Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Weeknight Meatballs & Marinara

Tarek and Christina are common names in our household. I am addicted to everything HGTV, mostly because all other news is too stressful and/or ridiculous to watch / listen to. So if you’re a T&C fan as much as I am, the thought of the title “Flip or Flop” may be worth a ponder. Think about it…..they never show a “Flop” – at least I’ve never seen one. Have you? Leave me a comment if you’ve seen one.

Where am I going with this?

I decided to show you a “flop” of mine. If you follow me on Instagram (check lower-right on the homepage) you saw my genius idea of slow cooker meatballs.

In theory, this is a splendid idea! However, there are a few points that I must make here if you love your meatballs a certain way……

First, these are first world issues. Just putting that out there.

And now, I’ve had too much time to think about meatballs, here are my thoughts.

  1. Slow cooking meatballs doesn’t allow them to get crunchy bits on the outside like pan frying or baking does.
  2. Slow cooking meatballs makes very mushy meatballs, more like meat sauce if you cook them as long as I did (as per the recipe).
  3. Slow cooking meatballs is the worst way to actually make a meatball.
  4. If you’re wanting to slow cook a meatball, the best kinds to slow cook are pre-cooked (packaged) or pre-made (by you, under the broiler for 3 minutes to create a nice outter edge so they don’t fall apart)
  5. You must have more sauce than you’d think to cover all the meatballs. This was about 2 full quart size jars. I like Classico + Barilla.

Here’s the recipe. I am going to try it again, but using a different technique, like omitting raw onion. Onions have a TON of water in them and when you bake/slow cook onion, it adds moisture to your recipe that can significantly change what you’re making….I’ve done this before with meatloaf.

So here’s a pretty picture to look at.  Way too much onion right?! I was trying to recycle left over chopped onion from the weekend. Fail. Also, not enough sauce, right. Supposed to cover all the meatballs.

20170829_123510.jpg

Crock pot Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1.5# organic, grassfed ground beef (Metcalfes had WI organic beef on sale yesterday for $4.99/lb, that’s 50% off)
  • 1.5 cups Italian bread crumbs (if you don’t have bread crumbs, use bread or saltine crackers, put them in your nutribullet or food processor with some salt, pepper, Italian seasonings….it’s the same thing)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or not fresh, whatever.
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic, or 2 tbsp powder
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (this is where I would prefer to use onion powder)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • You can make your own sauce, or buy 2 jars
  • 1# spaghetti or favorite pasta shape

Directions:

  1. Prepare your crock pot with non-stick spray
  2. Combine all ingredients in large bowl (except sauce and pasta) to make meatballs, approx 12-16 depending on size.
  3. Put all of the spaghetti sauce into crock pot, place meatballs into sauce. Sauce should cover the meatballs.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours

TIPS: If you have time, bake in your oven in pyrex at 400* for 15 minutes BEFORE putting them into the slow cooker.

If you’re looking for nut-free, most pre-packaged meatballs are nut-free. The ONLY ingredient to pay attention to would be the breadcrumbs / bread source. MOST breads are NOT safe, so if you make your own breadcrumbs, make sure your bread is safe. WE use Country Hearth from Sun Prairie, WI. Angelic is also guaranteed nut-free. Progresso bread crumbs are also nut-free, and that’s what I used in this recipe.

This meatball recipe is pretty plain. If you want to spice things up, I suggest another recipe for more flavor. But if it’s a weeknight and you’re looking for fast and easy, this will do. This will do.

Here’s Anne Burrell’s meatball recipe with homemade marinara sauce. I love her cooking, however, I hate how much salt she adds to her recipes. Just adjust your salt levels accordingly.

Anne Burrell Meatballs

Happy Wednesday and thanks for stopping by. The countdown to Modern Family is ON!

P.S. If you have extra meatballs, make meatball subs with a fresh sub roll and slice of mozzarella  cheese.

 

Weeknight Dinners

Quick Green Chicken Chili

20170814_174127.jpg

One of the best parts of traveling is trying new food. And then taking that idea home with you and recreating it in your kitchen. I haven’t always been adventurous with creating delicious food. And I’m probably even more cautious now with a nut-allergic child. However, I still try to sample things I normally would not.

Like Green Chicken Chili.

I had a spicy version of this when we were in Chicago a few weeks ago. Technically, I consider myself a chili connoisseur. If a restaurant has chili, I try it. It’s a quest to find the BEST CHILI EVER!

After we got back from vacation, I was flipping through this months Cooking Light Magazine for meal inspiration that would work well for our family. The recipe below comes pretty darn close to what I had in Chicago. And after talking to the chef, it’s also 100% nut-free!

This recipe makes 6 servings. It’s good for dinner + easy lunches. It’s super fast because it uses tasty rotisserie chicken (I swear, my little guy could eat an entire rotisserie chicken all by himself!) Hy-Vee and Metcalfes are my favorite in Madison.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided (I like Rachael Ray, her salt level is perfection)
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 (4-oz.) cans mild chopped green chiles, drained (or if you have them in your garden, fresh is OK, too. Just seed them first)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken breast, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sliced radishes
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup brown rice

Directions

  1. You’ll need to get out your dutch oven, or large kettle, and a small sauce pan for your rice.
  2. First, make your rice in your small sauce pan. I like jasmine rice or brown rice. They are made the same way – just follow your package instructions. 2.5 cups of water + 2 tbsp evoo and a pinch of salt over high heat. Add the rice, bring to a boil. Boil for about 3-4 minutes until the water line is just below the rice. Cover the pot and don’t touch it for 15 minutes.
  3. Next heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in cumin and chiles; cook 1 minute. Add beans and chicken stock, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and salt; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes. Stir in juice.
  5. Remove your rice from the heat and fluff – using an ice cream scooper, plop the rice into your bowls.
  6. Divide chili among 4 bowls; top with radishes, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Uncategorized

Snack Dinner in 10

Back to school week hustle is real. I spent 7:30am – 1:30pm in my car driving two kids around to their school functions and activities. By 2pm, I’m the one that felt like nap time. Errr. Wrong. Afternoon activities and clean up from the morning to do! Not to mention my expanding email inbox and the 2,000 photos my phone is yelling at me about. Still, I’m trying to be in the moment. It’s so hard when there are a million things pulling us in different directions. 

Be. In. The. Moment.

Tonight we have a parent welcome night at school, no kids. So we have a babysitter. Our garden exploded this week, so I made this “Snack Dinner” for the kids, easy and healthy.

(Also, my 20 year old oven numbers have rubbed off the oven and a babysitter doesn’t know where my 425° is to make an easy pizza…..always something!!!!!! And my dishwasher is broken. Do you know how awesome it’s been hand washing?????)

Essentially, a veggie tray, pita, and hummus. My secret for warming up the pita fast is slicing it in half, and putting it in the toaster. 

We prepped this meal in 10 minutes and I had the kids help do the watermelon balls. For desert. Of course.

#tgit I can’t wait to unwind with my bestie this weekend in the 414.

Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

White Cheddar & Bacon Risotto

20170822_170416.jpg20170822_180132.jpg

It’s the night before the first day of school and our house is all a buzz. The kids have been busy getting their outfits ready, shoes out, backpacks packed (although pretty empty since we did the ship-directly-to-my-school-awesomeness this year). Exciting day in our household. Last minute haircuts, too! (Did you notice the Ninja Turtle jammies in the photo above? That was a last minute Amazon Prime purchase since poor buddy didn’t have any that fit :))

For dinner tonight, I wanted something cozy since the nights have been getting cooler. Something I gladly welcome. I love this time of year. Football, chai tea lattes, light jackets, snuggly sweatshirts, mums, pops of color from brightly changing leaves, new school, new conversation, new friends, and comforting food. Essentially, a new chapter.

As I was flipping though this months Cooking Light Magazine for meal inspiration, I found this recipe and immediately I had to make it.

Risotto.

If you’re stressed, make this recipe. If you’re not stressed, make this recipe.

Risotto requires lots of stirring, and the bonus, it’s made WITH wine, so you have to sample along the way, of course!?

We had clean plate club all around. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. It was DELISH. Probably my favorite recipe for all of 2017 so far….and that says a lot!

If you can, pick up this month’s Cooking Light Magazine, its worth it. Many excellent quick recipes.

White Cheddar and Bacon Risotto

  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bacon slices
  • 1 1/4 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (make sure you check your manufacturing facility, not all rice is safe)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine ( used old stand by Kim Crawford)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 ounces white cheddar cheese,shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

Directions

  1. Bring stock and thyme sprigs to a simmer in a saucepan over medium; keep warm over low.
  2. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven (or large kettle or big frying pan with high sides) over medium for 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove from pan; crumble. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 1/2 cups stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring frequently. Add 2 1/4 cups stock, 3/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion is absorbed before adding more. Reserve remaining 1/4 cup stock; discard thyme sprigs. Stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Stir in peas, chopped thyme, and cheese; cook 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup stock. Divide rice mixture among 4 bowls; top with green onions and bacon.
Birthday Parties, How to be Nutfree, School Safe List, Snacking, Uncategorized

School Safe Treat Box

20170818_150058.jpgIt’s back-to-school time! If your child has food allergies, now is the time to be pro-active and get your plans and snacks in place. Here’s how we prepare:

  1. Contact the school nurse/office and keep an EPI-PEN on file at the front desk.
  2. Make sure all medical forms are filled out and complete with the front office.
  3. Know your school’s allergy policy. Make sure there is an allergy policy.
  4. Make contact with the child’s teacher (s) and make sure they all know about your child’s allergy, and what the steps are to keep him/her safe. Keep it simple here.
  5. Talk to your child about saying “no” to all classroom treats. This is tough, but it’s the ONLY way to stay safe at school.
  6. Use an allergy bracelet for your child.
  7. Keep an EPI-PEN inside your child’s backpack at all times so it is easily accessible. I like to keep ours in an AllerMates case – it has our phone number and contact information inside.
  8. Build the treat box and have fun with it. We decorated ours with stickers, and I made a special trip to the grocery store with just my daughter so she could take her time choosing treats. They better be good, after all, they are replacing classroom birthday treats! That’s a big deal!

Our treat box is filled with:

  1. Simply Balanced fruit leathers from Target
  2. Hostess Ding-Dongs
  3. Little Bites Brownies
  4. Little Bites Party Cakes
  5. Enjoy Life Chocolate Candy-Bars

Our treat box will be kept inside the classroom for the entire school year. These snacks will replace Birthday treats, holiday treats, party treats and any other time a treat or snack is brought into the class. We used the same size last year and only had to fill it one time. At the end of the year, we had about 6 treats left over.

I also like to reference this website to help prepare for the school year. It can be especially helpful if your school doesn’t have a comprehensive allergy policy.

Food Allergy Resource Center  – I thought this article below was a good reminder, too.

Food Allergy Tips for Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).
Today, one in 13 children has food allergies, and nearly 40 percent of these children have experienced a severe or lifethreatening reaction. Many of these reactions happen at school. Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) are a vital part of the school community, providing an organized family and community component.

As a PTO or PTA leader, you can be a powerful voice for your children and other children, advocating for their health, safety, education and overall well-being.
Children with food allergies need your support to ensure their safety and inclusion. From classroom parties, to school family nights, to after-school fundraisers, keep in mind that all students in the community should be able to participate safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published National Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools, available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC. The recommendations below are a few examples of recommended
practices to help ensure students with food allergies are safely included. We encourage you to review the complete list of the CDC’s Recommended Practices, on pages 41–43 of the guidelines available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC.
• Avoid the use of identified allergens in class parties, holidays, celebrations, crafts, snacks or rewards.
• Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts, awards, and fundraisers.
• When possible, avoid ordering foods from restaurants because food allergens may be present, but unrecognized.
Have ingredient information readily available for all pre-packaged and/or catered food items.
• Do not exclude children with food allergies from events or extra-curricular activities.
• Make sure that food allergy policies and practices address foods available during fundraisers, class parties, at
athletic events and during after-school programs.
• Have rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors in cases of emergency and train staff to use them.

Did you know?

Food allergies may constitute a disability under the law. Children with food allergies are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in all school programs and events including extra-curricular activities. This usually applies to activities held by groups such as PTOs and PTAs. (See Section 5 of the CDC guidelines for more information on federal laws that pertain to food allergies.)

20170821_100212.jpg

Sun flowers are so important to us nut allergic families. Sun butter is our alternative to peanut butter.

Have a great first day back to school. I hope your preparations put your mind at ease a little.

 

Uncategorized

Target Dino Nuggets

You always need a plan B. Especially for dinner. We ALWAYS have dino nuggets stashed in the freezer. These nuggets are from Target and are safe. The Mickey Mouse nuggets from Costco are also nut-free. We have tried the Market Pantry version of chicken tenders by Target and have been 100% safe. Most Tyson brands are OK, too, but I honestly prefer these Dino nuggets. Not only are they DINO’S, the first ingredient is chicken breast white meat. 
I also love making dino adventure land because deep down we are all 6.

Happy plan B dinner day! #tgit


Uncategorized

The Rest of Vacation

I was so wrapped up in having fun, I didn’t blog the rest of our vacation. Here are the highlights:

Two days in Chicago.

Six days in Milwaukee.

Three days in Green Bay.

You heard about Chicago already. So Milwaukee. We love Milwaukee. It has so much to offer. It’s grown so much in the past 10 years. And every time we visit, we say we’re going to do XYZ, then never do it because we are busy doing something else. This was kind of a “stay-cation” for us. It was great.

  • State Fair
  • Paddle Boats on the Lagoon
  • Visited with all our family
  • Hosted Packer Party
  • Dined out at favorite places
  • Played choo choos
  • Watched construction of new railway
  • Beer Gardens
  • New parks
  • Gillies Frozen Custard
  • Brewer Game
  • Brewery
  • Splash pad
  • Ballet camp + performance
  • 1898 Milwaukee Central Library Visit
  • Summer reading program

Lastly, Green Bay is such a family friendly place to visit. The kids actually chose this destination and asked Uncle Oreo to come along, too. We stayed at Tundra Lodge Resort + Waterpark. This resort is in desperate need of some “love” and I will not stay the night here again. We will definitely visit the indoor waterpark and arcade again, however. The waterpark was very clean and worth the time we spent there.  The resort itself is just getting old and things need updating and staff needs to learn how to properly make a bed with sheets that do not have holes in them. Our room was not in good shape, and for the money we spent, it should have been nicer. We did visit the new Lodge Kohler hotel + spa, and we will stay there next time. It’s amazing. The staff is overly friendly and the amenities are five star.  Getting good sleep is important to me on vacation! If i’m paying to stay somewhere, it better be comfortable! Green Bay included:

  • Lambeau Field Tour
  • Lambeau Hall of Fame Museum Tour
  • Lunch at 1919
  • Visit the Packer Pro-shop
  • Waterpark x 2 days
  • Arcade + Games x 2 days
  • Distillery
  • Endless laughs

Knock on wood, nobody got sick, nobody cried, we all had fun, made some awesome memories, laughed a lot, didn’t set an alarm clock, had no real plans, had no reservations and just went with the flow. It was amazing. For a planner, it was very difficult for me to let go of planning, but also very freeing since there was never any pressure to be anywhere or do anything. If we were tired, we took it easy, if we were bored, we found an activity to do. We did a lot in a short amount of time and the kids were amazing troopers and problem solvers on the go.

Now for the next adventure…..