Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

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Orzo Veggie Soup

orzo soup2This soup has simple ingredients, but it’s a delicious lunch. It’s a light vegetarian meal that I also enjoy when not feeling well. The original idea was from here.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
480 mL (2 cups) vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too, though it won’t be vegetarian)
1/2 cup (uncooked) orzo pasta, or other tiny pasta shape
1 tomato
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
1 handful fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the pasta and cook according to the box directions until done.

Meanwhile, cut up the tomato and add the salt, crushed pepper, and olive oil. Cook briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop until done.

When the orzo is done, stir or whisk quickly while pouring in the egg white. It will cook instantly when it hits the hot broth. Finally, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Put the tomato into 1 or 2 bowls and pour the orzo soup over. Stir, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Lasagna


I was never a fan of lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese in it. This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this dish quick to assemble and bake.

Ingredients
Meat sauce:
100g (1/4 lb) beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
400g (14oz) canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

White sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
480mL (2 cups) milk
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Other:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200g (1/2 lb) shredded mozzarella (in Japan, “mix cheese” is fine)
lasagna noodles (enough to fill your baking dish)

Instructions

First, make the meat sauce. Brown the meat in a skillet and remove. In the same skillet, saute onion and garlic until softened, then add sugar, basil, oregano, canned tomato, and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Finally, blend the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix the browned meat back into the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the white sauce. Heat olive oil and 360 mL (1-1/2 cups) milk in a saucepan. Whisk the remaining 120 mL (1/2 cup) milk with the flour in a small bowl until free of lumps, and add to the heated milk. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add a pinch of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store the sauces in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna for dinner.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Prepare your lasagna noodles (check the package for instructions on how long to cook them, or use non-boil noodles).

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomato sauce into your pan and spreading it into a thin layer.

Add one layer of lasagna noodles to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the white sauce, 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat in that order until you have three layers, ending with cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Coconut Cashew Curry

IMG_7439I’m always trying out new recipes for curry. This is my latest one, and we really enjoyed it. It ended up being very flavorful and a good, inexpensive, filling dinner that included plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I sometimes leave out the chicken or replace it with tofu, in which case this recipe is vegan.

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned diced tomato is fine)
3/4 cup cashews, divided
2 cups (480 mL) vegetable broth (chicken would be OK too)
2 to 2-1/2 cups vegetables of your choice, sliced or chopped into bite-size pieces
2 chicken breasts (optional – leave out or replace with cubes of 木綿/firm tofu)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, fennel, and kaffir lime powder**
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional; see recipe)
Rice for serving

* Vegetables: really, you can use whatever you like here. I always use what I have on hand or what is on sale or in season at the moment. Some of my favorites are asparagus, green beans, zucchini, carrots, and… daikon, which is great in curry and has a similar taste and texture to potato when cooked.

** Kaffir lime powder is a seasoning I found here in Japan but have never seen elsewhere, so i don’t know how common it is. You can leave it out, or add a little extra lemon or lime juice if you like instead.

Instructions

Heat the vegetable oil in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Saute the sliced onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the tomato. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato has broken down and most of the juice is gone.

Meanwhile, toast the cashews in the oven or in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove.

Let cool for a few minutes, then scrape the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup toasted cashews and some of the vegetable broth (depending on how much your appliance can hold) so the mixture will blend. Process until smooth.

Return to the pot with the remaining vegetable broth and heat to a simmer. Add any vegetables that need time to cook (for example, daikon, carrot). Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced chicken and coconut milk and stir. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Add the spices and lemon juice and mix well. If the curry is not thick enough, you can add the cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of water, and cook for two to three minutes until thickened.

Taste and add salt if necessary (it depends how salty your broth is).

Serve over white or brown rice, with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted cashews sprinkled on top!

Creamy Pasta with White Beans

pasta with white beansThis recipe is quite adaptable. As I’ve written it, this is a vegetarian pasta dish, but you can add chicken as well, and you can change the vegetables to fit what’s in season or on sale. It also includes some protein from the beans.

Ingredients (serves 2 with leftovers)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
700mL (3 cups) vegetable broth (chicken broth is okay too)
200g dry penne pasta (1/2 lb)
1 cup cooked white beans
1-1/2 cups vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, and spinach or a mixture are all great)
125g (4 oz) sun-dried or salted tomatoes
120mL (1/2 cup) cream (in Japan, I use 35% cream)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until softened. Add vegetable (or chicken) broth and pasta. Bring to a simmer.

Cook pasta for the time directed on the package, plus 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If too much liquid evaporates, add a little more water. With five minutes remaining, add the tomatoes, beans, and vegetables and stir.

After the pasta finishes cooking, add the cream. Stir and cook until the cream thickens into a sauce. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Bruschetta

BruschettaBruschetta is one of my favorite summertime foods! I don’t have a precise recipe for the topping, but here are some guidelines.

Ingredients
1 baguette
extra virgin olive oil
several cloves garlic
about 1 cup cherry tomatoes
10 leaves fresh basil (or to taste)
fresh mozzarella cheese, cut in small cubes (In Japan, I usually use shredded cheese.)
salt and pepper
Other possible add-ins: fresh oregano, finely minced red onion, balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Chop up the cherry tomatoes. Chop 1-2 cloves garlic very finely and add them to the tomatoes. Mix in the cubed (or shredded) cheese. Cut the basil (and/or oregano) leaves in very fine strips and mix in. Add finely minced red onion if desired. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Mix well and taste. Adjust seasonings, and let sit for as long as possible.

When ready to serve, cut some garlic cloves in half, and rub them all over the crust of the baguette. Cut the baguette in diagonal slices about 1/2″ to 1″ thick. Place the slices on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over the tops. Toast in the oven until golden brown.

Top each slice of bread with a spoonful of tomato topping.

Don’t forget that if the topping sits on the bread for long, it’ll get soggy! I like to serve the toast on the side, and the topping in a bowl and let everyone serve themselves.

Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

This isn’t the most attractive recipe I’ve made, but its lack of aesthetic appeal is definitely made up for in convenience and taste. This “bouillon” is more like a paste made of vegetables and salt; it can be kept in the freezer and used anywhere you’d use stock or bouillon, or anytime you need some salt and extra flavor.

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
2 oz celery (I like to use the leafy ends)
2.5 oz leeks (Japan notes: I use negi, or “long green onion”)
3.5 oz carrots
1/3 oz parsley
2 oz tomato, chopped (canned is okay)
1 oz spinach leaves
2 oz onion
2.5 oz salt

Note on ingredients: I used what I had leftover and what was on sale at the grocery store today. You can vary this up using different green and colored vegetables to get the flavor you like.

Instructions

Blend all vegetables in a food processor until finely ground. Add salt and mix well.

Store in the freezer; the salt will prevent the paste from freezing through.

To use: I like 1 tsp of bouillon to 1 cup of water, but adjust this to taste.

This recipe makes a good quantity; about 2 cups. That would be 96 tsp, resulting in about 96 cups (= 6 gallons) of stock. Feel free to cut down the amounts to make less.