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Food & Recipes

Freezer Meals for New Moms :: Meatballs

February 13, 2017

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I feel like I have a dozen friends or family members due with babies in the next six months. I’m not even joking when I say a dozen – it’s babies and more babies. I suppose it’s probably just the phase of life we are in right now, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about freezer meals both for my own postpartum phase as well as meals to bring to friends who are anticipating a new little one.

My genuine hope is to do a very robust freezer meal series on this page in the coming weeks and months. Fingers crossed that I stick with the plan and get all the freezer meals made that I hope I can get done. First up: Meatballs!

Although I’m a vegetarian, I really love the process of making meatballs. And while I don’t have an old family-favorite recipe from an Italian grandmother to pass along to you today, this recipe for meatballs is straightforward, super easy to make in bulk and delivers delicious results from the freezer.

Ideas for using the meatballs include:
-Served on a toasted hoagie bun with marinara and shredded cheese
-Served over whole wheat pasta with marinara
-Served with marinara over spaghetti squash for a lower-carb choice
-Served plain with a side of steamer veggies (because let’s be honest, that’s what my husband would do!)

I decided to make things easier by cooking the meatballs, freezing them flat on a sheet pan and then transferring the frozen meatballs to a freezer bag for storage. Then, since they are already cooked, all you need to do is pop them in the oven until they are hot or thaw them and then add to a skilled fillet with marinara and cook on the stovetop until heated through. Super simple!

Freezer Meatballs
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 64 meatballs
 
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 slices white sandwich bread
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line four baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean up and set aside. For even easier baking, use disposable aluminum baking pans.
  2. Place the ground beef in a very large mixing bowl. In a second smaller bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir together (best to just mix really well with your hands) until bread is completely broken up and a soft, liquid-y mixture forms. Add the mixture to the ground beef and work together with your hands until very evenly combined.
  3. Shape beef mixture into 2-inch sized meatballs (mixture should make about 64 meatballs) and place on baking sheets, about 16 meatballs per baking sheet.
  4. Bake 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and no pink remains. Remove from oven and cool meatballs on baking sheets until they are room temperature.
  5. Place cooled meatballs on baking sheets in the freezer and freeze for 4 hours or until frozen solid. Place frozen meatballs in a plastic zip-top freezer bag and store up to six months.
  6. To reheat, place meatballs on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350°F or until heated through. Or, thaw in the refrigerator and place in hot marinara on the stovetop; cook until heated through.

 

Family, Food & Recipes

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites

February 8, 2017

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We are currently working on a home renovation in our basement! Last year we targeted the upstairs and this winter I set my sights on our basement, which needed a LOT of work, I tell ya! By the way, I know that a house tour is long overdue. It’s been a work in progress in terms of design, which is why I’ve held off on sharing anything besides an occasional Instagram photo, but I promise I’m going to get my act together and share soon.

Anyway, the basement. So our contractor is one of our favorite people. He’s so nice to have around, very good at what he does and Ainsley loves him. Joel is her buddy and she honestly looks forward to seeing him every day. We were downstairs a few weeks ago working one night and Ainsley ate one of his chewy granola bars that he eats while he’s on the job. You know, the Sunbelt Bakery kind? Well, she became obsessed on the spot and has been asking for “Joel’s bars” every time we go to the store.

I’ve obliged from time to time, but I would really rather make something at home. So I whipped up these easy little no-bake granola bar bites that are packed with real, whole foods and a little bit of sweet thanks to chocolate chips and a little honey and brown sugar. Health food? Not exactly, but it’s a healthier snack than some of the store bought alternatives, so I’ll call that a parenting win!

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites
Serves: 16 bites
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, raisins and/or dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats, pecan halves, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Pulse 15 times with on-off turns to break up oats and other ingredients. Add the sesame seeds to the mixture and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, peanut butter, oil and salt. Stir until well combined. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are evenly combined.
  3. Scoop by heaping spoonful into 16 mini muffin cups, pressing down firmly with your fingers. Refrigerate 2 hours. Use a knife to gently remove bites from muffin tin cups. Store bites in a zip-top plastic bag or storage container with a lid.

 

Food & Recipes

Brown Butter Chopped Pecan Pie

January 30, 2017

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Good morning, friends and happy Monday! I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging lately, as I’ve had a few conversations with friends who have blogged but now are choosing to close their blogs, to say goodbye to sharing their life online. Or, should I say, sharing more in other formats like podcasts and Instagram rather than a blog.

I’ll admit that sometimes blogging these days feels a little like, “Hello? Is anyone listening?” With all the other choices out there for reading and absorbing information (there are so many!) blogging can seem a little old school. Isn’t that crazy to say? And after blogging for over 8 years myself, I’ll admit that closing this blog has come to mind a time or two.

But can I also admit that I love this little corner of the internet? Oh I love blogging so much. I’ve heard from so many that they stopped blogging and didn’t miss it one bit, but I know that for me this is my favorite creative outlet and I’m itching to share more and more here in recent months rather than drawing back from my site.

So, that was a long preamble to sharing about pie, wasn’t it? I’ve been meaning to share my favorite pie crust for a while but never really got around to it because, well, laziness? I still hope to do a full video for anyone who is intimidated by crust, but this recipe is foolproof enough to work for even a beginning baker. Trust me, I’ve tried dozens of different recipes all claiming to be the best and this one really does take the cake. For the original inspiration and full explanation as to why this recipe works, check out Serious Eats.

Joe recently returned from a trip to El Paso where he was visiting some of his pecan suppliers for work (he buys pecans as part of his job) and brought home more pecans than I have any clue what to do with. Bags and bags of them line our freezer right now, so this is the fourth pecan pie I’ve made in the last couple weeks. We’ve never really been huge pecan pie people over here, but chopping the pecans and adding a little brown butter? Go ahead and sign me right up!

I adapted my recipe over the four attempts from this original from Brown Eyed Baker. More pecans, browned butter, less corn syrup, less vanilla, more salt. You get the idea. I think that this recipe is pretty perfect, but give it a go and see for yourself!

Brown Butter Chopped Pecan Pie
 
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups chopped toasted pecans
Instructions
  1. First, prepare pie crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine ¾ cup of the flour, all the butter, the sugar and salt. Pulse 25 times with short on-off turns. Add the remaining flour and pulse 5 more times to incorporate.
  2. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the water to the flour mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula as you add the water to incorporate evenly. Use the spatula to stir and press the dough together. Once it begins to hold together in large clumps, transfer mixture to a clean work surface and work with your hands into a disc. Don't over-work, but make sure that you work the mixture enough that it fully comes together in a smooth disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F. Roll dough out in a thin layer on a floured work surface. Transfer pie crust to 9-inch pie plate and press into pan. Roll/crimp the edges as desired. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and place sprayed side down into center and up sides of pie crust. Fill foil with pie weights or dried beans all the way to the top of the foil to prevent shrinking during baking. Bake 15 minutes, remove foil and weights, bake 5 minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook, swirling frequently, until butter is lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs and salt and stir until well combined. Return to heat and continue to cook until mixture is hot to the touch. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and pecans.
  5. Transfer hot filing mixture into pre-baked pie crust. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake 45 minutes more or until filling is puffed and crust is golden brown. Cool at least 2 hours before cutting into slices to serve.

 

Food & Recipes

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

December 6, 2016

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cookies_3First, I need to say a big thank you to everyone who hung with me these last few weeks. I know that service on Espresso and Cream has been very spotty and the site completely crashed in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. But I’m happy to report that the site is now up and running on a brand new server that should be large enough to accommodate Espresso and Cream readers for a long time to come. Whew! 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is cookie baking. I know that there is an abundance of desserts this time of year, and baking goodies at home is hardly necessary, but I couldn’t make it through the month of December without doing at least a bit of baking.

This year Ainsley helped with her first Christmas cookie baking and it was SO fun! I mean, she mainly stuffed frosting into her mouth by the spoonful and only frosted a couple cookies before declaring that she was done, but seeing her participate in a tradition that will no doubt continue to happen for years on end was the sweetest.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about sugar cookies. Specifically how they can be so disappointing in flavor and texture. Some of the prettiest sugar cookies I’ve seen have been the most tasteless and some of the ugliest have been the yummiest. Isn’t there a happy middle ground? Yes, yes there is. These cookies, I like to think, strike a wonderful balance between downright tasty and pretty/cute/fun to decorate, too. Although Royal Icing always gets the best results in terms of looks, I find that it’s just plain gross to eat. And while the powdered sugar and milk combination might be temping because it’s so easy, I think we can all upgrade our game a little bit this year to something that requires just a tiny bit more effort.

The sugar cookies themselves don’t stand well on their own. They are from an old, old Southern Living Christmas cookie book that my mom and I both use every year. If I were making plain old sugar cookies I wouldn’t make these, but once they are topped with buttercream they have the perfect taste and consistency to pull the whole thing off. One tip: I always suggest erring on the side of under baking rather than over baking because I love a soft, chewy sugar cookie, so keep a close eye on these cookies while they bake as oven temps can vary!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
 
The cookie recipe is "Old Fashioned Christmas Cookies" from the Southern Living Cookie Book. I couldn't find this old recipe anywhere online to link to, so I'm sharing it below!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Frosting
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Make the cookies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick baking mat (Silpat).
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugars to the butter and beat 2 minutes more or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until just combined.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Do not over mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
  4. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness on floured surface. Cut into desired shapes and place cookies, 1 inch apart, on baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until just barely golden brown around the edges. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire cooling rack and cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and salt until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add in the vanilla and milk and beat until just combined. Beat in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and creamy. Frost cookies with frosting.

 

Food & Recipes

Pie of the Week #6 // Apple-Cran-Raspberry Pie

November 15, 2016

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This week’s pie of the week might not be for everyone. Whew. Okay, I feel like I just needed to get that out there before waxing poetic about how much I love this pie, because it’s true. It’s not a pie that everyone will love, but I certainly love it and will be making it more than once this holiday season.

Inspired by homemade cranberry sauce – the stuff you make with real, whole cranberries, not the stuff in a can – this pie is tart and tangy and nearly requires a heavy dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream to balance the tartness of the cranberries, raspberries and apples. The mix of three fruits produces a pie filling with great texture and interest, and while it might not be a home run that everyone can agree on, it’s certainly a pie that my little family can get behind.

I was inspired by recipes I’ve made in the past, and this recipe from Cooking Light, which I tweaked slightly to fit my flavor preferences and the ingredients I had on hand.

Pie of the Week #6 // Apple-Cran-Raspberry Pie
 
Ingredients
  • Pie crust for a 9-inch double crust pie
  • FILLING
  • 2 cups peeled and diced apples
  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • CRUSH WASH
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Coarse sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the filling ingredients until well combined.
  3. Roll out remaining crust and cut into strips. Use strips to form a lattice pattern on top of the crust, going over and under every other strip. Pinch edges of crust to seal together. Trim off excess crust around edges and roll/crimp crust edges to finish.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush mixture on lattice and edge dough and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour more, until filing is bubbly and crust is golden brown. If necessary, cover crust edges with a pie crust guard or aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
  6. Cool completely before serving.