Category: meat (Page 3 of 5)

Spaghetti & Meatballs For The New Year

Happy New Year!

Last New Year’s Eve, I pushed myself to go out only to wish I had stayed in.

This year, we stayed in. Jake and I loaded up on Redbox flicks and cheap champagne that we enjoyed with spaghetti with meatballs when he got home from work. I doctored up a jar of the cheapest tomato sauce in which I simmered homemade meatballs. It tasted fantastic, semi-homemade and all (gasp).

I have come to love making meatballs and keep them moist by adding sauteed vegetables to the raw mixture. Leaner meats like ground turkey also benefit from the addition of fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk. For these meatballs, I used meatloaf mix made from ground beef and pork and they were plenty moist from just adding dried breadcrumbs and a splash of milk. As far as baking vs. frying meatballs goes, I still like to take the time and effort to pan-fry my Swedish meatballs. But for these meatballs, baking is easier since they will simmer in the sauce.

I served this meal with fresh carrots cut into coins. I briefly sauteed them in a little butter and olive oil. Then, I added some orange juice, powdered ginger, salt, pepper, sugar, and enough water to almost cover. I simmered the carrots until they slightly caramelized and the liquid had been absorbed or evaporated. These added a nice sweet contrast to the savory meatballs.

My homemade meatballs and spaghetti didn’t especially go well with our cloyingly-sweet $6 bottle of champagne, nor did I particularly enjoy them along with The Walking Dead zombie gore and adrenaline (Jake did). But they really were the best darn spaghetti and meatballs I have ever made. A comforting dish that helped us ring in the new year.

Spaghetti and Meatballs


4 large mushrooms, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lb ground meatloaf mix (pork and beef)
Black pepper
1 egg yolk
Parmesan cheese
Small splash of milk
Soy sauce or salt

1 jar of cheap tomato sauce (I used Bertolli’s tomato-basil variety)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1-2 small stalks of celery, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Splash of red wine


To prepare the sauce:

  1. Preheat a larger saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Saute onion carrot and celery until tender. 
  3. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant but not burned. 
  4. Pour in tomato sauce and add a splash or two of red wine. 
  5. Taste for seasoning, cover, and simmer. 
To prepare the meatballs:
  1. Preheat oven to about 375 degrees F. 
  2. Over medium heat, sweat the mushrooms and onion in a little butter and/or olive oil and until translucent and tender. Season the vegetables with a little salt and pepper when you begin to cook them. 
  3. Add garlic and briefly stir until fragrant, but not burned. 
  4. Remove cooked vegetables and garlic from heat and set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the meatball mix.
  5. Place the ground meat in a large bowl. 
  6. Add egg yolk, a couple handfuls of breadcrumbs (I used both toasted and panko), a handful or so of Parmesan cheese, and a splash of milk.
  7. Season with some soy sauce and black pepper. 
  8. Mix completely, but as lightly as possible so as not to over-mix the meat. Let set for a few minutes before deciding if it’s too wet or dry. It will take a moment for the breadcrumbs to absorb the liquid. Add more breadcrumbs if the mix is too wet to hold a meatball shape and add more milk or another egg yolk if its too dry.
  9. Take a small pinch of the meat and cook. Taste and season the raw meatball mix accordingly.
  10. Shape meatball mixture into balls. Place on sheet pans covered in parchment paper.
  11. Bake until browned on each side, flipping occasionally.
  12. Gently place meatballs in the tomato sauce along with meat juices on the pan.
  13. Simmer until the the meatballs finish cooking and absorb the flavors from the sauce.

A Truly Happy Hour Is Bone Marrow At Meritage

Christmas week was definitely enjoyable, though fatiguing for an introvert like myself. Plus, I caught a cold. This visit was especially stressful since we saved a lot of our Christmas shopping for Christmas Eve day.

On Christmas Eve, we managed to lock ourselves out of the house while the rest of the family was away. This was the second time that week. Jake was annoyed and I burst into tears. I ranted about how Christmas seemed to morph into running around and buying stuff. Jake ranted about being locked out of the house. Eventually, we drove to a later service by ourselves which provided a much needed opportunity for quiet and reflection. 
The sermon was thought provoking. I suppose the music provided some food for thought, as well. All of the Christmas carols were set to the 80’s and embellished with synthesizer sound effects. The songs fluctuated between David Bowie and Richard Cheese, the parody lounge singer. The worship band struggled to lead the congregation through Joy to the World, of which the melody was completely unique to the worship band. I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge, it just felt disorientating. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was quite literally punctuated with bow-chick-a-bow-wow’s and after the fifth one, we looked at each other and laughed. This helped to put the rocky afternoon behind us. 
At the end of the week, we said our farewells. We headed towards The Elephant Walk in Stillwater, MN, stopping at Meritage in downtown St. Paul, for moules frites.
We have loved Meritage’s moules frites, from first bite. It’s the only thing Jake ever orders and we’ve yet to find better. The mussels are always plump and there’s nary a closed one. It’s beyond me that restaurants charge customers for mussels by the pound, yet plate closed mussels. How hard is it to check? This doesn’t happen here.

The fries are every bit as good, if not better than Barbette’s. The smokey, winey broth entices us back. We usually fill up on the charred bread, leaving little room for frites. And the soggy slice on the bottom of the bowl is my favorite. 

Fortunately, we arrived during happy hour (Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.) which offers discounted food and beverages. Instead of chicken fingers and quesadillas, try $8 steak tartare and $5 duck confit pizza. 
We shared this addictive bowl of warm, marinated olives, $5.

Then, there was the real, roasted bone marrow for only $5. I’d only seen Anthony Bourdain swoon over bone marrow on television but hadn’t encountered it in restaurants. Bourdain has mentioned that he’d choose bone marrow and parsley salad as his last meal and I have never forgotten this. Jake was just as curious.

Our wait was over.

The split bone arrived sizzling hot. It was served with toasted bread and sweet, shallot confit.

We gently scooped out the more solid bits and we ran the toasted bread through the golden drips.

It struck me like animal butter. Not so much the byproduct but the essence of. It tasted like the bits of chewy fat that line a steak. Rich in flavor with none of the gristle. Combined with the sweet, jammy onions, it was as satisfying as we hoped.

The dish regularly costs about $10.50 on the bar menu, but happy hour or not, it’s worth a taste.

Dear restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Fargo-Moorhead,

Please serve more bone marrow. 



*I have conducted web searches for bone marrow at least twice and have not found a restaurant that offers this dish, straight up, on its menu. If you know of one, feel free to leave a comment below. 

Seattle & Spicy Chili

I spent the weekend before Christmas in Seattle.

This was my fourth visit to Seattle. I first traveled to Seattle my senior year of college when I co-led a college service trip. We spent the week volunteering for Multifaith Works, a nonprofit dedicated to serving those with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. The nonprofit has since become Rosehedge/Multifaith Works and expanded their mission to also supporting those who struggle with isolation and loneliness.

I think it’s safe to say our whole group of students fell in love with Seattle upon arrival. Such a stark contrast to Iowa. From the steep hills to smooth public transportation systems to the diversity of food.

We experienced many examples of hospitality during this week. One man gave up his weeknight to take us to the grocery store when we arrived, and a church allowed us to crash in their basement and use their kitchen. We painted a house one afternoon. Later that evening, the landlord treated our whole group to a seven course feast at a Chinese restaurant in the International District.

Each course was an adventure. Fish maw soup that we were instructed to spike with a red vinegar and white pepper. Peking duck. Knots of salt and pepper fried crab that I clumsily poked with my chopsticks. Sweet and sour pork chops, and shrimp with walnuts coated in that sweet, mayonnaise sauce. Afterwards, his daughter led us to her favorite bubble tea shop.

For the first time, I came away with the understanding of travel mercies. I was humbled.

The focus of this most recent visit was to celebrate celebrate my friend’s marriage. We celebrated over frantic wedding preparations. While in transit. Over spicy Thai food. And deep, dark coffee.
Dungeness Crab Egg Foo Young and four, housemade hot sauces for brunch at Revel. Espresso art and biscotti from Roy Street Coffee & Tea. Spicy Thai food and Thai tea from Thai Curry Simple
While some danced at the reception, we non-dancing folk enjoyed hot, buttered rum. It was truly a whirlwind weekend and a beautiful wedding. And it involved making lots of chili.
The family found out I was in culinary school and asked if I could make a mild version of chili for 50 people with whatever was in the groom’s kitchen within a matter of hours.
As I began the mild version, I was asked to make a spicy version for 50 more people. I exclaimed, “I’m gonna chop the hell out of all these vegetables!” or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. I just remember feeling like I was on Chopped. Then things got messy.

Before leaving for the rehearsal dinner, we accidentally spilled at least half on the floor. The next day, we learned we left a large bag of it on the counter overnight. We quickly scrambled and fortified what was left. Hours before the wedding, I noticed a placard stating the chili was free from a multitude of allergens including soy. My eyes widened in panic because I remembered seasoning it with soy sauce I had found in the fridge.

We simply crossed out the word soy and all was well. 
I did not think I would want to make chili for a long time. Which is why I was so surprised when I started craving chili when I got home. I think I wanted to share some of my experience with Jake who was unable to join me due to work.

Jeni’s Spicy Chili

Olive oil
1 pound of ground beef
1/2-1 can of beans
1 onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 red or green jalapenos, roughly chopped (I use seeds and all but you can remove for less heat)
Tomato paste (I use at least a few tablespoons)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Chili powder
Cinnamon (a couple pinches)
1-2 cans crushed tomatoes (if you don’t have enough, add water)
Black pepper
Brown sugar, enough to balance the acidity
Soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha, to taste
Butter, a small knob


  1. In a large pot, cook ground beef in a little olive oil until slightly pink. If there’s too much fat, pour some off, but keep enough for flavor.
  2. Add onions and carrots and cook until carrots are more tender.
  3. Add as many beans as you’d like. 
  4. Add the sweet and hot peppers. Stir occasionally until slightly softened.
  5. Add the garlic and briefly cook until fragrant.
  6. Add the spices. I use a lot of chili powder, plenty of cumin, and a little bit of oregano and cinnamon. You can always add more later. 
  7. Add tomato paste. Stir and cook until the tomato paste loses its rawness. 
  8. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. 
  9. Season with salt, black pepper, and enough brown sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes. Add more spices as desired.
  10. Optional seasonings: I like to add a little soy sauce for umami, sriracha for additional heat, and I melt in a small knob of butter for richness. 
  11. Simmer until the peppers and carrots are tender and the flavors meld. Continue to taste for seasoning.
  12. I like to serve with a scoop of rice and garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and a lot of chopped, raw onion.

My Take On Those Grape Jelly Party Meatballs

All of this holiday talk is making me hungry.

This week, I found myself with two pounds of ground turkey along with odds and ends from my last trip to the grocery store. My stomach hungrily rolled along, propelled by thoughts of those sweet, sticky meatballs one often finds at parties. The type of meatballs that involve grape jelly. And the type of meatballs I find myself wishing for when I go to holiday parties, but wouldn’t dare to make an entire batch for myself

To make the meatballs, I eyeballed ingredients and mixed and matched. I heard that ground turkey could become very dry when cooked, so I might have overcompensated by adding cooked vegetables, fresh breadcrumbs soaked in cream, and Parmesan cheese. Then, I baked them. Normally, I have pan-fried the meatballs until caramelized, but I found baking to be an easier method for a weeknight. They still developed some lovely, golden-brown crust.

My husband and I were both thrilled when the meatballs were moist and tasted savory with umami. I was especially thrilled they involved little muss or fuss after a full day of school and work. This left more time for How I Met Your Mother when I probably should have been blogging.

You can serve the meatballs with any sauce you’d like. For an especially simple sauce, try dabbing them in some whole grain mustard. I made a sweet and sour sauce by combining mustard with homemade raspberry and jalapeno jelly that Jake’s cousin made.

Almost like that guilty crock pot pleasure, but not quite.

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Jelly-Mustard Glaze

I ended up adding a lot of breadcrumbs to the meatball mix to soak up the extra liquid. This didn’t negatively affect the texture of the meatballs, but I would recommend starting with one egg. 

The measurements are very approximate since I made up the recipe on the fly. Before you roll the meatballs and bake them, cook a dab of the raw meat mixture in a pan so you can taste for seasoning. 


2 lbs ground turkey (mine was 85/15)
2 slices of bread, torn into small pieces
Milk or cream (enough to moisten the fresh bread)
Olive oil
Mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated (approximate)
2 cloves garlic, grated
Parmesan cheese, grated (1-2 handfuls)
Parsley, a handful, chopped
1-2 eggs
Dry breadcrumbs (I used both panko and toasted)

Hot and fruity jelly (I used raspberry-jalapeno)
Soy Sauce
Hot sauce


  1. Preheat oven to about 375 degrees F.
  2. Soak the fresh bread crumbs in milk or cream until just moistened. Set aside.
  3. In a saute pan, sweat the mushroom and onion until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. 
  5. Grate in the fresh ginger and garlic cloves. 
  6. Add the Parmesan, fresh bread crumbs softened in milk or cream, egg, and parsley. Gradually add dried breadcrumbs until the meat mixture is firm enough to form into meatballs. Add the dried breadcrumbs to the meat mixture to soak up the excess moisture. Add the bread crumbs slowly since it will take a few minutes for them to absorb. 
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Test a small bit of the raw meatball mixture by cooking it in a pan to check for seasoning.
  9. Roll mixture into meatballs and place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. 
  10. Bake until cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Flip during the cooking process for even browning. 

To make the glaze:

  1. In a small saucepan, mix the jam and mustard. I used a lot of both yellow and whole grain mustard.
  2. Season with a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a little soy sauce to balance the sweetness, and some hot sauce for acidity. Simmer until the flavors meld and the sauce is more like a glaze.
We served the meatballs with sauteed pea pods and mushrooms. 
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