Friday, June 29, 2012

Mangia! Meatballs

A repost from Share: The Brookshire's Blog.

Ever since Lady and The Tramp canoodled over a plate of pasta, spaghetti and meatballs has been, in my mind, a sweet date night dish.

It doesn’t get much better on a Friday night than to sit down with your sweetie over a plate of mouth-watering , homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

I’ve been working on my meatballs and marinara sauce for years. I finally have my marinara sauce as close to perfection as it’s going to get, but I hadn’t yet been satisfied with my meatballs. That  all changed last Friday night.

These meatballs melt in your mouth, which was just the consistency I was going for. In the past, my meatballs had gotten tough, but these are tender, moist morsels. Don’t over bake these beauties; pull them out of the oven when they’re still pink inside and let them continue simmering in your sauce. They’ll infuse your sauce with a savory goodness and the sauce, in turn, adds tenderness to the meatball.

Makes 12 hearty meatballs

Ingredients:1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 lb bulk pork sausage
1 large egg
1 cup panko
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs dried basil

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix by hand until well incorporated. Roll gently into rounds slightly larger than golf balls. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven while the centers are still pink and place into pot of simmering marinara to finish cooking, at least 30 minutes. If you’re not going to use the meatballs immediately, cook through in the oven. These freeze well.

*Note, a friend of mine hates to put her hands into raw meat, so she combines all her ingredients inside a gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag and “squishes” the bag until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Repost from the SHARE- Brookshire's Blog

I love Oobleck!!!

Family Matters:  Oobleck



On the last day of school one year, my older son, Curt, came home with a bag of slime.

No, it wasn’t the contents of a long-lost lunch bag, it was, as he explained to me in great detail, oobleck.
I watched him extract the green oobleck from the plastic bag, stretching it the length of his arm as he did so. Then he and his brother, Luke, proceeded to play with the oobleck for two hours.

Named for a slime in a Dr. Seuss book, “Bartholomew and Oobleck,” that had the power to gunk up a whole land, oobleck , besides looking like green gunk, has properties of both solids and liquids. Oobleck wiggles and jiggles like a liquid or jelly, but if you squeeze it in your hand, it will seem like a solid. In the scientific world, oobleck is called a dilatant, a substance that causes another to expand. If you slowly lower your hand into oobleck, it will sink, but it’s much, much harder to remove your hand without taking all the oobleck and its container with you. But in the real world, oobleck is just plain fun and easy to make with ingredients you probably have right in your pantry, perfect for a craft – or science experiment – on a hot summer’s day.



Corn starch
Food coloring (optional)

Mix 1 part water with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch. Start with 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of cornstarch, then work in more cornstarch if you want a more 'solid' oobleck.

Mix for about 10 minutes to get the right consistency. If you mix oobleck in a plastic bag with a zipper lock, kids can “squish” it to the right consistency.

Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.

Try this:

Squeeze or punch the oobleck. The cornstarch particles will not move out of the way quickly, so the oobleck will feel solid.

Mold oobleck in a container, but when you remove the mold, watch the oobleck lose its shape.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Taco, Some Coffee Talk, Good Friends and a Good Cause

This morning, I had a meeting scheduled at My Happy Place, aka FRESH.

Serendipitously, when I opened my email this morning, I also found a message from my dear friend, Chef Christian Chavanne, letting me know that he'd be cooking at Coffee Talk at FRESH this morning and promoting his non-profit, Project H.E.A.T.

Coffee Talk started at 10 a.m.; my meeting was scheduled at 11 a.m. and it just so happened that I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I quickly decided there would be a Sunrise Taco in my future.

After devouring my taco, I headed over to the FRESH Taste Kitchen for Coffee Talk. Chef Christian was already there doing prep work with the FRESH Selling and Marketing Director, Myste Snow. It was so good to see Christian again. We worked together at my last job and I hadn't seen him for months and months. As a bonus, I also got to see his wonderful wife, Fredna, and his talented daughter, Maya, too. As I'm waiting for Coffee Talk to begin,  who swoops in with her boundless energy and positive spirit but freelance writer extraordinaire, Cathy Primer Krafve! Needless to say, my proverbial coffee cup was running over today with hugs and happiness.

Coffee Talk kicked off with witty banter between Chef Christian and Myste, who was careful to remind the crowd assembled that we were baking on a SHEET pan (we love Chef Christian's French accent, we really do, but sometimes, you just have to laugh...)

Since the mission of Project H.E.A.T. is to teach kids about healthy eating, or "providing enriching experiences incorporating all five senses in a fun, interactive and consistent format creating lasting positive sensory memories while imparting knowledge and an understanding of the importance of fresh foods and the role they play in a healthy lifestyle," as it officially reads, Chef Christian demonstrated making a vitamin-packed pesto sauce with spinach instead of the more traditional basil.

With his French food sensibilities and background in ground-breaking spa cuisine, Chef Christian is passionate about healthy food that tastes phenomenal. He's passionate about children and he puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to doing something to thwart the childhood obesity epidemic in America.

Chef Christian and Fredna founded Project H.E.A.T two years ago. Last year, 100 children graduated from the Project H.E.A.T program. This year, Chef Christian and Fredna, along with Cathy and the others on their board, enrolled 160 children in Smith County.

"We get kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables," Chef Christian explained to the Coffee Talk crowd. "We impart positive memories and teach them how to make good choices in the supermarket."

This year, Project H.E.A.T will also be partnering with St. Paul Children's Foundation and Bethesda Clinic.

After figuring out how to work the food processor, with more than a little help from Myste, Chef Christian created a scrumptious Bow Tie Pasta with Spinach Parsley Pesto.

Then, Myste showed us how to use leftover cooked chicken and lots of local produce for a surprisingly sweet Far East Chicken Soup (the secret ingredient is hoisin sauce).

Chef finished up by revealing his love, and I mean, LOVE, for speck, an Italian smoked ham...if you love bacon, you'll swoon over speck.  In fact, my favorite part of the entire morning may have been when Chef approached after Coffee Talk and said, "Close your eyes and open your mouth" and popped a buttery, salty, smoky piece of speck into it! Mmmmmmm....but I digress...Chef Christian deconstructed the BLT for us and made a cold salad of speck, lettuce, tomato, cheese and rosemary focaccia croutons.

By the time 11 a.m. and my meeting rolled around, I was in hog heaven, pun intended.

I might just go back next week.

To learn more about Project H.E.A.T and to make a donation, visit them online.

Chef Christian's Bow Tie Pasta With Spinach Parsley Pesto
    As Prepared at FRESH's Coffee Talk

2 cups grape tomatoes
Juice of one lime
1 lb Rao's tri-colored bow tie pasta
1 bunch parsley
8 ounces baby spinach
4 garlic cloves
4 TBS Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4 TBS EVOO for pesto
2 TBS pecan pieces, chopped
2 TBS Carli peso
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed

In a large pot, bring one gallon of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and follow instructions for cooking al dente. Drain pasta into a colander. Do. Not. Rinse. (If you want your pasta to be gummy and your sauce never to stick, go ahead and give it a rinse.)

Toss the hot pasta with the 2 TBS EVOO. Spread onto a single layer baking SHEET to let all the steam evaporate.

Place garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil, pecans and lime juice in the food processor and puree. Add spinach and blend until smooth. Toss pasta with pesto and add tomatoes and chicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Myste's Far East Chicken Soup
     As Prepared at FRESH's Coffee Talk

1 large Eggland's Best egg
2 TBS peanut oil
2 large Jacksonville tomatoes, cubed
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 TBS sesame oil
2 TBS soy sauce
1 jar hoisin sauce
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed
1/2 cup baby spinach
1 bad of Seeds of Change Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice
1/2 bunch cilantro

Whisk the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large saucepan over high heat. Add the egg and cook, undisturbed, until bubbles form on the surface and the bottom is set, about one minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring gently to break up the egg, until the tomatoes begin to soften, two to three minutes. Add the chicken brother, 2 cups water, sesame oil, cilantro and hoisin sauce. Partially cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped spinach and quinoa and rice and warm through. Season the soup with salt and pepper, adding soy sauce to finish.

Chef Christian's Ultimate Chicken Club Salad
      As Prepared at FRESH's Coffee Talk

3 cups rosemary focaccia, cubed
6 slices of thick cuts of speck
The meat from one whole rotisserie chicken, shredded, skin removed
4 cups hearts of romaine
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 green onions, minced
1/2 cup Mammoth Cheddar cheese, cubed

3/4 cup Duke's mayonnaise
1/4 cup Carli basil pesto
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Toss bread with extra virgin olive oil and place in a single layer on the baking SHEET. Place on middle shelf of oven, bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden.

Julienne speck ham into 1 inch lengths. In a large bowl, fold together pesto, mayo and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together chicken, tomatoes, cheese, speck, green onions and toss with the dressing.

Chop hearts of romaine and arrange in a large serving bowl. Top with chicken salad. Garnish with green onions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Old Friend ~ Hard Ball

Today I was sitting in my home office working intently on the half-dozen projects I have going simultaneously.

Then I heard it.

The faint strains of "Skip To My Lou" in a ragged, warped, electronic kind of way.

But I knew at ONCE what it was.

Hard Ball.

Curt's ball.

From when he was a baby.

I went to the toy box in his room and dug it out from beneath the Bey Blades, Lincoln Logs and various assorted toys from the past 10 years.

Hard Ball was his favorite toy from the time he was strong enough to carry the plastic orb around. If memory serves me correctly, and it might not the closer I get to 40, Dad picked out the ball on a trip to Toys R Us when Curtle was pretty young. He carried Hard Ball around with him EVERYWHERE.  We were able to pinpoint his location in our house by the location of the lilting tunes. We knew he was asleep when we didn't hear the mechanical music of Hard Ball any longer. The unyielding plastic of Hard Ball sometimes got slammed into the tile floor. I remember once when Hard Ball went into the potty.
Dad repaired the wires on Hard Ball more than once. Hard Ball has survived every yard sale for the past 10  years. The $10 toy became priceless.

Hard Ball was a frequent visitor on car trips. "Frequent?" Ha! We didn't leave home without it. Each shape played a different tune. We went through enough batteries to fund Curt's college education.

Today, when it went off, it was in reaction to Curt slamming down the lid on the vintage wooden toy box where Hard Ball resides, while he was retrieving his Titanic book.

When I took Hard Ball out of the toy box to memorialize him on a blog post, Curt quickly claimed the old friend as a prized possession.

"Oh! Here's my old ball," he said, as Hard Ball cringed under the label of advanced years.

"I love this thing."

Tuesday Two {Pictures, that is!}

Last weekend we went out to the Lake Retreat property at church to hang with the guys from the Boys' Home in Tyler. Ministering to these boys is a mission of the Real Life at GABC and my friends who organized the event invited us to take part.

It was an awesome day for the guys: swimming, kayaking, praise worship, skits and yes, even a watermelon seed spitting contest. Ewwwwww.

My boys had fun too. 

Kung Fu Curt

Singing a praise song.

And they slept REALLY WELL Saturday night! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

40 Things To Do BEFORE I'm 40 (Part 1)

Back in January, I started a list: a list of 40 Things To Do Before I Turn 40.

When I started making my list, I realized there are a heck of a lot of things I've already checked off my life list. As it turns out,  it's been more challenging to come up with things, within reason, that I want to do. My friend jokingly asked today if we had  until the END of our 40th year to complete the list. I think we do.

I haven't quite gotten to 40 things yet, maybe you can suggest a few.

1. Run a 5k. CHECK. I ran ("shuffled") the ASSIST Autism Foundation 5k in March.

2. Skydive. Why I'd be willing to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I couldn't tell you. But I'd like to do it. I think. Just once.

3. Camp ON the beach. 

4. Lose 40 pounds. *sigh

5. Eat raw oysters and not gag. CHECK.  The wedding I  helped with last weekend served oyster and lobster 'shooters' on their seafood buffet. I figured might as well try it. And no, I didn't gag.

6. Zip line. Another CHECK. The boys and I went with a fun group of friends back in March. 

7. Build a fence. Wait! What? I must confess, building a fence was not on my original list. But I added it because I DID it and it was something I never really thought I'd do. Not that I thought much about it. **disclaimer** My friends did the heavy lifting. CHECK!

8. Ride a Harley. CHECK!

9. Make ceviche. Can't wait to try this.

10. Ride in a hot air balloon. Anyone have one they want to take me up in?

11. Ride in a police helicopter spotting bad guys. Again, not originally on my list since I've already flown a helicopter, but the opportunity has presented itself to do a fly-along with the Dallas police force. So I'm going! Whoo hooo!

12. Acquire more original art.  I have several Dana Cargile pieces, including a custom canvas of my boys and one painting that's done on an antique ceiling tile from a Mississippi opera house. But I'd like more. Perhaps some black and white photography.

13. Get SCUBA certified. And then put me on a beach with white sand and cerulean water and I'll be happy as can be. 

To be continued...