New Eats 13: Meatless Pasta & Meatballs

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Nearly every Sunday, I grew up eating my mom’s homemade meatballs, pasta & sauce. Since then I’ve made turkey meatballs instead of ones based on high fat content chop meat. I figured I’d try to have a bigger impact on the health content by making it meatless while keeping it tasty.

Recently, I saw a post on social media of a similar meatless zucchini “meatballs,” but they didn’t provide the best instructions and had a lot of cheese. So I took the general idea of a zucchini meatball and ran with it. This is my version. On a scale of easy, medium or difficult, I’d say this recipe is medium because it’s so much easier with a food processor and not everyone has one. It’s possible with a box grater. It’ll just take longer, much more time and work.

1 1/4 1bs. zucchini
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1/4 C Pecorino Romano (or similar, remember Parmesan generally has more salt)
1 egg
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Parsley and basil to taste (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper to taste (more pepper, less salt, remember the cheese has salt)
Olive oil spray of your choice

1. Wash and grate or shred the zucchini with the skin on. This is much easier if you have a food processor; however, it’s possible with a box grater.

2. The next few steps are all an attempt to remove the excess water that seems to primarily make up zucchini.

Before cooking it, press some water out. Next, put it in a frying pan (no oil needed) on medium heat stirring constantly (or with great consistency) for about 10 minutes.  The quantity will reduce and much of the water will be removed.

Believe it or not, your zucchini can still have a lot of water in it. For this reason, transfer it to a colander or strainer (preferably a metal one with fine holes) and press more water out of the cooked zucchini.

Press the zucchini mixture between paper towels, clean cotton cloths or through a cheese cloth until nearly all excess water is gone and the zucchini is room temperature. You do not want to add an egg to this if it’s still warm.

3. If you’ve made meatballs in the past then this is where the general meatball ingredients come into play. In a medium bowl, add zucchini, one egg, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.

4. Spray an oven pan with the oil of your choice. I use a Misto® so I can add my own olive oil rather than using the store bought sprayers that have chemicals to propel the oil out. Pre-heat oven to 375º.

5. Roll into balls about 1 inch thick and place onto tray.  Spray a thin layer of oil on top of the balls. (Technically you could roll them around in the oil of your choice before baking them, but if we’re going for the healthier option here then let’s spray them to avoid using too much oil than is really necessary.)

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6. Bake in a 375º oven for approximately 25 minutes. Since all ovens are different, check them around minute 18. If they stick to the pan, foil, or liner let them cool a bit and then remove them. At that point, they should come off with ease.

7. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash with your favorite sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Enjoy!



Carmelina Speaks Recipes Update

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To date, I’ve posted recipes under “Homemade Grub” and “New Eats.” In the latter, I committed to creating one New Eats recipe a month where I had to use ingredients I’ve never used before or never in that way.

After a break from sharing recipes here and primarily sharing food photos on Instagram, I’ve decided to blend my New Eats and Homemade Grub  recipes for 2016 and the foreseeable future (hopefully years to come). I’ll use a numbering system like comic books have issue numbers. Going forward I’ll name them using this system. For example, my next New Eats post will be New Eats 13 since I posted 12 previously.

This blended system will allow me to bring you a mix of newly created recipes and classics with ease. In addition, the recipes here will have a healthier focus than traditional homemade recipes that we’re all used to.  I say health-i-er rather than healthy. The idea is to provide options that are tasty and move us closer & closer to healthier choices that include more fruits & veggies and less of the high fat, sugar, and/or empty calories. Enjoy and let me know how the recipes work for you.


New Eats December 2015: Roasted Butternut Squash Crostini

Well folks 2015 is wrapping up and I successfully posted monthly New Eats posts for the year. Initially I thought making twelve new recipes was a doable concept (as opposed to say twice a month). About eight or nine months later I wondered if I’d finish and I became a believer. It was just as much about making the time to write as it was about thinking of something I hadn’t made yet. Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’m going to change it up a bit in 2016. More on that later.

This recipe is inspired by a photo in a recipe I saw online and later wasn’t able to locate on Twitter, Facebook or Goggle. I promise you it existed though. I couldn’t find it in a like, post or retweet, which I swore I had done to be able to go back to it. Google searches revealed nothing like the photo I saw.

Once you cut and roast the butternut squash, which you can do a day or two ahead of time this is a quick and easy appetizer to put together. Annnnnd it’s delish!

1 large butternut squash, diced and roasted
Loaf of Italian bread or baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
1 8oz Ricotta cheese, seasoned as described below
Preserved Lemon (zest of the lemon rind)
1-2 Tbsp Honey
Olive oil
1-3 sage leaves or other herb like fresh basil, parsley or mint. Any fresh herb will go well with this recipe. Be sure to pick one and go with it.
Salt and pepper

1. Wash, peel, dice and roast butternut squash in a single layer turning once for 30-40 minutes.
2. Season ricotta cheese with pepper and finely diced herbs and set aside.
3. Slice Italian bread or baguette. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 until lightly browned. This should only take a few minutes.
4. Place bread on a serving dish. Spread with seasoned ricotta.
5. Drizzle with honey.
6. Gently spread roasted butternut squash on top.
7. Sprinkle with a little diced herb, preserved lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve warm.
9. Enjoy

Note: If roasting the butternut squash a day or two in advance, warm throughout first so that the squash is warm when placed on top of the cheese.

Folks, I’ve been having some difficulties with my site and almost didn’t get this posted in December 2015. For this reason I also couldn’t add more photos to this posting. I’ll edit this post when I’m able. Thanks for reading and cooking with me throughout the year. Here’s to more of that in 2016.


PS The site’s back up. Additional photos included.

La Luna: Day 3 of Reverb 2015

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Kat McNally offers a twenty-one day writing prompt series, Reverb, as an opportunity to reflect on the year. She offers other writing prompts too like August Moon throughout the year. Check it out. Day 3 asks us to consider La Bella Luna and how she speaks to us. I could look up at the moon for hours. I love camping because it gets me out of the city where I can see stars and the moon.

I look up nearly each night on my way home to catch a glimpse of the moon. I like a small crescent just as much as a full robust moon. Sometimes when I look up I’m literally in awe of her beauty and power.

On November 25/26 in New England the moon was just gorgeous. It appeared huge…almost as if you could reach out and touch it. I want a fancy camera with a dope lens for nighttime photography particularly awesome shots of the moon. I probably would only use it for that and it wouldn’t be worth the cost of the camera. When I see a phenomenal moon I usually don’t bother to take a photo since it doesn’t capture the true essence you are seeing with your own eyes. I googled images from that night of the moon and came up with nada worthy of including here – see it wasn’t worth trying to take a photo of its full, low essence. My memory of it shining its light on me is great though.

When the moon is full and low and stops me in my tracks…
When I have to stop and take her in…
I feel at peace.

I feel supported knowing there’s more than my little own circle of loved ones and activity in this world. There’s something bigger than me. The moon has phases. She waxes and wanes. She pulls the tides close and let’s them out.

We too have cycles. We’re not always moving 100% full force forward. When we slide back, we don’t slip so far back we can’t see where we once were. The ebbs and flows of life are always there like the waves splashing forward and receding back…forward and back…forward and back…but omnipresent and always there.

New Eats November 2015: Fun at the Farmer’s Market

I love being able to get fresh produce. And I’m grateful to be able to stop at my local Farmer’s Market weekly and pick up the freshest produce available. The market I go to is open from May to November. I’m going to miss the fresh produce, but perhaps more than that I’m going to miss the garlic. One farmer sells the best garlic I’ve been able to buy. It’s grown in the ground rather than the hydroponic garlic that’s generally available at your local supermarket. The dirt he grows it in must be pretty fabulous since the flavor is a delight and the fragrance when cooking sweet. This garlic costs more, is smaller, and worth it. Another day I’ll post a photo of garlic from the grocery store and the garlic I get from the Farmer’s Market.
As an appetizer I quartered up some fresh yellow tomatoes placed them on a plate with a splash of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. They were sweet and salty. A burst of flavor in your mouth.

I rounded out this meatless meal with a pasta dish. I sauteed the yellow tomatoes in a pan with olive oil and sliced garlic until the tomatoes were soft and the garlic just getting brown. I washed, cut and steamed the broccoli and boiled two kinds of pasta from boxes that were near empty. When mixing pasta types be sure to mix two varieties that take about the same amount of cooking time or one will be overcooked and the other under cooked.

Before draining the pasta I reserved about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. After the broccoli was tender, but firm I put in a quick bath of cold water to stop the cooking and to reserve some of the green color. I quickly drained broccoli to avoid it from getting soggy or adding too much water to the dish. With the pasta in the strainer, while the pot was still hot (but not on), I added a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Then I added back the pasta, coated it, and added the broccoli, tomato and garlic mix. As I mixed it I added about 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and freshly crushed black pepper.

Some of the best meals are the simplest. Meals don’t have to have 32 ingredients to make them stand out. Selecting the best produce and meat you can afford is really key. Salt, pepper and garlic are some of the most basic seasonings, but they really make the broccoli and tomatoes shine.

I’m grateful for my access to fresh, healthy, diverse food. I’m grateful to have the funds to purchase healthy produce. I’m grateful to the New York State farmers who give me access to such great food. I’m grateful for my skills in the kitchen. I’m grateful when folks enjoy my food. I’m grateful that I’m able to dedicate time to writing this piece. What are you grateful for?


New Eats October 2015: Pasta, Broccoli Rabe and Chick Peas

20151030_165404The inspiration for this recipe comes from a unusual source. I was recently in my doctor’s office waiting to be seen not really listening to the TV overhead advertise medicines you can take for your aliments when I heard them start to discuss a recipe with broccoli rabe. The recipe got my attention and I looked up to see what they were doing with it.

Now I’ve had broccoli rabe with beans and I’ve had pasta with beans, but I haven’t mixed the three and that’s exactly what they suggested.  I didn’t see who sponsored the recipe and there was no website mentioned so I can’t give credit to the original source of my inspiration. Here’s my riff on what I saw them make in the less than 90 seconds it aired. It’s slightly different as I’m using Gemelli pasta and they used Penne. I’ve added a little cheese and crushed red pepper, which they didn’t have. Having made it once I might substitute the bacon for Italian sausage (sweet or hot) and add a little white wine and butter at the end. It being the doctor’s office I guess they wanted to avoid the vino and butter.

If you follow the New Eats series on my blog you’ll know that broccoli rabe made an appearance in July and you might be thinking: “Again? Already?” Well, yes. I don’t eat it year-round as it doesn’t seem to be available year-round. I’m sick so why not eat a super food?  And, the whole point of this series was to cook and experience foods in new ways or try new foods so it’s aligned with the purpose of the series.

1/2 bunch of broccoli rabe
5 oz. of pasta (Gemelli, Penne, or Rigatoni)
1 can (15 oz) of chickpeas (rinsed)
3 slices of bacon
2 gloves of garlic thinly sliced to taste
Reserve 1 cup of pasta water (i.e. the water the pasta is boiled in). You may use only 1/4-1/2 cup but once it’s down the drain you can’t get it back.
1 oz of Grana Padano finely shredded (or similar hard Italian cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano aka Parmesan)
Pinch of rushed red pepper and salt

Makes 4 servings.

1) Steam your broccoli rabe. If you don’t have a steamer, boil it. (Both methods explained below). Cut large stems off before you boil it to reduce some of the bitterness.

Steamer Method: Set 2 cups of water to boil, insert your metal steamer into the pot, roughly chop broccoli rabe, add it to the pot, and steam until wilted (about 5 minutes).

Boiling Method: Set 4 quarts of salted water to boil. Y’all know I never measure my water. I just make sure the pot is big enough for my pasta and there’s room for it to cook without it over crowding. Add chopped broccoli rabe, let boil for about 2 minutes. If using this method, rather than draining and removing the liquid use a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli rabe and use this water to boil the pasta after you’ve removed the veggies.

2) If steaming your broccoli rabe, be sure to set another pot to boil 4 quarts of salted water and cook pasta to al dente.

20151030_1632113) While pasta is cooking, in a frying pan, add bacon. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve bacon fat in the pan. I like center cut bacon because it has less fat. If using regular bacon and it makes more than 1 tablespoon of bacon grease remove the excess. Set bacon aside and let cool. Once cooled break or chop it up into small pieces.

I cooked extra bacon so I ended up with way more oil than I wanted in the dish. So what I did here was strain the bacon fat through a paper towel and wash the pan. Then I measured out 1 tablespoon. I wouldn’t have done that if there wasn’t such a large amount of oil (aka bacon grease) left, but I’m glad I did. I might use this method as my standard go-to going forward to reduce the amount of fat in a dish.

20151030_1640054) Add rinsed and drained chickpeas and thinly sliced garlic to the bacon grease and lightly “fry.” Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring periodically. Lightly brown garlic. Add in the cooked broccoli rabe and crushed red pepper, mix well. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add in the drained cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of the pasta water, the chopped bacon and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. If the dish seems “dry” add a bit more pasta water and cook another minute.

20151030_1643405) Grate Grana Padano cheese finely.

6) Plate a serving into a bowl and lightly dust with Grana Padano cheese.

20151030_164933Taste your food after you’ve added the cheese, if you think it still needs salt, taste again. If you’re sure go ahead and add a bit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you that the cheese should supply enough salt on it’s own.

Gemelli and Brocolli Rabe ForkA note on the cheese selected here, Grana Padano: I’m lucky enough to live next to a grocery store with a huge cheese selection. Next to the imported expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the less salty, lower cost, Grana Padano from Northern Italy’s Po River Valley. Cook’s Info  suggests an oz of Parmigiano-Reggiano has 650 mg of sodium to Grana Padano’s 1.6 mg of sodium. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re looking for a flavorful cheese that is low in salt this is a great option. Many cheeses are high in saturated fat (the kind that you should avoid). Know Food and others discuss the high unsaturated fat content and unique calcium and protein content in this cheese. Try it if you can get your hands on it. Don’t believe me, google it or check out for yourself. I didn’t know half of this stuff before I decided to write this blog. I just knew it was less salty, tasty, and cheaper than Parmesan.