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.

 

Family

Toddler Sleep :: Solving Early Morning Waking

February 6, 2017

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If there is one thing our friends and family know about Ainsley’s sleep patterns, is’t that she is a morning person by nature. Like her parents, Ainsley is an early bird. Too early, if you ask me, but I can’t really blame her when Joe and I are both awake most weekdays by 5 or 5:30 and hardly ever sleep in past 6:30 even when we have the chance.

About two months ago I hit a point where the early morning wake times were becoming a real issue for our family. Ainsley was waking most mornings at 5 or 5:30, but instead of waking up happy she was waking up tired, grumpy and out of sorts. We tried all sorts of things – pushing her bed time back, moving it forward, changing nap times, etc. but nothing seemed to work. Although I like to wake up early, having a toddler that is up for the day at 5 am makes for some really long days.

A friend of mine who has three kids of her own said something to me that really resonated. She said that it was important for kids to understand how the house and family “ran” and your kids should, under most circumstances, be able to fall in line with that.

I realized that for months we had been held hostage by Ainsley’s early wakings. I usually get up bright and early to work a little bit before everyone wakes up. Joe gets up most mornings at 5:30 to workout, and I pack his lunches and get him sent off for the day, wrap up a bit more work, do a load or two of laundry and drink my cup of coffee in peace before the day really starts. But with Ainsley waking up so early it was throwing everything – including her own schedule – off.

So I went to Facebook to seek out advice from my fellow mom friends. A few people recommended trying the Ok to Wake Clock, which is a small little clock that you set your child’s “wake time” for the day and when it’s time to wake up the clock lights up green.

I wondered if at 22 months Ainsley was a little too young to understand the concept, but I decided to give it a go anyway. It turns out she took to the clock really well! It shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the fact that our child is a very logical and analytical thinker, but it surprised me none the less.

We set Ainsley’s wake time for 6:30. For the first couple mornings of using the clock she would still wake at 5 or 5:30. We let her fuss/play/cry in her bed until the light turned green. A couple times in the beginning I even went in and reminded her that she could get up when the light was green. It didn’t stop the fussing, but it did help give her context to when mommy or daddy was going to come get her for the day.

After about a week and a half it was if the clock had “re-set” her internal clock. Knowing that she wasn’t going to get up for the day until the light was green seemed to help her go back to sleep if she woke early, and now I’m finding more and more that she is waking close, or even after, 6:30. It’s been such a game changer for us in the sleep department!

So, if you are a mom who is struggling with early morning wakings like we were, I would highly recommend the OK to Wake Clock. It was a cheap but very worthwhile investment.

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

On Trusting My Body

February 1, 2017

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{Hatch Collection Bateau Top} // {GAP Demi Pannel Maternity Skinny Jeans}

Today I went to my doctor’s appointment. I’m 25 weeks pregnant, meaning I’ve got about 15 more weeks to go, and every time I have to step on the scale I cringe just a little bit. I would be lying if I said, given some of my past issues with body image, that it’s easy for me to see my body growing and changing rapidly. Actually, this time around might be playing more games with my mind than Ainsley’s pregnancy.

It’s a luxury, isn’t it? To be able to worry about things like gaining weight. During Ainsley’s pregnancy it was a luxury that I didn’t really afford myself because I was focused on other things, like whether or not my baby was healthy and growing appropriately. Like I said, a luxury to even think or worry about these things but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as we go further and further into this pregnancy.

While I was fretting about my pregnancy weight gain after my appointment today, something registered in my mind.

Trust your body. 

Anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss or infertility can attest to the fact that trusting your body doesn’t come easily. In the midst of my losses I didn’t feel I could trust my body at all. It had failed me in doing the thing I wanted so badly for it to do. But throughout Ainsley’s pregnancy, and baby girl #2’s pregnancy, I’ve felt a renewed sense of trust in what my body can do.

I’ve seen my body expand and grow, gaining 35 pounds, enduring 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing to give us our beautiful Ainsley. That same body lost those 35 pounds and then some. It’s pushed a stroller for miles and bounced a fussy newborn for hours in the middle of the night. It’s run races and endured countless workouts. When I’ve called on my body to be there for me it has been there and then some.

So today when I was tempted to worry about what my body was doing and how much weight I’ve gained, I made the decision to trust my body and believe it will do what’s needed to grow and carry this baby. And then when that baby is here, it will feed, cuddle, and nurture that baby, too.

So fellow pregnant mommas, join me in giving your body the grace and appreciation it deserves, even on the hard days. Because the hard days will come. We’re only human, right? But how we choose to respond to those hard days is what really matters.

Madison

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.