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}

Crockpot Char Siu Pork

Asian Pulled Pork

“It’s in the ‘Freezes Beautifully’ section of my cookbook, and I want to make something that freezes beautifully.”  – Annelle, Steel Magnolias

The Mistah and I have only recently begun to seriously budget.  Until now, budgeting meant making sure we had enough money in savings to cover our over spending from checking.  I know  that’s not the best approach…I knew it as we were in the midst of it.  But it was easier than having the conversation about getting things under control.  Now that our family has grown, the money talk can’t be avoided.  I guess I should consider this practice for the other “talks” that wait for us down the parental road.

Have you ever tried to convince someone to do something the way you think it should be done?  Then you know that if you and the other person don’t think alike, that can be a hard sell.  Not to mention seriously frustrating for you both.  That’s how all of our previous attempts at having the money talk went.  It was my way or your way, but not our way.

Something had to change.  So we took a page from organizational management tools and formed a committee.  We meet monthly.  We keep minutes.  We look for ways to meet our goals and objectives without having to be right.

The reason I’m oversharing this with you is because at our last Finance Committee Meeting, one of the ideas presented for consideration was to buy a separate freezer.  The thought behind this is that our refrigerator/freezer can’t accommodate a gallon of ice cream without a fight.  Trying to buy frozen foods in bulk, or heaven forbid actually cooking and freezing individual portions of meals is completely out of the question without additional cold storage.

We haven’t fully committed to this plan.  Do you know how much an upright freezer costs?  They ain’t cheap.  So I’ve been trolling Craigslist.  Until I either land my white whale used or suck it up and drop some serious cash for a new one, my “freezes beautifully” selections are done on a small scale…and our Frigidaire is an ice cream free zone.

Crockpot Char Siu Pork (Asian Pulled Pork)

Adapted from Cooking Light: The New Way to Cook Light

BAH Note:  I scored a deal on a 4 pound pork roast and doubled the recipe.  If you scale it up, be prepared for a longer cooking time.  My 4 pound roast took nearly 12 hours to fall off the bone.

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (lower sodium recommended)
  • 1/4 hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 pounds Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of extra fat
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin, ketchup, honey, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and five spice powder in a small bowl.  Stir to fully combine and then transfer to a large zip top plastic bag.  Add the pork roast and refrigerate at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Place the pork and the marinade from the bag in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until the meat falls apart.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board or sheet pan and let it cool before you shred it with two forks.

Meanwhile, carefully ladle the liquid from the crockpot into a saucepan.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce reduces a bit.  Taste for seasoning and spoon the sauce over the shredded pork.  Stir to let the sauce get reacquainted with the pork before shoving it in your face.

{printable recipe}