Meatball Sub Casserole

Like most people, I love a good meatball sub. Little balls of yummy goodness covered in marinara and melted cheese on a warm sub roll. MMMM… It doesn’t get much better than that. Sometimes you toast them, sometimes you steam them. It really depends on which part of the county you are from. Whichever you prefer nothing beats this sandwich when you have a craving for zesty goodness. This time around we are going to back them. Yes, I said bake them, and in a casserole no less. This is a great recipe for a family that doesn’t want to go to the trouble of making a bunch of individual subs for everyone. Now you can make one big one and cut it up for everyone to enjoy.

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Here’s how you do it.

What you need

1lb lean ground beef

1lb hot Italian sausage

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

1 small white onion (half finely chopped, half sliced)

1 small bell pepper (thinly sliced)

2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp granulated garlic

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 tbsp crushed red pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

2 Pillsbury french bread tubes

8 oz fresh mozzarella  (the little balls packed in water work great)

1 24 oz jar of marinara sauce ( I used Rao’s Marinara)

Prep and cooking.

This recipe is a little involved but the results are pretty amazing.

Note. You can make the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them to use later.

Making the meatballs

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Thoroughly mix the ground beef, Italian sausage, bread crumbs, eggs, chopped onions, salt, pepper and garlic together in a large mixing bowl. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with non stick cooking spray. This will help the meatballs not stick to the baking sheet. Now roll out the meatballs into small little balls about an inch and half around. You don’t want them too big because it is harder to get them cooked through properly, but you don’t want them too small either or they dry out easily. Once you have all of the mixture rolled out into little meatballs place them in a preheated (to 35o degrees) oven and bake for 20 minutes. You want them to start getting nice and brown on top.

Garlic Onions and Peppers

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While the meatballs are baking you can prep the onions, peppers and garlic. You want to saute them using the olive oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat. Saute them until the onions start to turn translucent. Set aside.

Assembling the casserole.

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Coat a large casserole dish with non stick cooking spray. Unroll one of the tubes of french bread and line the bottom of the dish. you want to cover the entire bottom. Now start placing the meatballs in a single layer on top of the bread. You can put them as close together as you like. Its really up to you how many you want in it. Next start placing the mozzarella in between the meatballs. You want to make sure you get them nice and evenly spaced throughout the meatballs so when they melt every bite will have some. Next you want to take the onions, peppers and garlic and spread it out evenly on top of the meatballs and mozzarella. Once that is done pour out the entire jar of marinara sauce and cover everything. Now take half of the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle evenly on top. Once that is all put together it is time to add the top layer of bread, roll out the second french bread and cover the top completely. For the final touch sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese and the red pepper flakes on top and cover with aluminum foil and place it in the center of a preheated (350 degrees) oven. Bake it for 30 minutes covered then another 15 uncovered to get a nice brown on the top.

And there you have it. Make several cuts all the way through to get individual servings and enjoy.

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Thanks for reading,

JMW

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A new spin on Eggplant Parmesan

I know that a lot of people cringe when they hear the word eggplant but I am hear to tell you that it can be very good. This past weekend I decided that it had been way to long since I had eaten eggplant and that I wanted to come up with a new recipe for you all to enjoy. So with that mindset I went to work brainstorming ideas and came up with one for my very own version of Eggplant Parmesan. Before you go any further I will tell you that this is not your traditional recipe for this dish, but that is after all what I do. I try and come up with new ways to look at making food so that the average person that wouldn’t normally like something like Eggplant Parmesan may actually give this a try. This is also something that long time lovers of eggplant are sure to love as well. It’s a really a good meal that I think most people will like and for you parents out there with picky kids, just go ahead and make it and don’t tell them what it is. I bet they will like it.

So here is what you need.

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Ingredients:

1 Large eggplant

1 large white onion

1 red bell pepper

Extra Virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

all purpose flour (about 2 cups)

Salt/Pepper

non stick cooking spray

mozzarella cheese (3 cups)

grated parmesan cheese (2 cups)

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce ( I used RAO’s marinara)

sliced pepperoni (about 15 slices)

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

Prep and cooking:

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It would be good to go ahead and get every thing that you need cut up and prepped before you start cooking, since there are a few steps involved in making this dish.

Start by removing the skin from the eggplant (this is optional), and then cut the eggplant into slices about a quarter inch thick and then lay them out on paper towels to soak up the excess moisture. Eggplants are a pretty wet vegetable and soaking up some of the water helps with the cooking process.

Cut the onion and red bell pepper into nice thin strips and set aside. You can also chop the garlic and add it to the onion and pepper since they are all getting cooked at the same time.

Put your flour in a bowl large enough to fit the eggplant slices and set near the stove.

Now you are ready to start cooking. Add the olive oil to a large skillet (frying pan) and heat to medium high heat. Take the eggplant and piece by piece cover in a thin layer of flour and then add to the frying pan. You want to brown the eggplant slices on both sides, adding salt and pepper during the process. Once they are browned on both sides remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain the excess oil.

When you have all of the eggplant cooked add the onion, peppers, and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions start to turn clear. Once those are done remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil.

Now you are ready to assemble this concoction and bake it. Go ahead and preheat an oven to 375/400 degrees.

In an oven safe casserole dish you will want to spray with non stick spray and then put down a thin coating of your marinara sauce. Now you will need to put down a layer of eggplant making sure that all of the sides are touching and that it covers the entire bottom of the container. If you have slices left over that is fine, you can just overlap them making a second layer. Just be sure to space them out evenly. Now using about half of the mozzarella cover the eggplant and then cover that with about half of the remaining sauce. Now lay out the onions and peppers across the top in an even layer and cover that with the rest of the mozzarella cheese and then cover it with the rest of the sauce. Now cover the top with the parmesan cheese and a thin layer of bread crumbs and then add the pepperoni in a nice even layer to the top of that.

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Now stick this in the oven uncovered and bake until the cheese is melted and the pepperoni starts to crisp up (about 20 minutes).  Once it is done, remove it and let it cool a little before serving. Then cut yourself  a nice big piece and enjoy.

Thanks for reading

James

Baked can still taste good

There’s a reason that all of the best things to eat are fried and not baked. That’s because fried food tastes really really good. If someone put out a plate of baked chicken and a plate of home made fried chicken most people are going to go for the fried first. The downside is that too much fried foods can be pretty bad for you and cause serious problems as you get older. This is where moderation comes in handy. You can enjoy good fried foods every now and then but in between those meals it is good to try something a little on the healthier side of the menu. Today’s recipe comes from that healthier side of things and may even be something you can substitute for the fried goodness that we all love so. Now when I hear someone say baked chicken I usually don’t immediately respond with joy and glee but I set out to find something that may change that attitude. I took the idea from one of my mothers old recipes and expanded on it a bit to come up with a newer updated version of it. Italian Parmesan Baked Chicken. (This would also be really good on fish).

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Here is what you need to bring it together.

Ingredients

1 pack thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breast

1 container of grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)

1 box Hungry Jack potato flakes

1 pint low fat buttermilk

Granulated Garlic

Black Pepper

Kosher salt

Dried Oregano

Cooking Spray

Prep and cooking

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then coat it with non stick spray. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry. Now set out two bowls and pour the buttermilk in one. If you have never used buttermilk before keep in mind that it does have a sour smell to it but that does not mean is has gone bad. So don’t toss it out, it works great for cooking. In the other bowl you will mix up your breading: combine about 3 cups of potato flakes, 4 ounces of Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of oregano, and 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic. Make sure to mix them together well.

Now it will be easier if you set up a little assembly line. start from right to left: Raw chicken, butter milk, breading, baking pan. Dip the chicken into the buttermilk and completely cover it, then dip into the breading and make sure it is completely covered, now place it on the baking sheet. Once you have all of the chicken coated and on the baking sheet place it into a preheated 350 degree oven and cook until the top starts to get brown (about 20 minutes for thin sliced chicken breast). You don’t want too much brown on top but enough to give it a nice color.

Tip: Keep in mind when handling chicken to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handing any other food or sampling anything else you are cooking.

This recipe turned out to be very tasty and a nice little update to something I ate as a kid. To change it up a bit you could also try a little rosemary instead of oregano.

Enjoy

Thanks for Reading

JMW

Mellow Mushroom

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

 

If there is one constant in this ever changing world it is that pretty much everyone likes pizza in some form or fashion. This is evident by the giant frozen pizza section in your local grocery store or by the fact that you cant hardly drive down a commercial street without seeing at least one pizza place. While I enjoy making my own pizza at home I also enjoy going out to a restaurant and getting a really great pizza from time to time. I discovered a great little place that makes excellent pizza a while back on a trip up to Austin TX and then found it again while on a trip to Fl. I was happy to see that it was a small franchise and doing well but was disappointed that they did not have a location in San Antonio. Well I found out recently that is no longer the case and a new location has in fact opened up here in SA. This of course made me very happy and got me out to the north side of the city near Stone Oak just off of 1604 to check out the latest location of the Mellow Mushroom.

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Walking in the door I saw that this newest location was a little bit nicer than the two I had been in before, not that those were bad by any means but you could definitely tell that this was a brand new restaraunt. It still has the same quirkiness of the older locations and even has a statue of the Mellow Mushroom mascot out front (a giant mushroom holding a slice of pizza). The inside is set up nicely with booths along the outer walls and plenty of tables in the middle that are nicely spaced and not crammed together. They also have an outside patio area for those that like to eat outside during the warmer months of the year and for those of you that love beer, you will not be disappointed with the selections at the bar. Throughout the restaurant are flat screen TV’s showing the latest games going on and they have music playing in the background to keep the mood upbeat.

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Now when it comes down to the food they have a nice selection of “munchies”, calzones, hoagies and even salads but the real draw for me is the pizza. They have a number of playfully named pizzas such as the Kosmic Karma, Mighty Meaty, Magical Mystery Tour, or Bayou Bleu to name a few.  You can also choose to build your own if you have kids that don’t like a lot of toppings with you.

This trip I opted to start out with the bruschetta which is pretty amazing. They take a great garlic toast and top it with fresh tomatoes and basil and the drizzle it with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. The combination of these ingredients comes together wonderfully and will hold you over until your pizza gets to the table.

I only mention this because it does take a little time to get your pizza. It is called “Mellow” Mushroom after all. So don’t expect to run in for a quick bite. Sit back and relax and enjoy yourself. The pizza is well worth the wait.

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This brings me to the pizza. I ordered the Mighty Meaty. As you can guess this is a pizza loaded with meat and not just any meat but the best of the best. It has Pepperoni, Sausage, Beef, Ham and Applewood smoked bacon. Mmmm… Bacon… The crust on this pizza is one of my favorites and is one of the few crusts I actually eat at the end of a slice. Usually crust is too doughy and flavorless and ends up pushed to the side when the cheese and toppings are all gone but this one is nice and crunchy and is coated with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkle. The sauce is very flavorful but not overpowering and does not taste liked a generic canned sauce like a lot of pizza places tend to taste. All in all it is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten and without a doubt plan to eat again.

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Overall I really enjoyed the Mellow Mushroom and will be going back in the near future. It is a quirky little pizza joint with a great atmosphere and great food. So the next time you are in the mood for pizza and want to get out for a nice dining experience go and check them out. You wont be disappointed. They are starting to pop up more and more with quite a few locations in the south east.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Meaty Marinara

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. I want to thank everyone who has stopped by to read about my adventures and to get some recipe tips too. I hope that you all keep coming back and enjoying what you read. Thanks for Reading Everyone!!!

I thought a good recipe to put up for the one year anniversary would be my Meaty Marinara sauce.

Growing up I was never a huge fan of Italian food unless it came on a Pizza (yes I know that isn’t real Italian) or in a meatball sub, this was mostly because what I was used to eating usually came from some local pizza joint that used canned everything that always tasted the same. While my mother always made a sauce that I still love to this day and occasionally make myself it still wasn’t truly authentic Italian sauce. Don’t be mad Mom, I will always love your sauce.

As I grew older and even more so after I got married I started going to more authentic Italian restaurants and discovered more traditional Italian dishes. With this I started seeing how different ingredients that you never really thought of being in a sauce are what really makes it.  You don’t just toss a hand full of dried oregano in a pot with tomatoes and magically get sauce. There are many different ingredients and combinations to take into consideration for the flavor you want.

Over the weekend I decided to put together a more traditional marinara but of course I needed to add my own twist to it. So Here is what I came up with.

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Ingredients:

1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage

1 medium white onion diced

1 large carrot finely diced

2 Celery stalks finely diced

2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons of minced garlic

3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh oregano

1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt

Black pepper

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Extra Virgin Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

Cooking

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil on medium high heat and add the garlic. Stir the garlic around a few times and then add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the onions and celery start to turn clear. Now add the sweet Italian sausage and cook it nice and brown making sure to break it up into small pieces as it cooks.

Once the sausage has browned reduce the heat to medium and add both cans of crushed tomatoes and stir it all together. Let that start to simmer and then add the oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Now stir that all together and let it simmer a few more minutes. It is now time to add in the 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons of salt and a tablespoon of black pepper. Stir that all together and reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally.

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That is really all there is to it. Its a pretty simple recipe but all of the different ingredients really meld together well to create a very tasty sauce. For all of my vegetarian friends out there (yes I do have some) It is just as good if you leave the meat out.

All that is left now is to boil your favorite pasta and cover it with a nice helping of sauce and enjoy. Maybe even heat up a slice or two of Garlic bread to top it off.  This one came out really good and has that more authentic Italian flavor that you just don’t get from a jar.

As always

Thanks for Reading

JMW

Italian Stuffed Peppers

As promised for my second Italian recipe of the week I give you my take on stuffed peppers.  I have not had stuffed peppers of any variety in quite some time and the ones that I have had in the past I was never a huge fan of, so I set out to make them in a way that I  would enjoy them. I think the one thing I have never cared for in stuffed peppers is the rice to meat ratio, so I cut out the middle man and this recipe goes riceless (I’m not sure if that is a word but it sounded good while I was writing it). The good news is that if you have read my recipe for lasagna you will be using most of the same ingredients. It worked out nice that way.

What you need:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb Italian sausage

1 medium white onion (diced)

3 garlic cloves (diced)

1 24 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I used Rao’s Arabiata sauce)

1 pack of sliced fresh mozzarella

1 6 oz container of shredded Parmesan cheese.

olive oil (3 to 4 tablespoons

Garlic powder

red pepper flakes

Italian bread crumbs

4 large bell peppers (tops cut off and seeds and membranes removed)

First you will want heat the olive oil in a pan and then saute the onions and garlic in until they start to turn clear. Then add the meat (both sausage and beef) and cook until the are brown. Drain any excess fat from the pan and then pour cooked meat and onions into a large mixing bowl. Add in about half the jar of sauce, 1 cup of Italian bread crumbs and about half the container of Parmesan cheese and stir them all together.

Now place the 4 peppers in a baking dish and fill each one to just about 1/2 an inch from the top of the pepper with the meat mixture. The other half an inch will now be filled with the sauce. Now place a slice of the fresh mozzarella on top of each pepper. With the remaining sauce fill the bottom of the baking dish.  Now sprinkle a little garlic powder and red pepper flakes on the top of the whole thing.

Place the peppers is the oven on the middle rack (preheated to 375) and bake for an hour to an hour and half or until the peppers start to get soft but will still hold together.

You will want to let them cool a little before serving. Then you can put them on a plate and spoon on a little extra sauce and enjoy. The good thing about this recipe is you can prepare it ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a couple of days before you cook it.  It is a nice take on an old classic and should satisfy even the most die hard stuffed pepper lovers out there.

Thanks for reading.

JMW