Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Meatballs

Looking for an appetizer and wanting to make something for the meat-lovers coming to visit, I decided meatballs were the perfect thing.  I thought about what I would love in a meatball, and decided to improve on what I’ve done in the past.  I combined some favourites that I thought would work well together – the spice of the hot Italian sausages, the lightness of the turkey, a punch of flavour from the sun-dried tomatoes, and then some pistachios for a twist.  I put it all into a homemade tomato sauce, which is so easy, and I cooked them for a long time to make the sauce really thick and to give the flavours time to mingle.

I served them on skewers for appetizers, and the leftovers made a great topping for spaghetti squash.  Of course you could always go with the standby comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs.

What you need for the meatballs:

400 grams ground turkey thigh

400 grams hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (or chorizo)

1 egg

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or oven-roasted)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios,  finely chopped

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you need for the sauce:

1 small onion

1 large can pureed tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter

a little red wine (optional)

a rind from parmesan cheese (optional but amazing! save your rinds for this purpose!)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil, optional

What you do:

The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you need it.  The whole recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated.  I think it`s even better the second time around.

1. Start the sauce first by simply emptying the can of tomatoes into a pot, then adding the butter and the cheese rind.  Put the whole onion into the pot – it will simmer to add flavour, and you will remove it at the end.

2. Bring the sauce to a low boil, and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour.  Add a little red wine or water if it`s getting too thick.

3.  Remove the rind and the onion, and add salt, pepper, and the optional basil to taste.  If you think it needs it, you can add a little brown sugar to the tomato sauce.

4.  If you made the sauce ahead of time, heat it up in a large pot.

5.  Combine all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. I mix it with my hands because I’m going to use my hands to make the meatballs anyways.  Don’t mix the meatball mixture too much, just until it is combined.

6. Drop the meatballs directly into the sauce, on a low simmer.  Try not to stir them until they’ve had some cooking time, so they solidify and won’t break as easily.  Spoon some sauce over the tops of the meatballs, so they are all covered.  Cook for at least half an hour, but preferably longer, until the sauce is nice and thick.

Serve on pasta, spaghetti squash, or on toothpicks as an appetizer.

Zucchini “Spaghetti”

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This is a summery twist on a standard comfort food.  It’s just some raw zucchini strips with a delicious tomato sauce.  I served it with chicken, but it makes a nice light and healthy meal on its own.  The sauce only takes about a half hour of cooking, and the zucchini just needs to be julienned, and you’ve got a great meal!

What you need:

1 zucchini

1 – 796 mL can of pureed tomatoes

1 small onion

a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil

a few garlic cloves

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil

What you do:

1. Throw the whole onion, garlic cloves, butter and tomato sauce into a pot and cook for about half an hour, or more if you’ve got the time.  Take the onion and garlic out when it’s done, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.  Julienne the zucchini and plate it.  Pour some of the hot sauce on top of the zucchini, and top with some fresh basil.

Yum, easy and delicious!

Kim’s Lasagna, Lactose-Free but still cheesy and flavourful!

I’ve been avoiding making lasagna for years because I can’t eat cheese, and a non-cheesy lasagna just doesn’t seem right – but now there are all these great lactose-free cheeses out there, and my whole lactose-intolerant world is changing! I’m not talking about those horrible soy cheeses – I’m talking about real cheese that happens to have no lactose.  It tastes like cheese and melts like cheese – because it IS cheese.  I also added some of my tofu ricotta, which is as creamy as the real thing… try it and see.

Yes, this recipe is a bit of work, or a lot of work.  But it’s soooo good!  There’s the tomato sauce, a ricotta layer, mushrooms, pesto, and a white sauce.  Lots of flavour!

What you need:

1 & 1/2 to 2 recipes of tomato sauce (recipe here!)

tofu spinach ricotta (recipe here!)

1 lb mushrooms, fried

pesto (recipe here!)

9-12 lasagna noodles (I used the no-boil ones for this)

1 cup lactose-free mozzarella, grated

white sauce: -2 tablespoons butter/soy butter

-2 tablespoons flour

-3/4 – 1 cup soy milk (regular if you’re not concerned about lactose)

-1/2 of a  227 gram tub  of soy cream cheese

-salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a small pot. then whisk in the flour.  Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.  Don’t let it brown!  Very gradually add the soy milk, a little at a time so it boils.  Mix it in so it has no lumps, then add a bit more until it has a runny-pudding consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

2.  You have all the parts ready to assemble the lasagna, so now you just have to build it.  This is the layering I did – of course you can experiment with this to make it your own.  If you are using no-boil noodles you just have to make sure you have enough moisture to cook them, or they will be a little crunchy around the edges. Use a 9×12 pan for this amount of lasagna.

– spread about 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, then lay down some noodles

– sprinkle the tofu ricotta. then the mushrooms, then another layer of noodles

– spread on another 1/3 of the tomato sauce, then the pesto, then another layer of noodles

– the final layer consists of the remaining tomato sauce, the white sauce, and the mozzarella cheese

3.  Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for about 15 more minutes.  For the last minute I switched to broil so it would brown on top – since real cheese actually browns, I like to take advantage of this feature!

4.  Allow the lasagna to rest for 15 minutes before cutting it.  This will increase the chances that the pieces can be cut and stay together as you serve them.  And it won’t be too hot to eat.

Enjoy!

Note: if you’re one of the many people who can’t eat wheat, try out the brown rice, kamut or quinoa noodles – they’re great!  So great that they are all I usually eat.

The Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Here’s a tasty tomato sauce, and really really easy – thanks Chad for the recipe!  I made it to use in a lasagna, and it was fabulous . . . I would imagine there are many other uses for it.

What you need:

1 – 750   mL tin whole tomatoes

1/2 onion

1/4 cup butter

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Put the onion and butter in a pot with the tomatoes and cook for 45 minutes or so.

2.  Take out the onion, season with salt and pepper, and voila, a fabulous sauce.

For the lasagna I pureed the tomatoes, and I added about a teaspoon of brown sugar.