57. C’s Honey-Garlic Meatballs

C made delicious cheese dip for my first dinner party, and thank goodness she was able to make it to this next dinner party, because she became the champion – with the only beef meatball of the evening, her honey garlic meatballs were homey and delicious, but not just regular red-sauce-covered meatballs either.

C and I recently got to go to a winery and learn about wine before sitting by a pond and enjoying the sunset, and it reminded me how much I appreciate her positive, calm energy. She behaves like a person who can tell when things are a big deal and when they aren’t, and so many people our age really can’t – because we haven’t experienced everything in life yet, we often think our little problems are way too big. C makes me feel like if I was to tell her about my concerns and worries, she would laugh kindly at some and sympathize with the others. It’s a good feeling.

The recipe C used was this one, and she’s a novice at meatballs like I am, so it probably isn’t incredibly complex: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/118085/honey-garlic-glazed-meatballs/?internalSource=staff%20pick&referringId=15455&referringContentType=recipe%20hub. I am hoping to make some of these for the next potluck I go to, because it doesn’t contain any of the things that can sometimes throw people off – weird, surprising ingredients, scary amounts of spice, or unrecognizable shapes/colors. Most folks recognize a meatball, honey and garlic are familiar flavors without being bland, and there’s nothing newfangled or strange – I personally am a fan of trying things like quinoa and starfruit and any number of other less known foods, but it’s nice to not push people too far out of their comfort zones, especially since I am starting to get invited to parties where I don’t know very many people very well. C has given me a good back-pocket recipe that turns out great meatballs. 🙂

(Note on the picture: the only picture gotten of this meatball was with other meatballs; it’s the one in the lower right corner!)

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Chicken Soup for the Whole30 Soul

On Friday, we did our first hosting of the Whole30 month – simple hosting, but still! We had a couple over, E and J, who have been friends with us for almost a year and a half now – it’s crazy to think that we now have such good friends here. They were the couple who let us in their door when their baby was 8 Hours Old to deliver a casserole. Their little sweetie is almost 10 months now, and for the first time, they got a babysitter to watch him while they came over for dinner and a movie!

Dinner was simple: we made this chicken soup recipe, because the weather had once again turned cold, and we made baked potatoes which we garnished with salsa and the guacamole that J made. The chicken soup was savory but light on flavor, made with rotisserie chicken bits and chicken bone broth I made a few days ago, but the baked potatoes added a little spice to our lives. It was a lovely night, and we watched Finding Dory, which turned out to be cute and funny and exactly what we all needed after a long week.

I was in a tizzy right before they arrived, worried that I didn’t have time to pick up a movie and cook the celery, carrots, and onion for the soup, but as Husband continually tried to calm me and clean at the same time, everything came together about 5 minutes before they arrived. I was able to see my friends and be excited to spend time with them, which is a blessing – I’ve been in a 2-month-long rut of not inviting people over to our home, and it’s time for me to bust out of that feeling. It was delightful to have them, and even the 90-minute rush to get things ready was worth it in the end. I’ve convinced Husband though, that if we are going to have people over on work nights, we need to do a little cleaning prep the night before. 🙂

56. Dara’s Creamy Avocado Sauce

On Saturday, I found a food processor that works, and for only 3 dollars at a yard sale. It’s an old-school GE model with only an on-off switch and a pulse switch, and I’m obsessed. It will be perfect for future sauces, pureed soups, and pretty much all the hard-to-chop things that have been haunting me lately.

But I was making this sauce on Friday. So it will go down in history as a good, but chunky sauce in my kitchen, the last of the era, I hope.

Dara over at Cookin Canuck dreamed up a sauce that works so well with salmon that I am tempted to use it on, well, pretty much everything. With a greek yogurt base and a little bit of heat in the spicing, this sauce worked up pretty smoothly even though I didn’t really get all the avocado chunks out. It was a great counterpoint to the strong fish flavor, calming it down on the tongue. I’m convinced that the combination, not just the salmon, got me my second place ranking in the meatball cook-off.

I grew up really picky and always wanted all my food extremely plain in the past, so it was funny to find that in adulthood I wanted to try every sauce I could get my hands on: I’m a hollandaise, honey mustard, barbeque, and bechamel kind of girl now. I generally though, reserve my sauce time for out of the house, where trained chefs can keep them from falling apart. Other than the occasional cheese sauce, I just leave that to the professionals, because the results are pretty amazingly catastrophic when they are bad. This sauce, though, crucially requires no cooking. I’m now going to rely on yogurt sauces when I need something that won’t fail or fall or burn.

And just as a tiny extra tidbit this week, here’s a carrot we pulled up this week that looks like a little person. 🙂

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Subscription Service Review: Match Made Coffee!

img_5130I have often thought that it would be nice to be able to get to know new foods and drinks through the “subscription service” model; I even tried it once when my sister gave me a free trial of Blue Apron. The use of exotic ingredients like watermelon radishes and spices that are outside my norm, like harissa, made me feel like I had a better grasp on what’s available to me as a cook.

One thing I hadn’t seen, however, was a coffee subscription box – it makes sense, because coffee can be roasted, sealed and shipped quite easily (no need for the big ice packs they use in food subscription boxes), and coffee roasteries have a special fingerprint and access to many single-origin coffees. There has also grown up a lot of interest in supporting fair-trade organizations that make coffee sustainably without polluting or degrading environments around the world where the richest coffee is grown.

Enter Match Made Coffee – I got to know them because one of their founders is an active WP blogger! This community never ceases to amaze me. I chatted with him and he agreed to let me try out their first shipment box and share with you all about it! The first shipment contains a beautiful coffee-holding wooden box, with 3 bags of coffee and 3 snack samples to pair with those coffees! The wrapping is decadent and contains the Match Made Coffee seal. You can get the coffees whole bean or ground.

A lot of people who don’t buy small-roastery coffee will probably see the $29.99 a month tag as steep, but I can ensure you that I have frequently spent 14-18 dollars per pound to get coffee from a place I’m travelling to bring back for husband – it’s a lovely gift that travels easily and makes my suitcase smell AMAZING. The coffees in Match Made’s boxes are smaller – will make a 12 cup pot or a couple french presses or half a dozen rounds with your pour-over, it seems – but given the fact that they amount to 3-9 little “coffee breaks” each time you get a shipment,  with new flavors that you don’t have to locate and purchase yourself, it really becomes a curated, reasonable deal. For a pour-over of a single-origin cup of coffee in a shop, most places charge between 3 and 4 dollars. If you make these at home, you really aren’t losing out, and as I’ve often said in posts like The Ritual of Slow Coffee, coffee at home can actually be even more delectable.

For the next few days, I’m going to discuss the coffees in this box so that you can hear about each one for yourself, but to check them out more in-depth and sign up, the link is www.matchmadecoffee.com – enjoy!

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55. Dara’s Baked Salmon Meatballs

First off, great job to Dara at the Cookin’ Canuck blog because these salmon meatballs won me second place at the meatball-cookoff at dinner party 2. I owe it all to her super classy but yet approachable website and recipe.

However, watching me try to get the skin off a salmon filet was anything but classy. While I reckon I’ve improved in cooking these six months, I have definitely had my share of issues with cooking meats/fishes in the past, namely that I look like a fool while cutting/peeling/shaping them into food-like substances. It’s pretty fun, though, once I finally got all the chunks of salmon into the mixture bowl, to shape it all into balls. I felt a sense of accomplishment and then went immediately to wash my hands a zillion times and take the trash out – salmon was good but very fishy smelling.

I was happy I made these early in the day, because Husband and I spent the rest of the day airing the house out, cleaning, making the Sausage Ball recipe I’ll surely put on here soon that formed both a key part of the party and our breakfasts for days after, and making some yummy sauces. I needn’t have worried, because N brought two kinds of meatballs and sauces too, but my first impulse before a party is to make way too much food, just in case others choose to come without anything. This, of course, results in way too much, but that’s a good problem to have, at least in my world.

The party was the best I’ve thrown; we had a nice mix of Husband’s work friends and my friends from grad school, as well as the surprise visit from K, who I went to college with and who lives about 2 hours away. She was just at the beginning of a road trip and visiting me and staying the night was actually on her way, so we ended up having a lovely time yard saling together the next morning. 🙂 Overall, I’ll keep filling you all in as I write up all the recipes, but suffice it to say: meatballs are a wonderful way to bring people together.

Summary of the Meatballs/”Meatballs” to come:

 

  • N’s thai peanut quinoa & chickpea “meatballs”
  • C’s turkey meatball pizza bites
  • J’s falafel
  • Husband’s cheddar sausage meatballs
  • my avocado sauce and queso sauce to put on top
  • and the grand prize winner, C’s honey-garlic beef meatballs (her first time trying them!)

 

 

54. C’s Sweet Potato “Muffins”

Yesterday, we were all out of breakfast foods after the long road trip, and I had a hankering for something sweet and nutritious, so I broke out my small stack of remaining gifted recipes, and found this one, which was actually in a birthday card from my Mom, C.

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I have no muffin tins, so I just made the recipe as a big cake and cut it into pieces. I substituted some of the milk and sugar for more sweet potato (the can I had was very large) and it turned out moist, dense, and sweet. I liked having big chunks of pecan and raisin to break up the bread a bit too. This will go down in history as one of my favorite breakfast foods, and it really isn’t that bad for you either. I saved some of it just in case we have more folks at the potluck tonight than planned, and I still have plenty for a week of breakfasts.

Best of all: it took maybe 15 minutes to put together, not even using the stand mixer! It is usually unthinkable for me to cook something before 8am, but this seemed reasonable and by the time my sleepyhead mom woke up, I had the thing cooking in the oven. It doesn’t take forever though I did have to give in an extra 5 minutes there at the end, and it browns a little on top which helps you decide it is indeed done.

I enjoyed putting a little cream cheese on top, and my mom tried butter on top, both of which were great additions. It doesn’t have streusel or anything but it does seem like a variety of “coffee cake” especially since I didn’t do it in a muffin tin. Overall, a rave review and a creation I intend to return to for potluck brunch or other occasions that warrant sweet breads.

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53. No Thyme to Waste’s Braided Challah

A few days back, I was having a nostalgic day and decided to bake a loaf of challah. I have no claim to challah’s long history, but in college it was a bread I learned to make in my parents’ bread machine and so whenever I was about to head back to school, I’d make two loaves: one to eat with my family, pulling sections of the braid off with our hands while it was still warm, and the other to slice cool in my college town, accompanied by my roommates or nearby dorm neighbors. The bread seems built for community building: soft, pliable, woven together, and always slightly sweet and eggy.

I found No Thyme to Waste’s recipe for braided challah and was also somewhat enchanted by her blog – it uses the same WordPress theme that I do, but to much greater effect! I’m inspired to include recipe cards with any recipes I make from friends or from a handwritten card – obviously will keep linking to recipes that come from other blogs. I was impressed that it used so much whole wheat flour, and this recipe didn’t disappoint: Husband does not like super whole-grain bread and he thought this was the best loaf I’ve made yet! We ate on it for days, letting it replace store-bought bagels in the morning, toasted with a layer of cream cheese all over it. I didn’t have the seeds to put on top, but otherwise I pretty much stuck with the recipe; I’m learning that it pays to follow the directions with bread.

While I didn’t get to bring any on this road trip with me, I’m hoping to be able to at least prepare a few meals while I’m here visiting with my sister – she’s a much healthier eater than me, but if she let’s me, a loaf of homemade bread might be just what her kitchen needs.