2017-01-02-08-04-06

Italian Meatball Sandwiches

I have to start this post by clearing stating that I am NOT a fan of meatball sandwiches…. There are many great sandwich shops that serve them and my family loves them, but I have just never been a fan.  Then there are the frozen meatballs that you can buy and just dump in sauce and heat for a quick dinner… I’m not even going to talk about those because it makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

All that being said, you might wonder why I would write a post about a sandwich that I hate.  The reason?

meatball-sandwiches

Because these sandwiches are awesome!

Yes, I said it.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE these sandwiches.  I originally tried making these just because my entire family loves meatball sandwiches so much, and I love my family.  I honestly did not expect to like them at all and decided it was something to endure.  Then I ate one.  It was delicious.  Suddenly I loved meatball sandwiches.  But only these ones.  I still won’t order them at a restaurant, and if anyone even mentions buying those frozen meatballs I shiver.

So, that being said, whether or not you like meatball sandwiches, you really need to try these.  You will be converted.  I promise.  These are great for hungry teenagers, too.

A couple of good tips

  1. These really deserve a good, chewy bun.  A soft, light bun is just not going to be as good.
  2. Be careful when handling ground beef as you mix the meatballs.  Meat that has been overmixed will start to break down in a weird way.  That’s why the recipe says to crumb the meat as you add it.  Then mix it gently.
  3. The sauce is a must.  Don’t substitute a jar of premade sauce, because…no.
  4. The recipe will make enough meatballs for about 12 sandwiches. If you feel like that’s too many, you can cut the recipe in half, but if you’re making them anyway, I would freeze them.
  5. A toasted bun and some cheese take the sandwich from good to excellent.  Use mozzarella or provolone, whichever you prefer.  I like to toast the bun, then add the cheese before adding the meatballs and sauce.  Keeps the bun from soaking up all the liquid.

A warning

Once upon a time I thought it would be a good idea to make the meatballs and then throw it all in the crock pot.  Don’t do it.  It might sound easier, especially if you’re going to be busy or not home, but this is definitely not a recipe for the crock pot.  Unless you’d rather have meat sludge sandwiches.

The Recipe:

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For the meatballs:

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups Ritz cracker crumbs
  • 2 lbs. ground beef

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans tomato sauce (15 oz. size)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • ½ tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine everything except the cracker crumbs and ground beef and mix well.  Crumble the meat over the mixture and add crackers.  Mix gently just until combined.  Shape into balls approximately 1-inch in size and place on a broiler pan.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 350°.  Drain.  Meatballs can be frozen at this point if desired.

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For sauce, combine all ingredients in a large skillet.  Bring to a low boil and add meatballs.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

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Serve meatballs and sauce on hoagie buns and top with mozzarella cheese if desired.

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Crepes! A General Conference Tradition

Several years back, we started a new tradition for Sunday morning before General Conference–we make crepes!

berry-crepes

(I actually make crepes a lot thanks to my handy, dandy crepe maker.)

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I got this handy little device several years ago and love, love, love it.  It’s the  Cucinapro Crepe Maker and <— this is my shamelss affiliate link right here. It’s cordless, so you just pick it up and dip it in the batter, it cooks for about a minute, and then the crepe slides right off.  Some people feel the need to turn the crepe over to cook both sides, but honestly, it’s an extra step that can be skipped.  The crepe is so thin and even it cooks all the way through without it.  Before I got it I was NOT a crepe maker at all.  I don’t have the patience and I’m way too much of a perfectionist for using a pan!

A couple of hints for making crepes super excellent but easy too…

  1. A lot of recipes talk about making a well in the flour and stirring the eggs and milk in slowly, yada yada yada.  I’m all about the blender.  I dump all the ingredients in at once and use the batter mode.
  2. Crepe batter has to SIT so that the bubbles can all go away or you’ll end up with holey crepes.  At least 30 minutes at room temperature will usually do it.
  3. Crepes are actually better if you make the batter the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  All of the bubbles will be gone, the batter is nice and cold, and it just seems like it has taken on more flavor.
  4. The directions for this crepe maker say to butter the top before dipping it in the batter.  I have never needed to do that and, in fact, have found that it ruins the first couple of crepes if I do it.

The Process

 

crepe-maker

The crepe maker doesn’t take long to heat up, but if you made your batter the night before, you can go ahead and plug it in.

dipping-tray

It comes with this really great dipping bowl/plate.  Pour your batter carefully so as not to cause bubbles.

cooking-crepes

Once you’ve dipped it in the batter, return it to the stand to cook.  It only take a minute or so to be done and will slide right off.  I usually keep the finished crepes on a plate under foil while I’m cooking.  There is no need to separate them with waxed paper or anything, I just slap them all in a pile.  Kind of like this:

crepe-toppings

The toppings are what make great crepes!

The really great thing about crepes is you can do any kind of filling or topping that you’d like.  We have some basic must-haves that always appear, like Nutella and whipped cream.

crepe-filling

This vanilla cream filling is to die for.  I could sit down with a spoon and just eat it.  In fact, I think I actually did when we were done with the crepes.  It’s super easy!

berry-sauce

This year I also made this triple berry sauce and it was delicious too!

The Finished Product

With all the different options, everyone gets exactly what they want!  In the past I have had fresh peaches, strawberries, chocolate sauce and caramel.  The possibilities are endless!  A couple of people in our family are super boring and just want your basic maple syrup and powdered sugar.  But that’s okay too.  I can just privately think they’re weird.  My personal favorite is a thin spread of Nutella with the vanilla cream filling and bananas.  I was going to take a picture but there was no good way to show the insides.  Plus I ate it too fast.  Sorry.

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cream-crepes

berry-crepes-2

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

banana-cake

I’ve never been a super huge fan of cake.  I think it’s because cake that comes from a boxed cake mix is dry and crumbly.  Several years ago I learned how to doctor up a cake mix and that made it so much better!  Then I learned how to make cake from scratch.  I’m still working on that because it can be difficult to get it just right.  This cake is nothing fancy, but it sure is delightful.  It all came about because this happens in my house way too often:

Nasty black bananas

Believe it or not, the picture really doesn’t do justice for exactly how black these bananas were when I used them.  I actually like bananas when they are slightly green.  You’d never, EVER catch me eating a banana with even the smallest of black spots.  And definitely never like this.  I also can’t stand the flavor or super ripe bananas in smoothies.  That being said, it’s sort of a cosmic joke that every time I buy them I carry them through the door and they instantly start turning black.  Almost before I can even set them on the counter.  I swear there have been times I’ve heard them laughing at me.

What do you do with black bananas?

Because of the unusually high occurrence, I’ve learned to be creative with black bananas.  I love banana bread (and have an amazing recipe that I will share one day but not right now).  I’ve also stumbled onto some great muffin recipes that call for overly ripe bananas.  I’ve used them for chunky monkey pancakes.  All of these things are delicious, but this CAKE takes the CAKE.  (See what I did there?)

I found the original recipe here.  But there were other recipes that I read too, so using my oh-so-powerful abilities to deduce what I liked about each recipe, I made some adjustments and came up with this cake.

Do you have a scale yet?

kitchen scale
This is the scale I use. I love it.

 I’ve talked about the importance of a kitchen scale before in this post here.  If you still don’t have one, I encourage you to read my reasons why I think it’s important and then get yourself one.  It will change your baking forever.  That’s it.  I will get off my soapbox now.  

The cake recipe will have both measurements and weights for the ingredients, and either will work just fine.

Some important directions before proceeding to the recipe

First of all, this recipe bakes at a very low temperature for a very long time.  If you’re wanting this cake for a specific event that is happening at a specific time, you will need to plan ahead.  Not only does it bake for a long time, but it also has to go in the freezer for about an hour when it’s done baking.  It probably still won’t be completely cool at that time, so it will need to finish cooling before you frost it.  Then you will want to put it in the fridge to chill once the frosting is on.  I kept the cake in the fridge because it just tasted better cold.  All that being said, this was about the easiest cake I’ve ever made.  Be sure to use a pan that can go directly from the oven to the freezer without breaking.  That’s important.  The amount of time it take to make this cake is a little long, but mostly it’s just time waiting, so it’s not labor intensive.

banana-cake

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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  • 12.25 ounces smashed bananas (1.5 cups–about 3 medium bananas)
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 12.75 ounces all-purpose flour (3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 ounces butter, softened (3/4 cup)
  • 14.2 ounces sugar (2 1/8 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 12 ounces buttermilk (1 1/2 cup)

Start by preheating the oven to 275°.  That is right–275°. (I told you it baked low and long…) Prepare your 9×13 pan with spray or grease and flour it.

Mash your bananas and add the lemon juice, stir and set aside.  (The lemon juice will keep them from going brown while you’re working on the cake–helps it keep the lovely white color when it’s done too!)

Combine the flour, soda and salt and set aside.  If you don’t have buttermilk  you can make your own sour milk with regular milk and 1 Tbsp of vinegar.  If you’re making sour milk, start that now and let it sit for a few minutes.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy–about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine, then add the vanilla.  Once it’s mixed well, add the flour and buttermilk, alternating and mixing well in about three batches.  Stir in the bananas–don’t beat them, just fold them in until well mixed.  Pour it in the pan.

Bake Time

I told you before, this cake bakes for a LONG TIME.  Start with 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Times will vary depending on your oven and altitude.  I found that I had to add minutes to the baking time because it wasn’t done.  When the time is up, insert a knife (not a toothpick) into the center.  If it comes out clean, the cake is done.  If not, add some time in five minute increments and keep baking until it’s done.

When the cake is done, immediately put it in the freezer for 1 hour.  I layered several towels and hot pads in the freezer to set the pan on.  Don’t cover it–just put it in there.  (Something to note here–if you are putting this is a stand-alone freezer that has ice in it, be aware the steam from the cooling cake may start to defrost it.  No one wants freezer ice dripping in their cake, so I wouldn’t recommend this method.)   When the hour is up, it should be completely cool.  If not, pull it out anyway and set it aside to finish cooling.  When it’s completely cool, it’s time to frost it!

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat kind but you can use either.  I would NOT recommend fat free)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together until light and fluffy.  You may need to add a teaspoon of milk for consistency.  It will seem like a lot of frosting, but trust me and put the entire batch on the cake!  You’ll thank me later.  Once it’s frosted, put it in the fridge for the frosting to set up.  It’s probably best to keep the cake in the fridge for storing because it’s delicious when it’s cold.

So yummy!  Even if you’re not a banana lover, you’re going to love this cake!

2017-01-02-08-04-06

The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I am a lover of pastries and baked goods of all kinds.  I particularly enjoy a good cookie, but I also consider myself to be a cookie snob.  The really funny thing is, I have about a half dozen cookbooks of just cookie recipes, and I have pinned at least 500 cookie recipes.  So when it’s time to make cookies, where do I even look to figure out which ones to make? Coincidentally…I usually ignore all of those and go back to my favorite and make those.  I’m lame that way.    I really should try some other recipes, because my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe was not my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe until I discovered it, tried it, and loved it.

On that note, I should probably try some of those other recipes and see what happens.  But not right now.  Right now it’s time to introduce all my friends and family to the absolute best chocolate chip cookies. Ever.  There are many things about this recipe that makes them the best:

  1. They are soft, chocolaty and delicious.
  2. Using a handy-dandy kitchen scale makes them turn out perfectly every time.  No guessing/measuring=exact same result each time you make them.
  3. They don’t have to refrigerate overnight like so many cookies do these days.  (I mean, seriously, if I’m in the mood for cookies, I don’t mean tomorrow!)
  4. There are many variations, although, why you’d want to substitute something like craisins  for chocolate is beyond me.
  5. They are chocolate chip cookies….do I even need to say more than that?

chocolate chip cookie

I wish I could give credit to the person that sent the original wonderful recipe out into the universe, but, alas, I honestly have no idea  where I got it. I printed it out many moons ago and have used it so many times it’s wrinkled and covered in food.  That’s always a good sign when we’re talking about recipes, right?

So, before we delve into this recipe, a few housekeeping issues:

First of all, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, it’s time to get one.

Seriously.  I have measurements on the recipe too, but I’m sending out this disclaimer that your results will NOT be the same if you don’t weigh your ingredients.

This little baby to the left is the one that I use, and I love it so much I will shamelessly plug it with an affiliate link (for which I may or may not get compensation).  I’ve had it for years and it works great.  I don’t bake without it because everything turns out better when you weigh your ingredients.  There are lots of scales available, some of them cheaper than this one, so please don’t feel obligated to be just like me, unless of course you want to be awesome (we covered this in a previous post).  Just get a scale.  Any scale.  You will never be sorry.  This one can hold up to 11 pounds, so don’t try to weigh your turkey, but for a bowl of flour, you’re set.

A few other handy dandy tips

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about not over-mixing your dough.  There is a time and a place for caution, but that doesn’t happen until you add flour.  Go ahead and turn that mixer all the way on high and MIX! Once the eggs have been added, it’s time to calm down a little.

Use Unsalted butter if at all possible.  Salted butter will certainly work, but there is something about unsalted butter that makes cookies taste better.  Don’t be tempted to substitute all butter for the shortening in the recipe either–the shortening helps keep the cookies soft long after they are done baking.

Lastly…and very importantly…do not overbake these!  When they are domed and show a little browning (a very little browning) around the edges and a bit on top, they are done.  Remove them and  let them sit for a few minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet.  They will look slightly under cooked, and that is important.

chocolate chip cookie

All that being said, here is the recipe:

THE Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 14.5 ounces flour (2 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature (1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco) (1/2 cup)
  • 6.5 ounces light brown sugar (1 cup)
  • 6.5 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup less 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips (1 1/4 cups)
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet, but dark is better)(1 1/4 cups)
Instructions:

In a bowl on your scale, measure out your flour and add the salt and baking soda.  Whisk it together and set it aside.

Using the wire whisk attachment on your mixer (not the paddle) beat the butter and shortening together on HIGH for three minutes.  Believe it or not, when you beat the butter for a long time, it will actually start to lose it’s yellow color.  If you are using a hand-held mixer, it will work but you may want to beat it an extra minute.

Add both sugars and beat on HIGH for another two minutes.  The mixture should look pretty fluffy and soft.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.  Now you can remove the whisk attachment and switch to your paddle.  Add the chocolate chips and mix gently (notice this comes before the flour).  Add the flour all at once and mix on low until all the flour is completely mixed in, but don’t over do it.

The Touch Test

At this point, you’re going to touch the dough.  It should feel a bit sticky, but it shouldn’t really stick to your fingers. (This is where that handy-dandy scale pays off–if you weighed everything it should be exactly right.  If you measured things, you’re going to have to do some judging on whether or not the dough is ready)  If it is really sticky, add more flour–2 Tablespoons at a time, but be careful you don’t over do it!  If it is firm, dry, or crumbly, I’m sorry.  I honestly don’t know that there is a way to fix this.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop (one that holds about 1 1/2 Tablespoons) scoop the dough and roll it with your hands to form balls but don’t over-handle the dough.  Place the balls on a baking sheet (they can all be close together if you want to transfer them to a baking sheet for baking–that’s what I do).  Cover them and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes (that’s all–none of this overnight stuff!) 

When it’s time to bake them, move the oven rack to the second highest shelf in your oven.  Preheat it to 375°.  Once the oven beeps that it’s ready, wait another ten minutes before putting the cookies in.  Remove the dough balls from the fridge and bake them for 8-10 minutes.  Be sure to keep the balls that aren’t baking in the fridge until it’s time.  Cookies should be domed and puffy looking with a slight tan when they are done.  They might look like they aren’t done, but when they start to brown, take them out.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for at least two minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

When done, stuff your face with at least one from each batch out of the oven, because that’s what I do.

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