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}

Sweet and Sour Chicken

to post graphic

I’ve been digging around the junk drawer that is my draft folder.  In a concerted effort to clear out the mental clutter, I’m posting this drafts ‘as is’….

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Adapted from Alice Currah @ PSB Parents

BAH Note:  This dish is as elusive as a yeti with regards to having its picture taken.  I’ve made it a bunch of times and never managed to document its existence.  The only note I wrote down on the recipe was “omg yes”.

  • 10 ounce crushed pineapple in juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or thigh (boneless, skinless)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Drain the juice from can of pineapple into a small saucepan, leaving the crushed pineapple in the can.  Add 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) cornstarch and whisk together until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Whisk in the brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and ketchup and cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to simmer.  Continue to cook for about five minutes, stirring, until the sauce thickens.  Move the pan off the heat while you prep the chicken.

Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and place them into a plastic bag.  Add the kosher salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Close the top of the bag and shake to coat the chicken.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the chicken in batches, adding additional oil as needed, until lightly browned and cooked through.  Return all the chicken to the pan and add the sauce and crushed pineapple.  Cook for about 3 minutes until everything is warmed through.

Serve over steamed rice.

{printable recipe}

Steak with Cider Glazed Onions

Bacon Jam Pan

I’ve been digging around the junk drawer that is my draft folder.  In a concerted effort to clear out the mental clutter, I’m posting this drafts ‘as is’….

Steak with Cider Glazed Onions

Adapted from The Fresh Market

BAH Note: You could use apple cider for the cider glazed onions but if you can find the spiced apple cider beer, use it.  It’s quite refreshing to sip on a big glass of it while the onion jam cooks.  And don’t worry, it is completely non alcoholic….although I could see hard cider working beautifully both in the recipe and as a refreshing beverage.

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 12 ounces spiced apple cider beer
  • 1/4 cup prepared barbeque sauce

Pat your flank steak dry with paper towels and season both sides with a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Allow to sit at room temperature while you work on the onion jam.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium high heat.  Add the bacon and cook until the bacon is crisp and the fat has rendered.  Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook until the onions soften.

Off the heat, stir in the apple cider beer.  Return the skillet to the stove and cook until the liquid reduces by about half.  Stir in the barbeque sauce.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt, black pepper, and more barbeque sauce to taste.  Cover and keep warm while you cook the steak on a preheated grill with the lid closed, 6 minutes per side for medium rare.

Allow the steak to rest for about 10 minutes before you slice it thinly on the diagonal and serve it with the onion jam.  If you tuck some lettuce on your plate, you can call it steak salad.

{printable recipe}

Spiced Lentil Soup

I’ve been digging around the junk drawer that is my draft folder.  In a concerted effort to clear out the mental clutter, I’m posting this drafts ‘as is’….

Spiced Lentil Soup

Adapted from Parents Need to Eat Too

BAH Note:  You could use as much as 1 1/2 cups of lentils which would give you a thicker, stoupy soup.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup french green lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper

Heat the oil in a dutch oven set over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables being to soften a bit.

Add the garam masala, cumin, ginger, and salt and cook for approximately 1 minute until you begin to smell the spices.  Add the broth and lentils and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and spices.

{printable recipe}

Chicken Marsala Casserole

pasta bakeI’ve wanted to talk with you about what I’ve been cooking but I feel like I’m supposed to have a pretty picture to oooh and aaaah over before I post.  Which makes for a lot of radio silence here at BAH .

Clearly I’m still feeding my family.  I’m just not doing a great job of documenting what’s been on our plates.  Which is really a shame because I have been serving up some serious deliciousness.

Like Chicken Marsala Casserole.  I grabbed this one from Smitten Kitchen, as you can tell from my (not food) photo above.  If you’d like to see a pretty picture of baked pasta, clicky here to see the lovely photo Deb included in her post.  Mine looked remarkably similar.  And tasted good enough that I’ve made it again AND put some in the freeze for a future get-out-of-dinner-free night.

Here’s why this dish appeals to me:

Making a double batch = 2x reward and only 1x work.  (You do the math.)

There’s something for everyone at my table.  If The Libster is feeling peckish, she can pick out the pasta and politely say no thank you to the porcini and poultry.  The Mistah and I aren’t quite so persnickity.  (Try saying this five times real fast.)

If I can’t cobble together enough time to get from start to finish in a single shot I can make the sauce and keep it in the fridge for a day or two until I’m pasta ready.  Come to think of it, I could probably make and freeze the sauce and then have it at the ready to spoon over cooked pasta anytime. (I just had an a-ha moment!)

Feel free to use any of my reasons, or come up with one of your own.  But get to know this casserole. (No aside necessary.)

Chicken Marsala Casserole

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

BAH Note:  Sturdier pastas like ziti, rigatoni, twists, and penne are well suited for this application.  I’ve used plain white mushrooms as well as crimini and they’ve both worked equally well.  I work on making the sauce while I’m waiting for my pot of water to boil and pasta to cook.

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 8 ounces pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • kosher salt

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, working in batches if you need to.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Return the pan to the stove, add the remaining oil, mushrooms, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released by the mushrooms is nearly cooked away.  Add the marsala and cook until most of the wine has cooked down before adding the butter to the pan.  Once the butter has completely melted and been stirred around once or twice, sprinkle the flour on top of the mushrooms, give the mixture a good stir so that all of the flour combines with the butter and mushrooms, and cook for about two minutes.

Add about a quarter cup of broth to the pan and whisk.  It might bubble up angrily and look pasty; just keep going.  Slowly add the remaining broth and continue to whisk until the sauce smooths out.  Keep the sauce on a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up slightly.  Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to sauce and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of well salted water for 10 – 12 minutes.  You want the pasta just a teensy bit underdone so it can finish cooking off in the oven.  Drain the pasta, add it back to the pot, and stir in the sauce and grated Parmesan.

Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

{printable recipe}

Foolproof Broiled Pork Chops

I hate bedtime.

Wait, let me clarify.  I love my bedtime.  But I dread Libby’s.

Up until a few months ago, we had a solid routine.  A little Peppa Pig, Charlie and Lola, or Yo Gabba Gabba!, dinner, play, pajamas, books and cuddles, then lights out.  Libby would even tap on her crib to let me know that yes, it’s time for night night.  There might be a few tears after I put her down, but usually nothing more than 5 or 10 minutes, and the rest of the evening was available for other things like chores, projects, and catching up on Tivo because the Libster was down for the night.

God I miss those days.

Now our routine is more like cartoons, dinner, play, bath, books, and lights out followed by tossing and turning, crocodile tears, fingers in my eyes, fingers in her eyes, and any other delay tactic she can come up with to avoid closing her eyes and going to sleep.  For a while she was milking the “my mouth hurts” ploy to get extra cuddles.  Now she just straight up melts down when I try and leave her room.  Even when I think she’s asleep, as soon as I take a step towards the door her little head whips around off the pillow and the drama commences.  Lather, rinse, and repeat at intervals ranging from 15 minutes to 3 hours…All. Night. Long.

On a good night, if the stars have aligned and I managed to appease the gods, it can take as little as one hour to go from bath to sleep.  I’d say very few nights in the last few months have been “good” nights.  Sometimes I fall asleep waiting for her to give up the fight.  Other times I’ve given up after multiple trips back into her room to calm my tiny tyrant and either crawled in bed with her or brought her in bed with me.

I’ve gotten a  LOT of well meaning advice and I’ve done my own researching.  Yes, I tried letting her cry…90 minutes of sustained rage didn’t do any of us a damn bit of good.  Yes, I ruled out ear infections and teething.  Yes, I offered loveys and turned on white noise.  And she’s having none of it.  What she wants is to fall asleep being held and to not wake up alone.

You know, I can’t say that I blame her because those are pretty nice things no matter how old you are…this life lessons courtesy of my 2 year old.

My point is that there’s a lot of tired going around my house.  And not a whole lot of anything else.  Which is to say that sometimes I make some food.  And occasionally I get a pretty picture before shoving it in my face.  This is not one of those times.  You’re just going to have to trust me on this one that the end result is worthwhile.

And if you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t you dare feel bad about putting on whatever cartoon it takes to occupy your tiny tyrant so you can rest your eyes while the chops do their thing in the brine.

Foolproof Broiled Pork Chops

Adapted from Cook’s Country

BAH Note: If you follow a few easy steps you will be rewarded with the perfect chop.  This is really just the method for achieving the perfect chop.  You can dress them up with a compound butter (see below) after they come out of the oven.  Or not.  I think they are absolute perfection in their naked state.

The folks at CC advise that your oven rack should be about 5 inches from your broiler element.  If you can’t get it this close, or if using the broiler scares the bejeebus out of you, go for more distance between the rack and the broiler.  You’ll need to cook the chops a little longer but you’ll also give yourself a little buffer with that fine line between broiled and charred.

If you are inclined to spice things up, rub the chops with your spice mixture of choice before they go in the oven.  Reserve some of the spices and stir them into 2 tablespoons of softened butter.  When the chops come out of the oven, slather them with the compound butter before tucking them in to rest.

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 center cut, bone in chops, about 1.5 inches thick
  • 6 cups cold water

Combine the sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir until completely dissolved.  Add the chops, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Turn the oven to broil.  Remove the chops from the brine, pat dry, and place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.  Set the baking sheet on the oven rack and carefully pour 1.5 cups warm water into the bottom of the baking sheet.

Broil for approximately 20 minutes, turning the chops over after about 10 minutes, until they register 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Transfer the chops to a platter and rest, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes.  Let the water and baking sheet cool down in the oven while you enjoy your succulent chops.

{printable recipe}