May 24, 2012

Turkey Meatballs

In my last post I talked about how we like to buy meat in bulk when its on sale to store in our freezer for later use.  After the last go-round we had to do some shifting to make room for the new stuff and I came across the ground turkey that has been in there for about 4 months now. 

We bought it when it was on sale for $0.98 each and from previous experiences we knew that this type of ground turkey did not prepare well into turkey burgers because they ended up being a mushy mess.  It makes pretty good lasagna, but the turkey does come out a little on the dry side.  I wanted to try something new.  The hubs and I have had a bug up our butts lately about making spaghetti so the lightbulb went off in my head to make some turkey meatballs!  Josh's grandma is the meatball master and she's taught me a thing or two over the years about how to make them right.  So lets get started, shall we?

We're going to make 2 pounds worth so take your two pounds of turkey and put it in a large bowl.  Add to that 2 Tbls Worcestershire, 1 Tbls hot sauce, 1 egg, 6 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, 2 Tbls fresh parsley, 1 Tbls fresh oregano, 2 tsp ground pepper, and a 1/2 cup of panko crumbs. 

Notice how there's no salt in there?  Turkey is pretty salty on its own and with the addition of the Worcestershire and hot sauce, you've got the sodium covered.  Now if you want to be dainty, go ahead and mix this with a large spoon until well blended.  Or, you could go the easy route and get in there with your hands to mix it all up. 

This should only take about 10 seconds.   Meanwhile, over on your stove, place a large shallow pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add 2 Tbls unsalted butter and 2 Tbls canola oil until the butter is melted.  You can do just canola oil if you'd like to keep this on the healthier side, but I feel like the butter adds a yummy flavor component.  By the way, your pan is too hot if your butter starts turning brown.  If this happens, just turn the heat down a bit and keep on truckin'.  No need to start over.  I use a small ice cream scooper to measure out my meatballs and roll them in my hand to form them but you can use whatever works best for you. 

The great thing about these is that you can make your balls as big or small as you want.  Just make sure they're cooked all the way through in the end.  Once your butter is melted and the oil is hot, drop the meatballs one by one into the pan.  You'll know it's time to flip them when they look like they're almost cooked through to the top.

Each side will take about 3-5 minutes depending on how big you made your balls. 

When they seem like they're done cooking, take one and place it on a plate lined with a few paper towels.  Cut it down the middle and if there's no pink left in them then you've successfully made meatballs.  Take the rest out and put on the plate to cool down and drain some of the excess oil. 

From here, you can drop them right into your marinara sauce, eat them by themselves, or put them back in your freezer for later use.

Since we used the fresh herbs to make these, they come out tasting light and delicious.  They're pretty cheap too!  Like I said, I got the turkey for $1.96, I used about $0.50 worth of panko, the herbs cost me $1.50 (but if you've got your garden going they would be much cheaper), and as for the rest of the ingredients, we'll round up and figure they cost about $2.00 for the amounts we used.  So for under $6.00 I made about 30 meatballs.  If I'd waited another month and used my own herbs, these only would have cost about $4.50.  Either way, they're budget friendly!

Turkey Meatballs

2 lbs ground turkey
2 Tbls Worcestershrire
1 Tbls hot sauce (just use your favorite)
1 egg
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbls fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbls fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 Tbls unsalted butter
2 Tbls canola oil

Add all the ingredients except the butter and oil to a large bowl.  Mix well.  In a large shallow pan over medium to medium-high heat, add the butter and oil.  Once the butter has melted start forming the meatballs and drop them one by one into the oil.  Cook on each side for about 3-5 minutes.  Cut one in half to see if there's any pink left in the middle.  If there isn't then remove the meatballs and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to cool.

May 21, 2012

A Very Productive Day

I had a great weekend!  It really was one for the record books.  It kicked off on Friday night with the hubby and I having a date night at one of our favorite sushi joints here in town and headed to Redbox to rent The Descendants to watch at home.  Just what both of us needed after a long week.  Saturday was a day filled with family as there was a wedding reception on Josh's side that was capped off with dinner and drinks at his sisters house.  But it was Sunday that took the cake.  I very rarely get the hubby at home for an entire day, much less him not taking a big chunk of time when he's in the office working on articles or replying to e-mails so I was excited!

We woke up early Sunday morning and hit the farmers market with my mother-in-law in tow.  We got all of our plants for this years garden plus spinach, chives, bacon and a yummy garlic cheese for the evenings dinner.  After a quick stop to Home Depot for some dirt, it was time to get to planting.  We will be moving at the end of the summer, so I'm a little hesitant to plant anything in my actual garden this year considering I may not get to enjoy the fruits of my labor before they ripen.  So that leaves us with container gardening which almost works out better because now we have the ability to move the plants around so they have full sun at all times instead of just the afternoon sun they would have if they were sitting in the container garden in the back yard.  Here's a rundown of what we planted.

1 - Brandywine Heirloom Tomato

2 - Jalapeno Peppers
4 - Cayenne Peppers
2 - Bhut Jolokia Peppers (aka The Ghost Pepper)
1 - Thai Pepper
2 - Habenero Pepper (red and orange)
1 - Chiltepin Pepper

Thyme, Dill, Oregano and Chives

Mint, Rosemary, Parsley and Basil

Looking back, I'm kinda bummed I didn't buy the stevia plant that I found because I'm interested in what I could do with it since its a non-caloric sugar substitute.  The good thing is that I can always go back! 

Next up was a quick stop at the grocery store to return our movie and pick up a few things for dinner.  When we got there we noticed there was a pretty good sale on meat happening, so we took this as a good opportunity to stock up on pork chops and chicken breasts.  For a family on a budget like ourselves, when we see good deals on meat we buy in bulk and put it all in our freezer that we keep in the basement.  Once back home, the hubby was already working on a guajillo pepper marinade for the tenderloin tips we were making for dinner and we had enough to do the pork chops and a few chickens as well.   

Both of us are borderline obsessed with the FoodSaver that we bought a few months back so we were pretty excited to let that freak flag fly for a bit. 

In total, we got 12 pork chops for $13.01 or 1.08/each and 21 chicken breasts for $16.89 or $0.85/each.  Can't beat that with a stick! 

But wait, it gets better because I took a pack of the chicken and made some more of the chicken cordon bleu's that I blogged about last month. Here's another fun price breakdown of those:

7 chicken breasts - $0.85 each for $5.95
1/2 lb deli ham - $3.92
1/2 pack of swiss cheese $1.00
1/2 box of panko breading - $1.00
3 eggs and some flour - about $0.50

For a grand total of $12.37 I made 7 cordon bleu's at $1.77 each! That's alot cheaper than you can buy them for in the store and they are healthier since they aren't full of preservatives. Naturally, those got freezer packed too. I love that thing.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend and I cherished every moment of it since next weekend is bass opener so I will be The Fishermans Widow once again.  If the weather is nice, I'm going to be re-staining our dresser so keep your fingers crossed!

May 07, 2012

Strawberry-Blackberry Jam

Spring has sprung here in Minnesota and I have suddenly turned into a canning junkie.  As promised in my last post, I'm going to share with you my latest canning endeavor of Strawberry-Blackberry jam.  My recent trip to the Farmers Market yielded 3 pounds of strawberries for $1 a piece.  At those prices, I knew there would be more jam in my future although, I really wanted to add a new flavor component.  My local grocery store ad informed me that 2 - 6oz containers of blackberries were on sale this week for $4.  I searched high and low for a strawberry-blackberry jam recipe but didn't come up with much.  So it was starting to look like I would need to come up with something on my own.  Canning is a very finicky thing and the wrong sugar/fruit/acid levels can really mess things up for you so I needed to be careful.  I already had a great strawberry jam recipe and I found some triple berry jam recipes (that for some reason excluded strawberries), so I attempted to combine the two into a new workable one.  One major detail still needed to be ironed out between me and the hubby.  When it came to the blackberries - seeds or no seeds? 

We both decided to make it seedless so the first step would be straining the blackberries.  I took a medium size bowl and placed my mesh strainer over it.  Then, I poured the berries into the strainer about 1/2 cup at a time and using a wooden spoon, started mashing the crap out of them. 

This took several minutes per batch and could tell all the juices had been rendered once the remaining berries had turned into a paste like consistency.  I continued on with the rest of the blackberries until all had been mashed.  Since this was my first time at this, I wasn't sure how much juice I could get out of them.  My goal for this recipe was to use 2 cups blackberry juice and 4 cups of  mashed strawberries for a total of 6 cups of fruit.  Unfortunately,  I only got 1 cup of juice out of 12 ounces so I needed to make up for the remaining cup using strawberries.

Each pound of mashed strawberries was producing about 2 cups each. 

Once I had my strawberries hulled and mashed and my blackberry juice ready, I poured it all into my pot and added 4 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

Along with 6 Tablespoons of powdered pectin (or 1 box).

 I should add that at this point, I already had 11 half pint jars and lids sterilizing on the stove as well. For more on that visit this post.  Bring the fruit mixture up to a rapid boil.

 Add 7 cups of sugar.  

Once you get the mix going on the stove things start to happen pretty quickly so it's easiest if you already have the sugar measured out in another bowl.  When all the sugar has dissolved but the mix is not quite boiling again, add 2 Tablespoons of Grand Marnier. 

Let the mix come to a rapid boil that cannot be stirred down.  Keep stirring for 1 1/2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes  This resting time will allow for the mashed fruit to stay floating in your jars as opposed to all the fruit rising to the top.

Using a wide mouth funnel and a ladle, carefully scoop the jam mix and pour into the 11 very hot jars.  Take a knife or the wooden stick that often comes with canning kits and scrape along the inside of each jar to eliminate any air bubbles. 

Place the lids on the center of each jar and lightly screw on it's ring. 

My canning rack only holds 5 half pint jars at a time, so I had to do 2 water bath sessions and I left the 11th jar as my refrigerator jar. 

Process each batch for 10 minutes in water that has a hard rolling boil and covers the jars by at least 2 inches.  Turn off the heat and let sit in the water for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove the canning rack from the water and using your jar lifters, carefully place them on a clean dry towel.  Once they are out of the water and on the towel, do not touch them for at least 24 hours!  Almost immediately you will start to hear the wonderful "ping" of the lids that informs you of a successful canning experience.  It can take up to a few hours after removal from the water bath to hear all the pings.  After 24 hours, date and label the lids then place the jars in a cool dry place for future use. 

Strawberry Blackberry Jam

11 - 8oz canning jars
2 cups blackberries, strained (about 4 - 6oz containers)
4 cups strawberries, hulled & sliced (about 2 - 2lb containers)
4 Tbls fresh lemon juice
6 Tbls (or 1 box) powdered pectin
7 cups sugar
2 Tbls Grand Marnier

  1. Fill your canning pot until it is 2/3 full of water.  Place on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Add the clean canning jars and leave until you are ready to fill them with jam.  Do the same in a small saucepan to process the lids.  It's not necessary to do this with the rings.
  2.  For seedless - mash the blackberries in a mesh strainer over a bowl with a spoon to render the juices and measure out 2 cups of juice.  For seeds -  mash the blackberries and measure 2 cups.  Pour into a large pot.
  3. Mash 4 cups of strawberries and place into pot.
  4. To the pot, add the fresh lemon juice powdered pectin.
  5. Stir all ingredients together and place on stove over high heat.
  6. Stir contuiously until the mix begins to boil.
  7. Add the sugar, stirring constantly
  8. Once the sugar has dissolved, but has not yet begin to boil again, add the Grand Marnier
  9. Bring mix up to a violent boil that cannot be stirred down and continue stirring for another 1 1/2 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  
  11. Skim any foam that forms on the jam
  12. Using a pair of tongs, remove the canning jars from the water and place on a clean dry tea towel.
  13. Using a wide mouth funnel and ladle, scoop the jam into each jar being careful not to spill.  Leave at least 1/4 inch of head space at the top of each jar.
  14. Using a knife or wooden stick, scrape the insides of each jar to remove any bubbles.
  15. Take the magnetic lid lifters and place a lid on the center of each jar.  Lightly screw a ring around each one.  Do not screw it on too tight as air still needs to escape during the canning process.
  16. Place the jars in the canning rack and submerse in the canning pot  in boiling water, making sure there is at least 2 inches of water covering the jars.
  17. Keep the water at a rolling boil for 10 minutes.  
  18. Turn off the heat and continue to process for 5 minutes.
  19. Remove the canning rack and using the jar lifters, place the jars back on the clean dry towel.
  20. Continue this process for any remaining jars you have.
  21. DO NOT TOUCH the jars for 24 hours.
  22. Label the jars making sure to add the date and store in a cool dry place for up to one year.

May 04, 2012

A Little Time Away

This past week, I got the pleasure of accompanying my husband to Branson, MO to watch him compete in the Bassmaster Central Open that took place on Table Rock Lake.  It was a week full of relaxing, fishing, reading, cooking, and knitting.  Exactly what I needed.  We got down there the previous Friday night and after a long days drive we decided to hit the hay early.  Special thanks goes out to the fraternity that seemed to have booked the entire hotel and party until the sun came up.  It was a spectacular nights rest!  We awoke to a very foggy and chilly morning but we were excited to see what Table Rock had in store for us.

If you've never been to this area of the country, I would highly recommend it.  It's very beautiful.

When I say that, I am excluding the city of Branson and referring to the surrounding areas.  In my opinion, Branson is a small window into what hell must be like, but I digress.  We got on the water that morning and Josh immediately had me throwing the Alabama Rig.

This was fun for me because they're not legal up here in Minne and they have the capability of catching more than one fish at a time.  Which is an awesome because I have dubbed myself "The One Fish Wonder".  Wouldn't ya know it, I actually caught two at a time!!  I think we might be onto something.

Catching those two filled my personal limit, so I decided to spend the rest of my time snapping pictures and reading this months book club pick of My Horizontal Life by the hi-larious Chelsea Handler.  That book is a must read and it will have you laughing out loud for the majority of it.  I was frequently reading snippets to Josh while he was busy fishing and had him cracking up too.  He's so lucky to have me on the boat with him to keep him company.

After we got off the water for the day we went to check in to the resort that we would be staying at for the remainder of the week and meet up with our new roomie Brent Homan.  We had dinner at the Altenhof Inn where I had the best sauerkraut and bratwurst pizza ever!  Granted, I've never had this combo before but it was an amazing pie!   All of us were pretty pooped from our day so after a little grocery shopping we decided to call it a day.

The next morning, Josh woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am to get out on the water.  We decided it would be best if I slept in.  Good choice.  I got to catch up on some much needed zzz's and then get the lay of the land.  Whilst doing this I snapped a couple of pics that caught my eye.


I have a serious love of peonies

Josh picked me up around 11 and we headed back out on the water.  It was a chilly and windy day!  I didn't take off any of my five layers that I was rocking.  But I did catch another fish!!

Shortly after this pic was taken, we realized we were being followed by this guy.   The pic doesn't do him justice as he was at least 3 feet long.

Neither of us were comfortable with the situation that had just formed so we hi-tailed it out of there and moved to a new spot.  It was at this point after my one fish limit had been caught that I took to reading my book again and snapping more pics.

 I got this one right as the herring was about to take flight.

Once Monday hit, I wasn't allowed to be on the water with Josh anymore (Bassmaster rules, not ours) so I was on my own with SW Missouri as my oyster.  A couple of times, I drove into neighboring Kimberling City and Branson West to visit some of the local antique shops and thrift stores.  I also stumbled upon the KC Bakery & Bistro where I had an apple cinnamon old world sweet roll.  I really should have taken a picture of this goodness, but I'm an idiot and didn't.  It looked quite similar to this though.

Talk about deeeelish, my friends!  That landed itself on the list of things I need to learn to make pronto.
On Tuesday, my husband had me driving up to the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield to stock up on some lures that he was going to need for the tournament.  Holy moly that place is huge!  I actually found myself really enjoying it there.  Lots of fun stuff to look at.  Also, since I happened to be in Springfield for the day, I went to Battlefield Mall and checked out Body Central.  This was a special treat for me because I buy clothes off of their website but never had the chance to visit the store.  The closest one to me about 400 miles away so I was pumped!  In the end, it was probably a bad idea that I went because I ended up walking out with half the store.  Whoops.

When I wasn't out and about exploring , I was sitting on the balcony working on my latest knitting projects. 

The view from the balcony
Our friends Ryan and Deanna recently had they're first baby and I've been making them the adorable Turtlebutt.  I try to make these for all my friends that have babies because they are so stinkin' cute.  I wasn't able to get it completed during this trip but I got pretty darn close.

However, I did finish a pair of socks I had been working on for Josh.

Tournament day was on Thursday and Friday and it was quite the event!

 I try to go to as many of Josh's tournaments as possible, but none have been on the level of this one.  Although they haven't had the prizes that this one offered either.  First place is $5,000, a new boat, an automatic berth into the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and potential to fish in the 2013 Elite Series.  Pretty much everything that my hubby has been working his butt of for all these years.  After the first day's weigh in, he had a total weight of 11lb 13 oz. which left him tied for 51st.

His day two total was 9 lb 3 oz where he finished in 81st place out of 166 boats.

I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't disappointing because it was.  I see how hard he works and everything that he puts in to these tournaments and it makes me sad when he doesn't do well.  However, whether he finishes in first or last place I am beyond proud of him.  It takes some big kahunas to fish at this level and I know one day he will make his and our dreams come true.  If you want to know the how's and what's of his tournament strategy, you can visit his blog here.

We had a great time in Branson, however, once the tournament was over I was more than ready to go home and see my pups.  I was dying for some sloppy kisses and my own bed.  I even had an extra day off which I used to go to the farmers market to pick up some fruit for another round of jam.  More on that next week!