lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

green garlic meatballs

One of my favorite spring garden treats is young, tender green garlic. I always pull up some of it to enjoy – I add it to rubs, sauces, salads and more. Green garlic has a more mild taste than mature garlic and can be used just like scallions in most dishes.

This past weekend I made a large batch of meatballs; some for dinner and the rest for the freezer. I love having meatballs in the freezer – they make a weeknight dinner of pasta or subs a much easier endeavor. And since there’s nothing I love more than garlicky meatballs, my homegrown green garlic make these meatballs extra delicious. I also added a couple of garlic cloves, for a super intense garlic flavor. Vampires, you’ve been warned.

So, if you grow garlic or see green garlic at the market and have wondered what to do with it, here’s a delicious idea.

lola rugula how to use green garlic

green garlic meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped green garlic
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix everything together well, but not over mixing or smashing everything together too much. I use my fingertips more than my whole hands to blend it all together because I find that over-mixing and mashing it all together makes a denser meatball than I prefer.

Preheat oven to 350

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin rolling the meatballs and placing them on the prepared baking sheet. This recipe made about 80 golf ball sized meatballs, 40 meatballs per sheet. If you want them larger, increase the cooking time; smaller, decrease the time.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, turn, and then bake another 20 or just until they start to brown.

lola rugula green garlic meatballs recipe

See that beautiful green garlic in those meatballs? It really adds a fresh garlic flavor to these and I think you’ll agree.

Don’t know what to do with green garlic? Now you do! Never be afraid to play with your food – the results are delicious. Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

stuffed cabbage rolls

Can we just go ahead and admit that most “stuffed” recipes might as well state: “this is going to be time-consuming”? Because, honestly…from dumplings to ravioli to, well…cabbage rolls, stuffing things takes a bit of time and effort. This recipe is no exception. BUT, like it and so many other stuffed recipes, it is well, well, worth it. Behold….stuffed cabbage rolls.


My paternal grandma used to make stuffed cabbage rolls and it’s taken me quite a while to nail down the same amazing rolls. The secret to these is the tomato sauce, which is made with brown sugar and white vinegar, which gives them a sweet and sour appeal. I’ve seen them called German-style, although there’s a whole other German-style cabbage roll made with brown gravy. Whatever their origin, I’m just glad that I finally figured these out. I like to make them in a big batch, which can easily be reheated or frozen, depending on your preference.


stuffed cabbage rolls recipe

This recipe makes about 2 dozen rolls

  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1   cup rice

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice, stir well, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, while you prepare everything else.

  • 1 medium head of cabbage, whole but with the core carefully removed. I use a sharp knife to cut carefully around the core to remove it.

Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Add cabbage, cored-side down, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the whole cabbage to a colander to drain and cool.

tomato sauce
  • 3 cups pureed tomatoes, with their juice (canned or fresh)
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a good simmer, uncovered,  and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the stuffing.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet or stockpot. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Increase heat to medium-high and add pork. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring just a couple of times. Add beef and cook just until both are cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add beaten eggs and rice and mix well.  Set aside while you prepare the cabbage leaves.

Carefully peel off each cabbage leaf, keeping them as intact as possible. Some of them may tear just a bit, but that’s okay – they will all come together when you roll them. You may need to slice each leaf at the thick rib near the core to remove them. Remove at least 2 dozen leaves and then chop up the rest of the cabbage.

In two 13 x 9 baking dishes, drop a tablespoon or so of tomato sauce in the bottom of each dish and swirl it around.  Add chopped cabbage.This gives you a base layer of tomato sauce to put your rolls on and helps keep the cabbage from browning too much.

Preparing the cabbage rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and fill with a couple of healthy tablespoons of stuffing mix. Fold in edges and roll as tightly as possible without tearing the leaves. Place prepared roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining leaves and stuffing.

Cover baking dishes with lids or foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove covers and bake for 10 more minutes.


Voila! Yes, these are a bit of work but they’re seriously worth it.

I like to make mine with a combination of beef and pork for 2 reasons – one is that I like the mix of flavors and two that it makes this dish a little lighter and healthier. If you prefer beef over pork or vice versa, feel free to add what you prefer.

I’m not a fan of all the added sugar that pervades our food these days but it’s definitely key, along with the vinegar, in this recipe. The sweet and sour aspect of the sauce is what makes these flavorful and unique.

I hope if you catch any missed steps or not-clear points, you’ll let me know. These aren’t nearly as complicated as they sound, really just time-consuming.

Oh, and if you like stuffing things, here’s my steamed dumpling recipe, here’s my homemade classic ravioli recipe, and here’s my mushroom ravioli recipe.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

the ultimate basic marinade

This is a marinade that has served me well time and time again. It’s great on beef, pork, salmon, tuna, and even lamb chops. It’s a great starter marinade recipe, which you can customize to your tastes or recipe if desired.


  • 1/2 cup oil – I typically use olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Marinating time depends on your cut of protein – salmon and tuna only need an hour at most, whereas lamb, pork and beef can be marinated for just a couple or hours or overnight. The longer the marinade, the stronger the flavor.

The beauty of this marinade is that you can make a ton of customizations to it. Want to go more Asian? Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of minced ginger and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you have sesame seeds, add a teaspoon of those, too. A teaspoon of miso paste works great in this, too (although you’ll want to omit the salt if you add miso)

Don’t have soy sauce? Substitute Worcestershire sauce.

Don’t have balsamic vinegar? Try red wine. rice or white balsamic vinegar, for a lighter flavor.

Want to kick the heat up a bit? Add a bit of sriracha, crushed red pepper flakes or hot chile paste to taste.

Got some fresh limes, lemons or oranges? Add a tablespoon of fresh citrus juice to really brighten this up.

Want fresh herbs? Add parsley, cilantro, rosemary….use your imagination.

I’ve used the basis of this marinade in a lot of recipes. It’s particularly good on flank and skirt steak, salmon, chicken breasts and thighs, and lamb chops. It even works great on veggies, especially on the grill.

If you’re looking for an easy marinade recipe that you can customize and call your own, this is it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Remember what I always say: never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Enjoy.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

a brine in time…saves dinner

Grrrr! Don’t you hate it when you have this easy, quick dinner of pork chops planned, but then they end up dry as a bone? I’ve totally done this and been so disappointed that I just want to throw the whole meal in the garbage can.

Well, one thing has saved me from a complete meltdown and it’s this: a quick brine. Brining always sounds like a great idea but, seriously, who has the time on a weeknight? Usually, it involves a gazillion ingredients and a minimum of 12 hours in the fridge…sheesh!

Well, this (hopefully) will bring you out of your dinner despair. It’s a quick and easy brine that can be customized to whatever your tastes and time allow.

pork-chop-chicken-breast-brine-recipe-lola-rugulaHere’s the basic recipe:

pork chop quick brine recipe

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix salt and water in a bowl and stir well, until salt has dissolved. Cover pork chops completely with brine and let sit for 1 to 3 hours. Remove from brine, pat dry and cook as usual.

What? Where you expecting something more difficult? This is seriously all you need to do to ensure your pork chops are tender. Well, alright, you still can’t cook them to death, but this will help.

I tend to add a few variations to this, depending on:

  • My time
  • My mood
  • My recipe

But here are some suggestions to add:

  • Crushed or minced garlic
  • Minced onion or shallot
  • Chopped herbs – either dry or fresh
  • Spices

Also, feel free to mix up the liquid; instead of water, add beer or stock for a little more flavor.

Keep in mind that thinner cuts of pork can sit an hour or so, but for thicker cuts, 2 to 3 hours will probably give you better results.

This is a fantastic recipe for the grill too. It won’t save you from extended over-cooking but it’s pretty forgiving if you have a tendency to leave your chops on the heat for a little longer than needed. Try this with chicken too – I think you’ll be amazed at the results.

Happy cooking!


lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

navy bean soup with ham

Leftover ham from the holidays? My motto is: make soup! I was lucky enough to get a wonderful ham bone from a dinner at my mom’s, so stock and soup were calling my name.

Since I know we’re all busy with the holidays, I’ll keep this short and simple. These are guesstimated amounts, since soup is a wing-it kind of thing for me and I don’t really measure, The key is really ratio – add more of what you like, less (or none) of what you don’t.

To make your ham stock, cover the bone with cold water in a large stock pot. Add onions, garlic, veggies, a few peppercorns. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 1/2- 3 hours. Strain our bone and veggies, discard.

homemade-navy-bean-soup-recipe-with-ham-lola-rugulahomemade navy bean soup with ham and veggies recipe

  • 1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups stock made from ham bone and veggies
  • 3-4 cups diced ham
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I dry my own, so it’s very high quality. By all means use fresh, if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (see my note on thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir for a minute or two, then add garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until onions are translucent.

Add stock, herbs and spices and bring to a simmer.

Add beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and cook until beans begin to become tender, about 1 hour.

Add ham, carrots and celery and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until beans and veggies are tender. Want to customize this? Add veggies of your choice here – chopped tomatoes, potatoes, kale, asparagus, broccoli – whatever you like and have on hand.

Definitely serve with some crusty bread.

Maybe not a noteworthy photo, but trust me, this soup is delicious, hearty and will warm you up on a cold winter night.


lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

meatballs with panko and feta cheese

The first week of August here in Northern Illinois felt more like late September: cool and cloudy with a chance of meatballs. Sorry, I couldn’t resist; it’s the dork in me.

So, needless to say, I made meatballs twice in two weeks. These came out so great the first time that I made them again, though this time with one adjustment: I used plain ground pork and ground sirloin this time. The first round I made them with plain ground pork and Italian sausage, which was all I had on hand at the time (use what you have!). The first round had more of a spicy kick which, if you like spicy meatballs (don’t get me started), is the recommended version. Take your pick.

lola rugula homemade meatballs recipe

homemade garlicky meatballs with panko and feta cheese recipe

  • Approximately 1 pound ground pork
  • Approximately 1 pound ground sirloin (or Italian sausage, if you want a kick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped vidalia onion (I actually added a couple of scallions from my garden, along with a bit of vidalia that I had in the fridge)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, minced (I used fresh garlic from my garden, which hasn’t completely dried and is very, very moist still)
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality dried oregano (I dehydrate my own and store it)
  • 1/2 heaping cup finely chopped fresh parsley (again, from my garden…this stuff is loving the cooler temps outside and it’s out of control)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Add pork and beef to bowl and, using your hands, squish it all together about 10 times, to incorporate the two. Throw everything else in and mix well, but don’t over-mix. You want all the ingredients to be well-distributed but don’t overwork your mixture. Place bowl in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to let flavors meld.

Remove from fridge and preheat oven to 350­°

Spray a large baking sheet (lined with foil or parchment, if you want to make clean up easy) with a bit of olive oil. (I have a Misto sprayer that I love, love, love) Form meatball mixture into balls – I like mine big, so this made 14 meatballs for me. If you want smaller ones, decrease the cooking time. Roll the meatballs a bit in the olive oil you sprayed on the pan and then arrange evenly to cook.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes then, using a pair of tongs, turn them over and cook another 10. Turn over again after 5-10 minutes, and then turn once more after 5-10 minutes. Your total cooking time should be 30-40 minutes. (less if you made smaller meatballs, plus you’ll have to turn them sooner)

That’s it! I know a lot of recipes call for pan-browning them but I find baking them to be less messy, less greasy and more evenly cooked.

Today, it’s finally sunny and warm…well, still not August warm but at least it’s in the high 70’s. Eat well my friends!