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!