Recipe: Provolone Stuffed Meatballs

Provolone Stuffed Meatballs

One of my favorite parts of teaching public speaking is what I learn from my students. There are many times when I’ll tell my husband some fact I’ve learned and he’ll ask, “Student speech?” “Yep!”

The demonstration speech is one of the first big prepared speeches we have the students do. Because of the step-by-step nature of the speech, it’s easy to figure out how to organize it and it also has the benefit of giving the students something to do with their hands while speaking.

Over the years, I’ve seen a wide range of demonstration speeches from the mundane (how to balance your checkbook) to the unusual (how to shoe a horse). But, the food topics are always favorites with their classmates. As I tell them, an audience that knows it’s going to get fed is a happy audience.

This semester, one of my students, Brandon Dorsino, shared the recipe for his Provolone Stuffed Meatballs. He claims that everyone in his Italian family has their own recipe for meatballs and Brandon boldly claims that his recipe is even better than his Italian grandmother’s! All I know is that they are delicious and Brandon kindly gave me permission to share his recipe here. [NOTE: I did edit it a bit for clarity.]

Provolone Stuffed Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/3 pound ground pork
1/3 pound ground veal
1 stick butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 whole garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (divided)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (divided)
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/2 handful fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 pound fresh provolone cheese, sliced thin
Olive oil

1. Place meat into a large mixing bowl.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet or saute pan and then add diced onion.
3. After about four minutes, add the minced garlic.
4. When the onion is translucent, remove from heat and add mixture to the bowl with the meat.
5. Next, add the eggs, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired).
6. Fold together until mixed.
7. Roll into 1/2″ balls.
8. Take a half slice of the sliced provolone and roll it up into a ball. With your thumb, poke a hole into the meatball and insert the cheese. Wrap the meatball around the cheese.
9. Roll the meatballs in a mixture of the remaining Italian bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
9. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked through. Change the oil between each batch of meatballs.

Recipe Redux: Slow Cooker Potato Soup

slow cooker potato soup

The recent arctic weather here in Cincinnati has made me crave my slow cooker potato soup. But when I went to make it, I realized that I only had half of the chicken broth I needed. Uh oh… and then I realized I only had cream of mushroom soup. Hmmm… I sure wasn’t going back out to the store so I used what I had. AND IT WAS DELICIOUS!

Our first clue was how great the vermouth made the soup smell early on. Since I started a bit later than usual, we had the slow cooker on high for five hours and then low for another two. I mashed the potatoes then and let it go another hour while I made my Burbank’s Sweetcorn Bread knock off and tossed a salad. The difference those two changes made was incredible. I can’t wait to try it again with some craft beer.


8 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 small onion, finely diced
6 ounces bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled
8 ounces low fat cream cheese
1.5 cups fat-free chicken broth
1.5 cups vermouth (or any other dry wine)
1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, combine potatoes, onion and bacon. In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and pepper, stirring until blended. Add soup mixture to slow cooker and stir to blend. Cover. Cook on low heat for 10 hours or high heat for 5 hours. Before serving, mash some of the potatoes to thicken the soup. Serve with a dollop of fat-free sour cream and chopped green onions or chives. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe: Hamburger Stroganoff

Hamburger Stroganoff

There is something to be said for old school recipes. I own a copy of the 1967 Betty Crocker cook book and I love it for the old school recipes I can find in it. One of my favorites was their recipe for hamburger stroganoff, a simpler version of the more elegant beef stroganoff. Of course, their version calls for the ever popular cream of mushroom soup as an ingredient. I decided to see if I could find a version that didn’t use condensed soup. The one I found was fairly complicated and didn’t have much flavor to us. It took some tweaking and experimenting, but I came up with a version that is both easier to make and packs more flavor in every bite.

Carla’s Slightly Fancy but Easy Take on Hamburger Stroganoff


1 pound of ground beef (leanest you can find)

1 medium onion, diced

Salt and pepper

8 ounces of button mushrooms, sliced (fresh work better than canned)

1/2 cup of dry white wine or vermouth

1 tablespoon of dried parsley

1 tablespoon of paprika

16 ounces of sour cream (light works fine)

8 ounces of egg noodles


1. Start heating a large pot of salted water for the egg noodles.

2. Put the ground beef and onion in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high. Salt and pepper well.

3. When the meat is cooked and the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms, white wine, dried parsley and paprika to the ground beef mixture. Mix thoroughly. Lower the heat to medium.

4. Add the egg noodles to the boiling water now. Cook according to package directions (usually seven to eight minutes) and then drain the noodles. Be sure to rinse them so they don’t stick. Return to pot to keep warm.

5. Remove the skillet from heat and slowly work in the sour cream into the mixture in the skillet. When completely incorporated, return to the heat on low to heat through.

Serve either by placing the noodles on a plate and then the ground beef mixture or mix both parts together in the pot you cooked the noodles. It tastes just as good either way.

Recipe: King Ranch Chicken

Carla's King Ranch Chicken

There are many things you learn when you marry a Texan. How beautiful a field of blue bonnets is. How hot and humid Houston is in the summer (and sometimes spring and fall too). How big the hair really is. But one of the best things I learned was that Texas has an unofficial state casserole: King Ranch Chicken.

There are actually many different variations on this recipe. Some are more elaborate like Home Sick Texan’s Slightly Fancy-Pants King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe. Some are very basic like the version my husband Tom was served in school that used tortilla chips rather than corn tortillas. My version is a combination of ingredients from one or two recipe with the technique that comes from my mom’s chicken enchilada casserole (which I’ll share later).

Carla’s King Ranch Chicken Casserole


4 cups of finely shredded cooked chicken (I use chicken from my Slow Cooker recipe.)

1 can of RoTel Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 medium to large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of cumin powder

15 six-inch corn tortillas

2-3 cups of shredded cheddar or taco cheese


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray a 9″x13″ baking dish with your favorite non-stick spray.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, Rotel, soups and onion.

4. Take four of your corn tortillas and use them to cover the bottom of the sprayed baking dish. Cut a fifth tortilla in two and use it to fill in the space left.

5. Place one-third of the chicken mixture on top of the tortillas and then cover the chicken with one-third of the shredded cheese. Repeat two more times.

6. Place in the middle of the oven. (If your pan is close to full, I recommend placing a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan on the shelf below the baking dish to catch any possible drips.)

7. Bake for 30 minutes and then check. If the cheese on top isn’t nicely browned, give it another five minutes. Repeat if needed.

King Ranch Chicken

You can also add a chopped bell pepper if you like. And you can adjust the heat by choosing different heat level of Rotel and by adjusting the amount of chili powder and cumin.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

One of the things I love on a busy day is coming home to dinner almost done. Today’s recipe (or really instructions) fits in that category. With summer and warmer weather almost upon us, this recipe also doesn’t heat up your kitchen.

Slow Cooker Chicken (for use in Mexican Dishes)

1. Empty a 2.5 lb bag of frozen chicken breasts into a 4-quart or larger slow cooker.

2. Add either 1 cup of lime juice and your favorite Mexican seasonings to taste (chili powder, cumin, etc.) OR one box of Doña Maria Ready-to-use Molé Sauce. (You can use the small jar of molé to make your own sauce by adding chicken broth, but it can take a long time to make plus I always have a hard time getting the stupid jar open!)

3. Set on low for at least six hours. (This is one recipe that doesn’t really work well on the high setting.)

4. When the chicken is done, shred into small pieces using two forks. Mix well.

Now, you have chicken that you can use in tacos, burritos, casseroles and more. When you get the last portions of the chicken, there will be some excess moisture. At this point, we add cooked rice (brown rice works particularly well) and finish off the chicken that way. The chicken and rice version is great for packed lunchs.

This is one of our favorite meals and try to have it at least once a month. The cooked chicken is so versatile and alternately between the lime juice and the molé sauce gives up even more options.

— Carla

Recipe: Slow Cooker Potato Soup

There’s only one thing you can count on with Cincinnati spring time weather — uncertainty. While it was 82 this past Wednesday, the meteorologists are calling for this Sunday to be rainy with maybe a high of 64. Sounds like soup weather to me.

I’ve shared this recipe below on a friend’s blog, but never on one of my own. I referenced two different recipes for a similar soup to come up with this version.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup


8 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 small onion, finely diced
6 ounces bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled
8 ounces low fat cream cheese
3 cans fat-free chicken broth
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, combine potatoes, onion and bacon. In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and pepper, stirring until blended. Add soup mixture to slow cooker and stir to blend. Cover. Cook on low heat for 10 hours or high heat for 5 hours. Before serving, mash some of the potatoes to thicken the soup. Serve with a dollop of fat-free sour cream and chopped green onions or chives. Makes 8 servings.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (1 serving = 1/8 of recipe)

Calories: 261
Fat: 8g
Carbohydrates: 32g
Sodium: 1001mg
Cholesterol: 22mg
Fiber: 3g (leave skin on potatoes for an extra gram of fiber)
Calories from fat: 30%


When Posterous announced it was shutting down on April 30, 2013 (thanks a lot, Twitter!), it gave me reason to think about what I wanted to do with my personal blog It had started on Blogger and was more sports related (How about that win for the Cubs last night?) over there. When I moved it to Posterous, it became more generalized, but vague. I also shared lots of comic strips (I love comic strips).

The one thing I knew was that I wanted to switch to WordPress. Tom and I discussed it and then he installed it (and also moved his personal blog CrankyBear.Net to WP – Its re-launch is coming later). We also both decided to use the Responsive theme since we were using for the Rivertown Brewing web site and plan to move Hoperatives to it too.

We had gotten a back up of our Posterous sites, but soon discovered that there was some major clean up work to do after importing the back up. All images were there, but were not in the proper format so each had to be fixed one by one to show up correctly. There was also some extra HTML tags that needed to be removed. Personally, I decided to remove any post that was just a comic with no real commentary. That cut my posts from 162 to 61. (I told you I love comic strips.)

Design elements were next. Since the idea behind the Responsive theme is that your blog works on any browser (desktop, tablet or phone), I knew I wanted to keep the design very clean. The radio clip art came from (part of Creative Commons) and the background image is from a free Twitter background web site whose name I forget. I originally used it with my CinStateCarla Twitter account and decided it was too good not to be used more. And thank God for Google Fonts. They make such a big difference.

But what to blog about? As I was creating categories for my past posts, a theme of sorts began to evolve. I’ve been writing about the things I love: blogging, Cincinnati/NKY, comics, Disney (especially Disney Parks), craft beer, sports, teaching, technology, theater and travel. And so I’m going to continue that, but bump it up a notch. I’m also going to throw in some recipes and reviews and maybe something else. That’s the joy of a re-launch. You don’t know exactly where you’re going, but you kind of have an idea of the direction. As I was tweaking everything yesterday, I jokingly told Tom and some of my friends that I was going to add the tag line “Fat, Fifty and FUN!” I ended up not using it, but I still think it sums up my direction. So onward! And enjoy!


Knock-off Version of Burbank’s Sweet Corn Bread

Burbank's Sweet Corn Bread Clone

When I first moved to the Cincinnati area in 1998, there was a small local barbecue chain called Burbank’s Real Bar-B-Q. It was named after a local radio personality who had ties with the company somehow. Having just moved here from western Tennessee, all I really cared about was that they served Memphis style barbecue and that their corn bread was the some of the best I’ve ever had. Now, in 2009, the “chain” is down to one location, Gary Burbank retired from radio and they changed the recipe for their corn bread. But, have no fear! I have a recipe for a knock-off version of the original Burbank’s Sweet Corn Bread. Yeah, it uses mixes, but it tastes just like the original version.

Knock-off Version of Burbank’s Sweet Corn Bread

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together the milk and eggs. Add the mixes and stir by hand. Pour batter into greased 9×13 inch pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.


UPDATE: Burbank’s closed in late 2009. You can read more about it in the post from the Wine Me, Dine Me blog.

Being surprisingly domestic

Every once in a while, it’s nice to do something that makes people go, “Wow! I didn’t know you could do that.” It’s especially nice when one of those people is your wonderful husband of 11+ years.

What did I do? I took these:


And turned them into this:


That’s two batches of blackberry-grape jam to be specific.

If you know a bit more of my growing up years, I guess it isn’t too surprising. I was a 10-year member of 4-H and exhibited at the Illinois State Fair in several areas including flower arranging, arts & crafts and public speaking. Eventually, I was the judge for public speaking at the state fair one year.

My mom was a dietitian so I learned to cook early in my life. My brother did too.

But, it’s been over twenty years since I made jam and making jam isn’t like making beef stroganoff. There is special equipment involved and a decent sized kitchen is also a good thing. A quick trip to our local Ace Hardware took care of the equipment: a canner with rack that Tom can also use for making beer, a canning funnel, a jar lifter, three dozen jelly/jam jars and a couple of boxes of Certo Sure Jel. The recipe is Mom’s. Follow the instructions from the Certo box, but use two cups of crushed blackberries and two cups of grape juice instead of four cups of blackberries As Mom says, the blackberries are too intense unless you cut the taste with the grape juice. I also needed a 10-pound bag of sugar. Each batch takes seven cups of sugar! Diet food, this ain’t!

The blackberries were courtesy of a former student and now Twitter/FaceBook friend who spent part of her birthday picking the blackberries. The first two jars go to her! Thanks, Natasha!

The process of making jam isn’t necessarily hard, but you do need to be fairly precise.  And cleaning up as you go is definitely the way to do it.

You can see the finished product above. I only did two batches yesterday, but the processed blackberries are in our freezer just waiting for me to make the next four batches. We haven’t tried any yet, but Tom’s promised homemade bread for when we do.

The look of amazement and somewhat awe on Tom’s face last night was worth any and all effort there was. It’s also nice to still have some surprises up your sleeve after 11+ years.

— Carla