Meatballs | Gluten Free AND Homemade!

The Meatball battle. It’s a war I’ve been fighting with my mother since I was old enough to speak. I decided way back then that I did NOT love homemade meatballs. She tried and tried and tried to convince me that meatballs were BETTER homemade. I disagreed. I loved-me-some good frozen meatballs. Every Italian blooded person reading this blog has officially clicked the “unfollow” button by now, but I can promise you, if you hang in there with me, I was finally able to come to my senses.

We have this crazy thing about meatballs… as long as my husband and I have been living in the same household, be it in our new home, the terrifyingly risky apartment we first lived in, or our starter home, the house he grew up in; we have had our share of some crazy memories associated with meatballs. There is a period of time that is so under appreciated by so many, that golden time when you find the person you will spend the rest of your life with, but still do not have any major life commitments yet. It’s the time in life when you can have fun, and be care free. Our period of this phase of life together began just after I graduated college. We got our first apartment together, with minimal monthly bills, while I was subbing, and waitressing in the summers, and he was working 12 hours shifts, rotating every two weeks between days and nights. Eventually I went back to school, and his job landed him staying away more than not. So when he would come home, we made the most of it. From our favorite little local restaurant/bar surrounded by some of the greatest group of people in the same phase of life as us, to cookouts and fires in our backyard that went way beyond the normal “last call” hours, we enjoyed life, worked hard, and played harder.

I know you are wondering, “how does this have anything to do with meatballs?” Well trust me, if you are any of those friends from that phase of life, you know EXACTLY how this connects back to meatballs (and flip cup… but that’s not what this post is about!) Every time the bar closed, the fires dragged on, or the appetites grew, we found ourselves crowed in our little Big Run kitchen cooking up frozen meatballs at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, rarely but even occasionally as early as midnight. Yes, somehow we always ended up back at our house feeding lord knows how many people, Meatballs. It became a standing joke between this group of friends from that golden phase of life. Long standing rivalries over flip cup always came to a halt over a ridiculous tradition of taming the post-alcohol hunger with frozen meatballs.

Fast-forward 4 years, one move, and two kids into the future, and those memories feel like a lifetime ago. One of those couple friends we used to spend every free second with recently got married and we found ourselves headed out to dinner with a portion of that old group again, only this time there were about 6 additional little ones ranging from baby carriers, high chairs, all the way up to pre school age. I feel safe in saying the groom-to-be was a little overwhelmed walking into that dining room…!

When I say that phase in life is the “golden phase” I don’t mean it in a way to place it above any other phase of life, I am just trying to explain the purpose and the value of it. Life is SO short, and it changes so drastically once kids are in the picture; with those changes all being amazing, and monumental, and even golden in their own ways. But don’t rush it. Enjoy these little phases of life because they all fly by so quickly. And if you are past it, I hope you find yourself reflecting on those carefree memories that stilly little things like “gyros at 2 in the morning while wearing feather boas, and cups of ice being dumped…” and never forget them. Life is so good.

So returning to the “meat” of this post; alright, that was a little corny even for me. My oldest daughter is obsessed with meatballs. She lived on frozen meatballs for a phase, and now being cared for by an amazing Italian cook while I’m at work, has acquired a slightly more sophisticated taste for meatballs, forcing my hand into trying out my own version of a “good homemade meatball” but one that was also gluten free for her little sister and myself to enjoy. (Meanwhile… my mom says, “it’s about time!!!”)

So I began scouring the internet for suggestions and this is what I was able to come up with:

IMG_0751-I started out following a strange suggestion, that I felt would really help with the gluten free texture, and that was to soak bread in milk. So I began with two sliced of UDI’s Gluten Free White Bread, crust removed, ripped into chunks and soaked in milk.

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I seriously love this towel, it cracks me up every time I read it, thanks Danielle!

While those were soaking I worked with equal parts ground beef and ground pork, adding in one egg, some parmesan cheese, some parsley, some garlic, a chopped onion, and a little shake of Italian seasoning blend, salt and pepper.

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Next, I added the milky bread mixture (the whole thing, not just the bread) and really mixed the entire bowl well with my hands. This took  a while since I wanted to make sure everything was evenly combined.

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I began methodically rounding each little clump of meat into what I felt to be a nice sized ball for spaghetti or even sandwiches, for leftovers. I’d guess about two tablespoons of meat? Maybe a little less?

Next I placed a skillet on the stove with some good olive oil in it and heated it to medium, placing each rounded ball of meat in to brown on all sides evenly. I then transferred the balls to a plate and continued until all the meatballs were well cooked.

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Once all of the meatballs were browned evenly I placed them back into the skillet (you could use a crock pot if you wanted to instead) and poured our favorite spaghetti sauce over letting them simmer on low for about a half hour before serving.

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They were definitely a hit! I was pretty pleased with the final results as well! So whether your in that “work hard, play harder” phase, or the “throws of parenthood” phase… or even the “I have to repaint the walls in my house because I have teenagers and their friends” phase; may this post bring up some fun memories, inspire new memories, or even just push you past the breaking point, ready to dive into the homemade versions of your family’s recipes. 

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Homemade Gluten Free Meatballs

  • Servings: 30-36 meatballs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 slices gluten free white sandwich bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Place gluten free bread in a bowl with 1/2 cup milk and let it stand 5 minutes.
  2. Combine ground beef, pork, garlic, onion, parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add milk and bread mixture. Mix well with hands until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Begin rolling the meat mixture into approximately 1-2 tbsp balls and brown in skillet evenly on all sides. Remove and continue until all of the meat mixture has been formed into balls and browned on all sides.
  4. Return meatballs to the skillet and add 1-2 jars of spaghetti sauce turning heat to low. Cover and let simmer for approximately 1/2 hour before serving.
  5. Serve with pasta or rolls.

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Baked S’Mores | Gluten Free

This is another one of those recipes that has become a seasonal classic. It’s also a recipe that literally blew up Pinterest about 4 years ago. The combination of Graham Cracker “Blondie”, Marshmallow Creme, and Chocolate perfectly capture that freshly roasted S’mores taste. I have had to make several adaptations to the original recipe I found years ago, in order to fine tune the gluten free version. But trust me, the layering, and spreading of oey-gooey goodness, will definitely keep you coming back to this dish for more. I prefer them about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven, while my Mother-in-law likes to chill hers in the oven so they have a little crunch to them. Either way, it’s a WIN-WIN

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To begin, start by creaming your butter and sugar, next adding in your egg and vanilla.

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With Gluten free, the stiffer the dough, the easier it is to work with. I do not let my butter get to room temperature, rather use my stand mixer to make it nice and fluffy, but still stiff, like the picture above. (This is before the eggs and vanilla were added)

Then I add in my flour. Now I LOVE being able to store my flour in a large rubber sealed container like this, because for some reason it makes me feel so NORMAL. I grew up in a house where my Mom had matching flour and sugar containers, which were eventually replaced with three hundred different individual flour containers, because when we first began this Gluten Free journey 15 years ago, every recipe required a slightly different concoction of flours to get a mediocre attempt at “normal” textures. I think this is the largest selling point with the Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour, that it replaces that “Science Experiment feel” that baking gluten free used to have. It makes life simple, and baking FUN again. It has also dramatically increased my organizational space in my baking supply cabinets.

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So this is also one of the “stress-reliever” recipes. You know, the ones where you get to beat something to a pulp? Take Pamela’s Gluten Free Graham Crackers for example, place one container’s worth in a zip lock bag, and go to town on those bad boys until they are a fine powder.

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I recently switched to these crackers just by coincidence and definitely have found my new favorite. It shouldn’t surprise me since I love the flour so much as well. These crackers have a good taste to actually make REAL S’mores with, and pass my gluten free 21 month-old picky eater test.

I saved one set of squares to make her a real S’more for dinner that night. I definitely should have photographed our two crazies eating their S’mores. So funny!

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Once your crackers are ready, add in your graham cracker crumbs and flour and prepare for the infamous “mushroom cloud” that seems to puff out of the mixer every time you turn it on with gluten free flour! (I have to admit, the Pamela’s mushroom cloud is minimal as compared to some other super fine flours out there.)

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Oh boy… look at that dough! That is how stiff you want this dough, to make it pliable when layering your bars. The recipe I am providing you gives a little more dough than you really need for a 9 x 13 inch pan; however, who doesn’t love a little left over snacky-snacky dough?!

Take just under half the dough and place it in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. begin working the dough out slowly with your finger tips pressing it evenly into the bottom of the pan.

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Once you’ve completed that, place THREE of the “GIANT” sized Hershey Bars in the pan. I stress the “GIANT” because I swear there are like 3 different sized humongous Hershey bars out there. I have come home from the store with what I thought to be the correct size, only to find I was incredibly short on chocolate. Now THAT is annoying.

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Next take a LARGE container of Marshmallow fluff and spread it around on the chocolate as evenly as possible, because in all reality, you end up with about half of it stuck to you, your spatula, and perhaps even your hair. Such a mess.. but so good… I was too busy licking the marshmallow fluff off my spatula to even remember to take a picture of that layer.

The final layer involves a little skill, and patience. Again, it truly is a miracle I can manage to make these correctly! Start off as if you are rolling out a crust from my Gluten Free Stromboli post and line your counter with a sheet of wax paper that is larger than your pan. Flop the remaining dough down on to the wax paper and begin to work the dough into a rectangle that is LARGER than the pan itself. You will see why in a moment.

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Once you have this massive pancake of a blondie rolled out, carefully flip the wax paper on to your 9 x 13 baking pan. If your aim is as good as mine, you’ll be glad to have the excess dough to compensate for your misjudged layer.

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Carefully peel back your wax paper and using a paring knife, trim away the edges of the dough. You will have a significant amount left over, but its so delicious that I’m sure you’ll find something to do with it…!

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Once it’s all trimmed up you are ready to bake! Toss these in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and before you know it you’ll have an ooey gooey treat waiting for you!

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I let mine set up over night before our picnic to help the mess factor while serving these in the hot weather. I have included my adapted gluten free recipe below; however, the only major change is the flour conversion. You should have no trouble making this recipe with any typical flour.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Gluten Free S'Mores Bars

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

-1 cup salted butter -1/2 cup brown sugar -1 cups sugar -2 large eggs -2 tsp vanilla -2 2/3 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour -1 1/2 cups crushed Pamela’s Graham Crackers -2 tsp baking powder -1/2 tsp salt -3 GIANT sized Hershey Bars -1 Large container marshmallow fluff

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
  2. Crush graham crackers. Add flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt to mixture. Mix until just combined. Batter should be stiff
  3. Separate just under half the mixture and press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  4. Line bottom layer with three GIANT Hershey bars.
  5. Spread 1 container of marshmallow fluff on to the Hershey bars.
  6. place remaining dough on a large sheet of wax paper. Roll out until thin and LARGER than the pan.
  7. Flip out on to the pan and trim excess off the sides of the pan.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or just until edges are slightly golden. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Serve immediately if looking for a gooey bar. Refrigerate if you prefer a more solid bar.

10 Tips for Hosting the Perfect Mother’s Day Brunch

When you are the Mom of the house, more often than not, you are the cook, the clean-up crew, and the planner. This may not fit for everyone but it certainly is how our life seems to go. In the summer my husband really steps up to the plate at dinner time by proudly using his Weber Summit grill that was a joint Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift about three years ago. You might wonder, how a grill for my husband is a gift for me as well? Or perhaps, why would you get such a large or fairly expensive grill? Let me tell you, when your husband willingly cooks at least half of the dinners through summer, and takes meticulous care of EVERYTHING he owns, it is a gift. It is the BEST gift. He is a good cook too. Each year he likes to get the updated version of the Weber New Real Grilling Cookbook, and I strongly recommend picking up this book of recipe inspiration! I can’t make a recipe without a good picture to go with it, and this one is full of amazing pictures and simple recipes.

But getting back to the issue at hand: Mother’s Day. If you are the planner and cook in your house, you will want to plan ahead for some simple, and effective ideas that will make your Mother’s Day Brunch enjoyable for all!

Each year we have both my parents and my husband’s over for a Brunch/Lunch and last year, I think we might have knocked it out of the park. Between the food, the timing, and the beautiful day, I’d say everyone left full, relaxed, and pampered.

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  1. Host Early and Keep it Small

We typically have our Moms come around 11 or 12 with plans to eat about an hour after the parents arrive. This timing is so nice because it gives plenty of time to spend the morning with my girls but still be ready before the guests arrive. We don’t extend out beyond the parents (my husband has 3 siblings who all have families themselves, so we limit just to the parents to keep it special for the Moms).

With my in-laws, they have 4 children, so by providing a nice brunch/lunch they still have plenty of time to enjoy the day, and visit their other children. My sister lives out of town, so my parents are pretty flexible to hang out at any point.

2. Flowers are a thoughtful Addition

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Last year, I had two matching floral arrangements picked out and scheduled to deliver ahead of time, (and no, my husband did NOT plan ahead and whipped last second flowers out for me… such a man) that doubled as beautiful centerpieces and take-home gifts for our mothers. I love peonies, and took in an inspiration picture to a local florist, who did an amazing job matching the arrangement, but keeping to my specific price range. The flowers had just begun to open, so they lasted for about two weeks after the brunch.

3. Choose Foods that can be Prepared in Advance

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I knew I would not want to spend my Mother’s Day preparing food all afternoon. My husband was more than happy to grill, so we chose meat options that allowed him to do just that. I also cut up fruit and prepared the dip the night before, along with the blueberry muffins. Tomato Salad was made first thing in the morning, because it’s delicious after it has time to sit, but too long in the fridge and the tomatoes get weird. My menu last year included:

  • Marinated Chicken, ready to grill
  • Sausages wrapped in bacon, and stuffed with cheese (we did have men there too, after all – learning curve, do NOT grill over direct heat! They WILL BURN)
  • Lemon Blueberry Muffins (easily converted to gluten free with the use of Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour )
  • Fresh Fruit and Dip
  • Tomato Basil Salad
  • The BEST Ice Cream Cake (recipe to come soon)

4. Bubbly Drinks are a Must

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With the brunch theme, the Perfect Mimosa was a great pairing for the meal. We of course always have beer for any guys, but The Perfect Mimosa is an excellent drink option whenever you have ladies who might not always be inclined to drink. The combination of a champagne of your choosing, (we aren’t super classy so we go for the sweet and cheap kind!) and raspberry or orange sherbet in lieu of juice makes a beautiful and delicious drink!

I did a quick scour of the Mom Blogger’s out there and found a similar recipe on The Cookie Rookie’s Sherbet Mimosas however, I only use the champagne and sherbet, skipping the additional alcohol.

5. Grandmothers need Spoiling Too

While Mother’s Day primarily focuses on the relationship between Mother and Child, the grandchildren can also play a role with sweet little homemade cards or hand-made gifts for the honorary Grandmother, Nanna, or Grammy as well! Nothing melts a grandparents heart quicker than a cute little craft project.

Love Bugs and Postcards has an AMAZING compilation of craft ideas in their post: 12 Fabulous and Fun Mother’s Day Crafts no point in re-inventing the wheel here!

6. Dessert is ESSENTIAL

I have an incredibly HUGE sweet tooth. Period. A Mother’s Day, or frankly any holiday, is not a celebration without dessert. So here is a list of possible pre-made dessert ideas to serve at your Mother’s Day Party:

7. Decor – Less is More (Hey, it’s your day too!)

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Whenever hosting a Mother’s Day event, and being a mother yourself, many times we get so swept up in planning that “our day” becomes a day of work. So keep it simple. Use a table runner that’s fairly neutral, some miscellaneous vases, a tray, or even floral arrangements that double as both a gift AND a centerpiece! We have a trifle bowl full of apples on a wooden tray sitting on our kitchen every day. It’s simple but pretty and would be an excellent centerpiece for an event like this. Even little dishes of candy can be included into a tablescape.

8. Put Thought into the Gift 

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I have spent many hours researching the top items available on the market this year, and have developed a fairly comprehensive list of suggestions, including some previous Mother’s Day gifts I have received. Last year, I found some unique and personalized options through Etsy shops that were tailored specifically to my Mom and Mother-in-laws tastes.

If you are looking for some suggestions for the Mother in your life check out my Complete Mother’s Day 2017 Gift Guide

9. Don’t Over-Plan

Keeping to simple foods, drinks, and sweet little gifts is more than enough. Don’t get crazy with decorations, over-the-top cleaning. We are all Moms! We get it! Your Mom will not be inspecting the windows for toddler finger smudges, nor will they be looking for hints of dust on your shelves. Remember this is YOUR weekend, so enjoy it alongside the Mom role models in your life!

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10. Outdoor Seating

If the weather permits, outdoor seating areas are always a nice introduction to a season of picnics and summer weather. But keep in mind, Mother’s Day falls DEAD CENTER in early allergy season. If you are planning to do outdoor seating keep in mind the following issues:

  • Wind – Use Table Cloth Clamps to secure your outdoor tablescape, and consider using heavier plates as Melamine is easily scooped up with a friendly breeze.
  • Allergies – if you are serving anyone with significant allergies, it doesn’t hurt to check your pollen count on any smart phone weather app.
  • Temperature – Outdoor seating is great in theory, but lets face it, Mother Nature has a mind of her own. While you may the most beautiful garden seating for a Mother’s Day brunch, random 50 degree temperatures do not accommodate most appetites, and neither do 80 degree temperatures in full blown sunshine. We try to host our events on the massive covered porch behind out house, but there are even times when the weather just doesn’t cooperate for our outdoor living space either.
  • Alternate Location – If you are hosting at your house, it is always good to have an alternate option prepared even if it’s just inside at your kitchen table, just in case Mother Nature decides to pull a fast one on you.

 

So there you have it! 10 simple tips to help you host a fabulous event, while still enjoying your own Mother’s Day! May you all be pampered and appreciated this Mother’s Day.

Cheers!

  • Whitney