Meatball(credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Culinary Experience)

When the mercury rises in the summer, getting motivated to cook can be a chore. It’s easier to throw a quick salad together rather than heat your air conditioned kitchen. However, summer is slipping away, and fall is here, so those ovens can be fired up again without making everyone in the house uncomfortable. To perk up chilly fall nights, Denver-based food bloggers and food experts Barb Kiebel of Creative Culinary and Dani of Dani’s Delicious Dish share tips and recipes.

Barb Kiebel
Creative Culinary
Greenwood Village, CO 80112
(303) 741-2535
www.creative-culinary.com

Barb Kiebel has worked as a web developer since 1995 and she began her business by creating a site dedicated to food. Since then, she has launched Creative Culinary – one of the most popular food blogs in the Denver area. The blog features recipes, personal stories and gardening tips. Kiebel likes to grow some of her ingredients, and the gardening section of the blog features tips on growing here in Colorado. Her take on comfort food is as follows. “I think of comfort food as a dish that elicits nostalgic or sentimental feelings; usually associated with home and most often reminiscent of foods served in winter.”

Perfect Meatballs

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb pork Italian sausage
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  1. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add the chopped onion and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onion generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until soft and aromatic but not long enough to brown.
  2. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and saute for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hands to squish together the meats, eggs, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
  4. Add the cooled onion mixture, season generously with salt and mix everything up a bit more.
  5. Add the water and do a final squish; the mixture should be quite wet.
  6. If you want to test your seasoning; take a bit of the mix and cook it in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil; add more salt to your mixture if needed.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Shape the meat into desired size meatballs. I make mine approximately 1.5-2 inches in diameter.
  9. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
  10. Serve over pasta and finish them with your favorite sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!!

 

Tip: If you want to make the dish healthier, Kiebel states, “Try using spaghetti squash instead of pasta with meatballs made with beef and turkey.”

Italian Style French Onion Soup

 

For the Braised Onions

  • 10 large (about 8-1/2 pounds) sweet onions, such as Walla Walla, Vidalia or Maui
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • Makes 6 cups of butter-braised onions

For the Soup

  • 3 cups of butter-braised onions
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 quart beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons cognac

To Serve:

  • Rounds of toasted French mini baguettes slices; rub with olive oil and toast in oven til lightly browned; 4-6 minutes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Trim the stem end, cut in half lengthwise through the root and peel each half.
  2. Leaving the root end intact, cut each half lengthwise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. Trim to remove the root.
  3. Scatter the butter in the bottom of an electric slow cooker; at least 7-quart capacity. Add the onions and sprinkle the thyme over the top. Place the lid on the slow cooker, set the cooking mode to high and set a timer for 2 hours.
  4. Stir the onion mixture. Set a timer for 6 hours, continuing to cook on high. (I actually made mine overnight so set the temperature to low and the timer to 10 hours).
  5. Turn the power off, remove the cover, give the onions a stir and let cool in the ceramic insert for 1 hour.
  6. Cool completely, put into storage container and then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

To Prepare the Soup:

  1. Heat the butter-braised onions in a large pot until warmed, add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the beef stock or broth and heat, stirring thoroughly until slightly thickened. Add the wine and season to taste.
  2. Simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until ready to serve, then reheat to a simmer.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the cognac.
  5. Pour into individual bowls, add a couple of the toasted baguette rounds to the top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve additional baguette slices on the side.

 

Tip: Clean out your pantry once a season: “Spices have a shelf life and are best if used within six months to two years. The longer you have them, the more you may have to use as they lose their potency.”

Smoked Chicken with Chipotle Peach Barbecue Sauce

 

  • 12-20 chicken legs

For the Dry Rub:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper

For the Chipotle Peach Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 12-oz jar peach preserves
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus 1 Tbsp adobo sauce from can
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard

Make the Dry Rub:

  1. Combine the brown sugar, paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a container and mix well.

Make the Chipotle Peach Barbecue Sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for just a minute; do not let it turn brown.
  2. Add the ketchup, peach preserves, bourbon, lemon juice, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon peel, chiles with adobo sauce, liquid smoke and dry mustard.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20-25 minutes until thickened, stirring often. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Chicken:

  1. Put the chicken legs into a large ziploc bag or bowl.
  2. Season the chicken generously with the rub and make sure all of the pieces get covered. Put the chicken in the fridge for 4-24 hours.
  3. Preheat your smoker and place the seasoned chicken legs on the smoker racks.
  4. Smoke for 2 hours; remove from smoker and put the legs into a large dish, generously slather with the Chipotle Peach Barbecue sauce and cover with foil.
  5. Put the dish of legs into the smoker for another half hour or until done (should register 165 degrees internally).
  6. Serve with additional sauce.

Tip: There’s more than one way to cook a chicken: “Roast a chicken surrounded with potatoes, carrots and onions that have been drizzled with a bit of olive oil; so much better for you than the fat-laden rotisserie birds at the grocery store.”

Related: 10 Top Denver Foodies to Follow on Twitter

Dani Rice
Dani’s Delicious Dish
Denver, CO 80202
www.danisdeliciousdish.com

Dani is a Denver resident who loves cooking and loves sharing her passion with others. Her food blog, Dani’s Delicious Dish, contains everything from recipes to restaurant reviews. There is also a section in which her daughter, Cassidy, shares food reviews for other moms who may have kids who are leary of trying new foods. Her take on comfort food is summarized as, “I believe a dish qualifies as comfort food when it not only fills your belly, but sticks to your bones and warms your heart. Walking into a room and smelling the sweet smell of your mom’s special cookies, or your favorite dinner, not only fills your stomach but opens your heart and soul. It blends all of your senses, and forces your mind and body to sit, rest, eat and enjoy.”

“The In-Laws Are Coming Over For Dinner” Lasagna

 

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 1 32 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 medium size bag of shredded mozzarella
  • 3 hefty shakes of Parmesan cheese with Romano
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 1 onion (diced really well)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 24-oz cans of spaghetti sauce (I use the basic one from the store, and then doctor it up, but you can pick your favorite flavor)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley

Directions:

  1. Boil water for the noodles.
  2. While the water is boiling, take another pot and heat it on high. After a couple minutes, add the ground beef and sausage into the pan.
  3. Add salt and pepper to the meat and cook through.
  4. Chop up the onion and garlic into little pieces.
  5. When the meat is cooked through, drain the fat/oil out of the pan.
  6. Add the onion and garlic into the meat mixture and cook until the onion starts to get soft.
  7. Add a small amount of olive oil to the water, and put the noodles in (put one in the water and then let it soften up to make room for the second…do this for all of the noodles in the box).
  8. Cook for 8 minutes
  9. Add 1.5 cans of spaghetti sauce into the meat mixture and add some oregano, basil and parsley to taste.
  10. Mix 1/2 – 3/4 of the tub of ricotta cheese in a bowl with the egg and one or two hefty shakes of the parmesan cheese and one handful of mozzarella.
  11. Add a couple shakes of oregano, basil and parm cheese and mix up to create a melty cheesy mixture.
  12. Drain the noodles and leave them in the colander until you are ready to combine it all.

Assemble:

  1. Take a large casserole dish and spray it with non-stick spray.
  2. Take four noodles and lay them horizontally starting in the middle of the pan and then drape them over the sides.
  3. Then put down four more noodles on the other side of the pan with the same drape technique, and add four noodles to connect the two sides on the bottom.
  4. Then the layering begins! Start with 1/2 of the meat sauce and then 1/2 of the cheese mixture.
  5. Then add one more layer of noodles, this time just in the middle, no draping needed (about 4-5 noodles, the rest of the meat sauce and then the rest of the cheese mixture).
  6. Take the draping noodles off the sides and wrap them over all of the layers to encase it in a cute little lasagna snuggie.
  7. Put the 1/2 can of sauce on the top of it to keep it from getting super crispy and then put an extra handful of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on the top.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F until the cheese is bubbly.

 

Tip: Pick and choose how to make a dish more healthy: “Add some extra fresh vegetables to stews, add salads to the side of casseroles and integrate as many fresh ingredients as possible into the recipe. You can always reduce the fat of certain casseroles by using low fat soups, or cheese, but I would much rather have a smaller portion of the real deal, than alter the taste of my favorite comfort foods.”

Super Hero Pot Roast – adapted from “Cuisine At Home” Magazine

  • 3 TBS vegetable Oil
  • 1 Boneless Check Roast, trimmed of fat and seasoned with salt and pepper (3-4 lb)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1.5 cups beef broth (low sodium if you have it)
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 cups sliced onions (one large onion should do it)
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 3 large celery ribs, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in saute pan over medium-high heat
  2. Sear roast (5 minutes each side) 10 minutes total
  3. After the meat is seared, transfer the roast to a 4-6 qt slow cooker
  4. Stir flour into saute pan;  cook 1 minute  Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Deglaze saute pan with wine, cooking until liquid evaporates
  6. Stir in broth and Worcestershire; bring mixture to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits
  7. Transfer broth mixture to slow cooker; add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Cover and cook until meat is fork tender.
  8. Cook on high about 4-5 hours and low about 8-9 hours. If you used fresh thyme, discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves before serving.

Tip: Keep some ingredients on hand for warm fall days. “I like to try and eat all the food out of the pantry before transitioning to fall. I always find something in the back of the pantry that I bought early in the summer for some recipe I never made, and it gives me a chance to celebrate summer with one last hurrah.”

Related: Top Food Trucks in Denver

Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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