Friday, April 29, 2011

Food For Friday: Homemade Meatballs

We combined elements from several different recipes to create our favorite meatball recipe.  We love to eat meatballs with fresh pasta and we also really like to make meatball sandwiches with fresh baguette bread.  My next Food for Friday post will be a bread dough recipe we have become big fans of and use to make meatball sandwiches.  Please, please use fresh mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan (that you grate yourself or purchase already grated in a bag in the shredded cheese section).  Do not use that powdery white stuff that they sell as parmesan cheese!  The fresh cheese makes such a huge difference and takes the meatballs to a much fresher, tastier level!
1.5 lbs lean ground beef (we use 94% lean organic)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cut Italian breadcrumbs (we use fresh ones that I make in the food processor with some Italian seasoning)
4 cloves minced or pressed garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
fresh ground pepper (a few turns of the grinder)
olive oil
1 jar of roasted garlic pasta sauce (I use Classico)
fresh mozzarella cheese (I usually use the "log" of fresh mozzarella from Costco that comes in a 2 pack)
pasta (we like fresh linguine)

Put all of the ingredients from the lean ground beef down to the fresh ground pepper into a metal or glass bowl and mix well.  Form into 1.5 inch balls.  (We use a metal cookie dough scoop sometimes to speed up the process and make them more uniform.)  Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat.  Add the meatballs and turn them several times to brown the exterior of the meatballs.  (Don't worry about cooking them through at this point.  You are just browning the outside to add a "crust.")  Pour in the jar of pasta sauce, cover with a lid & simmer on medium to medium low until the meatballs are cooked through, usually 30 to 45 minutes.
Slice the mozzarella cheese and lay over the top of the meatballs and sauce.  Cover for a minute or two until the cheese is good and melted.  Serve over pasta.  Our favorite is to serve it over fresh linguine.  If you don't want to make fresh pasta at home, Buitoni fresh pasta in the refrigerated aisle is a great option.  If you happen to have fresh basil growing in an herb garden this summer, some thin ribbons of basil sprinkled on top is a delicious addition too!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Earlier this month we celebrated my birthday.  I was actually at a Campus Crusade for Christ staff women's conference in the mountains on my birthday, which made it unusual to start with.  It quickly became even more unusual when I woke up at 4 am the morning of my birthday with severe chest & arm pain that lasted for 3 hours.  After a call to my OBGYN, they wanted me to come in just to check and make sure everything was ok, so I left the conference early to head to the doctor.  The baby sounded great, and other than my blood pressure being high, nothing was concerning, so we went home to rest for the evening.  (I've since had an appointment with a cardiologist and everything looks fine with my heart, which was great news!)  I think my surprise gift was getting to hear Lilo's heartbeat on my birthday!

Because I was supposed to be at the conference, we had planned to celebrate my birthday with a fun dinner date that weekend, so a couple of days later, I got to head downtown with my handsome hubby to enjoy a fun evening out and a delicious dinner!  Because we haven't been able to get out much during my pregnancy, it was an extra fun date night! 
With beautiful flowers from my hubby before we left for dinner

Opening his sweet card at dinner (which is one of my favorite parts of celebrating any special occasion!)

My handsome date

My birthday dessert as big as my head (peanut butter and chocolate cookie!)

Right before I left for the conference, I got an early birthday package from my mom and it was the BEST surprise!  Hydrangea are one of my most favorite flowers, and she sent me two hydrangea plants for our yard.  Nearly all of our landscaping beds were completely filled with rocks when we purchased our home, so I am slowly trying to add beautiful flowering plants and I can't wait to cut my first hydrangea blooms to bring into the house. 

It is wonderful, but also crazy, to think that next year I will be celebrating as a mom!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Food For Friday: Spinach, Chicken & Cream Cheese Lasagna

When I think of lasagna, I usually think of a time-consuming, labor intensive process.  I was surprised by how quick and easy this lasagna was to assemble.  It had a great flavor & smooth texture, and I like that the spinach adds nutrients too!  I adapted this recipe from Faithful Provisions with a few changes and additions.  It will definitely be added to our regular list of recipes and I think it will freeze well too.
SCC Lasagna Slice
6 lasagna noodles
1 jar roasted garlic pasta sauce
4 oz. cream cheese (I use lower fat neufatschel cheese)
1 cup chicken broth or stock
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 cup packed fresh baby spinach
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the lasagna noodles.  Cook noodles until tender (following the instructions on the box.)  Drain.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

While the noodles are cooking, shred your 2 cooked chicken breasts.  (If I am making several recipes in a week that call for cubed or shredded cooked chicken, I like to cook a whole pan of chicken at the beginning of the week and put the cooked whole breasts in a container in the fridge.  This saves me time later in the week, and cold chicken is easy to shred with your fingers!)

Heat one cup of chicken broth or stock over medium heat.  Add the cream cheese and mix until the cream cheese is melted.  Using a spoon or a whisk, get out most of the lumps.  The sauce will seem very liquidy at this point.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat.

Use an 8x8 or 9x9 glass baking dish & spread enough pasta sauce in the bottom of the pan to make a thick layer to coat the bottom of the dish (so your noodles will not stick.)  Lay one layer of cooked lasagna noodles in the dish.  (I used kitchen shears to cut my noodles to fit.)  Make sure you have a layer of noodles that totally covers the bottom of your dish.  Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese sauce over the layer of noodles.  Top with a layer of spinach and spoon pasta sauce over the spinach to cover well, using about 1/2 the jar.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the shredded chicken on top & sprinkle with a layer of mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup).  Add a 2nd layer of noodles and repeat the layering, ending with mozzarella cheese on top.  Use the rest of the mozzarella to cover the top well.

Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes.  Reduce heat to 400 degrees, uncover, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbling around the edges.  Remove from oven.

Let sit for about 10 minutes to allow the lasagna to firm up before slicing.
SCC Lasagna Dish
This would be a perfect recipe to double and make two of to eat and one to freeze or drop off to a friend.  You could also double the ingredients and use a 13x9 dish if you have a larger family or are entertaining.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mystery Dinner Date

Dinner Detective Logo
Yes, it is April, and yes, I am writing about Valentine's Day!  I was beginning to show and thought it was noticeable enough in some of our photos that I didn't want to post about our Valentine's date until after we shared our pregnancy news.  I am finally getting around to sharing our night out with you!  We had a gift certificate to the Dinner Detectives Murder Mystery Dinner Show and we thought Valentine's Day would be a perfect time to enjoy it!

When we received our table assignment, we smiled at the table number we were assigned to:
Table 13
Us Dinner
I've wanted to go to a murder mystery dinner theater ever since I was in high school, but I've just never actually made it happen, so I was really looking forward to it.  Truman really likes figuring out clues and putting pieces of a puzzle together, so it was right up his alley too. 
Throughout the evening, scenes unfolded in the dining room and clues were collected and passed to the tables for review.
All of the clues were gathered on a "clue table" for further review as the guests worked to solve the mystery.
Clue Table
My handsome hubby worked hard to figure out whodunnit and he successfully solved the mystery!  I, on the other hand, had no idea who the murderer was until he explained his theory to me.  Figuring out mysteries, or movie plots for that matter, is not my forte!  But I enjoy myself trying.
Tru Studying Clue
We had a great time and it was a fun and unusual way to spend a night out together! 
Us Detectives
Us Murder Outline