Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days of Pinterest Recipe Try-Outs--Day 3: Meatball Sliders

Welcome to my
For this meal, I'm using The Pioneer Woman's spaghetti and meatballs recipe to make meatball sliders. As usual, I made a few substitutions and I was in a hurry and didn't follow all directions exactly, but I think it turned out okay!
Meat Ball Ingredients:  
2 lbs ground meat
(recipe calls for 3/4# each of ground beef and ground pork, but we are not eating pork anymore because  "You are what you eat ate")

3 cloves garlic, minced
 (fastest way to get them out of the skins: turn your knife side-ways so it's flat, hold it on top of the garlic clove and smash with your other hand. This freaks MrHLBjr out but I tell him it's how all the pros do it. Of course, their garlic cloves probably don't go flying across their kitchen and land on the sticky floor, but last I looked, I'm not getting paid to cook, so I'm not a professional, am I?)

3/4 cups bread crumbs 
3/4 cups Parmesan (I didn't have enough so I added some Mexican blend--Ole!)
1 tsp parsley (recipe calls for fresh, but me no havey)
and a splash of milk

2 eggs
 1/4 tsp salt 
ground black pepper

Step 1: Mix meat with the above ingredients.
Step 2: Roll into balls and lay on a cookie sheet 
(I used my scoop, but I think I should've made them a little smaller)

Step 3: Put sheet of raw meatballs in freezer for about 10 min to firm up.
(here's where timing was off for me...I had to go take kids to activities, so my meatballs were in the freezer for about 1-1/2 hours. Oops!)

Step 4: Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in pan and brown meatballs on all sides.
(this is where the over-freezing hurt took longer than usual and the meatballs started to stick to the pan as the center started heating up where the burner was hottest. So I moved them out around the perimeter of the pan until all of the oil was warm enough, then I moved them back and turned the fire down. I should've put the lid on and mixed the sauce in a bowl while I waited, but I didn't think about it!)

Step 5: Remove meatballs and drain on paper towels while making the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:
 1 whole yellow onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 whole (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes (I had diced, so used that)
1 whole 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes 
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar (This cuts the acidity in the tomatoes; it makes a difference! Trust me!)
freshly ground black pepper*
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced (again, I used my dried stuff...about 1 tsp)
8 whole fresh basil leaves (same here)
*I ended up using this instead of the canned stuff in the pic--I've never really been able to taste a difference between the two in cooked food

Step 1: Brown the onion and garlic in the left over oil from the meatballs.
(I drained some of the oil; there was a lot left in the pan!)
Step 2: Add  the tomatoes, wine, and seasonings, mix, and simmer about 20 min. Then, add meatballs and simmer 30 more minutes.
(I didn't have time wait for it to simmer...I just threw the meatballs in at this point and put the lid on to save time while I picked up kids from activities)

Step 4: Place 1 meatball with sauce on an open roll, add a slice of cheese, and close.

Eat and enjoy!

The Verdict: 4 Stars!
Timing was an issue for me, so this might not be the best recipe to make on busy afternoons. The flavors of the sauce didn't meld as much as I would have liked, but that was due to my skipping ahead to save time. And I will make smaller meatballs next time in order to have more. But we have plenty of left-overs and will enjoy these for lunch one day this week, especially since the seasonings in the sauce have mingled amongst themselves by now. I have made this sauce by itself for pasta dishes and I know how delish it can be!
Give it a try and let me know if you like it, too! (here's the pin, again)

31 Days of Pinterest Recipe Try-Outs--Day 2: Brownies They'll Never Forget

Welcome to my

I love to cook and bake from scratch. Food just tastes so much better when in its freshest state when used to make a recipe, not to mention you eliminate preservatives and artificial flavorings that not only change the taste, but change the make up of a food and can put harmful chemicals into your body. {A mantra that our family has adapted, and use for the most part, is "You are what you eat ate", meaning: what ever was eaten or absorbed by the food you are eating is also being eaten and absorbed by you. So, think about the diets of the animals that give you your meats and other products. Think about the "diets" of the plants you consume. Makes you think twice, doesn't it?}

Okay, back to the recipe!
(where was I? oh yeah, cooking from scratch...)

As much as I love to use fresh and simple ingredients in my cooking and baking, I have never found a recipe that beats out boxed brownies! Betty Crocker has just the right amount of sweet and chocolatey moisture and I've never been able to duplicate it. And it's always so disappointing after letting my mouth water while I mix and bake and wait to sink my teeth into the delectable, edible squares of heaven, only to bite into tasteless, dry, mealy chunks of dirt. In fact, I usually just ignore any homemade brownie recipe I come across because why go through the disappointment?

And because of this, and our "clean eating habits" {eyes rolling at myself}, we haven't had brownies in a very long time. I don't even think my kids know what brownies taste like.

So when I saw this recipe on a post entitled Brownies They'll Never Forget I thought, "Yeah, right." And then I kept thinking about it (which I guess means I fell for the title), and thought, "hmmm....I haven't tried a from-scratch brownie recipe in years. Maybe someone figured out Betty's secrets." 

And so, here we go...

I was able to recruit some helpers for this experiment. It wasn't too hard. I promised them brownies (and with a snicker because I thought, "Hey, if the brownies are a bust, the kids will still eat 'em because they don't know what they're supposed to taste like and I'll save myself the despair of wasted hope...suckahs!").

Actually, I did make some substitutions in an effort to make these "healthy" and right now you're seeing the two sticks of butter and thinking to yourself "Healthy? Girl's got a head prob!"


REAL butter is better for you than fake butter!! 

(Why do I keep trying to segue into a natural foods rant?)

(I apologize)

(Carry on)
My ingredients: 
1 cup organic whole wheat flour (I ground myself, thankyou), 
2 cups Stevia Cane (sugar/stevia mix), 
3/4 cup organic cacao powder (fancy-schmancy cocoa), 
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (was out of vanilla extract), 
2 sticks of BUTTER (ooohhh, it's a throw-down!), 
3 farm-fresh eggs (love the multi-colored shells!), 
and 2 Tbsp brewed coffee 
(plus 1 pinch salt--not pictured).

Step 1: melt the butter (tip: microwaves kill good nutrients; don't use 'em!)

 and grease the pan (yes, with more butter...get up off the floor)

Step 2: Pour melted butter into mixing bowl (backhand maneuver optional)

Step 3: Add all ingredients & mix 
(ATTN moms: try not to loose your cool here! Repeat after me: Love is patient, love is kind...)

Step 3: Pour into pan while your kids confiscate your phone and turn the camera on you for a change.

Step 4: Bake at 350 for about 35-40 min (depending on how gooey you like your brownies, and the size of your pan). And say a prayer that you've found the homemade-from-scratch answer to Betty's best.
Step 5: Forget to take a picture of the finished product or the children enjoying their reward.

The Verdict:
Definitely the best from-scratch recipe I've found! However, with all of my substitutions in order to make these better for our body systems, the taste was just a little off for me. BUT I think that can easily be remedied by cutting some of the Stevia Cane, maybe by 1/2 even. Stevia tends to be strong and I wasn't thinking about that fact when making this.

But it was still very moist and chocolatey, which is the main feature of any good brownie!

And my kids, since they don't remember the last time they've even seen a brownie, loved these!

We give this recipe 4 stars, but hope to bump it up to 5 next time with less Stevia added.

Let me know if you try it, and what ingredients you use to make it your own. (I won't judge if you use the chemically-processed fake stuff!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days of Pinterest Recipe Try-Outs--Day 1: Tuscan Chicken Stew

Welcome to my 

Scroll Down to read Day 1.
(I’ll be adding a link for each day once it goes live, then you can click to read them, too!)

Day 2: Brownies They'll Never Forget      Day 3: Meatball Sliders

Disclaimer: this is my first time to participate in The Nester's 31 Day Party (here's the House/Home category), so I may not do it the best way. In fact, I will most assuredly do this all wrong. Case in point: I just decided yesterday to participate and I have NOTHING written down to help organize my thoughts! Just some ideas in my head, and now on my new, just-made-because-I-had-a-fleeting-thought-that-it-might-be-good-to-have Pinterest board.

And another disclaimer: I don't think I've ever done anything for 31 days...EVER (see re: this blog). Except eat, and that's only because I get reminders from my belly every few hours. (And I realize that I'm saying this as a privileged, S-A-H American woman. And now I feel bad.)

But, regardless of my available resources, I am not gifted in the kitchen and often times find myself staring at the fridge and pantry trying to figure out what to make for my family, even though I love to cook for them! Anyone else find themselves in this predicament?

Thankfully, Pinterest has come along and I've got tons of choices at my finger tips...{ahem}...never mind that I've got cookbooks galore sitting in my kitchen, getting all dusty. There's just something about seeing pretty step-by-step pictures on my preferred hand-held digital device to explain it all to me. And then handing said device to my kids to keep them out of my hair while I clean the kitchen aftermath. All my beloved cookbooks can't do that, now can they?

So, I am journaling each day's new recipe here so you can get a girlfriend's take on it, along with some ratings from my lab rats family to help you decide whether or not you'd like to give them a try.

(accidental poem warning)

And now, without further ado, 
and hopefully much grace from you,
let's get started with

Note: I'm only going to show you the steps that I went through. Please click the link above for the actual recipe.

I made several substitutions with this recipe, only because I didn't quite have the EXACT ingredients, but what I had was close enough, and it turned out just fine.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken and also chicken broth, but I had neither, so I used chicken breasts (they were still slightly frozen when I put them in) and I made a cheese cloth bouquet of onion, garlic, carrot, and celery skins and cuttings to season the water I was boiling the chicken in, thus making a broth as it cooked.

First, I simmered chicken breasts in a Dutch oven full of water with salt, pepper, the bouquet and a bay leaf.

As the chicken cooked and turned the water into broth, I chopped all of the veggies:
Tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, and a can of black beans (recipe calls for great Northern, but this is what I had)

 Onions, carrots, and celery. I saved the trimmings from this dicing session to use the next time I make broth (you can see them in that little bowl--I just toss that into the fridge until I roast a chicken, then I'll boil the bones in water with those clippings; I do this about once or twice a month).

After the chicken had cooked a bit (not raw, but not overcooked!), I took the chicken out of the broth and set it on a plate (not pictured...I was multitasking with science and writing homework!) then I strained the broth to get the little bits of foam and junk out. Then I added all of the chopped veggies and beans to the pot, added the seasonings and brought it all to a boil, then set on simmer for 45 minutes.

broth minus the chicken--looks yummy already!

seasonings added--I don't measure, I just eyeball it in the palm of my hand and throw it in! The potatoes in the stew absorb a lot of salt, so you can be a bit more free in seasonings. I always taste test after the broth cooks in seasonings to see if it needs more of anything.

all mixed together and heating up, uncovered

 While the veggies were simmering, I shredded the chicken, then after the carrots and potatoes were tender, I threw in the chicken, turned off the heat, and put the lid on so all of the ingredients could sit and get acquainted with each other while I took a walk with my friend/neighbor/prego buddy. (We're due a week apart! She makes me walk. She's young and full of energy and this is her first baby. I'd say I remember those days, but this is my fifth baby and I'm 40 so I don't remember anything that happened before lunch.)

When I got back, hubs had taken the kids to our neighborhood's National Night Out block party, so I got to dig into this all by myself:

And I ate it while sitting on the couch, catching up on The Voice, and then they came home all noisy and sweaty, and I couldn't move any muscles 'cause they were froze-up from exertion, and so I sent them into the kitchen to serve and feed themselves, and I forgot I was going to feed them all 1950s-like at the table with napkins and stuff and then ask them to rate this dish with stars.

But by MY taste buds, I rate this as a 4-star dish! Flavorful, warming, and filling...true comfort food!

Give it a try and see how you like it! And if you make your own substitutions, let me know!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope I see you again during this 31 Days series! I plan on posting most of the days, but I'm not sure what recipes I'll use just yet. You can see my Pinterest Recipe Try-Out board here where I'm pinning some ideas as I research. If you see something pin-worthy, let me know!

And have fun perusing the other 31 Days topics at The Nester's place!

**updated to add: This made a HUGE pot of stew! I put the leftovers in these plastic tubs to freeze (though I'm sure I'll have to add liquid as I reheat, as the potatoes tend to absorb it)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Song

Five Minute Friday

Once again, I'm joining in on Lisa-Jo's writing exercise with Five Minute Friday, setting the timer for five minutes and writing about the single word she gives us.


Every waking moment, I hear a tune. A lilting waltz that makes me want to sing. We weave in and out with our daily steps, brushing past, standing to face, sitting to share, and my heart sings with many emotions: love, joy, frustration, selfishness, guilt, hope, assurance, comfort.

Individually heard, it's just noise. Notes jumping out here and there; sent soring out into the wild blue yonder to be absorbed by anything in their paths. Some are flat. Some are sharp. Alone, they are thin and empty. Warbley. Weak.

But put them together and it's an epic theme. The most heart-stirring crescendos and decrescendos, ebbing and flowing from measure to measure, through sounds of heart strings, strummed and plucked, mixed with the blasting of horns and banging of drums, tempered by the airy winds.

And rising above it all, connecting separate notes together like beads on a string, passionate voices in perfect harmony, that sing an aria of love.


What makes your heart sing today?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scripture Memory Catch-up!

Ummm....been a tad busy here. 

But my big project is over now (will try to post about it soon...had a BLAST, but I'm beat!) and I feel like the cobwebs of fatigue have lifted. 

Much of that is due to the most awesome Sunday afternoon nap I had this past weekend. When church was over, I declared to my family, and my parents who were visiting, that the "blue couch" was mine, as well as the throw blanket and the TV, and that I would unavailable for an un-estimated amount of time.

Then my girls and I curled up together, called up The Pioneer Woman on the DVR and I drifted off to sleep dreaming of patty melts, crash hot potatoes, and bananas foster.

Sleep? Check.

Food? Check.

No calories? Check.

Best. Nap. E-VERRRRR.

Then, somewhere in my awakening haze I remembered was trying to memorize Colossians. And so, I have dusted off my Journible, my S.O.A.P. notebook, my Siesta Spiral, and my Scripture Memory Box, and have gotten on my way back towards the light.


Anyway, I'm catching up on my entries and posts here for my verses. So please bear(?bare?Behr?) with me as I go through each my habits for each of my verses that I've neglected...because I just can't skip ahead with my CDO* self.

Deep breath. Here we go...

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.--Colossians 1:13-16 (NIV)

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.--Colossians 1:17-20 (NIV)

Oh I just love that passage!! Such authority in those verses! Can't wait to dive in and study them!!

So, how've you all been? What'd I miss?

*Yes, I realize that it's supposed to be Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, instead of Compulsive Disorder Obsessive, but no self-respecting "OCD" person can actually call it that because those letters aren't in alphabetical order!!! {shuddering to leave it out of order right now!}

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Afraid

Five Minute Friday

Once again, I'm joining in on Lisa-Jo's writing exercise with Five Minute Friday, setting the timer for five minutes and writing about the single word she gives us.

Today's word is "Afraid".

Here I go~

I remember trembling, walking in, more aware of myself than at any other time. My hair was cut short, like a unfortunate, misguided attmept over the summer by my parents to deterr the tangles they combed out daily in my almost waist length hair.

The summer we moved.

A new state. A new school. A new grade. It was here, I remember, my first feelings of unworthiness. Outcast. Different. Weak.

Picked on. Bullied. Ignored.

Well, by the majority., anyway. I did have a few friends at church. But none I felt I would miss when we finally moved again two years later.

Again, a new state, a new school, a new grade.

I thought that season was over, that season of being afraid of what others thought, what they would say, what they would do. But it wasn't. It only grew, with my hormones, and other hormonal, prepubescent preteens.

It can be too much to bear sometimes. Can't it?


My five minutes is up, but this story isn't. I will finish another day. In the meantime, what does the word "afraid" mean to you? Join us to share your thoughts...only 5 minutes!
We're pluggin' right along with Beth Moore's Scripture Memory Team! We're eight verses into Colossians and so far so good! My little plan seems to be working quite well; even if I miss a day (or two, or three...oops!) I can hop right back on the plan and it helps me get caught up! (I'll try to share it in detail later. Too much on my plate right now!) 

And, of course, my kids have no problem memorizing anything, so they're blowing me away as usual! be young and empty minded again. hmph!

Okay, here are my new verses:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)

 What verses are you memorizing right now? I pray you are being blessed by them!