Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

Do you ever get into a book series that you just cannot.put.down??  That’s how I am with the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  They’re what True Blood is based off of, and are absolutely addictive.  And yes, you do have them to thank for your weekly dose of man candy.  Yes’m.

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Thank you, Charlaine Harris.

I read a lot of them back in undergrad, but with the last book coming out in May I’ve been re-reading the series and catching up on the few books I missed.  I don’t think I’ve ever read books so fast.  I’ve been reading each book in roughly two days, and at over 200 pages a pop, even I’m surprised by that speed reading.  Those are some train rides and lunch breaks used well!  I’m just two books from the final one, and I have to admit that I’m getting sort of sad.  I never like to see a series end, especially one with such amazing characters.

Thankfully, I have a good pasta dish to help with the post-series-carb-coma.  This pasta is the ultimate comfort food.  It’s little orecchiette pasta shells paired with creamy mozzarella cheese and mini chicken meatballs.  I was a little afraid to master these little meatballs because my previous meatball experience has not been too pleasant.  I tried to make beef ones once and got so afraid that they weren’t cooked through that I just made it a meat sauce.  These cooked up nice and quickly, though, and as far as I know I didn’t give anyone salmonella.  So, yay!

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

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Ingredients:

1 lb oreccheitte pasta

1/4 cu plain bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbsp whole milk

1 tbsp ketchup

3/4 cup Romano cheese, grated

3/4 tsp salt and pepper

1 lb ground chicken

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup freshly granted Parmesan cheese

8 ounces, bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), halved

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the package’s instructions.  In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano, salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and mix until combined.  Roll the meat mixture into small balls and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the meatballs in a single layer.  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side.  Add the broth and tomatoes and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. 

Drain the pasta and toss with the meatball mixture.  Add the bocconcini, basil and Parmesan and toss until combine.  Mangia!

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Source: Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites

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I Love Chopped

I’m slowly but surely getting over this head cold.  Very slowly.  Maybe not so surely.  I was getting better for a few days, and then it flared up just to remind me who was boss.

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Well played, head cold.

I’m not as snotty anymore (which my keyboard likes) but there is a constant pressure in my head that makes it feel like it’s going to explode (which my keyboard has no opinion on, but I don’t like).  Because of this I’ve been having irrationally extreme reactions to anything that goes slightly wrong in my day-t0-day life.  Tuesday there wasn’t any Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC, and I think my meltdown that followed rivaled the toddlers.

I’m hoping this gets better because there is only so much craziness my family can put up with.  I have enough quirks without the cold-induced-ones.  Anyhoo, I’m not here to talk about being sick.  I should be here to talk about a recipe, but that’s not going to happen.  I’m here to talk about Chopped.

This show is the ultimate when it comes to cooking competitions.  It makes Iron Chef look like a leisurely Sunday in the kitchen.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, four chefs compete for a $10,000 cash prize.  There are three rounds – appetizer, main course, dessert – and each round has a basket of  ingredients.  The chefs need to use all of the basket ingredients (as well as anything they need from the pantry or refrigerator) and make a cohesive dish for the judges.  What you end up with are super frazzled chefs, kitchen bitchiness, and delightfully judgmental judges.

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Alex Guarnaschelli is having none of your shit.

The baskets for the rounds are always filled with the most random ingredients.  Some of them are nice and easily recognizable ingredients, and then they throw things in like yak filets and mochi.  While the cooking is fun, of course, it’s the drama that makes Chopped irresistible.

Within any given episode you can expect some chef to slice their finger, another chef to set a pan on fire, and at least one, if not two, to either undercook a meat or leave bones in their fish.  And nothing pisses judges off like not deboning your fish correctly.  Their reaction makes the chef’s faux pas seem comparable to committing murder.  In the judges’ minds, this is probably not hyperbolic.

The best is when a chef gets criticized, and one of the other contestants can’t control their reaction.  The camera always catches it.

Undercooked chicken?  Puh-lease.

My favorite part of Chopped, though, is how inspirational it is to watch as a young cook.  I’m always amazed by how well developed the chef’s instincts are for what flavor a dish needs, and their innovation in bringing out that flavor.  I always love watching because it makes me want to go in the kitchen and get cooking.

Do any of you like Chopped?

Sick Day Faves

I’m home sick from work today with some sort of cold-ey up-all-night-coughing-and-sneezing thing.  I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it feels like an elephant is sitting on my face.  Which, you know, is sort of uncomfortable.  I labeled it a cold initially, but I heard that my dad is leaning toward a sinus infection.  I’m hoping for the sinus infection because (a) it sounds cooler, and (b) you can actually take medication for it unlike stupid colds.  So, fingers crossed that it’s a sinus infection!

While being sick sucks – I think we can all agree on that – there are some perks.  First off, it’s a legitimate reason to play hooky from work/school/life in general.  No one wants to be around the snotty person hacking up a lung.  Unless they’re into that stuff, of course.  In which case, they might want to go see a good shrink.  Being sick is a widely accepted excuse for lying on the couch and doing nothing but drink tea and watch Keeping Up With The Kardasians re-runs.  And that is a beautiful thing.

So, without further adieu, I’m going to share with you a list of my sick day faves.  Because I like lists.  And I’m sick, and you all have to indulge me and pretend that you like my lists, too.  Pretty please?

1.  Endless Hours of Television

When you’re stuck on the couch the best thing to do is binge-watch a show.  My binge of choice this time around? Ugly Betty.  Love it.

2.  Sick Food

Sick food is the best.  You can legitimately just have comfort food all day and not feel the least bit guilty.  I’ve been having a lot of dreamsicles to help soothe my throat.  It’s tasty AND it works.

3.  The Ability To Look Gross and Not Care One Bit

As women we spend a lot of time trying to look nice.  This may be true for men, too.  I don’t have the parts, so I don’t know.  I know for me, I like to look nice and put together.  This doesn’t always mean makeup, but I don’t like to leave the house looking like a total slob.  When I’m sick?  Slob-central.  You’re almost expected to look awful.  And friends, I can assure you that today I more than meet that expectation.

4.  Sick Sympathy

Let’s face it, getting sick sympathy is one of the best things about being sick.  When you feel like you’re dying, nothing is better than having someone check in on you and basically get you anything that you need/want.  This is not to be abused, though.  Because at some time that other person will be sick, and you will be the one doling out the sick sympathy.  So, you must tread carefully.  Badger others as you would badger thyself.

What are your sick day faves?

Broiled Zucchini with Parmesan Crust

My house has about four movies that my dad consistently requests that we watch.  The movies are pretty varied, spanning from Borat to Schindler’s List.  Now, those are two movies that I’d never think would be in the same list.  Schindler’s List is one of my favorites out of his rotation.  While it’s long and mildly depressing (which is putting it lightly) it’s a solid movie.  I’m never against putting it on when my dad suggests it.  However, I have learned that there is a proper time and place to watch a movie like Schindler’s List.

A Friday night alone with a glass of wine?  Perfect time.  A Tuesday night with your family after a nice discount pasta meal?  Even better.  Before going out to the bars?

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I made the mistake of watching it before going to a bar review once back at school, and it was literally the  worst thing I could have done before going out.  Nothing is a buzz kill quite like watching a whole bunch of people get wrongfully killed.

I was in a funk the entire night, and kept trying to strike up conversations about the the movie and the Holocaust.  My imbibing classmates thought I was insane.  They were probably right.

Moral of the story?  Don’t watch really depressing movies before going out.  Because then you will be the Debbie Downer of the party, and people will avoid you.  A great way to get ready to go out?  Lip-synch to Broadway showtunes in front of your mirror while going full-out in the acting department.  Seriously, my friends, try it.  You will not be disappointed.

On a completely and totally unrelated note (I do this way too often here) I made some fancy zucchini a few weeks ago and it might just be my favorite thing ever.  You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.  I have a special place in my heart for zucchini, because it is the only vegetable that I honestly believe tastes just as good fried or not fried.  That is one powerfully delicious vegetable.  This one is lightly browned in oil and then topped with parmesan cheese before being broiled to crisp perfection.

Broiled Zucchini with Parmesan Crust

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

4 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then in 1-inch pieces

Salt and Pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions:

Heat the butter, garlic, thyme, and rosemary in a medium pan until the butter melts.  Add the zucchini in a single layer and cook until browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Place the zucchini cut side up on a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the cheese.  Broil until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

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Source: Giada’s Kitchen

Ricotta Cappuccino

I have an (un)healthy obsession with coffee.  It started when I was a little girl and I would stay overnight at my grandparent’s house.  In the morning my grandma would make breakfast, and I’d start the day with whatever breakfast my grandpa was eating.  There were many phases.  First there was the biscotti.  Then there was assorted small boxes of cereal.  We only had big boxes at my house, and I thought getting to have my own little box of cereal was just about the coolest thing ever.  No matter what I was eating, the one constant was a cup of coffee.  When I was little, it was about a cup of milk and a thimble’s worth of coffee.  And a heaping spoon of sugar.

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My coffee tastes have changed since I’ve gotten older.  Now, I like just a touch of milk with my coffee, and absolutely no sugar!  Why mar coffee’s perfection with something as trifling as sugar?  I like to have at least a cup in the morning before I get going to work.  At school, when I’d have long study days I used to drink pots at a time. That’s probably going to bite me in the you-know-what sometime.

Because of my not-so-secret coffee crush, I love me some coffee themed desserts.  When I was little tiramisu was my jam.  I’d make my parents order it at every restaurant that we went to.  Loved, loved, LOVED it.  So, whenever I see a coffee dessert I just have to try it.  My brother was in town a few weeks ago and at the end of his stay I made him a going away dinner.  After some pasta and parmesan zucchini, I served this ricotta cappuccino.

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I love this dessert because it’s so unique.  It has an interesting texture that I can’t fully explain, but it makes you go for the next scoop.  And the next one.  Aaaannnnnd the next one.  I might have finished off my dad’s extras.  I’m a dessert beast.

Ricotta Cappuccino

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 (15 oz) container whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

1 (3 inch) biscotti, crushed

pinch of ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cocoa

Directions:

In a food processor, cut together the vanilla and sugar.  Add the ricotta and espresso powder and blend until smooth.  Spoon the mixture into 4 dishes and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  To serve, top with crushed biscotti and pinches of cinnamon and cocoa powder.

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