My take on Swedish Meatballs

Believe it or not – I’ve never made Swedish Meatballs. In fact, I’ve never eaten them, either.

They look so good, though!

And they seem like something all of the kids would eat. So, I started keeping my eyes open for Swedish Meatball recipes – actually a couple of months ago.

I kept coming across recipes that were sort of appealing but might have a component that I knew would take them out of the running for my family. So I kept looking. But I put Swedish Meatballs on the menu – for today. No pressure, right?!

So, I printed out a couple of different recipes, and what I ended up doing was building a new one from a conglomeration of others. Here goes.

Dina’s Swedish Meatballs

You should know up front that I wanted a recipe that would give me some free time in the middle, so I opted to use a crock pot for a portion of the recipe. I pulled my favorite crock pot (All Clad – it’s fabulous) out and set it on high for 4 hours, and put 2 cups of beef stock in to begin to warm up.

I started by making a panade – a thick paste made by mixing bread crumbs, flour, rice, etc. with water, milk, stock, butter or sometimes egg yolks. It is often used as a binder. This panade is made with 4 slices of white sandwich bread. I threw them in my trusty Cuisinart and pulsed them until they were pretty finely chopped.

I then transferred the bread to my stand mixer’s bowl. Of course, we still need liquid for our panade, so I used 3/4ths a cup whole milk to add to the bread. I mixed it thoroughly, using the paddle attachment on my mixer. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the bread to absorb all of the liquid.

I then rough chopped a medium sized sweet onion (we have Mayans around abouts here this time of year), and then threw it in the food processor and chopped the bajeebers out of it. It was pretty juicy, so I used a small sieve, and drained the liquid off of the onion, and then added it to the panade.

Next, I added the ground beef, eggs, parsley, salt, dry mustard, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Mix together until completely incorporated. It’ll look something like this:

Now you’ll need a good sized frying pan. Go ahead and set it on medium high heat on the stove top, and melt 1/2 a cup of butter in it. When the butter is melted, start scooping out about 2 tablespoon sized balls. Brown meatballs on all sides, removing them once they are browned to the crock pot.

Here’s what they looked like when I had them transferred to the crock pot:

True confessions here. I do have beef stock on hand – but it was frozen solid and I was running out of time – I had a kid to pick up and take to allergy shots. So I used my last packet of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix – you know – the one full of all sorts of crap that I don’t want to feed my family. I added it and 4 cups of water to the crock pot, and tried not to fret over all of those little bits of dehydrated onion. If they got through – the boys would NEVER touch this stuff with a 10 foot pole!

As it turned out, after cooking for 4 hours – and making the house smell absolutely AMAZING – and removing the meatballs to a stone wear dish and covering with tin foil, I set them in a warm oven to hold until I was ready for them; I then took the sieve and drained the liquid from the crock pot. This effectively removed all of the little onion bits that were visible to the naked eye. Hooray! (Well, I would have gladly eaten the little onion bits – but we all know that’s just not going to happen right now!)

I then made a roux in a nice sized sauce pan. First, you melt 1/2 cup of butter over medium high heat, then, whisk in 1/2 cup of flour, whisking until a smooth paste has formed. Then I added in the soup broth, continuing to whisk until smooth. Then I added in 2 cups of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of sour cream, and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, whisking to that all of the ingredients were completely incorporated. I then reduced the heat down to a pretty low setting, making sure to avoid scorching the sauce.

Another revelation about the eaters in our house? There’s one component that will about 99% of the time choose rice. There’s another component that will 99% of the time choose noodles. Then there’s the last component who will ask why we’re not having mashed potatoes with this meal – always.

I chose to prepare both rice and egg noodles.

I think in most households you might get away with transferring the meatballs into the sauce – but I knew at our house we’d have a greater success ratio if I served everything separately. So I did:

Interestingly enough, my normal rice and noodle scenarios did not play out as usual tonight!

My rice person had noodles. My noodle person had rice. My potato person had noodles. And my last person had a little of both. Go figure. I might have done a little bit of both, myself. It sure looked yummy.

Verdict: John really liked it. Although he thought it was very reminiscent of stroganoff. The sauce was, quite similar, in fact. He says we should do this one again.

Jessica: She liked it, too. No flowing editorial on it – just that it was good, and she liked it.

Jonathan: He liked it, as well. Thinks we should have it again some time.

William: He liked it, but was a little flipped out about the fact that the meatballs were soooo tender. I will confess to having a little slip of the hand when measuring the milk for the panade, and it was a little looser than it should have been. He found me out! He would enjoy these again in the future, as well.

I can tell you – these smelled AMAZING and it was all I could do to keep from grabbing one of those little meatballs and snacking away! I’m so glad we had enough left over to freeze. I will definitely be getting into these in the future!

Will I make these again? You betcha. I might try adjusting the sauce a bit, so that it’s less stroganoff-y.

So – all in all – not a bad recipe!

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We’re having what?!

Something that even people who know me well in my day to day life are somehow unaware of – not because we’ve kept it a secret at all or anything – but I think they maybe just don’t believe us when we say it…

John, typically, has done at least half – and oftentimes WAY MORE – of the cooking when it comes to the dinner hour.

There – it’s out there. My husband, who rises before the crack of dawn to slave away at his job, oftentimes comes home and prepares our evening meal.

He’s a good cook.

Some things he does WAY better than I do.

During this season of illness I’ve been through – and particularly through the first weeks during my NPO (nothing by mouth) and TPN (IV nutrition) it was not at all out of the ordinary for me to be far, far away from the kitchen.

Have I mentioned lately how amazing my husband is?

How blessed I am to be his wife?

How thankful I am that he is the kind of guy who loves his family well?

Just in case I haven’t – let me just say the words: I ADORE MY HUSBAND! I AM SO THANKFUL FOR HIS TENDER AND KIND CARE OF ME! I SIMPLY DON’T DESERVE HIM!    

I am so glad God saw fit to bring us together – John McBride and me. J

Anyway… yes, I’m still NPO. Yes, it’s been eight weeks since I’ve had anything to eat or drink. The strangest thing has happened, though, a few weeks ago all of a sudden I had this overwhelming desire to get in the kitchen and do some cooking and baking.

Not only that – I started going through some of my collection of cookbooks – looking for recipes to try out on my family. I figured if I couldn’t eat – they should!

Thursday night I tried out a new recipe on the fam – and today as I was reflecting on the outcomes I thought, “I should blog about this!” And not only that, I thought further, “I should blog about this sort of thing regularly!” And so I shall.

This category will be called “What’s for Dinner?” and if, per chance, I am trying out a new recipe for dinner, I’ll likely post my thoughts about the recipe I tried, and what the outcomes were.

So here goes…

Thursday night we had Tilapia on the menu. I heard from the boys – individually – that one of the reasons they’re not so thrilled about having Tilapia on the menu is because – well, it’s bland. So I started doing some looking, and came across this recipe: Crunchy Oven Fried Fish. You can find the recipe at Cooks Illustrated – which is a subscription web site for some of the content, and unfortunately, this particular recipe is in that category – so I can’t post the recipe. I will say – that it’s not a subscription I mind paying – it really is worth every penny! Anyway… suffice it to say that this recipe includes…

4 pieces of some thick white fish fillet – of course, I used the Tilapia

The process of making bread crumbs tossed with minced shallot and fresh parsley

A batter

And some seasoned flour.

It calls for things like prepared horseradish, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Not a wimpy or bland recipe at all!

Okay – there are some things you should know about the kids who eat food in this house. The boys pretty much just avoid vegetables at all cost. Jessica, on the other hand – much like her parents – loves vegetables.

If a dish has any particular flare that inches outside the “resembles pizza” or “resembles tacos” genres – well, then, you can pretty much guarantee that the boys won’t happily eat it.

Yes, this can make meal preparation quite frustrating!

So… back to the recipe. I thought – “Perfect! Uses a white fish, has some kick – I’m going to make this for dinner on Thursday!”

I ended up running to the store to pick up a shallot and fresh parsley. I looked for prepared horseradish, but couldn’t find any without soy or canola or HFCS in it – so I skipped that. I figured I’d substitute Dijon mustard for it – it has horseradish in it, right? By the way, I found out later that John actually had kosher prepared horseradish in the fridge – no icky stuff in it! Sheesh! I should have looked!

I started with the bread crumbs – much like the instructions on the recipe. Only, I thought…. “Hmmmm… shallots, huh? Gosh, the boys are going to balk at that!” I pondered the thought of finely minced shallot and knew I’d never get it fine enough to sneak it past the boys if I chopped it with a knife! So I pulled out the Cuisinart – well, I needed it anyway for the breadcrumbs, so no wasted effort there!

Being me… I thought, “I should chop the bajeebers out of the shallot and the fresh parsley FIRST, and then add the bread for the crumbs.

WRONG.

It made for pretty soggy and distinctly GREEN breadcrumbs. Uh oh. I quickly scraped them onto the baking sheet and shoved them in the 350° oven – hoping the “browning” would, indeed, bring some brown! (And yes, I did wonder what the green and brown together would end up looking like! EGAD!) Okay – so those were in the oven doing their thing, I moved on.

Lesson learned: I should have done the bread first, transferred it to a bowl, then minced the onion and parsley, then transferred it to the same bowl, then tossed them together before transferring them to the baking sheet and oven. I will do this next time!

Next, I moved on to the batter part of the recipe. The recipe says to mix the batter in the pie tin you’re going to use, but that kinda bugged me, so I pulled out a small bowl that I like whisking stuff together in and used it instead. In went the two eggs, Dijon mustard, homemade mayonnaise, paprika, cayenne pepper (I used only 1/8th of a teaspoon, rather than the 1/4th that they recommended – I know my wimpy kids!), and black pepper. I whisked that all together – and I gotta tell you – I was surprised at how lovely this turned out. I guess I shouldn’t have been – but wow! Not only pretty – but smelled amazingly wonderful! At the end you add 5 tablespoons of flour and whisk until they’re smooth. I was surprised by that step – but it did have a nice result – a velvety, smooth batter.

Lesson learned: I would probably have either eliminated or cut the 1/8th teaspoon cayenne at least in half. It was still too spicy for my crew. And I would definitely have used the horseradish, had I known we had it. Or would I have? Would the kids have freaked out? John and I would have liked it – but I’m not eating, and well… I bow to the pressure of trying to get my kids to actually eat and LIKE stuff, I admit it!

I should note that I used the frozen Tilapia filets that we buy at Costco. I pulled them out at the beginning of all of this to thaw – but they didn’t seem to thaw very quickly, so I ended up putting them in the microwave on defrost to get them to do so. They were still a tad frozen in the center – but I didn’t want them to actually cook in the microwave, you know?

Essentially – the whole idea with this recipe is to get the fish filets floured, battered, and then bread crumbed. It’s a little messy, but honestly, totally doable.

I liked that they recommended cooking the fish on a rack over a baking sheet – no soggy sides of the fish! All sides nice and browned and crispy. It really was lovely. And just to clarify – my green breadcrumbs browned up very nicely. But once again – I would totally do it the other way next time!

Verdict: William thought it was too spicy. Plus, he prefers his fish without breading. In fact, he’s known to order sweet and sour shrimp when we go out to Chinese, and painstakingly remove the breading from each steaming hot little shrimp. Go figure. My kid! (I *love* the breading!)

Jonathan didn’t really like it either. I never could get a straight answer out of him exactly why.

Jessica likes Tilapia because it is a bland dish – and she likes those. She thought this dish was way too spicy for her.

John thought it was “Okay.” But recommended halving – or eliminating – the cayenne pepper. He, too, would have preferred much lighter breading – or no breading at all.

Will I make it again? Hmmm…. Maybe. But I’d wait quite a while before trying to slip it past these guys again! LOL!

Just so you know – I feel pretty certain I would have liked it! But remember that’s coming from a woman who hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for eight weeks!

Success!

…for the most part!

See what my genius husband did today? He secured bird netting over the chicken yard – essentially, making it impossible for Rogue Chickens to fly up into the tree! Woo Hoo!

For the most part it worked! Two of the girls figured out how to sneak past and fly up into the tree – one of the Ameraucana, one of the Blue Andalusians. And yes, it did take John and me essentially hunting down and throwing them into the coop – the other 8 girls who usually sleep in the Willow. But who cares?! They’re in the coop! Right now! Sleeping!

Cause for rejoicing!

See that little Ameraucana through the hole? She’s SURE she can find a way through that bird netting to get up in the tree!

She was wrong!

A couple of the Blues checking out the coop. By this point in time each night they’re normally way up at the top of the willow. This change has rocked their world a bit!

She’s not feeling amused about the change! Doesn’t she look a little bit cranky?

Nighty night, girls…

Rogue Chickens

As I mentioned before I’ve got a subset of my flock who are convinced that going native is the way to be. There are eleven of them, to be exact – who want nothing to do with the ways of the civilized chicken.

They have a lovely coop that my amazing husband has slaved to complete. Yet they sleep in the willow.

The girls who sleep up in the willow end up flying down the next morning – outside the chicken yard – and getting them back in to try and keep them confined at all is well – nigh on to impossible!

They also disdain the lovely nest boxes…

…and choose instead to find obscure locations to lay their eggs…

The stinkers!

The first time – we found 36 eggs.

The next time – 19.

Yesterday – I found 8 out in the yard.

I have to admit – it doesn’t thrill me to go out in the pouring rain and have to hunt down eggs in the 1/2 acre of a yard. Of course, the girls are looking for a mostly dry protected place to lay – which means I have to carry a flashlight and sometimes the pruners – to reach into the underbrush and clear the way.

UGH!

They’re driving me nuts.

So – we decided we should just coop them up in the run for a week – so they’ll figure out where they’re supposed to sleep and lay.

We tried putting out treats INSIDE the coop before bedtime to lure them in. We were all poised to shut them in as soon as we could get an at least a fraction of the Renegades in there. Yeah – well, didn’t work.

So, we decided, maybe we need to get some bird netting up so that they can’t fly up into the tree. That’s still an option – but with the weather we’ve been having (inches upon inches of rain, not to mention wind) – we haven’t been able to go there.

I’m seriously considering clipping their wings so they can’t fly. The only challenge will be catching them! The Renegades are not warm and fuzzy, as a general rule. They have not been handled much since they were babies. They love us – and come running when we come out into the yard – they know a good thing when they see it! (We usually come bearing treats!) But catching them will require Jessica, the girl with the chicken wrangling skills. Seriously – she’s got a gift. She’s so busy with school and extracurricular activities, though – finding a time when she’s available could be a bit of a challenge.

With the winter fast approaching and potentially chicken-threatening weather a possibility – I’ve got to come up with some sort of a plan. For me – as much as for them – I just don’t want to be tramping around in the snow hunting eggs!

If you’ve got insider tips – share away, friends!

Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf

As I’ve mentioned previously, my Mom was not the greatest cook. The things she did well – she did EXCEPTIONALLY well. The other stuff… well, not so much. One dish that all of her children will agree that she did exceptionally well on was her meatloaf. Where on earth she came up with this recipe, I’ll likely never know this side of eternity – and well, will I really give a rip in heaven?!

I wish I could get a couple of her grandchildren – grandsons, specifically – to agree. But I’ll get into that later!

On most Fridays I take part in Fight Back Friday over at Food Renegade’s blog. She has a lovely mission statement – here, let me show you:

Who are they? Why, they’re the Food Renegades. You know who you are — lovers of SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical) food, traditional food, primal food, REAL food, the list goes on. I believe that by joining together, our influence can grow, and we can change the way America (and the industrialized world) eats!

I am so all about sustainable, organic, local, and ethical food. I try to avoid processed foods as much as feasibly possible – which is most of the time. I avoid soy, high fructose corn syrup, and foods that have labels that require you to have a chemist’s degree to understand. I mean – we try to grow as much of our own food as we possibly can, for the very reason that we want to know exactly what we’re eating!

That’s why I couldn’t do Fight Back Friday this past Friday. I had it all planned, I was going to make Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf. Only – it’s decidedly NOT in keeping with the spirit of being a Food Renegade, sadly. So I skipped.

Here’s the thing. I love my Mom’s meatloaf. Just making it today (yeah, I’m a little late – Friday didn’t happen!) just the smells alone – hmmm…. Made my mouth water! And me with three more weeks of NPO and TPN, dang it! But it’s full of some pretty evil stuff. See for yourself:

Okay, yeah, so there’s some good stuff in there, but featured prominently is Stove Top Stuffing (and don’t waste your time, Savory Herbs is THE way to go – forget any of the other flavorings!) AND Lipton Onion Soup Mix. Both are chock full of all sorts of crap! Stuff that I don’t normally buy! Stuff that I don’t normally consume! But there really just isn’t an alternative – that I’ve been able to find, anyway – so I buy this stuff, and make Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf, and love it, darn it all!

Here’s what the ingredient panel for the Stove Top Stuffing says (horrors!):

STOVE TOP – STOVE TOP STUFFING MIX – SAVORY HERBS
Ingredients: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE(VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN(VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, ONIONS*, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, HYDROLYZED SOY PROTEIN, COOKED CHICKEN AND CHICKEN BROTH, YEAST, SPICE, CELERY*, PARSLEY*, CARAMEL COLOR, GARLIC, TURMERIC, WITH BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID, AND PROPYL GALLATE AS PRESERVATIVES *DRIED

And for the Onion Soup Mix:

Ingredients:
Onions (dehydrated), salt, cornstarch, onion powder, sugar, corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel color, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, natural flavors, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate.

So you can see why I didn’t take part in Fight Back Friday with THIS recipe! Geesh – talk about politically incorrect!!

But, at the risk of being a complete hypocrite – I’m gonna show you show I make this mouthwatering masterpiece, cause I love it! And it reminds me of my Mommy – and well, sometimes you just gotta go there.

So – I should mention that the picture above is missing one really important ingredient – the ground beef! I can’t believe I forgot to put it in the picture! LOL! Oh well, you’re gonna need:

1 pound of ground beef
1 package of Savory Herbs Stove Top Stuffing
1 packet of Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix
1 cup whole milk
2 or 3 eggs (to your preference)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup each Cheddar and Mozzarella or Monterey Jack Cheese

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m all about doing things the easy way. So, I pull out my stand mixer for this one. And go ahead and preheat your oven to 350° F.

To start with, I dump the contents of the stuffing mix and the soup mix into my mixer’s bowl.

Then, I add the milk and the eggs.


(Look! One of the girls laid a double-yolker!)

Then I use a wooden spoon to mix it all up really well.

I set this aside and then prepare the veggies.

I shred the carrots on the fine side of the box grater. Wanna know why? Because my boys are veggie WIMPS. That’s right. Total and complete veggie wimps. MY boys. Sigh… So, yes, I shred the carrots up until they’re teensy tiny so that they’re less noticeable.

Then, to further accommodate the veggie wimps, I dice the celery really fine, too.

Only I kind of cheat. I use this little chopper dude – and it works like a charm.

See?

Of course, if it were just John and Jess and I, I’d rough chop those veggies and we’d LOVE it! Stinking picky boys!

Here’s what the stuffing, soup mix, milk, eggs, carrot, and celery look like all mixed up.

Now about the cheese. You can use whatever kind of cheese your heart desires. I use pretty much whatever I can find on hand. Some days it’s a cup of co-jack. Other days – like today, its 1/2 a cup of cheddar and 1/2 a cup of Monterey Jack. (Same diff, huh?! LOL!) I also really like it with Mozzarella in it. And – if you’re trying to appease stinking picky boys – throw in a little extra cheese. They like cheese – a lot!

Like I mentioned, I use the stand mixer to mix it all together. It takes maybe a whole minute to mix it up well. I sometimes let it go a little longer if I’m using a ground beef that isn’t as lean as I’d like. The paddle of the mixer will actually pull some of that fatty material out of the beef and separate it. It’s pretty cool.

And here’s where Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf departs from the average meatloaf – the way it’s formed. When I was growing up, comparing notes with the kids at school about meatloaf, I was always so surprised that almost universally they all hated meatloaf. I couldn’t figure out why – I mean it was so good, and kinda fun! Then I spent the night with a friend and found out why – no one else made meatloaf as good as my Mom! Plus – they had this weird loaf thing – with red junk on top, not cute little personal sized loaves with melty cheesy stuff on top!

Pretty much, you just take a handful of the meatloaf mixture, pat it into your hand, and shape it into a little loaf. If I’m taking this recipe to a potluck or something, I’ll make them even smaller – kinda like a big meatball – they’re always a huge hit!

If you’d like you can bake these on a roasting rack – if the meat I’m using is pretty lean, I don’t bother.

Go ahead and throw them into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. I use a meat thermometer to make sure they’re cooked through – when it hits 160° F, then they’re done.

Yummy looking, huh?!

So go ahead, throw some of these together, your family will thank you – even if you are poisoning them with all sorts of chemical laden ingredients!