Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Porcupine meatballs

I had never made porcupine meatballs before last week, and I don’t recall ever eating them before, either.

Just a mention of the meatballs, made with rice that pokes out like a porcupine’s quills, was enough to make me hungry for them, though.

To come up with a recipe to try, I browsed the Internet, studying recipes for porcupine meatballs. Most recipes I found used ground beef to make the meatballs that were then browned in a skillet and simmered in sauce.

But I wanted to make turkey meatballs; my husband and I enjoy several recipes with turkey meatballs, so I knew this was a good option for us. And I didn’t want to make the mess or take the extra step to brown them.

It was important, also, for the recipe to remind me of meatloaf because I wanted mashed potatoes to go with this. I figured if I chose turkey over beef I could splurge and make mashed potatoes!

I totally played around with this recipe, thinking of what I like about the meatballs and meatloaf that I make. I ended up using simple ingredients, such as onion, ketchup, salt and pepper. I was out of green pepper or I would have probably added that as well. I also thought about the sauce and what I thought would make it extra good. I added a little brown sugar to the tomato sauce for a delicious, slightly sweet flavor.

When it came to how to cook the meatballs, I resorted to the method I use for my favorite turkey meatball soup. After thoroughly mixing the turkey mixture, I made the meatballs with a small scoop and then dropped them one by one into a pot of simmering sauce. I made sure the meatballs simmered for 15 minutes after the last meatball was dropped in.

This method works well for turkey meatballs because they don’t produce the fat you’d have in a beef meatball, therefore, the sauce isn’t greasy.

I started worrying while I cooked that the dinner wouldn’t be good. I was so hungry and wanted to surprise my husband with a new and delicious dish. As soon as the meatballs were ready, I tried one, thinking if they weren’t good, I could just dump the entire thing and Reggie would never know I had cooked them.

Well, let’s just say I didn’t dump them out! These meatballs were exactly what I wanted. The flavor combination was perfect, and they were extra delicious served with mashed potatoes.

Reggie enjoyed them just as much as I did. We had plenty of leftovers, which we reheated two days later and shared with our son. The leftovers didn’t disappoint either.

One of the best things about this recipe is how simple it is and how quickly it comes together. It took me around 30 minutes from beginning to end to make the meatballs. I had started the potatoes boiling before I assembled the meatballs, so the total preparation time for this meal was probably around 45 minutes. It was time well-spent!

Turkey Porcupine Meatballs

  • Package of ground turkey (the brand I buy measures 1.3 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked Minute rice (heaping 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 15-ounce can and 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Mix tomato sauce, water and brown sugar in Dutch oven or other large pot and heat.

While the sauce starts to simmer, mix turkey, rice, salt, pepper, onion and ketchup until combined.

Using a small scoop or using your hands, form small meatballs. As you make them, drop into the simmering sauce. Once the last one is dropped in, simmer an additional 15 minutes or until cooked through. Simmer with lid on for half the time.

Delicious with mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Celebrate Everything!

Debbi Baker Covington’s first cookbook was a big success and sold well among her Wilson friends as well and her catering clientele in Beaufort, S.C., where she lives with husband Vince.

The slim, paperback volume published in 2005 included recipes she grew up with and recipes she used in her catering business.

Her new cookbook is also packed with 182 recipes from Catering by Debbi Covington as well as a few from her youth, but the coffee table book is quite different and still reflects a sophisticated palate and menus that are popular with current food trends.

“Celebrate Everything! Delicious Menus for Festive Gatherings and Easy Entertaining” is filled with colorful images of the food that has made Covington so popular in Beaufort and led Southern Living to recognize her as a “master of entertaining” in a 2010 feature story.

Covington, a 1981 graduate of Fike High School and 1986 graduate of Atlantic Christian College, said her cooking style has changed so much and so fast in recent years.

Much of that has to do with the Food Channel showing the country new foods to try and with the availability of specialty food items.

It hasn’t been that long, she said, that she had to travel to Charleston or Hilton Head in South Carolina or Savannah, Ga., to get some food items she needed. When she came home to Wilson, she could shop in Raleigh. But now, many specialty food items are available in Beaufort and other locales, including lime leaves, Thai chili peppers and canned curry, leaving more room for experimentation.

Covington enjoys trying new foods in her travels and adapting them for her catering business. But she hasn’t always had that variety in her diet.

Growing up in Wilson, she mostly ate chicken, barbecue, chicken dumplings, fried flounder.“It was pretty much the same stuff,” she said.

After moving to Raleigh, she learned about Mexican food and had her first chimichanga. When she moved to Wilmington, she ate steamed oysters and clams. She was always willing to try something new, and she still is.

A more recent trip to the winery at Biltmore Estate and a good meal inspired her to go home and make a fabulous dish herself.

She’s always saying, “Wow! That tastes really good, but I can change it.”


“Celebrate Everything!” includes many of those adapted recipes and is set up by menus.

For instance, her Easter brunch menu has recipes for ham and cheese rye strata, pecan pie muffins, glazed carrots, green salad with fresh fruit and blackberry-basil vinaigrette and Mama’s deviled eggs. Her supper club menu features creamy red pepper soup with croutons, romaine and grapefruit salad with citrus dressing, red pepper and spinach stuffed chicken breasts, potatoes baked in sea salt with herbed butter, black walnut bars and sparkling water.

Covington, who writes a food column for Beaufort’s Lowcountry Weekly newspaper, has a number of favorites in her new cookbook and encourages those who buy the book to try all of the salads. She especially recommends the crunchy fennel salad with grapes, dates, olives and almonds in the Halloween chapter. The salad is very pretty, she said, and she likes the different textures.

“It’s amazing.”

Other favorites include drunken spaghetti and broccoli salad with lemon pepper-blue cheese dressing. Both recipes are in the chapter, “Celebrate the Sound of Music: A Midsummer Night Supper on the Porch.” And the praline pumpkin imperial is a really good dessert, she said, so is her mother’s coconut cake made with black walnut extract.

Gorgeous color photographs by commercial photographer Paul Nurnberg make the dishes especially inviting — which was Covington’s aim.

“You eat with your eyes first,” she said. “If you see what you’re going to eat, it makes you more inclined to try to make it.”

She also wanted to give ideas on how to present her menus and set up elaborate table settings as examples.

Covington made all of the food photographed in the 216-page book. She cooked in the mornings, and she and Nurnberg worked together to shoot photos of the food. Then she changed clothes and ate the food with friends who were photographed as well.

“Those were long days,” she said.

The dishes, china, serving wear, linens and decorative items are all Covington’s. She estimates that she has 50 sets of dishes and china, some that she inherited from her mother.

“Some people buy shoes; I buy dishes and sets of glasses,” she said.

Covington is pleased with the way her book turned out and has already sold quite a few of the books since its release this summer.

“I think it’s gorgeous,” she said.

“Celebrate Everything!” by Debbi Baker Covington is $34.95 and can be purchased locally at Barrett’s Printing at 409 S. Goldsboro St. It can also be purchased online at cateringbydebbicovington.com. Click “cookbook.”

Vanilla-Topped Brownies
  • 1 (21.5-ounces) package fudge brownie mix
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (16-ounce) can chocolate fudge frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions (but don’t bake). Spread into greased 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and cornstarch until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, egg and vanilla until smooth. Pour evenly over brownie batter.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Cool thoroughly. Spread with frosting. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes 24 brownies.

Debbi said her mother made these brownies at her bridesmaids’ luncheon in 1991.

Debbi Covington | “Celebrate Everything!”

Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw and Chipotle Mayonnaise

For the mayonnaise:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
For the slaw:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 (16-ounce) package coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the tacos:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Flour, to dredge
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets cut into 8 equal strips
  • 8 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced
Place mayonnaise, chipotles, adobo sauce and lime in a food processor and puree; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, garlic, sugar, lime zest and lime juice. Stir in cabbage, green onions and cilantro; season with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season flour with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Dredge the tilapia in seasoned flour; shake off excess. Cook the fish until golden brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas according to package instructions. To make the tacos, spread chipotle mayonnaise on the tortillas, fill with cilantro-lime slaw, fish and avocado. Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chocolate and bananas

Sometimes I’ll see a recipe that I want to try, and I can’t get it off my mind until I buy the ingredients and make the dish. Or, in this case, the bread!

Last week I was looking at Rachael Ray’s website because I wanted a skillet she was using on a recent show and hoped to see it somewhere on her site (I didn’t). What I did find, though, was a list of the most popular and newest recipes to her site. At the top of the most popular list was chocolate chip banana bread.

I have several banana bread recipes I make from time to time for my family, and I’ve always wanted to try a version with chocolate chips. I had two large and very ripe bananas at my house, so I decided to make the recipe when I got home from work.

I only changed the recipe a little. I used self-rising flour instead of all-purpose and dropped the baking soda, and I decreased the sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 cup and added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

The bread smelled so good as it baked, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Turns out it was as delicious as I expected. The chocolate chips are a nice complement to the bananas, and the bread is very moist.

I decided to make it a second time this week, this time using a little whole wheat flour. I also used mini chocolate chips the second time. That version was very good as well. It wasn’t as moist hot from the oven, but the next day, it was plenty moist and flavorful.

Both versions are delicious for a mid-morning snack!

The recipe creator at Plan B Mom blog also makes this recipe as muffins and has included the baking directions.

I’d love to try this recipe sometime with a mix of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 bananas, mashed (1 cup mashed banana)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 8 1/2-inch x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (or use baking spray, such as Baker’s Joy brand).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and salt. Mix in the oil, bananas and eggs. Stir in the chocolate chips (do not overmix) and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 70-80 minutes. Cool the loaf in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely, right side up.

To make as 12 muffins, cook in muffin tins at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Start checking after 30 minutes.

Plan B Mom

NOTES: The first time I made this, I used self-rising flour and omitted the baking soda and salt. The second time, I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour and used the baking soda and salt. Both times, I reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup and added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Also, my bread cooked much less than the time here. It was almost burning on the outside at 50-55 minutes but wasn’t cooked through in the middle. I lowered the temperature to 325 and cooked for another five to 10 minutes. So watch carefully while baking.