Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meatballs for everyone!

Today I thought I would share my "go to" dinner that I bring to friends when they've had a baby or illness, or when I feel like doing something nice for someone.  This is the perfect meal because it transports well and can be eaten immediately or warmed up at a later date.

The star of the meal is the meatballs.  I have used this recipe for years.  

Meatball Grinders
  • 3 (14 ounce) cans pizza sauce (or you can use homemade)
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar apple jelly
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen meatballs (or you can use homemade)
  • 6 hoagie rolls
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1.  In a large saucepan, mix pizza sauce, apple jelly, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil over medium heat.

2.  Place frozen meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are done, stirring occasionally.

3.  While the meatballs are cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place the split hoagie rolls on a large baking sheet.

4.  Place several meatballs and desired amount of sauce in each roll. Layer with mozzarella cheese. Place in the preheated oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Place all your meatball sauce ingredients in a large pot (or even a crockpot) and bring to a low boil.

Add your meatballs and simmer for at least 20 minutes.  I usually let my simmer all day.

I like to package the meatballs up with the hoagie buns and sliced cheese.  I also like to add either a side salad, or fruit that can be served with the sandwiches.  I also like to include some muffins and/or granola bars as well.  

I promise the recipients will be thrilled to receive this easy and delish dinner and more so, will be touched that you thought of them!  And be smart, make a double batch and feed your own family as well!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Puppy School Drop-out

I love my dog.  Not in a weird, socially-uncomfortable sort of way, but I do love her to pieces.  She's my little companion during the days that all 3 minis are in school, so she spends her days happily following me around the house.  That is, until I get the vacuum out.  Then she shoots me her look and heads outside.

I decided to sign my sweet Lola up for puppy obedience school.  She is a really mellow and well-behaved dog at home, so I am toying with the idea of doing a therapy dog training.  When my oldest mini was in the hospital several years ago, he had a dog come visit him and he still talks about how much he loved that experience!

And since we regularly visit children's hospitals, I thought it would be neat to take our dog with us.  So this was the reasoning behind my brilliant idea to enroll Lola into obedience school.

To put it mildly, Lola was the "wild woman" of puppy school.  And by "wild woman," I mean it took 3 instructors plus myself to get her under control.  And a special collar that they swore doesn't hurt her.  However, they didn't volunteer to put it on when I asked if I could try it out on them first.  You know, just to prove to myself that it wouldn't hurt her.

We finally got her settled down enough to take her into the arena where all the other puppies were.  We were about 30 seconds into training "heel" which basically means walking your dog in a circle and keeping them on the left side of your body, when I realized people were talking trash about my dog.  Seriously.  Dog owners were gossiping about my dog to their dog.  "Mac, stay away from the chocolate over there.  Those chocolates are the wild ones."  "Charlie, look at that chocolate.  Don't you ever behave like that."

And that's when I realized that puppy owners were about as supportive and encouraging as first time moms in a playgroup.  "Morgan, stay away from that baby, he can't even crawl yet."  "Benjamin would never need to feed in the middle of the night now that he is 6 months old."  "My baby is 18 months old and is reading.  Your baby is 18 months old and is eating all the books."  blah blah blah.

I was the mom of the kid that hit all his first year milestones about 6 months late.  And then I was the mom of the biter.  And then I was the mom of the kid that screamed whenever anyone that wasn't her mom tried to talk to her.

Needless to say I left both playgroups and obedience school feeling a little discouraged.

When I got home, I was sharing the experience with Mr. McGhee and the minis overheard the conversation. And, let me just tell you, my minis were fired up.  These guys right here were ready for a throw down.  

And then my girl mini burst into tears because it "hurts my feelings that people are mean to my Lola-girl."

And then Mr. McGhee was all fired up because not only had someone talked trash about his dog, his wife was upset, his boy minis were wound up, and his girl mini was in tears.

And then I made the comment that I found those perfectly well-behaved dogs nauseatingly boring.  Just like I find perfect children and perfect adults a tad boring as well.  I like some spunk, to keep things interesting.  We all had a good chuckled and I said that I would work with Lola this week before our next class, so hopefully things will run a bit smoother.  My middle mini insisted that he didn't want me to work Lola too hard and risk de-spunking her!

And since we all felt like our spirits had been darkened a bit, I decided to make something for dinner that would cheer us all up.  And for those of you that are faithful blog readers, you all know that my minis favorite food is asparagus. So I decided to whip up this pasta recipe.

Penne with Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  1. Heat the oven to 400°. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.
  3. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.
Cut up your asparagus.

Cover it with oil and put in on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Cook your vinegar until there is only 3 tbsp left.  This is called a reduction.

Your reduction will be thick....you can see the line I made with my spatula.

Asparagus, when it is done roasting.

Add butter and your balsamic sauce to your cooked pasta.

Mix in your cheese.

This recipe is good.  It's not an oh, my totally delish recipe.  But it definitely is an easy, quick, and tasty dinner.  I served mine with this salad, and it was the perfect dinner for a crabby family.  

Stay tuned for puppy obedience school updates.  And, if you can, please send a little prayer up that my sweet Lola girl doesn't poop in the middle of the arena while all the other dogs are marching around and heeling.  Because that little incident was a little too much "spunk" for me!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mexican adventure and Thai food!

Mr. McGhee and I had the absolute luxurious privilege of going away last week for a few days without our minis.  The last time the two of us went on vacation over 10 years ago, so we were really looking forward to our time away in Mazatlan, which is in Mexico.  

Mazatlan is a very poor city in western Mexico.  I think a lot of times Americans equate poverty with unsafe, and we found that was not the case in Mazatlan, at all!  We were told that 80% of the population in Mazatlan makes the equivalent of $5USD per day.  Despite the extreme poverty, the people there are very proud of their city and so welcoming to visitors.  They were eager to share with us what we should do during our time there and, of course, where we should eat.  

We spent a good amount of time lounging by the pool and walking the beach.  And we ate.  And ate.  And ate some more.  (And, truth be told, we did some drinking too).  

I was perfectly content with my lounging, eating, drinking, and beach-walking time.  Unfortunately, my crazy adventure-seeking husband was not, so Mr. McGhee found a jungle expedition for us to take.  

Step one of this adventure is actually getting to the jungle.  We had a fantastic driver named Pedro.  Well, at least that's what his shirt says.  He never actually answered me when I addressed him as Pedro.  Pedro drove us for about an hour and a half out of the city and through small villages up the mountain to reach the jungle.  I am not sure what Pedro's background was, but he gave us an incredible history, cultural, and economic overview of the western part of Mexico.  And he promised me that we were safe as we drove through small villages that had military men holding machine guns standing on tanks throughout the village.  And when he pulled over in one of these villages I damn-near had a heart attack, until he told me this was his favorite view in Mexico and he wanted to take our picture for us.

We finally reached a village where Pedro pulled over, parked, and left us there with some local guides, Roberto and Miguel.  They were fantastic and I am certain they thought I was fantastic too....just guessing though, because I could barely understand a word they said.  Let's just say there was a significant language barrier between us and our jungle guides.  Oh, did I mention these guides were taking us through the jungle on zip lines?

Weeee......there I go.......(by the way, a woman shrieking in terror can be understood in any language.  No translation needed for me to communicate to Roberto and Miguel that I was scared to death and this whole thing was Mr. McGhee's bright idea.)

 And, here's Mr. McGhee taking off on his zip-line.  Now, Mr. McGhee is a very smart man that went to college for many years to get a fancy job.  So, seriously, why does he have to do these things?

And, here he is, hanging from his feet and having the time of his life.  Roberto and Miguel thought he was awesome.  Showoff.

 We did 12 zip lines and each was more amazing that the previous one!  We hiked back to the village with Roberto and Miguel.  At this point, they were my homies.

A family from the village shared their dinner with us.  I was well aware that every US food safety code had been broken in the preparation of this meal, but I knew that I would offend them if I didn't eat it.  One bite into the meal and the worries of food codes never crossed my mind.  Seriously, the best meal of the vacation!  

Mr. McGhee told me these weren't very hot, so I tried one.  I am certain you can all figure out how that ended.

 As you can tell, we had an incredible time away.  We missed our minis so much, but the city of Mazatlan will always be a place we hold special in our hearts.

When we came home, I was very eager to do some cooking.  And although the food in Mazatlan was amazing, I knew I was good on eating Mexican food for a while.  So, I was happy to whip up a dish of thai lime chicken that I have been wanting to try.

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3½ oz (100g) rice stick noodles
3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
12 oz (360g) uncooked skinless chicken breast fillets—cut into bite size pieces
1 red pepper—deseeded and cut into strips
5 button mushrooms—quartered
12 snow peas—ends trimmed, and left whole
1 clove garlic—minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped lime zest
1 scallion (spring onion)—thinly sliced on diagonal
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1.  Mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, water and pepper in a small bowl until combined. 

2.  Place the rice stick noodles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 8 minutes, then rinse under cold water, drain, and set aside. 

3.  Heat a wok or large skillet over a high heat then add 1 tablespoon of the oil. 

4.  Stir-fry the chicken for 3 minutes then remove from the wok and set aside on a plate. 

5.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot wok and stir-fry the pepper for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and snow peas and cook for 2 minutes. Add he garlic and lime zest and cook a minute. Add he cooked chicken, noodles and sauce mixture, and stir-fry for 1 minute to heat through and combine thoroughly. Stir through the scallion, basil and lime juice and serve.

(I also added some toasted peanuts to ours).

Be careful, your little helper may snag your sliced red bell peppers.

And this wanna-be helper will snatch anything not pushed back from the edge of the counter.

 Rice stick noodles.  Sorry for the weird face.  She couldn't stop singing for the photo.

Prep everything ahead of time.

Make your sauce.

I toasted some peanuts to add on top.

Cook your chicken.

Cook your veggies.

Stir-fry ti all together and top with peanuts.

This was really delish.  My minis especially loved the peppers and pea pods, so next time I will triple the amount of them!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Food for a guys' guy

I love Meatloaf.  Seriously.  Whenever I am listening to my local light radio station, I can't stop myself from rolling down my windows and belting out along with him....I will DO anything for love, but I won't do that....

Meatloaf rocks.  Even though I have no clue what that really is.

Even though I love Meatloaf, I can't stand meatloaf.  I mean, I really really really can't stand meatloaf.

But, for some reason, the other day I got an urge to make a meatloaf for Mr. McGhee.  See Mr. McGhee is a guys' guy from Wisconsin that now, because of me, eats salmon and salad instead of filet and potatoes.  So every once in a while, I like to treat Mr. McGhee to a guys' guy type of dinner.  

Plus, Mr. McGhee is very handsome and the other day I caught him looking at my favorite catalog and circling the things he thought I would like.

To find a meatloaf recipe, I went to my favorite site, Our Best Bites.  And the ladies at Our Best Bites didn't fail me with their recipe for bacon-wrapped meatloaf.  That's serious guys' guy type of food.

I made the recipe exactly as written.

Bacon-wrapped meatloaf

  • 1/2 cup chili sauce (or substitute ketchup, but I liked chili sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar (or white vinegar in a pinch)

Meat Loaf
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped medium
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or whole milk)
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal (I used more pork instead of veal)
  • 2/3 cup Saltine crackers , crushed (about 18), or quick oatmeal, or 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 – 8 ounces bacon , thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape)

1. For the glaze: Mix all ingredients in small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened and set aside.
2. For the meat loaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks.)
4. Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf.
5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool 10-15 minutes. While meal loaf is cooling, re-heat remaining sauce and brush some over meat loaf if desired.  Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

Make the glaze and set it aside.

As with most good recipes, start by sauteing garlic and onion.

Get your egg mixture mixed.

Add egg mixture to meat.

Mix together egg and meat mixture.  This is a tough step for those of you that are squeamish about touching meat.  I would be one of those people.  I kept myself distracted by daydreaming about this.

Slather your meatloaf with your glaze.

 Wrap that loaf up in bacon.  Tuck the ends underneath the meatloaf.

Bake until cooked thoroughly.

 Slather a little extra glaze on top before serving.

Mr. McGhee loved this.  In fact, all the minis loved it too.  Especially my middle mini, which doesn't surprise me...he's sort of a guys' guy too.   This is him, finishing his first 5k in 30 minutes!

I served my meatloaf with oven-roasted cauliflower.  
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2-1/4 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees F. 

2.  Combine cauliflower and garlic in a large bowl. 
3.  Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 
4.  Transfer, in a single layer, to a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees F for about 25 minutes, stirring once. Sprinkle with cheese. 

Everyone loved the cauliflower.  A huge hit and now on our weekly veggie rotation!

And to drink, we had spinach smoothies.  My best friend introduced them to me this weekend.  

Spinach Smoothie

  • handful (or two) of spinach
  • handful of frozen strawberries
  • frozen banana
  • 1/2 cucumber (peeled)
1.  Blend in blender.

Delish!  A meal you can totally feel good about feeding to your family!