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Homemade Meatballs

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I think sometimes people don’t realize just how many foods Craig had to give up when he could not longer consume dairy.  There are definitely the obvious foods like pizza, cheesecake, and lasagna (though I did make a very tasty goat cheese lasagna last year that Craig can eat).  But Craig also misses out on a lot of other stuff that you might not necessary think of.  One of those examples is meatballs.  Basically any meatball you buy from a store or order at a restaurant has milk and/or cheese in it.  I had never really thought about it before, but I realize now that I had definitely been taking my ability to eat meatballs for granted, as my poor husband has been deprived of this for years.

So, I obviously had to rectify this problem by making homemade meatballs.  I searched through a few different recipes until I found the perfect one.  The ingredients just made the final product sound delightful, and oh, it was!  I used soy milk instead of regular milk, and I omitted the tiny bit of parmesan cheese that was in the recipe (but of course I will include it in the recipe below for all you dairy-loving folks out there).  We have had these on meatball subs as well as spaghetti, and I am sure that we will go on to use these by themselves as appetizers or finger foods in the future, because they are just that fabulous.  To quote Craig, “Now I see why the old grandmother on The Wedding Singer paid him in meatballs!  These meatballs are fantastic!” 😉

Homemade Meatballs

Recipe from: allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
    • The original recipe used extra lean ground beef, but I didn’t.  A lot of the fat ends up staying in the pan at the end anyway, kind of like when you make meatloaf.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
    • The original recipe used sea salt, but I used kosher salt, and I’m sure regular salt would work just fine.
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 dash (or to taste) hot pepper sauce
    • something like Tabasco (which is what I used) or Frank’s RedHot
    • I used “a few dashes”…It’s really just about personal preference, but I didn’t feel like one dash would do much in an entire pound of meat plus other ingredients.
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup milk
    • The original recipe used skim milk, but I used soy milk.  I really think the recipe would be great regardless of your type of milk choice.  🙂
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • I obviously omitted this.
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Put meat in a mixing bowl and add salt, onion, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Mix well.
  2. Add the milk, parmesan cheese (if using), and seasoned bread crumbs.  Mix until blended evenly.
  3. Form 1 1/2-ish inch balls and place on baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees until no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.
Meatball Sub

Meatball Sub!

This is obvious my spaghetti and not Craig's since it has parmesan on top...  ;-)

This is obviously my plate of spaghetti and not Craig’s since it has parmesan on top…His was already almost completely eaten when I was ready to take the picture. 😉

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Zuppa Toscana Soup

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A Delicious (Better Than?) Olive Garden Copycat

Zuppa Toscana Soup

My first trimester of pregnancy was rough, but it wasn’t just tough on me.  It was definitely tough on Craig, too, and I know we were both counting down the days until it ended.  For starters, the nausea was almost unending, and if there was even a brief moment I didn’t feel totally sick, I was worried something was wrong with the baby (I will make sure to relish those brief moments the next time I am pregnant).  And O-M-G I cannot believe how exhausting it is to grow a baby!  I pulled more all-nighters than anyone I know in college, and that exhaustion seriously cannot compare to the first trimester of pregnancy.  I am now a believer that the only people who will ever know the true meaning of the word “exhaustion” are woman who have dealt with this first trimester symptom.

Craig was definitely a trooper through my first trimester.  He found time to pick up around our place and do dishes and laundry, plus he never complained about my insane napping schedule on top of needing nine hours of sleep each night.  He also never complained about the fact that we were eating pasta for probably between seven and ten meals a week because it was the easiest thing on my stomach.  And when boiling pasta became to daunting of a task for me (it takes a lot of energy to watch the water get hot and occasionally stir!), Craig took over that task, as well.  And somehow he also managed to dominate that block’s exam in med school!

Cooking and baking were just not happening during the first trimester, so when it finally came to a close at the end of March and I was starting to feel a little bit more like myself again, I decided we needed to celebrate with something new and delicious!  But what?  We had a cold front coming in, so I knew that this would probably be my last chance to cook a yummy wintry meal.  Then I remembered my trip to Ohio a month an a half earlier to visit family.  (Thankfully, my morning sickness did not start until the day after I got back to Charleston from that trip.)

It was FREEZING up in Ohio, and it snowed for most of our visit.  One afternoon my mom, aunt, cousin, and I couldn’t decide what to do for lunch.  We ended up at Olive Garden, and I had not clue what to order (it’s not somewhere I get to go often since it is mostly Craig-unfriendly).  My cousin and aunt suggested the unending soup and salad, but I couldn’t decide on the soup.  Everyone offered to me what their favorites were, when the waiter mentioned that I could always start with one type of soup and then choose another type of soup after that.  What a perfect solution for indecisive Ashley!  I started with the Zuppa Toscana soup and would move onto another type of soup after that…at least that was what I thought before I tried the soup.  It was so amazing!  I don’t remember if I had two or three bowls of it.  Yum, yum, yum!

Here are just a few snapshots from the Ohio weather we had during our visit. Our Charleston “cold fronts” have nothing on this!

Fast forward to the end of my first trimester, and I knew this soup would be the perfect celebratory I-can-cook-and-eat-normal-food-again-plus-we-have-a-cold-front meal.  I just had to figure out how to make it Craig-friendly.  So, after some researching, I based this recipe on one that I found from food.com, but I made quite a few changes based on reviews.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2 or 3 medium to large potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 strips of cooked bacon
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 cups of kale (veins removed and sliced thin, like ribbons)
  • 32 oz of chicken broth (one standard sized carton)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
    • To make Craig-friendly (dairy-free) half and half, buy a can of coconut milk and let it chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.  It will separate into a cream on top and watery stuff on bottom.  Then, open the can and use a spoon to skim the coconut cream off the top.  Mix together equal parts coconut cream and plain soy milk (3/4 cup of each for this recipe).

Directions

  1. Remove the sausage from its casing.  Cut into 1/2 to 1-ish inch pieces, and then brown the meat.  Set the browned sausage aside the whatever stockpot you will be using for the soup.
  2. Chop up your bacon, and put that in the stockpot, as well.
  3. Sauté the onions, and add to the stockpot.
  4. Slice up your potatoes into skinny little pieces, leaving the skin on, and toss into the stockpot.
  5. Add your chicken broth, water, and minced garlic to the pot.  Boil the ingredients in the pot for about thirty minutes, or  until the potato pieces are tender.
  6. Add the kale and half and half, mix everything together, and let the soup simmer for about another fifteen minutes.
  7. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana Soup - Delicious!

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Charleston was a little confused this past week, as it seemed to believe it was March or April instead of January.  I have spent the past week seeing one winter storm alert after another (for other areas of the country) on weather.com, yet it was sunny and in the mid-to-upper 70s for a week straight in Charleston.  While my parents and twin brother would tell me on the phone that they hadn’t seen the sun in days, as it was raining constantly in metro-Atlanta this week, Craig and I enjoyed a taste of spring weather.  Now, I am definitely the type of person who likes to enjoy all the seasons, but let’s be honest.  Charleston doesn’t have a real winter.  There’s no snow, but instead the occasional cold rain.  So if I can’t enjoy a real winter, anyway, I will gladly take the spring-like weather in January. 🙂

We went to the beach last weekend to enjoy the weather.  It was actually probably one of the "cooler" days of our spring weather, but we had a great time walking Jada on the beach before heading out to grab dinner at a local taqueria we love.

We went to the beach last weekend to enjoy the weather. It was actually probably one of the “cooler” days of our spring weather, but we had a great time walking Jada on the beach before heading out to grab dinner at a local taquería we love (Zia Taqueria).

However, yesterday was our last day of really warm weather, and last night the temperature dropped way down (comparatively, at least), and today, it is cold.  Our high is in the 50s.  Yuck.  So, to make the transition back to Charleston-winter weather a little easier, I made meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner last night – a serious winter comfort food!

I had only made meatloaf one other time since Craig and I got married, and I unfortunately lost that recipe (it was right before I started blogging, so I didn’t have it here).  I was going to use my mom’s recipe, but then I decided that I wanted to make my meatloaf in the crock pot instead.  I knew I wouldn’t really have a lot of time to make the meatloaf and mashed potatoes after work if we wanted to eat at a decent time, so the crock pot would allow me to just make the meatloaf in the morning, and then make the mashed potatoes after work.  So, it was time to try a new recipe!  It turns out that although Craig did enjoy the meatloaf I had made for him once before, he is now glad that I lost that recipe because he says this was waaaaayyyy better!  So, I figured I better go ahead and blog this meatloaf recipe so that I don’t lose it as well. 😉

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Recipe from: Group Recipes

Ingredients

Meatloaf

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp sage

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard
    • I used spicy brown mustard because that’s what I had, but spicy brown or regular mustard will work fine.
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, bread crumbs, onion, and sage.
  3. Crumble in ground beef into the egg mixture and mix well.
  4. Form the beef mixture into a loaf in the center of the crock pot, making sure to leave space between the loaf and the edge of the crock pot.
  5. In a small bowl, mix ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. Spoon the glaze over the loaf.
  7. Cook on low for six hours.

Making Crock Pot Meatloaf

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Turkey Burgers

Turkey BurgerCraig and I had been eating heavy foods recently, and we really wanted to make some new and a little lighter for dinner.  I stood in front of the opened freezer, wasting electricity and hoping for inspiration, when I saw the ground turkey that had been in there for some time.  We don’t get ground turkey as often as we would like to because it’s more expensive than ground beef, and when we do, we usually use it in some sort of dirty rice dish.  However, we were not feeling the dirty rice at the time.

Craig threw out the idea of turkey burgers, and I was instantly on my computer looking for a good recipe.  We were hoping for a recipe that didn’t require a big trip to the store, because it was a rainy night and Craig had to volunteer that evening.  However, we were concerned that avoiding a big grocery trip might be too much to ask for since we were hoping for a good meal out of this.  A good turkey burger recipe is important, because without the right combination of ingredients, the burgers will turn out too dry and seem like you are eating cardboard.  Yuck!  The recipe we chose is from allrecipes.com.  It was easy and fabulous.  Perfectly moist, and full of flavor.  Craig was already asking two days later when we could make turkey burgers again!

The original recipe makes twelve small burgers (three pounds of meat).  We adjusted it accordingly since there are only two of us and we only had a little more than a pound of meat.  When doing the math for the adjustments, we rounded up anywhere necessary (e.g. a whole egg white instead of 7/8 egg white 😉 ).

Recipe

  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (definitely not the easiest thing to find dairy-free, but we managed)
  • 1/4 cup fine dice onion
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black ground pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, then form into patties.  Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning once or so, to an internal temperature of 180.

Turkey Burgers

We had our burgers on a bun with a tiny bit of mayo, some tomatoes, and avocado slices.  Don’t mind the diced tomatoes instead of sliced tomatoes (we had tacos the night before for dinner, and that’s what was left), or the mis-sized bun in the picture.  I think they add character to the look of this delicious meal!

Simply Luscious London Broil

Have you ever been in what I like to call a “food rut?”  I have, many times.  I just want to make the same easy meals over and over…because I know they are easy.  I could almost consider most of Craig’s and my first year of marriage one giant food rut, because I was just learning how to really cook and trying to make everything dairy-free all at once.  When I found a recipe that worked, I kept it close to my heart…and Craig’s and my stomachs.  These days, if Craig ever gives me the “you-spend-too-much-time-looking-up-recipes-and-blogging” look, I gently (sometimes not-so-gently, but I’m working on that) remind him that my newfound interest in making a dairy-free life totally tasty for any normal dairy-consuming person has vastly expanded our menu options.  😉

Cleaning out your fridge, freezer, and pantry is another really a great way to encourage new recipes and menu items.  One weekend over the summer, Craig and I were trying to make room in our freezer for some frozen vegetables I had bought at the store, when we realized that we had a London broil (actually two, because they were BoGo) that had probably been in our freezer for a few months, untouched.  We were definitely in a chicken-on-the-George-Foreman-or-pasta-and-sauce rut at the time, so we decided we needed to try something new before the london broil got freezer burned.

Craig and I had never made a London broil at that point, and we didn’t really know where to start.  I know it’s a simple, but we’re still learning to be grown-ups, so you can cut us some slack.  🙂  I began researching different recipes until I found one in the American Food section of about.com that seemed simple yet had potential to be quite palatable.

Craig and I first gave this recipe a try the night that I was making squash casserole to post for the blog.  Craig was so excited for having London broil for dinner that he jumped at the opportunity to be in charge of cooking it.  That worked out nicely, since it gave me time to work on the squash casserole and salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2-ish lb boneless top round “London broil” steak, probably about 2 inches thick
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • salt as needed

Directions

  1. Place beef on a plate and poke both sides all over with a fork, then transfer beef to a plastic freezer/storage bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  Pour vinegar marinade into the storage bag with the meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate at least 5-8 hours. (About.com actually said to refrigerate it overnight, but we have yet to do that.  It’s really just a matter of the longer the steak can sit in the marinade, the better.)
  2. Turn broil on high.  Remove the London broil from the marinade and pat dry.  On both sides, salt generously and rub in the freshly ground black pepper.  Place on a broiler pan or other oven-safe pan.  Broil about 8 inches under the flame for about 6-7 minutes on each side for medium rare (internal temp around 130, but we certainly did not measure).
  3. Transfer to a plate.  To serve, cut against the grain into thin slices.

When you serve this hot right after cooking, you can top it with some juice from the pan in which it was cooking.  We made London broil again this week, this time enjoying it with some mashed potatoes and peas with mushrooms.  We have also been savoring our leftovers throughout the week, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, and sometimes in a steak sandwich (toast the bread and put mayo and/or brown mustard on it – YUM!).

Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala

Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala

After a week of Craig being sick, he finally (mostly) got over it (except for the runny nose) just in time for his study/test week.  His first big M2 (medical school year 2) exam is next Friday, so he has a TON of studying to do.  I mean, he would have a ton of studying to do, anyway, but considering that we had my family in town over Labor Day weekend followed by a week of Craig being sick, he now has a TON of studying to do.  See the difference?

Anyway, just when I thought I was totally home-free from getting sick from Craig, I woke up Thursday morning with a throat that was absolutely on fire.  It was painful to talk, and my whole body was aching.  I slowly dragged myself out of bed and made the painstaking trek to the kitchen so I could make Craig’s lunch while he got ready for his long day of class and studying.  After making his lunch, I settled on our couch with my pillow and a fleece blanket.  I wanted to go back to sleep, but I knew I had to work that day.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been as thankful for a job that allows me to work from home as I was on Thursday.

When Craig returned home that evening and gently asked if I happened to know what we were having for dinner, I gave him a look that said, “Do I look like someone who has thought about what we are having for dinner tonight?”  He was happy with leftovers and snacking, and I was happy with a snack and sleeping more.  I did offer to brown some meat for pasta, but Craig insisted that I just rest, so I was not going to argue with that.  He’s a good sport.  🙂

After some more sleeping and what was probably somewhere around my 237th cup of tea (exaggerate much?), I regained some energy and decided that I should at least see what we had in the kitchen for Friday’s dinner.  After all, this weekend is the start of Craig’s study week, so I wanted to start it off right.  Considering how I was feeling at that point, I was thinking that I would still not be quite a hundred percent by the next day, but that I would be well on my way to a full recovery.  I figured that, if anything, I could at least throw something into the slow cooker.  My, how I love our slow cooker!

I decided on this chicken marsala recipe that I had made once last year.  The first time I made it, I followed it exactly.  This time, however, I made  a few changes (Craig called them improvements) based on other recipes I had read.  Last time, we both enjoyed the slow cooker chicken marsala.  It was easy and pretty tasty.  This time, we LOVED the chicken marsala.  I don’t know the last time I saw Craig eat that much in one serving.

Oh, and for anyone who was worried, you will be happy to know that by the end of the day on Friday, I was actually feeling great!  I can’t believe how quickly I got better.  Thank you, immune system!

Recipe Adapted from: Food.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 clove garlic, fine chopped
  • 1.5-ish lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 cup marsala (cooking) wine
  • 3/4 cup (low sodium) chicken broth
  • 1 tbs butter or margarine, broken into small pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Update: While I didn’t seem to have this problem the first time I made this (or didn’t notice), the sauce had been a little more liquidy than I wanted the last few times, and I ended up adding more flour at the end.  The last time I made this, I went ahead and doubled (or just short of it) the dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, and dried basil).  It turned out great!…just a little thicker than before.  It’s really up to your personal preference, but I wanted to offer that as an option, as well.  🙂

Directions:

In the slow cooker, spread the oil and chopped garlic evenly over the bottom.  Lay your chicken breasts in the slow cooker on top of the oil and garlic (try not to have them completely overlapping).  Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and basil together, then sprinkle over the chicken.  Combine the wine and chicken broth together, and then pour into the slow cooker.  Dot the butter over the chicken breasts, and then dump in the mushrooms.  Cook on low for 6 hrs.  When six hours are up, pull the chicken and put on serving dish.  Stir the sauce and mushrooms and little and then spoon it over the chicken.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve over pasta, rice, or even mashed potatoes (though pasta is our favorite for this particular meal).

Sweet and Sour Chicken

So, I have a confession.

I am intimidated by chicken.  I mean, have you seen my recipes?  I’m all about throwing chicken in the crock pot, because with crock pot, I can prepare everything else, and it basically does all the work.  If I’m not using the crock pot for chicken, I am usually using our George Foreman grill.  We like to buy chicken breasts on sale and put them in baggies with marinade before freezing them.  That way, when we pull them out to thaw, they already have the marinade on them and we can just put them on a George Foreman grill.  So easy.  If we are having chicken that is not from the crock pot or George Foreman grill, then I didn’t make it.

At least that was the case until this past Monday.

It’s true.  I decided it was time to conquer my fear.  I was determined to make chicken that took preparation and effort.  Not a lot, but some.  I was going to try something new…I was going to use both our stove and our oven to cook chicken.  Until Monday, I used the stove to brown ground beef, and I mainly used the oven to bake.  I don’t know why cooking chicken intimidates me so much.  It just does.

Or at least it did.

You can go ahead and give me a round of applause.  No need to wait until the end of this post.  Not only did I make chicken for dinner on Tuesday (without the use of the crock pot or George Foreman); I made sweet and sour chicken on Tuesday, and it was good.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to come off as a chicken-cooking hero who took on my fear without a second thought.  I was very scatter-brained and basically going crazy for the length of the entire meal preparation.  I even felt overwhelmed by it at times.  But I did it, and now that I am looking back, it was actually not difficult.  So now, not only am I providing you with a great sweet and sour chicken recipe, but this also means that more recipes are to follow, for I have opened the door to a whole new world (cue Aladdin song) in cooking.

Recipe Adapted From: Made It. Ate It. Loved It.

Ingredients:

Chicken Breading:

  • 3-5 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil

Sauce:

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 tbs (same thing as 1/4 cup) ketchup
  • 1/3-1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
    • amount really depends on personal preference
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

Rinse chicken, trim off fat, and cut into 1(-ish) inch cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip chicken into cornstarch, coating completely, and then into the eggs.  Heat oil in skillet.  Cook until browned (most certainly does not need to be cooked through).  Place in baking dish (try to use a dish big enough that you can for the most part fit all the chicken in one layer).  Whisk the sauce until smooth and pour over chicken.  Turn chicken pieces so that the sauce gets both sides.  Put in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  Turn the chicken, and then continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

We ate our sweet and sour chicken over rice, and it was great!  The recipe itself doesn’t make a ton of sauce by the time you are done baking, so if you like a lot of sauce (for the rice, vegetables, etc.), I would suggest making a double batch.  However, if you do make a double batch, you only want to pour half of it (being the amount listed in the recipe) on the chicken for cooking, or else the chicken may get soggy while cooking.  Before the chicken is done baking, heat the second batch of sauce up in a saucepan or microwave (make sure to stir it throughout heating).

Besides just having this as a sweet and sour chicken meal, Craig and I both think that this also makes a great finger food.  It would be fabulous for a football game or New Year’s party, with some toothpicks next to it and maybe a small bowl with the second batch of sauce for dipping.  A certain party favorite!

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