mozzarella meatballs

I don’t make meatballs often. Yet every time I do, I wonder why I don’t make them more frequently. They’re easy and my family loves them. Making a mental note right now to add meatballs to the weekly meal plan!

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Mozzarella Meatballs

1 egg

1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

salt

pepper

2 cups pasta sauce (any kind you prefer — homemade or from a jar), divided

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1 pound ground beef (I use either 80/20 or 85/15 for meatballs)

Olive or vegetable oil

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In a large bowl, stir together the egg, bread crumbs and seasonings and 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce. Mix in the ground beef and mozzarella and Parmesan.

(*Note: I do not enjoy mixing raw meat with my fingers, and have found that stirring with a large serving fork mixes the meat and ingredients well.)

Form into balls about the size of golf balls. From the one pound of beef I get about 15 meatballs.

In a deep skillet, heat the oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan … don’t skimp!).

Place the meatballs into the hot oil and cook over medium heat; turning the meatballs frequently, to brown them on all sides as best as possible. You may need to reduce the heat so that they don’t cook too quickly.

When brown on all sides, add the remaining pasta sauce.

Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 15 minutes (I like to let these simmer for up to 30 minutes).

Serve with pasta or on a sub roll.

picnic cake

When I was young, our family would frequently have picnics and cookouts with a distantly related family. I’m not sure how often we all got together at their house, but in my unreliable memory I think it was most often on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

I’m not sure what food was served — I do remember potato salad, and I’m guessing hamburgers and hotdogs were the main dish — but I clearly remember the cake made by the host mom. I call it picnic cake. Maybe because she once referred to it as that, or maybe because I didn’t know the name of it and associated it with picnics, since it was at every picnic at her house.

A few summers back I made this cake when our family got together for a rare picnic with some of my other siblings. And here’s the funny thing: None of them remembered picnic cake from our youth. Weird. It sure did make a huge impression on me.

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Picnic Cake

Make golden yellow cake in either a 9×13 pan, or two round or square pans.

Immediately after the cakes are done baking, remove from oven and place a single layer of marshmallows on top of the cake.

Return to oven for about 3 minutes, until the marshmallows are slightly toasted.

Allow to cool.

Remove from pan and frost with chocolate frosting.

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*Note: Any marshmallows will do, but I have found that when using regular marshmallows, the marshmallow layer is too thick, so I started cutting each one in half, putting the sticky side down onto the cake. That works if you don’t want too much marshmallow, and you have the patience for cutting them. I don’t suggest using the mini marshmallows. They are just too little and don’t work well for this recipe.

I have found the best solution…. Last week I was purchasing marshmallows and found these at the store:

They are perfect for picnic cake!!!!! Just the right amount of marshmallow, and no cutting necessary.

farmers’ market

Saturday morning. Usually my idea of the best way to spend my Saturday morning would be to sleep in, while my husband does breakfast duty. But today I managed to get myself out of bed and to the local farmers’ market. Because it’s early in the season, and this market is one of the smaller ones in my area, there weren’t a lot of options. Baked goods were plenty, as were plants, fresh eggs and homemade dog treats, but only one stall had vegetables.

Fresh vegetables at a farmers’ market give me such pleasure. Imagine a shoe lover walking into a large shoe store and seeing rows and rows of colorful treasures awaiting them … that’s how I feel when I see the tables of potatoes, squash, beets, beans, radishes, and other veggies. I have to take deep breaths and remember that I’m only feeding a family of five (two of which don’t eat vegetables), otherwise I’d purchase way too many vegetables that would surely go bad before I had the chance to prepare them for a meal.

Today I purchased the items in the above photo. It’s hard to see, but those red potatoes are so cute and tiny! Really, who would have thought potatoes could be described as adorable? Yet they are! And the squash — my favorite summertime vegetable.

What’s that item on the right? Well, I did mention there were quite a few baked goods at the market this morning, and I had a hard time passing up freshly baked apple cinnamon bread. It’s not as good as if I had made it, in my opinion, but I still enjoyed coming home and having a slice with my 2nd cup of coffee for the morning.

What a lovely way to start my weekend!

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What are your favorite items to purchase at your local farmers’ market?

polish kitchen

The month of May reminds me of my grandmother. She was born in May, and 94 years later died in May as well.

The memories I have of my Grandmother mostly include food. She was simply an amazing cook, and I don’t know the exact words to rightly describe how wonderful her food was. Let’s just say her secret ingredients were thankfulness and love, and with those in every dish, that should give you some idea how the food tasted.

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I remember her spending most of her time in her kitchen. Even when she was a working woman (out of financial necessity — maybe in the 70’s?) she’d still wake hours early to bake and/or start a meal for later in the day, and she’d come home on her lunch hour to serve a meal to her beloved husband, who worked from home.

Every Sunday we enjoyed and were blessed with a huge family meal — over the river and through the woods we’d go — at Gram’s house. There were never any shortages of meats, vegetables, and desserts. It was her mission to provide at least one favorite item from each of those categories, for each family member. This was no small matter. Gram had only two sons, yet when both sons arrived with their wives and children on Sunday for the promptly-at-noon meal, we ended up with 14 people around the dining room table. It’s mind boggling to think of all the preparation that went into preparing all that food, every Sunday. It didn’t bother her to wake at 4 a.m. in order to accomplish this seemingly effortless task. Serving delicious food to her family, and cooking with love, was a blessing she never undervalued.

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Years ago I wrote this poem about my grandmother. I know poems shouldn’t have explanations, yet I’d like to note a few things, so that this poem, and through this poem my grandmother, are clearly understood.

Her parents came from Poland, and spoke little or no English. She was forced to speak only English when she attended grade school, and the teachers changed her name, with the ridiculous intention of helping to make the socialization aspect of school easier for her.

As a young child I spent many hours and countless summer days at her house. Neighbors would come in and out often, and when one of those neighbors came in with a letter from the old country, my grandmother would translate it for those that couldn’t read Polish. I craved listening to those foreign sounds through the screen door, and am sad that this language was not passed down to my generation.

Polish food was a specialty of hers, as expected, and she also excelled in many American dishes, such as pork chops, spare ribs, and apple pie. Everything she made — everything — was simply delicious. Even her coffee was the best I’ve ever had.

They had times when she was newly married that they went without. Gram was creative with a cabbage. Though my father, her oldest son, never went hungry. She wouldn’t have allowed that. Whatever meat they could get was served to him, to make him big and strong and to never know hunger. When times changed and she had the resources to provide food for her family, she did so with such joy. It was a blessing she never took for granted.

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Polish Kitchen

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Pierogi

Kielbasa

Golabki

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Honorata

Her beautiful given name

Changed to make it easier for the other school children

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She ate cabbage while to her son she served meat

Years later the grandchildren never went hungry

Her small kitchen filled with food and love

The table overflowed with the gifts of plenty

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Coming in to speak words the children didn’t recognize

Neighbors called her

Dorothy

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Egg Bread

Spare Ribs

Apple Pie

chocolate fudge frosting

Yes, another chocolate frosting recipe. I think this is chocolate frosting recipe #4, though it may be #5.

Yesterday I was making cupcakes out of my golden yellow cake recipe, and decided a chocolate frosting would do well with them.

*Note: I’ve had this recipe for years and years and years. I’m not sure where it came from.

*Edited to add links to other chocolate frosting posts: here and here.

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Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1 stick butter

2/3 cup cocoa

1 pound powdered sugar (about 3 2/3 cups)

1/3 cup milk, heated

1 teaspoon vanilla

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Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat.

Stir in cocoa.

Continue cooking over low heat, while stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly. This process won’t take long.

Remove from heat and pour into mixer bowl.

Add powdered sugar alternately with warm milk, beating to spreading consistency.

Add vanilla and mix just until it is incorporated into the frosting.

Spread while warm.

*Note: There are times that I need to add additional milk. You may find that you’ll need 1/2 cup warmed milk to get it to the right consistency.

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

For Mother’s Day my wonderful daughter made a dessert for me.

While she was searching in my recipes for the perfect choice, it didn’t take long to decide on Hershey’s Kitchens Gone To Heaven Chocolate Pie. After the first time she made it, she put this note on the recipe:

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Gone To Heaven Chocolate Pie

1 9-inch pie shell

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 egg yolks

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips, and/or semi-sweet chocolate chips (*this time we used only semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping (optional)

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Bake pie shell; cool. Or use a ready-made pie shell — this time we used a store bought chocolate cookie crust.

Stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2 quart saucepan.

Combine egg yolks and milk.

Gradually blend milk mixture into sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.

Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

Add chocolate chips; stir until chips are melted and mixture is well blended.

Pour into prepared pie shell; press plastic wrap onto filling. Cool. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled and firm.

Garnish with whipped cream and additional chocolate chips, if desired.

english muffin pizzas

This is not so much of a recipe…. More like a solution.

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The majority of my day yesterday was spent planning, shopping, and cooking. I needed to make soup for the local high school. It’s teacher appreciation week and the PTSO requests donations of different food items each day. I enjoy making food for these events, not only because I like to cook, but because I know by doing so I’m saying thank you to all the teachers that come in contact with my children, by feeding them with my home cooked food. Much easier (and cheaper!) than giving each teacher a gift. This year one of the days will be a soup and sandwich lunch, with soups provided by parent volunteers. I decided to make my vegetable barley soup. This soup is great to make in large quantities (and I do mean large… my fridge is jam packed with soup!), which is perfect, because the PTSO will be feeding over 200 teachers and staff at this lunch. (Note: I added frozen chopped leaf spinach to the soup this time, along with the onions, celery, green beans, corn, and carrots.)

So anyway, I was finally done at about 5:30, and tossed myself on the sofa to rest a bit. That’s when my daughter came into the room and asked what’s for dinner, and did I remember she had to leave at 6:15. Oh no. I had forgotten to plan a dinner for my family. Well, that’s not true, I did plan to make chicken last night, but lost track of time. When she reminded me of the necessity of eating dinner, I had not the energy nor the time for chicken.

But I did have English muffins in the house. And tomato sauce. And mozzarella cheese. English muffin pizzas! Perfect solution to my “oh my gosh I forgot to make dinner for my family and we need to leave the house in less than an hour” problem.

And what’s even better is that my kids love these as much as I do. Everyone was happy!

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English Muffin Pizzas

I toast one English muffin per person, and I do so on a high setting, to make them very crispy.

I put the toasted muffin halves on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Then I add a tablespoon or so of tomato sauce (homemade if I have it, or from a jar of our favorite store-bought sauce) to the top of each muffin half.

On top of the sauce I distribute some shredded mozzarella cheese.

If available, I add pepperoni and/or cooked sausage to the ones for my daughter and husband.

These go into a 400F oven (regular oven or counter-top toaster oven).

Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

A green salad, or a few carrot sticks, or any raw veggies on the side, and dinner is done!