni, as much as you like
2 C marinara sauce
2 C Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C melted butter
1 T garlic powder
4-5 Mozzarella cheese sticks

If you are making your own dough, let the dough rise the first time.  Then roll it out and place the toppings on.  Let the dough rise again for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the melted butter and garlic powder together.  Cut the cheese sticks in half.  Place the dough on a pizza stone or cookie sheet.  Working around the outer circle of the pizza, place cheese stick halves on the dough and fold the dough in over the cheese, pressing down to seal.  Spread marinara sauce over center of the dough.  Layer with cheese and desired toppings.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Brush with garlic butter mixture, rotate the pizza in the oven, and bake another 10-15 minutes until the crust is browned.

BARBECUE CHICKEN PIZZA

1 Pizza Dough (click for link), rolled out into a circle (or a rectangle if you only have a cookie sheet)
2 C barbecue sauce
1 1/2 C cooked, shredded chicken
2 C pepper Jack cheese
Sliced red onions
4-5 Mozzarella cheese sticks
1/4 C melted butter
1 T garlic powder

If you are making your own dough, let the dough rise the first time.  Then roll it out and place the toppings on.  Let the dough rise again for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the melted butter and garlic powder together.  Cut the cheese sticks in half.  Place the dough on a pizza stone or cookie sheet.  Working around the outer edge of the pizza, place cheese stick halves on the dough and fold the dough in over the cheese, pressing down to seal.  Spread the barbecue sauce over center of the dough.  Layer with cheese, chicken, and onions (or other desired toppings).  Cook about 20 minutes.  Brush with the garlic butter mixture, rotate the pizza in the oven, and bake another 10-15 minutes until the crust is browned.

Easy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce



EASY CHIPOTLE BARBECUE SAUCE
2 C ketchup
3/4 C water
3/4 C brown sugar
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 T molasses
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
2 T minced garlic
1 T paprika
1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped

Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pot.  Cook covered, whisking occasionally, over medium low heat for about 15-20 minutes until thickened.  Refrigerate.  Serve on anything you want!

Blackened or Fried...You Decide!


My husband and I got married on the beach in South Padre Island.  It was a simple service with our close family.  We went a week ahead, and we rented a beautiful house with a pool for us all to stay in.  We did everything, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, went to the beach, rode jet skis in the ocean, snorkeled (yes, I know the water isn't very clear there, but it was still fun).  We laughed and talked and enjoyed the week and capped it off with a wedding.  It was amazing.

One of the things I took back from that week (among a gazillion memories) was beach food.  We found a dive restaurant called Steamers with open-air ambience that had great fish tacos.  I fell in love with fish tacos then.  I loved the fried fish, while my husband preferred the blackened.  It came on corn tortillas with coleslaw and it was fabulous.  We ate there twice that week!  You can even bring in fish you catch, and they will cook it for you.  They are also pretty famous for their ginormous trays of raw oysters, although I haven't acquired the taste for them yet.  But all the people around us were eating them and seemed really happy about it.

Now, I have a sidenote about the blackening process and a funny story about making homemade pepper gas.  (Yes, I did.)  Once I was cooking brats in beer in a skillet.  I decided I wanted to throw a little red chili flake into the skillet to add a little heat.  If you don't know the process of cooking brats in beer, it goes like this.  You put the brats in a skillet and pour in a beer.  Then you cover the skillet with a lid and let the beer cook out.  When the beer cooks out, you remove the lid and brown the sausages.  Little did I know that chili flakes in an almost dry skillet really does create pepper gas!  I started coughing violently.  My husband, who was in the living room, started coughing violently.  My son, who was in his bedroom, started coughing violently.  We all ran out the back door trying to breathe!  It was crazy.  We had to leave the back door open (something the dogs really love, free pass in and out) until the gas dissipated.  We all got a great laugh out of it afterwards.  Don't try this at home.

Since our wedding week, I've ordered fish tacos at many restaurants, and I've even perfected a recipe of my own that my family really enjoys and asks for a little too often.  I've included pickled red onions to it because it adds an unexpected kick of flavor that really complements the rest of the taco.  And, of course, since my husband is such a great man, I made the tacos two ways so he could have his favorite too.  So we are kind of like Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean (Aesop's Fables...great stories). 

So, from one of my favorite memories of a beautiful wedding week, here are my Fish Tacos (blackened or fried) with Spicy Coleslaw and Quick Pickled Red Onions.


FISH TACOS (BLACKENED OR FRIED) WITH SPICY COLESLAW AND PICKLED RED ONIONS
2 lbs of your favorite white fish (I've used Swai and Whiting)
1 package of corn tortillas
Quick Pickled Red Onions (recipe to follow)
Spicy Coleslaw (recipe to follow)

FOR FRIED FISH:
2 C flour
4 T cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 eggs
1 bottle of beer, like Corona
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's), to taste
1 T smoked paprika (it's yummy!)
1 T garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
Peanut oil for frying

FOR BLACKENED FISH:
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red chile flake
1 stick of butter

For the fried fish, combine all ingredients except the oil and the fish in a bowl.  Cut the fish into smaller strips, kind of like chicken fingers.  Heat the peanut oil up in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Dip half of the fish in the batter and fry until golden brown and crispy.  Keep the fish warm in a 200 degree oven until all fish is cooked.

For the blackened, mix all the spices and seasonings in a bowl.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Turn on your fan!  Dredge the other half of the fish in the blackening spice and cook in the butter about 3 minutes on each side or until the fish is opaque (if you can see it under the blackening spice) and firm to the touch.  Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until they're all done.

To serve these tacos, wrap tortillas in a damp towel and microwave about a minute.  Fill with the fish of your choice, coleslaw, and pickled onions. 

QUICK PICKLED RED ONIONS
1 red onion, sliced
2 C red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 T mustard seed
1 teaspoon red chili flake (optional)

Put the onions in a bowl.  Bring all ingredients except onions to a boil.  Pour over the onions and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.  Great for tacos, sandwiches, salads, you name it.

SPICY COLESLAW
1 14-ounce bag of shredded coleslaw mix (not the one with the dressing included)
1 C mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 C vinegar (depends how sour you like it)
2 1/2 to 3 T sugar (depends how sweet you like it)
1 to 3 teaspoons red chile flake (depends how hot you like it)

Mix the mayo, vinegar, sugar and chile flake with a whisk.  Mix the slaw mix into the dressing mix.  Let sit in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

Quick Pickled Red Onions



QUICK PICKLED RED ONIONS

1 red onion, sliced
2 C red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 T mustard seed
1 teaspoon red chili flake (optional)

Put the onions in a bowl.  Bring all ingredients except onions to a boil.  Pour over the onions and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.  Great for tacos, sandwiches, salads, you name it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Some Like it Hot!


My husband and I love peppers.  I cook with them a lot.  Some of our favorites are serranos, poblanos, pepperoncinis, and, of course, jalapenos.  And I adore stuffed peppers.  We've made all sorts of jalapeno poppers cooked a variety of ways.  My husband even cut out circles in a cake pan so we could cook them on the grill.  I know you can buy jalapeno grill devices, but it's so much more fun for him if he can invent things himself.   (He also once built a homemade pool heater too!  It was awesome!)

But this post is only partially about jalapeno poppers.  I wanted to make Chile Rellenos, but I wanted to make the filling kind of like a jalapeno popper...with chicken.  And it had to be spicy!  Deep-fried heaven.  Now, Chile Rellenos are made using poblano peppers.  They are a mild pepper with a robust flavor.  The key to cooking with poblanos is you have to roast them and peel the skin off before cooking with them.  But don't worry, it's easy.  Just throw them in a 400 degree oven and roast them, turning occasionally, until all sides are charred and blistering.  When they are cool enough to handle, just peel off as much of the skin as you can.  Then seed them and stuff them or chop them up to add to other dishes.  And, while I know that Chile Rellenos are usually just stuffed with cheese, I just couldn't leave it alone.  I have to put my spin on everything.  And they were darn tasty and muy caliente!  Hope you enjoy them!


FIRECRACKER CHICKEN CHILE RELLENOS

7-8 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled (see instructions above)
3/4 lb shredded cooked chicken
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 1/2 C pepper Jack cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
2-4 T jalapeno slices (from the jar), chopped
1/2 lb bacon, diced and cooked
Peanut oil for frying

FOR THE BATTER:
1 C flour
1 C corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 C milk
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons seasoned salt (like Lawry's)

Mix the cream cheese, pepper Jack, garlic and jalapenos in a food processor.  Stir in bacon and chicken.  Adjust the salt to taste.

Now for the peppers.  Carefully slice a slit down one side of the pepper without cutting all the way through.  The idea is to make a pocket.  Leave the tops on.  Gently scrape the seeds and pulp out with a spoon.  The peppers may tear a little, but it's okay.  Using your hands (it's messy), grab a handful of the cream cheese mixture and kind of shape it like the pepper.  Stuff them full but not so much that you can't wrap the pepper around it without seeing the filling.  After they are all stuffed, put them in the freezer for about an hour.

Whisk the batter ingredients together and heat up the peanut oil in a large skillet (preferrably cast iron).  Turn your oven on at 200 degrees to hold the cooked peppers until they are all fried  (this also ensures the filling gets all the way hot in case they are fried too fast).  Dip the peppers in the batter and gently lay two in the oil.  Fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown all over.  When they are all fried, let them sit in your oven for 10-15 minutes or until hot all the way through. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sharing Heritage



I am one of the few lucky people that love my job.  I spent 14 years as a court reporter, but I finally became so burned out that I never wanted to look at another transcript again.  And I am one lucky woman in the sense that my husband is wonderful.  We relocated a few years ago, and he told me I should do whatever I wanted and whatever makes me happy.  And that's cooking!  I love to cook, especially for grateful eaters.

So I took a job at a restaurant/bakery, and I've enjoyed every second of it.  I also really enjoy the people I work with who have become my second family.  I've never had a job where everyone was so close and where we have a good time all the time.  Everyone says "good morning" every day and tells everyone "bye" every day.  We all ask about each other's lives, children, families, etc.  It's truly a blessing to have that.

Two of the ladies that I work with are Hispanic, and I very much embrace that.  The reason behind my embrace is that I'm actualy 1/16th Hispanic.  You wouldn't know it by looking at me because I'm blond-haired and blue-eyed.  The rest of me is mostly German with a little Norwegian mixed in.  Anyway, that's beside the point.  The two ladies I'm speaking of, Lupe and Maria, have become great friends to me and also great teachers.  They often cook breakfast for the employees, and they share their culture with us.  I've learned new dishes that my family and I love, like Fideo con Pollo, which is a Hispanic type of pasta with chicken dish, and the one in the picture above, Picadillo, which is a Mexican Hash.  We ate it in tortillas, but that's not a requirement.  We just love to eat everything in tortillas.  And I've shared things with Lupe and Maria like Chicken & Dumplings and how to roast veggies like asparagus.  It's the simple trading of heritage that brings us all together.

Now, I made this the other night, and my family devoured it.  I even made it a little too spicy, and my picky 12-year-old son loved it.  So now I'm going to share this dish, made with love, with you, along with my recipe for Homemade Tex-Mex Tortillas and Rockin' Guacamole.  Buen provecho!


PICADILLO

1 lb ground pork
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 C red onion, diced
1 serrano pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
2 T flour
1 C beef stock
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

GARNISHES:
Sliced lettuce
Salsa
Sour cream
Guacamole
Cheddar cheese

Coat the bottom of a skillet with vegetable oil.  Cook potatoes in the skillet over medium-high heat until tender.  The goal is not to fry them, just make them tender.  Remove from skillet and drain.

Add onions and serrano to skillet and cook until tender.  Add in the ground pork, garlic, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until pork is done.  Add the potatoes back in.  Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir.  Add in beef stock and cook until the liquid is almost gone.  Add in tomato sauce, and cook until the sauce is thickened.  Serve in tortillas and garnish with lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, cheese and salsa.


HOMEMADE TEX-MEX STYLE TORTILLAS

4 C flour
1 1/2 C milk
3 T real butter
2 T lard or shortening
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt

Put milk and butter in a small saucepot and cook over medium heat until butter is melted.  Put remaining ingredients in a stand mixer (you can do it by hand if you don't have a mixer).  Stir until lard is broken down.  Pour in milk/butter mixture and mix until it becomes a ball.  Cover and let rest one hour.

Divide the dough into about 12 balls and let rest 30 minutes. 

After resting, heat a cast iron skillet to medium high heat.  Roll out the balls or press in a tortilla press until about 8 inches across.  You may have to carefully stretch them out by hand to get them the right size.  Place a tortilla in the skillet.  Cook on one side until bubbles start to puff up.  Flip and cook about 30-45 seconds on the other side.  Keep warm in a towel inside a tortilla keeper.  Refrigerate leftovers.

TIP:  Leftover tortillas will seem a little hard.  Microwave them in a damp towel and they will soften up.


ROCKIN' GUACAMOLE

2 Haas avacados
1-2 T red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 T cilantro, chopped
1 T jalapeno slices, chopped
Salt to taste

Scoop avacado out of the shells and remove the seed.  Slightly mash the avacados and then add in remaining ingredients and season with salt.  Let refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

*Add in diced tomatoes if desired.

A Pinterest tip I found:  Spray the top of the leftover guacamole with pan spray to keep it from turning brown.  It works!

Homemade Tex-Mex Style Tortillas


Soft, fluffy homemade tortillas...just begging for some butter!

HOMEMADE TEX-MEX STYLE TORTILLAS
4 C flour
1 1/2 C milk
3 T real butter
2 T lard or shortening
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt

Put milk and butter in a small saucepot and cook over medium heat until butter is melted.  Put remaining ingredients in a stand mixer (you can do it by hand if you don't have a mixer).  Stir until lard is broken down.  Pour in milk/butter mixture and mix until it becomes a ball.  Cover and let rest one hour.

Divide the dough into about 12 balls and let rest 30 minutes. 

After resting, heat a cast iron skillet to medium high heat.  Roll out the balls or press in a tortilla press until about 8 inches across.  You may have to carefully stretch them out by hand to get them the right size.  Place a tortilla in the skillet.  Cook on one side until bubbles start to puff up.  Flip and cook about 30-45 seconds on the other side.  Keep warm in a towel inside a tortilla keeper.  Refrigerate leftovers.

TIP:  Leftover tortillas will seem a little hard.  Microwave them in a damp towel and they will soften up.

Rockin' Guacamole


ROCKIN' GUACAMOLE

2 Haas avacados
1-2 T red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 T cilantro, chopped
1 T jalapeno slices, chopped
Salt to taste

Scoop avacado out of the shells and remove the seed.  Slightly mash the avacados and then add in remaining ingredients and season with salt.  Let refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

*Add in diced tomatoes if desired.

A Pinterest tip I found:  Spray the top of the leftover guacamole with pan spray to keep it from turning brown.  It works!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm a Foodie, Not a Food Snob



I love food competition shows.  In fact, I tape several each week when they're on...Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, Next Iron Chef, Top Chef, to name a few.  I love how inventive they are and how quick.  I'm pretty quick myself.  A lady at work called me the Tasmanian Devil today because I move around the restaurant so fast.  I can't help that.  It's in my DNA.

But the thing about all those cooking shows is the incredible palate that the judges have.  One speck too much salt, and the aspiring winner's hopes are dashed.  One drop too much of truffle oil, and the dish is a disaster.  Now, I'm not being judgmental.  I wish my palate was that refined.  But there are a lot of foods I love and a lot of things I'll try.  (I absolutely love Pigs in Blankets, but I can't make crescent rolls or Little Smokies.  I'll buy Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Hillshire Farm Little Smokies any day.)  So please don't take this as me insulting those people.  I just refer to myself as a "Foodie" to show that I embrace both sides of the spectrum.  And "Food Snob" is just a colloquialism for those people with highly distinguished tastes.

However, there are a few things that I, as a normal person, disagree with in those shows. The judges have eaten at some of the finest tables in the world, but I don't know that they've ever eaten food that you can get in an average grocery store.  Now, I don't typically buy meals in a box or frozen meals, not that there's anything wrong with that.  There are great conveniences and great products out there for people who don't have tangible time to labor over the stove.  But I do think things like frozen raw chicken breasts or vegetables, sliced breads, store-bought mayonnaise, or even pastas in a box are okay.

Which brings me to my next point.  I know there are a bazillion Baked Potato Soup recipes out there, and I'm sure there are many that would rival and even surpass mine.  But mine has a little secret ingredient in it that I think gives it a little richness and a little thickener that gives it a full taste to it.  Now, if you're following the Paleo diet or the Skinny Taste diet or low-carb diets (which I doubt you are given my blog title), avert your eyes.  This portion is not for you.  The secret ingredient...is sliced American cheese.  Yes, I said it.  The addition this tasty household staple gives the soup a body and a saltiness that adds depth to the soup.  Don't like it?  Just leave it out.  I'm okay with your choices.  I forgive you.  Just kidding.  Do what you want!  View my recipes as a guideline, anyway.  I don't really measure or follow recipes.  Just take the parts you like and discard the rest.

The other special part of this soup is roasted garlic.  I love this stuff and I could eat it on toast (actually, I have done that).  Here's a picture of it.


Garlic is a funny creature.  Eaten raw, it's hot and sharp and burns your tongue.  But, when it's roasted, it's mellow and buttery and takes on a whole different flavor.  All you do is take a whole bulb of garlic, cut the top off, drizzle with olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.  Then wrap it with foil and roast at 350 until the cloves are soft, about 30-40 minutes.  When it's cooled, pick the whole thing up and squeeze the cloves out from the fat end.  Simple!

Now, one last thing.  I did make the bread bowls myself.  If you're adventerous, look under the "Breads" tab for my Ciabatta recipe.  I doubled it since I cook for 10 people even though there are only four in my house.  So cut the soup recipe in half if you want.  Buy bread bowls from the bakery section of the grocery store if you don't bake.  Whatever gets dinner on the table for you is great for me.  If you are baking the bread, when it comes to the shaping portion of the recipe, divide the dough into 6-8 equal portions with each about 3 inches across and shape them round.  Continue the last rise from there.

Oh, one more one last thing.  After I fried the bacon, my husband ground some of it in a coffee grinder to sprinkle over the soup in the picture.  Homemade bacon dust.  Amazing!

So there you have it.  I'm a fan of sliced cheese.  I love garlic.  And bacon...and butter.  This dish has it all.  Dinner Time!



LOADED BAKED POTATO SOUP WITH ROASTED GARLIC IN HOMEMADE BREAD BOWLS

FOR THE SOUP:
12 Russett potatoes
4 bulbs garlic, roasted and squeezed out of the peel
1 quart half and half
2 C heavy cream
1 stick butter
6 C chicken stock
12 slices American cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

TO SERVE AND GARNISH:
6-7 bread bowls (I got 7 out of a double batch of my Ciabatta recipe)
1 lb bacon, diced and fried
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions
Sour cream
Homemade bacon dust (if you dare)

Peel and chop the potatoes.  Cover the potatoes with chicken stock and enough water to cover.  Boil until they are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter and add in the roasted garlic.  Add in potatoes, half and half, cream, and enough of the reserved liquid to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and stir in cheese slices one at a time.  Check for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. 

To serve, cut around the edges of the bread bowls and hollow them out.  Garnish with cheese, bacon, green onions, bacon dust.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Can Make Bread!




Let's face it, all of us aspiring chefs want to be able to make everything, right?  But I know, at least for me, some things are just harder to conquer than others.  Maybe some of you struggle with baking, maybe grilling is a challenge, et cetera.  But the bain of my existence for many years was bread, fresh out-of-the-oven homemade bread.  I tried making it by hand.  I bought a stand mixer.  I bought a bread machine.  Nothing but failure.  I tried for at least 15 years before it finally clicked.  I always blamed the yeast, but that wasn't the culprit.  I blamed inaccurate measuring, but that was wrong too.  The issue was twofold:  Water temperature and proofing.  But, finally, about a year ago, it really clicked.  I stopped taking the temperature of the water.  I found a foolproof way to proof the bread.  Voila!  I'm a bread-baker!

The very first bread I was successful at is Ciabatta.  I followed a recipe from the book "Artisan Baking Across America" by Maggie Glezer, citing Craig Ponsford's Ciabatta.  I almost had tears in my eyes as I pulled the flour-striped bread from the oven.  I got several high-fives from my husband and children.  We stood around the kitchen counter pulling hunks off and dipping it in butter.  I didn't even cook the dinner I had planned for that night because we were all full from the bread!  The word "Ciabatta" means slipper in Italian.  It has a dense, crispy crust with a soft center full of large holes.  It's delicious. 

So back to my lightbulb moments...to get the water temperature right, I hold my wrist under running water.  When the feel of it is right between too hot and almost hot (great accuracy, huh), I know the water is ready.  The best way I can explain that to you is it's the right temperature when it's almost too hot to hold your hand there.  Play with it.  You'll get it. 

The second trick I learned from a lady at work (I work in a restaurant/bakery).  She proofs, or rises, her cinnamon rolls every day in a warm oven.  Ding, ding, ding!  That's it.  So my trick is to preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  When it's there, turn it off and crack the door.  When you can touch the rack with your hand without burning it, it's ready.  Put the dough in the oven and shut the door.  Finish your rise in there.  Trust me, it's perfect every time.

Since that glorious, bread-conquering day, I've made all kinds of bread, baguettes, big soft pretzels, bagels, English muffins, French bread, to name a few.  I usually make some kind of bread on Sunday to go with dinner.

So here's my adapted version of that first Ciabatta.  It involves what's called a biga, also known as a sponge, which is a fermented dough made the day before the real dough and baking process.  Eat it alone, with butter, or make bread bowls with it.  Yes, it's labor-intensive, but it's so worth it!

CIABATTA

BIGA:
1/8 teaspoon highly active yeast
3/4 C water, 110-115 degrees
2 C flour
1/4 C whole wheat flour

DOUGH:
2 C bread flour
1 packet highly-active yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 C water, 110-115 degrees
Fermented biga

At least 20 hours before making the dough, make the biga.  Put the water and yeast in a stand mixer and let it get foamy, about five minutes.  Stir in the flour and wheat flour.  Place this in a greased bowl that is at least three times the size of the biga.  Cover it and let it sit out on your counter overnight and until you're ready to make the dough.  It usually doesn't change or grow until you're closer to the 20 hours.

When it's time to make the dough, combine all the dough ingredients in a stand mixer and knead until combined.  This dough should be really "gloppy," which means it looks more like a thick batter than dough.  That's the way it's supposed to look.  If it doesn't look that way, add small amounts of warm water until it does.

Scrape the dough mess into a really large greased bowl.  Set a timer for 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes, scrape this mess out onto a really well-floured board.  Sprinkle flour over the top.  Turn it and fold it back onto itself and return it to the bowl.  Repeat this process three more times.  You'll be amazed at how this glop turns into a much drier dough.  After you turn it a fourth time, let it rest another 20 minutes.

After the last rest, divide the dough into two and shape it howver you like, slipper-like that's kind of elongated or round, whichever you prefer.  This is the time to let it proof in the oven in the manner I stated above.  Let it rest another 20 minutes.

Time to bake!  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Bake it anywhere between 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.  It should be well browned on the outside and sound hollow when thumped.  Let cool before slicing (if you can!).

Pass the Pomodoro, Please!


My husband loves pasta, I mean LOVES it.  Sometimes he creates his own little pasta creations to eat when I'm not home.  He mixes in cheese and seasonings depending on his mood.  One day I checked the pantry to see if I had penne pasta because I had planned to make baked ziti with meatballs.  Indeed, there was a box.  So I left for the store to get a few other ingredients (not pasta).  Little did I know that he had eaten most of the box of penne pasta!  I tried to switch it up and make baked fettucini with meatballs, but it was kind of a disaster.  Next time I'll pick the box up and make sure.

He also loves chicken.  If I ask him what he wants for dinner, nine times out of ten he says fried chicken.  Of course, he doesn't get it that often, just sometimes.  But I do make him a lot of other chicken dishes.  So, needless to say, he gets a lot of both pasta and chicken.

So one day after work I wandered the produce section of the grocery store for inspiration, and I found it...Roma tomatoes, bright red, beautiful tomatoes.   I wanted Chicken Pomodoro.  Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomatoes.  The traditional Italian Pasta al Pomodoro is a light dish with pasta, olive oil, tomatoes and basil.  The Americanized version is a little different.  It's based on a cream sauce with tomatoes, vodka, and a lightly breaded chicken breast.  And, of course, I can't leave any recipe alone.  I have to add and tweak.  My family loved the outcome.  And, as you can see by the picture, I served it with Pan-Seared Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar (that recipe is under Sides).  I hope you'll give it a try.  Maybe you'll be a pomodoro fan too.

CHICKEN POMODORO

 6 chicken breasts
1 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 C chicken stock
5 Roma tomatoes
2 shallots, chopped
3 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 C cream cheese
1 T balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C vodka
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 lb capellini pasta (angel hair)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Mix flour, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley flakes and seasoned salt together.  Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and lightly fry until browned on both sides.  Transfer the chicken to a sheet pan and continue cooking there until done.

Start cooking pasta according to directions.  To begin your sauce, cook shallots in a skillet coated with olive oil until they are translucent.  Deglaze the pan with the vodka and cook about a minute.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.  Now throw in the tomatoes.  Add in the chicken stock and garlic and bring to a simmer to reduce the stock, about 2 minutes.  Now add in the cream, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese.  Cook until the cream cheese is melted.  Add in the basil and turn the heat off.  Check your seasonings and add salt and pepper.

To serve, put a mound of pasta on the plate.  Place a chicken breast over the pasta, and ladle some sauce over both. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pan-Seared Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar


PAN-SEARED BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR
1 lb brussel sprouts, outer dark leaves removed, stems trimmed, and cut in halves from stem to top
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 stick butter
1/3 C Balsamic vinegar
3 T shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to broil.  In a large cast iron skillet (or other large skillet), melt the butter and then add in the olive oil.  Place the brussel sprouts in a single layer cut-side down in the butter and add in the garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium to medium high heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Turn them over carefully, as the outer leaves have a tendency to fall off.  Season with salt and pepper.  Brown the other side for a couple of minutes.  Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the sprouts and let it cook down, about another minute.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top of the sprouts and place in the preheated oven.  Cook a minute or two until the Parmesan cheese is slightly browned. 

Arancini con Polpette...AKA Rice Bombs


Sometimes I want a big meal, but then again, sometimes I want appetizers for dinner.  In fact, we frequently have "Appetizer Night" or "Party Food Night" at our house.  There is usually a vast array of appetizers, always including queso, guacamole, potato skins, crab rangoon, and sometimes including Chex mix and sausage balls.

But one night last week I just wanted to focus on one thing...Arancini con Polpette, which I have named Rice Bombs.  I'm sure you're wondering what either of those two things are.  Arancini are an Italian creation that consists of risotto (a creamy rice dish made from arborio rice) and usually have cheese and tomato sauce, sometimes peas, etc., that is all rolled into a ball and are deep fried.  Now, risotto is a time-consuming process, but not a hard process.  If you've ever watched Hell's Kitchen, you'll know that Gordon Ramsay frequently calls his chefs "donkeys" for not getting risotto right.  Don't let that scare you.  Your family won't call you a donkey (at least I hope they don't).  You just have to be patient, continue stirring, and have plenty of chicken stock on hand.  It may take longer or shorter than it did for me, but perserverance is the key here.

Here's the kicker:  Arancini stuffed with polpette, which is an Italian meatball.  But I had to take things a little farther...polpette stuffed with cheese!  The polpette usually consists of ground beef or pork, garlic, olive oil, Romano or Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs.  The cheese I chose to use to stuff them is Mozzarella cheese sticks, just because they are easy to slice and stuff into meatballs.

So hopefully now you are getting the picture of why these are bombs.  It's a rice ball stuffed with a meatball stuffed with cheese.  Explosive!  My family loved these so much, even my 12-year-old son who is very picky.  I hope your family enjoys them too!

ARANCINI CON POLPETTE (AKA RICE BOMBS)
FOR THE RISOTTO:
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C arborio rice
4 C chicken stock
1 C white wine
8 oz Ricotta cheese
1/4 C Parmesan cheese

FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons red chili flake
1/3 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 C bread crumbs
5-7 Mozzarella cheese sticks
Olive oil

FOR THE DREDGE:
2 C flour
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt & pepper
Peanut oil for frying

GARNISHES:
Marinara sauce
Fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

Make the risotto first.  Bring the chicken stock almost to a boil in a pot and then turn it down to keep it warm.  In a wide pot or skillet, melt the butter and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan.  Over medium heat, cook onions until translucent.  Add in the rice and stir, browing slightly.  Pour in the wine and cook about a minute.  Using a ladle, pour one ladle full of stock into the rice.  Add in your garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper.  Continue stirring the rice until the stock is almost gone, and then add another ladle of stock.  Continue this process until the rice is creamy and the rice is no longer hard and to your desired consistency.  Refrigerate to cool completely.

For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the meatball ingredients (except the cheese sticks and olive oil) together by hand.  Slice the cheese sticks into about five slices per stick.  Grabbing about 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat mixture, form the meatball around a slice of cheese, being sure to seal it and make sure the chesse doesn't show through.  Place the meatballs on a sheet pan.  Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil.  Bake the meatballs 25-30 minutes or until browned and done through.

Once the meatballs are done and cool enough to handle, mix the Ricotta and Parmesan cheese into the risotto.  Taking about 2 tablespoons of risotto mixture, form the risotto around a meatball, making sure no meatball shows through. You may need a bowl of water to dip your hands in to prevent the rice from sticking to you.

Mix your dredge mixture together (not the oil).  Roll the rice balls around in the flour mixture and put them on a sheet pan lined with wax paper.  Freeze the balls about 25 minutes to firm them up.  

Preheat the peanut oil in a cast iron skillet or other deep skillet.  Carefully place a few meatballs in the hot oil and brown on all sides.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all the balls are cooked.  Garnish them with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese and serve with marinara sauce.