Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Italian Chicken Meatballs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Orzo

I’ve never been very good at cooking without a recipe. Other people can take whatever ingredients they have in-house and whip up a fabulous meal - no recipe needed. Not me, I need to follow a recipe, step-by-step.

But I just cooked a fabulous dish using no recipe (nod to Sam Sifton’s “no recipe recipes”) and I want to share it with you.

Last week I bought a package of AmyLu Italian-style Chicken Meatballs at Costco (OK, they’re not my family’s traditional meatballs, but they’re really pretty good!) and wanted to do something with them besides just plopping them into tomato sauce and serving over pasta. As an aside, these meatballs are Paleo-friendly, if you’re following that; they have16 grams of protein, are low in fat, calories, carbs, gluten-free, have no added sugars, and the chickens are raised antibiotic-free (I’ve included the nutrition panel for your reading pleasure). 

Looking in the fridge, I came up with fresh spinach and baby Bella mushrooms; in the cupboard I had a small package of orzo, and I always have garlic, EVOO, Parmigiano cheese, and fresh basil on hand. 

It was so good I made it two days in a row, not just because it was delicious and easy, but, of course, I wanted to test it before posting. I can report now that if you are looking for a terrific dish to serve to your family, one that you can get on the table in less than 45 minutes, this is it. If you’d like to serve wine with it, I recommend a Sicilian white: Anthilia from the wonderful Donna Fugata vineyard, or a Grillo, both are excellent. 

Mangia bene!

Italian Chicken Meatballs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Orzo

Author - Terry Krongold

Recipe serves 2 but can easily be doubled.


4 TB extra virgin olive oil, halved 

4 cloves garlic, sliced

Kosher salt 

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh spinach (amount left up to you, but IMHO, the more the better!)

Red pepper flakes, optional, to taste

1 C orzo pasta 

6-8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

12 chicken meatballs (pre-cooked), cut in half*

5-6 leaves fresh basil, torn

Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated


1. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 TB olive oil. Add half of the sliced garlic and sauté until just starting to become aromatic 

(I like to add a few grains of Kosher salt over the garlic as it cooks). 

2. Bring a pot of water to boil for the orzo.

3. To the sauté pan, add the spinach, season to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook until just starting to wilt, then remove from pan.

4. Add orzo to the boiling water, cook approximately 7-8 minutes (or according to package directions).

5. Add remaining 2 TB oil and garlic to the sauté pan; add mushrooms, salt and pepper,  and cook about 5 minutes until starting to soften.

6. When orzo is cooked, drain and set aside.

7. Add the meatballs to sauté pan, heat thru about 5 minutes.

8. Add orzo and spinach back to pan; toss all pan ingredients together and heat briefly, about 2 minutes.

9. Add handful of grated cheese and the torn basil. Toss everything together.

10. Plate and add a bit more grated cheese (to taste).

*feel free to use homemade pre-cooked meatballs - here is a great recipe from eatingwell.com for them!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

German Apple Cake

Happy New Year, friends!

I hope you are well.

Please read on for our first post of 2022:

For a friend’s German-themed dinner, I made this gorgeous apple cake. Rising high in a tube pan, it is the essence of a wonderful fall/winter cake — redolent with cinnamon, vanilla, and apples. It evokes visions of groaning tables laden for hearty meals of rich sauerbraten, sautéed red cabbage and onions, mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli, and freshly baked dinner rolls. In fact, this is the exact meal we had recently. Accompanying the meal was a terrific semi-dry Riesling. Serving a white wine with a hearty beef dish might not be what comes to mind at first, but the slight sweetness of the Riesling perfectly offset the vinegar used in the sauerbraten. 

Not planning a German dinner anytime soon? Don’t let that stop you from making this cake. It is delicious with a cup of tea on a chilly winter afternoon, or with your morning coffee. Bake on!

German Apple Cake (adapted from tasteofhome.com)


3 C AP flour

3 t baking powder

1 t salt

4 large eggs, room temp

2 C sugar

1 C canola oil

1/2 C orange juice

2-1/2 t vanilla extract

4 C thinly sliced peeled apples (about 4-5 apples)

2 t ground cinnamon

3 TB sugar

confectioners’ sugar, optional (for sprinkling before serving)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10” tube pan. Combine first 3 ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Combine oil and orange juice and add alternately with dry ingredients to egg mixture. Beat until smooth; add vanilla and beat well.
  3. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan. Arrange half of the apples over the batter. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the apples. Top with remaining batter, apples, and cinnamon mixture (I messed up slightly here & sprinkled the last measure of cinnamon-sugar BEFORE adding the remaining apples; but I kind of like how it turned out, giving the apples on top a bit of a crunchy texture and looking like potato chips!).
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.* Cool 1 hour before removing from pan. Cool, apple side up, on a wire rack. If desired (I recommend), sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

    • Note: test doneness at the recommended 1 hour and 10 minutes. My cake took an additional 15 minutes.

    Eat well, stay warm, be happy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Chocolate Cream Cups

These little treats were staples of a dessert catering business I ran with a friend in the 80s. The star of the business was a cheesecake recipe handed down from my mom, but we expanded to include baked goods culled from our own families, or from published baking books. These mini-cupcakes (also a recipe from my mother) were one of our most requested items, and mega-popular with friends and family. 

I haven’t made these in quite a few years, but having just gone through (and still going through) a life changing event, I felt the need to bake something that takes me back to my roots. So for me these are special. But for you, these will just be a delicious, scrumptious, little treat that you can add to your own family’s recipe box.

They are super easy to make, but they do require mini-cupcake pans and papers so plan ahead. The recipe makes about four dozen, but doubles easily. When I made them this week, I doubled it to have enough for gifts, and they freeze perfectly (actually, they are fabulous eaten straight from the freezer - try it!).

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year!

Stay warm, eat well, be happy.


Chocolate Cream Cups

Cream Cheese Mixture:

1 8oz package cream cheese (softened)

1 egg

1/3 C sugar

1/8 t salt

6 oz package chocolate chips

Whip first four ingredients together until creamy, then stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.

Chocolate Mixture:

1-1/2 C AP flour

1 C sugar

1 C water

1/3 C neutral vegetable oil

1 TB apple cider vinegar

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/4 C Hershey's cocoa

1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°

Beat all chocolate mixture ingredients until smooth. 

Place mini-cupcake papers in tins. Fill each tin with chocolate mixture approximately 1/3 full. Then add about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese mixture on top.

Bake 15 minutes. Remove pan to rack to cool completely before removing individual cupcakes.

Store in refrigerator or freeze.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Last-minute Thanksgiving Dishes!


Cranberry Chutney getting ready to simmer!

Chances are you have your Thanksgiving menu all planned and shopped, but in case you’re still casting about looking for a terrific side dish, I highly recommend David Lebovitz’s cranberry chutney. It is, hands down, the best cranberry side dish I’ve ever had. I’ve made it several times now and it never disappoints. The combination of the tart cranberries with some sweet dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries, candied ginger), crisp apple, and fall spices, is a definite winner. And just wait until you add it to a turkey sandwich the next day!

Chutney ready to plate

And to add to your dessert table ('cause, you know my motto: you can never have too many desserts!), you may want to think about these little babies. No baking involved; just toss the ingredients into a food processor, then roll the 1” balls in a graham cracker crumb-shredded coconut mixture and set in the fridge for an hour. Yes, it is officially the holiday season where we throw caution to the wind when it comes to eating and drinking (at least I do), but for any friends or family trying to watch their calorie intake, these Cranberry Crumble Bites (from SkinnyMs) clock in at only 162 calories. Also, there’s no white sugar in here - maple syrup and orange juice sweeten the base. 

Cranberry Crumble Bites

Later today I’ll also be making this Maple-Vanilla Pumpkin Loaf from Bake From Scratch so I’ll post about it later this week. It sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving/fall/holiday cake! It can be served with just a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar, or gussied up with some fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. 

Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving!

Eat well, stay warm, be happy.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Italian Night!

I finally made the famous Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with onion and butter that has been written up by every food writer and blogger from NYC to Milano. Wow. What the heck was I waiting for? This couldn’t have been easier or more delicious. With only three ingredients (four, if you count the salt), and only three steps, within an hour you will have a bright, clean, delicious tomato sauce perfect for a host of dishes.

The three (four) ingredients:

Fresh, ripe tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz) imported Italian tomatoes

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste

Full recipe below.

You may be thinking, “butter, and an onion just cut in half and thrown in??” Yes. And, whatever you do, do not discard that onion post-cooking. It is the sweetest, most delicious onion you’ll ever eat! A couple of commenters on Food52 suggested using a stick blender and whirling it back into the sauce. Another suggested just eating the onion outright (I did this, it was fabulous). No wrong answers.


The day I made the sauce, I ladled it over a twirl of linguini, added a few torn basil leaves, and showered it with freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano (that gorgeous image at the top). Simple perfection!

On day two, I had a “voglia” (Italian slang for a craving - pronounced “wool-lea,” depending on the region) for chicken parm. Don’t ask me why, I just did. I almost never crave red sauce-type Italian-American dishes, but this week I did. I found a pretty low-intensity (read: not a million steps) recipe, used the leftover Marcella sauce, and used Panko instead of breadcrumbs to produce a crispier, crunchier coating. It was terrific. I didn’t go totally old school and serve it over spaghetti, but I did enjoy a crusty Italian bread alongside the parm.

Old school chicken parm

I didn’t have any Italian reds in the house so I used a hearty zin, which worked just fine.

And, finally, to complete Italian night, I made the easiest dessert possible (if you have the means to make espresso): affogato. In Italian, affogato means “drowned.” You literally drown cold ice cream in hot espresso. 

I recently treated myself to a starter espresso machine (made by Capresso and purchased on sale) and I am loving it. Two cappuccinos in the morning and, sometimes, a decaf espresso in the afternoon, and I’m good to go. 

Affogato is a divine little treat. What could be better than ice cold ice cream (in my case, coffee), drowned in dark, delicious espresso? My go-to ice cream of late is Enlightened’s cold brew coffee. At only 90 calories for 2/3 cup, it is all indulgence and zero guilt. I honestly don’t know how they make such a rich, creamy ice cream that clocks in at that caloric rate. But, whatever, I’m on board. The picture of my affogato was sub-par so I’ve included a stock image so you get the gist of what it “should” look like.

Photo by Sarah li from Pexels

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Serves 6, enough to sauce 1 to 1-1/2 lb pasta

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes for the sauce

2 lb fresh tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 2 C canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste

  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Before tossing with pasta, you may remove the onion (as Hazan recommended) and save for another use, but many opt to leave it in. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the table.

Food52 editor’s note: Marcella called for 2 cups of tomatoes when using canned, but feel free to use a whole 28 oz can (closer to 3 cups), if you like. You can scale up the butter and onion, if you like, or don’t - it’s genius either way.

Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce

The blanching method: Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them into coarse pieces.

The freezing method (from David Tanis, via The Kitchn): Freeze tomatoes on a baking sheet until hard. Thaw again, either on the counter or under running water. Skin them and cut them into coarse pieces.

The food mill method: Wash the tomatoes in cold water, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a bowl. Transfer the tomatoes with any of their juices to the mill and puree.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

If you haven’t got a fall season apple cake in your baking files (what?!), add this one! I made it a couple of weeks ago to bring to a friend who I was visiting for the weekend (you know who you are!). I thought it would be the perfect Sunday morning coffee-and- newspaper treat. And it was. Maybe a little too good, as I couldn’t resist eating a piece the next two mornings! Then I cut the rest into individual squares and froze them for a future “I need cake!” emergency.

It's got all the fall feels - apples, cinnamon, walnuts; it's fabulously delicious and so moist!

This comes from In the Kitchen with Matt. The only thing I changed was to add chopped walnuts to the streusel, because in my mind, streusel needs nuts! Make it & let me know how you like it.

Just out of the oven - look at that streusel!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from In the Kitchen with Matt


1 large egg

1/2 C buttermilk or use normal milk (I used buttermilk)

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 C butter or oil (I used butter)

1-1/2 C cake flour or AP flour (I used AP)

1/4 t baking soda (leave it out if using normal milk)

1 t baking powder (double it if using normal milk)

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

3 medium apples or 2 large apples (I used granny smith, but you could use fuji, gala, etc)


3 TB butter, softened

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/3 C AP flour

1 t cinnamon

1/4 C chopped walnuts


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C. Wash, peel, core, and slice the apples into small chunks.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, sugar, and melted butter. Melt the butter in the microwave or stovetop, until barely melted and not hot.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and add it to the bowl of wet ingredients. You can whisk them together if you don't have a sifter.
  • Mix the dry ingredient in with the wet using a whisk. Then stir in the chopped apples. The batter is ready to go. Pour the batter into an 8x8 inch baking pan, or use a 10-inch round or even a springform pan that has been greased with shortening and floured or sprayed with cooking spray. Spread it out evenly with a spatula.
  • In a small bowl mix together softened butter, flour, sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon with a fork until it is crumbly and resembles small chunks of damp sand.
  • Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the cake and bake it in the oven, middle rack position, for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center. Once it comes out of the oven allow it to cool for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Serve the cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Note: You can use normal milk if you like. If you do, leave out the baking soda, and double the amount of baking powder. 

You can also make a simple buttermilk substitute, by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice or white distilled vinegar to the half cup of milk. Stir it, then allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my culinary calendar, after Italian prune plum season, next up is pumpkin. I love pumpkin as much as the next gal, but (just like Halloween and Christmas), online and brick-and-mortar stores start advertising EVERYTHING pumpkin way too early, so by the time actual fall rolls around, I am sick of it. But that doesn’t deter me from baking at least one pumpkin-y goodie. Because, as you know, I am all about the baked goods!

This recipe is from gimmesomeoven.com & it’s a good one. To begin with, it is chock-full of the de rigueur fall spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice; next, they are soft and chewy (which I love); and finally, they have a luscious cream cheese frosting which, just literally, is the icing on the cake. They keep well in the fridge for about a week, if you have any left over.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from gimmesomeoven.com 

Yields about 3 dozen cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

2-1/2 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 TB pumpkin pie spice (see below)

1/2 t salt

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 C granulated sugar

1/2 C brown sugar

1-1/4 C canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 t vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients*:

8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, room temp

3 TB butter, room temp

1 t vanilla extract

1 C confectioners’ sugar (approximately)

Chopped walnuts (optional)

* The original recipe calls for low-fat cream cheese. Also, I reduced the amount of confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup, as I thought 2 cups was too much.

Pumpkin pie spice (gimmesomeoven.com):

1/4 C ground cinnamon

2 TB ground ginger

4 t ground nutmeg

2 t ground allspice

2 t ground cloves

Whisk all spice ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Transfer to a sealed spice jar, where it will keep for up to 2 years.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt, until combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Add in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat on medium speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Drop on cookie sheet by heaping tablespoons, then use your fingers or a spoon to flatten slightly (these cookies tend to poof up slightly rather than flatten during baking, so shape them beforehand however you like. They won’t rise much).

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until baked through and bounce back slightly when you touch them. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool until they reach room temp. Then frost or drizzle with frosting. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts (optional) or a pinch of cinnamon or the pumpkin pie spice. Refrigerate in sealed container.


With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until smooth. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar until it is well combined and the frosting is smooth. If it is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk (or water) until it reaches your desired consistency. If it is too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar.