Instant Pot Meatballs

 

I have a history of making big-ish decisions while The Mistah is away on Army duties….new cars, new pets. I did also sell his Jetta back to VW after he left last year but that deal had been in the works for a while so I’m not going to take a hit on that one.

My point is that by now it should come as no surprise to The Mistah if (when) I drop some bombshell of a decision while he’s deployed.

You may be asking yourself what could possibly top buying or selling our cars and bringing an alley cat into our house and hoping like hell it worked out with the existing people and pets?  How about deciding to sell our house while we owed more than we could possibly hope to get in a sale?

We had planned to sell.  Once we had paid down more of the principal.  Once prices bounced back a bit in our neighborhood.  Once we could be thoughtful about the decision and have a plan on where to go next.

Not while I was two thirds of the way through a year of solo parenting a five year old and The Mistah was largely unavailable for consultation.

But our old neighborhood took a pretty direct hit from the explosion of cheap heroin and as many people looking to buy it as there were people selling it up on the Boulevard.  Maybe because I was alone with Libby, and definitely because I subscribed to the neighborhood Facebook group, I was hyper aware of what was happening around us.  And things got to a point where I was not willing to tolerate being vulnerable every time we drove in or out of our neighborhood.

So I talked to a realtor and then I talked to The Mistah.  Sure, it makes for a great story NOW but I can only imagine the look on his face when I told him my plan.  And by “plan” I meant throw as much cash as we could against the mortgage and hope like hell that we could find a buyer to meet us where we were.  My plan was only to get the house sold.  I had absolutely zero provision for where we would move to, partly because I didn’t actually believe that my plan could work.

Thanks to a great team working with my realtor, and a little pixie dust from The Universe, we found a buyer.  At full asking price.  And the very same day The Mistah boarded a plane to come home from Deployment, the movers loaded all of our belongings onto a truck and moved us about 10 miles closer into the city.  After resigning myself to having to rent an apartment out in the County, I stumbled across a rental in the city close to restaurants, the library, a pool, a corner snowball stand, and Miss Libby’s school.

And although it wasn’t a part of my original “plan”, six months later we put in an offer on a new house in this very same neighborhood.  So, fingers crossed, in a few weeks we will move again….for what I sincerely hope is the last time for a very long while.

About that alley cat that I brought in….it was rough for a few months (thank gawd The Mistah was away for that) but now Olaf is one of the family.

 

Instant Pot Meatballs

Adapted from Pressure Luck

BAH Note:  Moving sends me into a tizzy.  I go through closets.  I go through the pantry.  And I go through the freezer.  These meatballs got me through closing down one kitchen and ramping up the next.  They freeze beautifully and thanks to the pressure cooker, take up nearly none of my attention…which is in short supply on a good day let alone on moving day.

A word about sauce…use what you like.  I happen to like Victoria White Linen Marinara.  But that’s me.  You do you.

  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef or mixture of ground beef and ground pork
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons mixed Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (I’m a fan of Penzey’s finely milled black pepper)
  • 40 ounces marinara sauce
  • ½ cup water

Empty the jar of sauce and water into your pressure cooker.

Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your hands to gently combine.  Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, form individual meatballs about the size of a golf ball.

Put the meatballs into the sauce.

Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes followed by a quick release of the pressure.

{printable recipe}

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Spinach Pie

 

Call me naive, but I really thought life would instantly (and moreover, permanently) get easier once The Mistah got back from Deployment.  I’m not even talking about being a solo parent.  That’s the part that everyone can see and understand and expect to be hard.  I’m talking about being a family again.

I love to tell people the story about the day The Mistah came home.  I didn’t tell Miss Libby that her dad was coming home.  It was just another Friday and we were out running errands and I mentioned we had to make one more stop at the airport.  Without missing a beat, she asked if we were picking up Daddy…stinking smart, that one.  The image of her running up to him as walked off the plane is seared into my memory and it was as perfect as anything you could imagine.

If this were Hollywood, that’s where the story would end….our family reunited, all is well, and the three of us walk through the airport into our perfect lives….fade to black.

But this is definitely not Hollywood.  There were bags to wait for.  There was a 5 year old who didn’t want to listen.  There was frustration about not being able to remember where I had parked the car.  There were empty stomachs and whiny voices and a whole lot of ohmygodwillyoupleasejustpayattentiontowhereyouarewalking…exclamation point.

The family was reunited and all was well….and we did eventually find the car.  But after spending almost a year apart, we had to figure out how we fit together again.  That’s where we are now.  I am trying to remember how to be a spouse and a momma and a grown up.  At any given time, I’m struggling with one, two, or three of those roles.

And. Every. Damn. Day. I have to remind myself the The Mistah can’t read my mind.

Seriously, after 14 years of marriage you would think that one was squared away.  But indulge me for a moment…. shouldn’t he be just a little more insightful after all these years together?  Maybe a tiny bit?

My point is…it’s hard for me to ask for help but the truth is that he only knows I need something if I ask.

My point is…being vulnerable with people stirs up all kinds of anxiety for me but they only know how I’m feeling if I tell them.

My point is…I tend to be the proverbial bull in a china shop but there much less debris to clean up if I can take a bit more care with my words and actions.

My point is…in lieu of a Google Maps Your Life app, we will have to rely on each other to find our way.  At least now I don’t have to be the one who remembers where the car is parked.

 

Spinach Pie

Adapted from The Washington Post

BAH Note:  I had a fear of working with phyllo dough.  I needn’t have.  Since this approach gives you one big spinach pie instead of individual triangles, you can be a little less precise and it doesn’t matter one bit if the sheets tear or get scrunched up and folded over in the pan…it adds to the layers.  Don’t skimp on the olive oil between the top layers of phyllo.  They will thank you by baking up crisp and wonderfully crunchy.

Want to make it ahead, here’s verbatim from The Post.  “The unbaked pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; add 10 minutes to the baking time.  It can be chilled in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and frozen or up to 3 months; reheat by placing it in the oven during the time it preheats to 375 degrees; once it reaches temperature, bake for 45 minutes.  The baked pie can be cooled completely, then refrigerated for up to 4 days; reheat uncovered in the oven as it preheats to 350 degrees.  Once it reaches temperature, bake for 20 to 30 minutes.”

  • 24 – 30 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 7 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs, quickly beaten
  • ½ package phyllo dough sheets…they usually come two rolls per box
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Olive oil

Combine the spinach, feta, cottage cheese, and eggs in a mixing bowl.  Unroll the phyllo and place a damp paper towel over it while you work.

Brush the bottom of a 9x13x3 baking pan with olive oil. Place one sheet of phyllo in the pan, folding as needed to fit.  Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.  Continue to layer and brush with oil until you’ve used about half of the dough.

Spread the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo layers.  Top with the remaining sheets of dough continuing to layer and brush with olive oil as before.

Use a sharp knife to cut the pie into six or eight sections and then bake at 375 degrees until the top is a beautiful flaky golden brown, approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

{printable link}

Mint Lemonade

Let me tell you about 2017 around here.  It was hard.  Mind numbingly, bone wearyingly, put one foot in front of the other hard.  Looking back on it now, I have no idea how I navigated one day to the next.  Does autopilot have a survival setting?

The Mistah spent 2017 overseas on Deployment #3 which meant Miss Libby had a one (wo)man show at home.  I’d like to think that I rose to the occasion and was the best version of my parenting self for the 328 days he was gone.  I really would like to think that.  But I lived it.  And I know that most days I was lucky to find the good enough version of me.  I suspect the better and best versions of me were hiding out together in piles of laundry….not washing, folding, or putting it away mind you….just hiding there…slackers.

For her part, Miss Libby progressed from a normal 4 year old into a normal 5 year old while The Mistah was away.  Which meant pushing Good Enough just about as far as it could go.  That was usually when Loud Momma would make an appearance.  I can tell you for a fact that neither Libby nor I liked having Loud Momma around.  And I don’t think the next door neighbors cared much for her either (sorry neighbors).

Loud Momma typically brought along I’m Sorry Momma to clean up the mess.  Now that I think about it, you would never see the two of them at the same time….interesting.  And at some point in every single day, Tired Momma would take over.  She was the understudy waiting in the wings for her cue to step into character.

Bless her perpetually tired heart.

Tired Momma hits snooze a few times too many but still gets her child to school…usually before the late bell.  This is not to say that neither Tired Momma nor her child are free of telltale flaws in their outfit.  Hint, it’s usually the socks.

Tired Momma makes the food appear daily as if by magic.  Sometimes that magic goes by the name of cereal or uncrustables or delivery….and that’s ok.

Tired Momma does all of the chores that The Mistah would usually handle like taking out the trash and scooping the litter box.  But in exchange she outsources grass cutting and snow shoveling.

Tired Momma recognizes other Tired Mommas and Daddys.  And we salute them.  Usually as we shamble our way through school drop off, school pick up, and the grocery store.

Tired Momma loves nothing more than a day off.  However, those usually come disguised as sick days or snow days…so you can see how much off time they actually provide.

Tired Momma carried more than her share of the load around here last year and even her shoulders of stone need a rest sometimes.  So it is with the Mint Lemonade that The Mistah enjoyed during his time in the desert that I toast her.  I’m sure that I will call on her again….but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it won’t be any time soon.

Mint Lemonade

BAH Note:  I had to ask The Google to find something close to what The Mistah raved about while in the dessert.  Please note, this isn’t just lemonade with a touch of mint.  This is full on, spinach smoothie green, lemonade.  If you choose to make it with ice cubes, you should expect to have a foamy white top layer.  And since you don’t strain out the blizted mint leaves, you should also expect those mint leaves in the bottom of your glass…and maybe in your teeth.

As always, this is just a starting point.  You should adjust things to your liking.

  • 10 ounces lemon juice (from 5ish lemons)
  • 1 cup water + 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mint leaves (approximately 1 grocery store bunch)
  • 2 cups water + 1 cup ice cubes OR 1 cup water

Combine sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar just dissolves.  Cool slightly.

Mix the lemon juice, mint leaves, sugar syrup, and remaining water/water+ice in a blender, run on high speed until the mint is completely pulverized, and enjoy.

{printable recipe}

Old Fashioned Lemonade

lemonade

Lately I’ve been looking for old fashioned, low tech solutions to a modern day problem.  Specifically, how to follow the Baltimore Orioles in the digital age without digital resources.  For as long as I can remember, the games have been televised on a local tv station for all to enjoy.  But this year, games can only be watched on the regional cable sports network…which shall not be named and which is not a channel available on any of my streaming devices.

I ask you…what’s a girl to do?

If you’re me, you start by looking on the internet for a broadcast stream of the game.  Nope.  The local radio affiliates do not stream their game time coverage.  So while I could sit in my car and listen to the game, if I use the tablet in my kitchen to pull up the radio stations’ web sites and try to Listen Live….no luck.  I think maybe hi tech isn’t always the answer.

Especially for my 95 year old grandmother.

The things that she still enjoys in her assisted living community are few and far between…hot coffee….decaf….black, getting her hair done, and watching baseball games.  She’s about as low tech as it gets so when the games went off of the local tv station, she was left with even fewer options than I was.  Giving her new technology is a recipe for frustration (hers and mine), not to mention a waste of money. So in my quest to find a solution for me, I also was looking for one that could work for her.

Enter some quintessential old school technology…the radio.  And let me tell you, those things are harder to find than I think they should be in 2018.  I went down a few Etsy and Ebay rabbit holes initially trying to find an old working radio that looked like the green Zenith my grandparents used to have in their kitchen.  In my search, I ended up with three solutions.

One modern FM radio capable of receiving HD stations.  That one lives at my house for rooftop game enjoyment.

One 1970’s Zenith. Silver and beige.  She’s a beauty.  And she is what I listen to in bed on game nights.

And one brand new pocket radio….you might know it better as a transistor radio.  For my grandmother.  The cashier at Target was almost too young to know what it was.  Which officially made me feel like an oldster.

I suppose the moral of this story is that The Google and Alexa don’t have all the answers all the time.  Sometimes you have to ask What Would An Oldster Do and look for the lowest tech option available.

Old Fashioned Lemonade

Adapted from The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli

BAH Note:  Lemon juice + sugar + water is nearly as low tech as beverages get.  The original recipe calls for three lemons roughly chopped to go into your blender with the lemon juice and sugar.  I tried it.  I did NOT enjoy it.  I’ve adjusted that ingredient below according to my taste and feel like it’s a pretty reasonable place to start.  I also want to try my hand at blizting granulated sugar in my food processor to mimic “caster” sugar.  That stuff’s hella pricey to keep putting in my cart at the grocery store for as much of this as we drink at our house….nothing’s better on an early summer day than sitting on the roof listening to the baseball game while sipping on a cold, old fashioned lemonade…easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.  Yes, I am an oldster….see reference above.

  • 1/2 lemon, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups caster sugar (don’t confuse this with superfine powdered sugar)
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 10ish lemons)
  • 5 cups water

Combine the chopped lemon, lemon juice, and caster sugar in a blender and run it at medium/high until nicely blended.

Strain out any remaining solids through a fine mesh strainer.

Combine the strained juice and water in a pitcher, stir to combine, and enjoy.

{printable link}

Chocolate Nut Butter Bites

nut butter bites

Miss Libby is at an age where she like to be in the middle of whatever I’m doing.  Unless she is able to watch cartoons.  If cartoons are an option, then there’s no question that they win every time.

Having a “helper” in the kitchen is easier now that we have a bigger kitchen but it’s still an exercise in patience for me.  While I love pulling Libby into the process of taking a bunch of different ingredients and turning them into a finished product, I get twitchy watching anybody in my kitchen doing things differently than I would.  I do a lot of tongue biting and counting to ten and, in the end, everything (usually) comes out fine.

So far her involvement is limited to mixing, stirring, pressing the button on the food processor, cracking eggs, and scooping dough.  And to keep the voice in my head from throwing a hissy fit over the way her things look, I “sometimes” prep/shape/scoop most of the recipe and then let her have her way with the rest.  See that tray of nut butter bites in the background behind Libby?  I did those before handing the scoop over to Little Miss.  Her results were…shall we say….less consistent than mine.  And. That’s. Ok. Especially when my helper that day is Snow White.

Now if only she could do that trick where the animals come and make the house all tidy.  Then maybe I could sit and watch cartoons with her instead of doing dishes.

Chocolate Nut Butter Bites

Adapted from Love and Lemons

BAH Note:  I was tempted to omit the flaxseed because I had such a struggle finding it in a store.  Glad that I didn’t since is acts as a binder (in lieu of egg) and allows this to be a completely no bake recipe.  Do yourself a favor and just double the recipe below from the get go.

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup nut butter of choice (I use cashew butter)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 3 pitted Medjool dates
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Toast the oats on the stovetop over low heat until they begin to smell nutty.

Combine the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside to thicken.

Pulse the nut butter, agave nectar/maple syrup, dates, coconut oil, and salt in a food processor until combined.  Add the thickened flaxseed and process until smooth.

Add the oats and coconut and pulse until evenly combined.  Add the chocolate chips and process until the mixture begins to pull away from the side of the food processor into a chocolatey ball.

Use a small ice cream scooper to portion the mixture into individual bites onto a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Place in the fridge to chill before transferring to an airtight container and storing in the freezer.

{printable recipe}

Cocoa Crunch

My childhood is filled with memories of breakfast cereal.  Supposedly, as a toddler I enjoyed an entire box of BooBerry all by myself.  I was there and yet I don’t know if this is a tall tale my family liked to tell or if it really happened.  But in the absence of anything to indicate otherwise, I’m going to accept it as the truth.

Also truth is the abundance of sugar in nearly every box of cereal that came into our house.  Frosted Flakes?  Says it right in the name.  Cap’n Crunch?  Sounds wholesome enough.  Those sharp cornered nuggets cut the inside of my mouth…every.single.time…but I didn’t care.  I was loyal to the Cap’n and his sugary cargo.  Crunch Berries.  Peanut Butter Crunch.  The sweeter the better.

The one exception was Rice Krispies.  I’m not sure how they continually snuck into the rotation.  Or course, spoonfuls of sugar sprinkled on top of them negated their “healthy” status.  It didn’t really do much for the cereal.  But man, it did wonders for the milk.

As an adult, my taste in cereal has gotten a little more sophisticated.  Homemade granola tops my list.  But you’ll also find me putting Cheerios, Chex, and the occasional box of Frosted Mini Wheats into my grocery cart.  Sure, I could revive my past relationship with Tony the Tiger but I suspect that I would scarcely recognize him today.  My memory of those frosted flakes has softened with age and some things are simply best left in the past.

This doesn’t mean that I have banished sweetened cereals from Miss Libby’s childhood.  I just keep a tighter rein on them.  Often those Cheerios in my cart are of the Honey Nut variety…in part because I’m not buying separate cereal for The Mistah and The Miss and that’s one they will both eat.  And when we go on vacation, Libby is allowed to choose her own box of cereal at the grocery store.  She can eat as much as she likes but at the end of our trip whatever is left does not get packed up in the car to come home with us.

And on rare occasions, I bust out a few simple ingredients and concoct a grown up version of a cereal that young me would have definitely enjoyed.  I hide it so that it doesn’t get gobbled up quicker than you can say snap, crackle, pop.  And I’m ok with that.  Because out of sight is less likely to result in me eating a whole batch of it by myself…..see reference to the BooBerry incident above.

Cocoa Crunch

Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen

BAH Note:  Like many of the recipes that have found their way into my world, I spotted this on Alexandra’s blog.  My note on the page I printed out simply said HELLS YEAH.  And I always make a double batch.  Take that as you will.

  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut oil if you’re feeling fancy)
  • 1.5 ounce 60% dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup agave nectar, maple syrup, or golden syrup (not corn syrup)

Set the oven to 275 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, rice cereal, coconut, cocoa, and salt.

Heat the oil and chocolate in the microwave in 30 second pulses until the chocolate has melted.  Stir to fully combine the oil and chocolate.  Add the liquid sweetener to the melted mixture then pour into the dry ingredients and stir to mix well.

Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

{printable recipe}

7.20.16

libby 4th bday collage

Dear Libby,

You continue to amaze me on a daily basis with:

  • the reach of what you understand and can communicate
  • your fascination with staying in hotels
  • the empathy you are showing for others’ feelings
  • the depth of your imagination
  • your performance skills….especially as Elsa from Frozen
  • your resistance to sleeping with the light off
  • the joy you bring to those around you…including me

From the bottom of my heart, I love you to pieces dear girl.  Thank you for the grand adventure of being your momma.