Memory….Wednesday?

So, I haven’t done a Memory Monday in a very long time.  I haven’t actually blogged in a long time.  I guess being pregnant keeps you just a busy as the actual baby.  What have I been doing?  Nesting.  Nesting at work and nesting at home.  My classroom is officially set up for my maternity leave.  Lessons are planned, worksheets are copied, IEPs are written.  Very little left to do and if it didn’t all get done…no one would know but me.  Nesting at home…eh.  Laundry is done.  We had two BEAUTIFUL showers hosted by our families.  So many generous gifts…so much to organize.

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What Baby Wants…

Probably not a big shocker to most, but I am pregnant.  I’m about 26 weeks along on this new adventure.  I have been blessed.  I feel great.  I haven’t had the dreaded morning sickness or complete exhaustion.  It’s been a rather uneventful pregnancy so far. This must be a gift from my mom for sure.

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MEMORY MONDAY: surprise

I know. I know.  It’s not Monday.  But the week was a busy one and it pretty much feels like Monday.

My mom was a sucker for a casserole.  It stretched a buck and hid a variety of veggies even the pickiest of eaters could enjoy.  Better yet, it was easy to add rice or pasta so that even if one of the neighbor kids stayed for dinner, there would be plenty to go around.  

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Summer Days

In the last 10 years or so, my mom wasn’t much of a drinker. In her younger days, she stayed sane by enjoying a bottle of wine with the neighbor. But as she aged, she stopped drinking pretty much all together except for an occasional Kaluha and milk. She did, however, love her McDonald’s Diet Coke or Sweet Tea, especially when smuggled into the movies in giant ziplock bags shoved into my Mary Poppin’s purse.

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Love and Chocolate

The first time I loved a boy–I mean really, REALLY loved a boy so much that just a few days apart made my heart hurt, I was about 24 years old. Along came this guy with an adorable smile and the eyes of an old soul. He was wise beyond his years with fantastic taste in music right from the get-go. I was smitten. I told him as often as I could that I loved him more than all the stars in the sky. You would think that would push a guy away…but not this fella. He would say it back with conviction always accompanied with a big hug.

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Pre-Wedding Swedish Meatballs

Is there a meal that just transports you to another time? Another place? A meal that has strong memories you cannot help but think of them upon first taste? For me, one of those meals would be my mom’s Swedish Meatballs. It is such a ridiculously easy recipe I have a difficult time even calling it a recipe. There really isn’t any cooking involved–just some assembling. I can see the appeal to a busy mom of 6 kids!! Every time I make this meal, I cannot help but remember the night before my sister’s wedding. I have no really memories of this dinner or after that night. I know it was always a dish I enjoyed but I don’t exactly know how it became my sister’s favorite meal.

April 10, 2003, was the night before my little sister’s wedding. She had been dating her guy since they were kids…seriously. They met early on in high school and started dating somewhere around age 14. They have been together for longer than they have ever been apart. They now have 3 of the most adorable children, rivaled only by my other nephews. Anywho…that night, Colleen wanted to have a special meal. She asked my mom to make the dinner she just LOVED. Swedish Meatballs…and for some reason she wanted them accompanied by party potatoes. Strange bedfellows no doubt. I remember the three of us eating in that third floor condo together–probably watching Friends or Will & Grace followed by Golden Girls as we often did.  Forever, Swedish Meatballs and the night before my sister wed will be connected…paired memories never to be separated.

That’s exactly why I told this story just yesterday.  A friend of mine wanted to learn to make something new.  I made a few suggestions and she settled on my mom’s Swedish Meatballs.  As we assembled the unbelievably easy dish, I told her about that night just over 11 years ago.  A smile crept onto my face as I remembered that happy day.  I recalled that yummy meal, my sister’s anticipation, and singing the Golden Girls song.  I couldn’t help but call my sister on the way home.  Thank you for being my friend.

 

Swedish Meatballs–Mom’s Version
1 package egg noodles
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 beef bouillon cubes
12 ounces
1 package (11 servings) frozen Swedish Meatballs (I can find them at Jewel, Food for Less, or Ikea)
In a large frying pan (with a lid), mix together the soup and bouillon cubes.
Allow the cubes to melt into the sauce.
Add the meatballs and let heat through.
Make the noodles according to the directions.
Just before serving, stir the sour cream into the sauce.
Layer egg noodles with the sauce and meatballs.
Swedish Meatballs–lightened up
1 package egg noodles–No Yolk or Whole Wheat
3 cans reduced fat Cream of Mushroom Soup
1-2 beef bouillon cubes (mind the salt)
12 ounces non-fat plain Greek yogurt
8 servings frozen turkey meatballs–about 36 meatballs (my favorite brand are the Kroger brand at Food 4 Less)
In a large frying pan (with a lid), mix together the soup and bouillon cubes.
Allow the cubes to melt into the sauce.
Add the meatballs and let heat through.
Make the noodles according to the directions.
Just before serving, stir the Greek yogurt into the sauce.
Layer egg noodles with the sauce and meatballs.
This recipe yields about 1 cup of noodles, 8 meatballs and sauce to coat for about 10 WW points plus.

MONDAY MEMORY: I Rolled ‘Em Myself

It was our fourth date, the first meal I ever made for my new beau.  I slaved all day Thursday making my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs.  Everyone loved her sauce and I was certain that by making it, he was going to fall in love with me!  The night before, as I was finishing up cooling the big pot, I casually asked him while chatting on the phone what he had for dinner.  Imagine my heart sinking when he told me spaghetti.  I was devastated.  It was one of the few dishes in my repertoire that I was confident I could get right.  I had to go to plan B–lemon chicken.  It turned out delicious but didn’t have the impact I’m sure the spaghetti would have had.

Flash forward several months when I made spaghetti and meatballs again.  It was a HIT.  My guy declared it better than his grandma’s–SORRY GRAM!  He asked me if the meatballs were homemade because they were really, rEALLY good. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “I rolled ’em myself!”  See…this was my mom’s secret recipe.  I’m not sure if it was passed down over generations, but I can tell you my sisters and I all make the meatballs the exact same way.  And now, I’ll share that secret with you:  2 pounds of S&T meatball mix…then roll ’em yourself and toss into the sauce.  The cat’s out of the bag.  We don’t actually MIX the meatballs–we just roll them.  The premixed, spiced and seasoned meat makes the perfect addition to your red sauce.  This stuff is seriously amazing.  My sister and I have even talked about forming into burgers and serving it on garlic toast.  They are really THAT good.

It wasn’t until about 4 or 5 months ago that I finally came clean to my now hubby.  I’m sure he always wondered why I could ONLY buy my meat for meatballs at S&T. I could never make the recipe without planning WAY ahead to go to the old neighborhood to grab the beloved meatball mix.  I told him it was just something about the way they ground the beef/pork mixture.  I didn’t exactly lie…but I did omit the part where they did all the hard work!

After mom passed away, spaghetti and meatballs would be the first meal we ate together as a family.  My sister prepared the sauce and rolled the meatballs herself.  It was just as we had all remembered.  Mom never wrote the recipe down.  And as I’ve talked to my sisters, she may have made it a tiny bit differently each time…so I’m sure our recipes differ just a little. But Mom and I made it together many times over the almost year my husband and I lived there.  This is the recipe I remember.  The taste is perfection.  It’s a sweeter sauce, thinner than some others you may have had.  It takes only about 10-15 minutes to toss together.  The longer it simmers the more delicious it gets.  I’ve been known to make it the day before then add the raw meatballs and sauce to the crockpot the morning of.  It’s an extremely cost effective meal to serve to a large family–which is why I’m sure we had it so often.

It will forever be the first family recipe I remember learning.  It’s the taste of my childhood.  Just the smell of onions and garlic bring me back to the house on Ridgeway–walking in after school to discover our favorite meal was being served: homemade spaghetti and meatballs–where the McKenna women roll ’em themselves.

 

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

 

2 medium or 3 small onions finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic pressed or chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1-15 ounce can tomato puree

1-29 ounce can tomato paste

¾ paste can of water

1-29 ounce puree can of water

1 tablespoon salt

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons dried basil

2-3 dry bay leaf

2 pounds S&T meatball mix

 

  1. Heat oil on medium-high heat.

  2. Add onion and garlic.

  3. Sauté until onion is translucent but not burned (if garlic has burned you must start over).

  4. Add the tomato paste and mix it into the onions and garlic until fragrant (about a minute or so).

  5. Add ¾ of the paste can filled with water and stir until well combined.

  6. Add tomato puree and a tomato puree can of full of water.

  7. Add sugar, salt, basil, and bay.

  8. Allow to simmer as long as possible on LOW stirring to avoid burning.

  9. Adjust seasonings (salt, sugar, and basil).

  10. Serve over pasta.

  11. If you want to add meatballs, roll 2 pounds of S&T Meatball Mix and add to the sauce raw.

  12. Allow to simmer until cooked through—at least an hour.

BOOK CLUBBING: I Am the Messenger and Stinky Blue Cheese Poppers

Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Am I good enough?
Where is my place in the world?

These are thoughts every young person has at some point. These are the pivotal questions asked in this month’s Goon Squad Book Club book.

{If you wonder how we got our name–the very first book we read in July of 2011 was A Visit From The Goon Squad. None of us particularly liked the book–but the name just kinda stuck!  Now we meet once a month to enjoy book discussions, food drink, and companionship.}

We read, I Am the Messenger.  It is a young adult book where Ed Kennedy becomes the accidental hero after a foiled bank robbery. He has a choice, live up to the hype or fade away into non-existence. When some mysterious playing cards are delivered, that choice is taken out of his hands.  I had so many thoughts about who was behind the mysterious cards that made Ed dig deep within himself to discover his own self-worth. God?  Satan?  Ed’s father?  His friends?  Someone else entirely unexpected? I’ll let you read and find out yourself…

Each character was so perfectly flawed that you couldn’t help but falling in love.  Ed Kennedy reminded me of 21st century Lloyd Dobler, every woman who is 35+ had a major movie crush on that guy circa 1989 (yes, I looked it up)!  He was tragic and full hearted.  All he wanted was THE GIRL.  He did right by everyone else but was never able to believe he was good enough.  I fell in love with Ed just like I was 13 again.  He had his faithful companions with secrets of their own including the love able Doorman…his terribly smelly, old dog.  Ever the underdog, Ed was worth cheering for.  I loved that he rolled with the punches, figuratively and literally.

We had a small book club meeting this month–only 6 members were able to make it. However, each of us enjoyed the book very much. We would all recommend it to a friend, young adult boys especially. It is the kind of book to hook young men, especially if assigned as a school read…as one of our Goonies does. It’s a bit edgy for the classroom which is part of its teen appeal. Most agreed that this was a book you could read just for the story or you could delve deeper looking for literary symbolism. Our next adventure takes us to the 1920’s in Suzanne Ridell’s The Other Typist.

In honor of the Doorman, I found this  while looking at some recipes online.  The lovable dog in our book was loyal to the core even though he stunk to high heaven!  These Blue Cheese Poppers might have a smell that rivals the Stinky Cheese Man, but their flavor cannot be beat!  I lightened up the original recipe as a mere 3 poppers didn’t seem nearly enough bang for my WW buck, er…point plus.  At under 1 point plus per popper, I felt like I could indulge on this rich treat without all the guilt.

 

STINKY BLUE CHEESE POPPERS–FULL FAT VERSION

1 can Pillsbury biscuits (6 buttermilk biscuits)
1/2 stick butter (4T)
1-5 oz package blue cheese
  1. Melt blue cheese and butter on a cookie sheet at 350*.
  2. Quarter raw biscuits.
  3. Roll in melted blue cheese mixture until well covered.
  4. Bake according to directions or until golden brown.
8 servings at 7 WW Points Plus Per Serving (3 poppers each serving)
STINKY BLUE CHEESE POPPERS–LIGHTENED UP VERSION

1 can Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls
3T I can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
1-4 oz package reduced fat blue cheese crumbles
1 sprig rosemary finely chopped
  1. Melt blue cheese and margarine on a cookie sheet at 350*.
  2. Cut each raw roll into 6 pieces and roll into little balls.
  3. Roll in melted blue cheese mixture until well covered and sprinkle with rosemary.
  4. Bake according to directions or until golden brown.
8 servings at 4 WW Points Plus each serving (6 poppers per serving)