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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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A Taste of Fall and Early Thanksgiving

I absolutely love living in Charleston.  It doesn’t get too crazy cold in the winter, we live right near the beach, we love our church, and there are always a ton of fun and exciting things to do here.  Aside from missing my family like crazy, Charleston is really an almost perfect place to live.

Almost.

The one thing Charleston is really missing…well, I guess the two things it is missing, but they go together…are fall weather and mountains.  Craig and I are outdoorsy people.  We love hiking together, we love the beauty of the mountains, and we especially love the fall.  During the fall, cooler temperatures are accompanied by autumn rainbows of leaves.  Red, orange, yellow, and every possible combination of those colors make a fall such an incredibly wonderful time of the year.  The cool weather means snuggling by the fire, and it also reminds you of the fast approaching holidays.  The colorful leaves offer a gentle reminder that time is passing and things are changing, but change can be a wonderful, exciting, and incredibly beautiful thing.

We don’t get that in Charleston.  Down here, leaves stay green well into the (relatively) “cooler” weather, and then they just turn brown, die, and fall of the trees in January.  No raking leaves to jump in a fun pile.  No beautiful leaves to add the perfect touch to a November hike.  Fall is Craig’s and my favorite season, and we really miss it!

Thankfully, we got a taste of fall this past weekend, and it was just what we needed!  Because Craig and I will be spending Thanksgiving with his family this year, we spent a long weekend in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains with my family, celebrating an early Thanksgiving.  I hadn’t seen any of my family since they came to visit over Labor Day, so the fall weather, plus being up at a mountain cabin, plus having my family together was just fabulous!  We were right by a trout creek, too, so there was also a lot of fly fishing going on.  We had our traditional Thanksgiving meal together, filled with turkey, stuffing, cherry pie, cinnamon cake, jello salad, the best homemade cranberry sauce EVER, and more!

Don’t worry, some recipes from this weekend will soon follow!  For now, you can enjoy these snap shots of our early Thanksgiving celebration and the wonderful fall weather!

I hope you all enjoy your real Thanksgiving as much as my family enjoyed our pretend Thanksgiving!  Happy almost holiday season, everyone! 🙂

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

The night of the first presidential debate, Craig and I were flipping through the few channels we have (we recently got rid of cable) to see if there was anything worth watching on t.v. before the debate.  We came upon the new show Guys With Kids.  You probably saw a ton of commercials for it if you spent any amount of time watching the Summer Olympics this year.  It definitely had some funny parts that cracked us up.  After we watched the debate, as we were getting ready for bed, Craig and I found ourselves quoting funny lines over and over.  The episode we had watched that evening was apparently the third episode of the season, so we decided that we had to give the first two episodes a chance.

The next night, we sat at our dinner table as the ultimate judges.  We had to decide whether we thought Guys With Kids had just one funny episode or if it was a show that we may continue to watch some in the future.  At the same time, we had to decide what we thought of the new recipe I was trying: slow cooker cashew chicken.  When I make something new, I like Craig to give me a definite response about exactly what he thinks of it.  That night, I wasn’t interested running the risk of Craig being too distracted by the show to tell me precisely what he thought of dinner, so I made in taste the meal and give me his detailed opinion before I would actually turn on the show.  He told me he loved the meal, but twenty minutes or so into the first episode of the t.v. show, I realized that I actually wouldn’t have had to make Craig give me his reaction in advance.  The fact that I had to keep pausing the computer so Craig could go get more helpings of dinner told me what he thought.

This meal definitely has a solid kick to it, but I enjoyed having a little variety from the sweeter tasting chicken meals I normally make to go with rice (honey sesame chicken and sweet and sour chicken).  The blogger who originally posted this recipe said that she got it from her brother-in-law after he lived in Thailand for a couple of years.  It has kind of a zesty-savory taste with a kick.

Oh, and we also decided that we think the show Guys With Kids is pretty funny in general; it wasn’t just the one episode that made us laugh.  🙂

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

Recipe From: Six Sisters’ Stuff

Ingredients

  • 2lb boneless, skinless chicken thing tenders or chicken breast tenders
    • I just had chicken breasts, so I cut them into strips to make “tenders.”  Then I decided that I wanted to have more surface area covered by the sauce, so I went on to cut them into about 2-inch pieces.  Cutting them into smaller pieces also meant I would need to lower the cooking time by a little bit, so that was good for me since I got a late start on making this that day.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar/rice wine vinegar
    • I used seasoned rice vinegar because that was what I had.
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of cashews
    • I actually used about a cup or maybe even a little more than a cup.

Directions

  1. Combine flour and pepper into a zip-lock bag.  Add the chicken, and shake the bag to coat the chicken with the flour-pepper mixture.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
  3. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, minced garlic, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Mix together, and pour over the chicken.  Also, I would say that you definitely need to double the sauce recipe, and perhaps triple it depending on your preference.  I tripled it.
  4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours (I only cooked my little chicken pieces for about 2-2 1/2 hours).  Add cashews and stir.  Serve over rice.

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!

Stuffed Green Peppers in the Crock Pot

Stuffed Green Peppers in the Crock Pot

Since Craig and I got married, I definitely became an intense sale shopper.  Every week, I pull up the Publix and Bi-Lo weekly ads, compare prices, and make a shopping list for each store based on the best sales.  A lot of times, the best deal means buying more of an item, like “value-packs” of meat.  This isn’t a problem for me, except with the ground beef.  I never take the time to separate the ground beef before I freeze it, because I really like dealing with raw meat as few times as possible.  I’d rather just cook all the meat up at once and plan to eat ground beef more frequently that week than having to touch the raw meat in order to separate it and THEN touch it again for each of the meals that I’m making.  It may seem lazy, but it’s really because I’m so paranoid about having the kitchen completely sanitized after touching raw meat.  It’s not just about washing my hands.  I have to wash my hands, wipe down the counters, then go back and use Lysol wipes on the counters and anything on them, and then I scrub and use Lysol wipes on the trashcan, its lid, and the sink.  And I generally like to do this before I move on to preparing any other part of the meal if possible.  It takes a surprising amount of time when were in the middle of trying to prepare dinner.  I’m sure my paranoia has to do with all the research I did and documentaries I watched as a health major, so I guess I can thank my Furman Professors for making me like this.

So since I made taco salads for Craig and myself last Saturday, I had to decide what I was going to do with the rest of the ground beef. At first I thought about making one of our typical week-night dishes, like dirty rice, but then I remembered this recipe!  I had been wanting to try stuffed green peppers in the crock pot for quite some time, so I was excited to finally give it a try.  I browned all the meat on Saturday, and then separated it into to halves.  I seasoned the first half for taco salads that day, and then I saved the second half for this recipe on Sunday.

This recipe was incredibly easy, and I was quite happy with how it turned out.  Craig really loved it, which made me even more ecstatic!

Recipe From: Crockin’ Girls

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Green Peppers, tops removed and seeded
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1/3 cup of raw (uncooked) rice
  • 2/3 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of salt + a little bit for lightly salting
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 carrots, cut into pieces
  • another 1/2 cup water
  • another 1 cup of ketchup

Directions:

Brown or partially brown the meat (mainly so that you can drain it of the grease).  Wash the green peppers and drain well.  Lightly salt the cavity of the green peppers.  In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, rice, 2/3 cups of water, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1/4 cup of ketchup.  Mix well.  Stuff the green peppers about 2/3 of the way full with the ground beef mixture. Arrange the green peppers in the crock pot, using the carrot pieces to help support and secure the pieces.*  You may stack the green peppers if you need to.  Mix together 1 cup of ketchup with 1/2 cup of water, and pour over the green peppers and carrots.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 hours.

The top left was when I first put the green peppers in the crock pot and covered them with the ketchup/water mixture. The top right was after about 6 hrs of cooking on low. The bottom is obviously one of the delicious stuffed green peppers after I removed them from the crock pot. Yum!

*I actually did not need to use the carrot pieces to support my green peppers, as the green peppers fit in the crock pot just right and stood up without any problem.  However, since I had already peeled and cut the carrots up, anyway, I placed them around the green peppers in the crock pot to have as part of my meal.

This is another fabulously easy and delicious meal!  What we didn’t eat for dinner Sunday night, I had for lunch throughout the week!  Oh, how I love leftovers!

Happy pepper stuffin’!

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