Italian Meatball Risotto

I don’t know how to make risotto.  I just tried it once, and it tasted good to me, so I go with it.  If I invited a food critic over for dinner, my risotto might be heavily critiqued-who knows….but again, it’s good enough for me!

Looking to clean out the pantry and fridge of a few items, and with a relentless craving for (my version of) risotto, I decided to really challenge myself and come up with my own, original risotto recipe.  Now, knowing that I don’t know how to make risotto, you might want to call this “Italian Meatball Rice,” but I’m going to continue pretending to be fancy, so the word Risotto will remain in the title 😉

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I wrote down a couple of items I had that I wanted/needed to get rid of: Rice, marinara, spinach, and ground beef.  Next I added the base for risotto: Arborio rice, broth, and wine (okay, maybe you don’t haaaave to have wine..).  And finally, I threw in some spices and cheeses to round everything out.

I made sure to make the recipe one that I could easily halve or double.  If you make it with the quantities I list here, it will serve about 8 people. 

Per serving:        Calories:  370
              Fat: 18.6         Carbs: 25.8           Protein: 24.4
Find this recipe on the MyFitnessPal  app under “Meatball Marinara Risotto.”

 

Italian Meatball Risotto:

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine  (you can trade this for water if you wish)
  • 2-4 cups water
  • 1, 10 oz. box of spinach, drained
  • 1 T. basil
  • 1 T. parsley
  • 2 t. oregano
  • 20 oz. of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Meatballs– you can purchase frozen meatballs, or follow the recipe below to make your own.

  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1 egg white (3 T. of liquid egg white)
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

 

Procedure:

For the meatballs, combine thawed beef with beaten egg white, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.  Fold everything together until well combined.  Form 1/2 inch- inch meatballs. and bake at 350 for 10 minutes on a foil-lined tray.

For the risotto, melt the butter over medium heat in a large and wide saucepan (I use a wok for risotto).  Once melted, add the Arborio rice and stir around for about 2 minutes until golden.  Add the wine (or water, if you please) and let it simmer down until almost no liquid.  Continue stirring.  Note: If you do use wine, it is fun because it makes a lot of noise and steam upon pouring it in so you’ll totally feel like a top chef 😉

When liquid is visibly reduced, add one cup of broth and simmer and stir until you almost see no extra liquid. This will take three-four minutes.  Repeat this process with the other three cups of broth.  If the rice looks plump and soft, stop there, if not, repeat the simmering process with a couple cups of water.  I think I used one cup of water when I made this.

When your last cup of liquid is nearly dissolved, add the marinara sauce, spinach, and seasonings.  Give that a couple minutes to heat up and then throw in the cheeses and the (now cooked) meatballs.  Turn off the heat, and stir so that everything is combined, and cheeses are just starting to melt.  Serve, and enjoy!

 

What other ingredients would you like to see in a risotto? Leave me some feedback below!

Must-Make Gingerbread Cookies

Something about gingerbread just says Christmastime to me.  If you like gingerbread-or even if you don’t- these cookies are PERFECTION.  They are full of spice, and very soft. I have made these multiple times over the last few years and they sure do please a crowd!  Enjoy.

Must-Make Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  •  4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  2. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then molasses. Reduce speed to low.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, spices, and salt and add to bowl; mix on low until just combined. Add more flour if needed.  Dough should not be overly sticky.
  4. Roll dough out between parchment or the Dough E-Z mat, and let it rest by refrigerating until cold, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out cookie shapes and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, approximately 2 inches apart, and re-roll out dough and cut shapes as needed. Refrigerate until firm; at least 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Bake cookies until lightly golden; 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the cookie. Let cool on wire racks and serve as is or decorate with icing.

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This recipe has been adapted from sweetopia.net

My Notes

The only issue I ever have with these is the sticky-ness of the dough.  If it still seems sticky after the initial hour in the fridge, add flour!  The dough should look and feel like normal sugar cookie dough.

I like to frost these with a simple, white icing.  I tried a ‘dipped’ technique this year that worked really well. (And of course didn’t take a picture! Ugh.)  Just mix powdered sugar with a little water until you get an icing mixture with a slightly runny consistency.  Dip half of the cookie in the icing mixture and then let it drip off until only a thin layer is left clinging to the cookie.  Dry on wax paper and then muse over the uber-elegant look 😉

 

5-Step Fruit and Veggie Smoothies

I do loooove smoothies!  What I like most is that every time I make them they turn out slightly different.  I know there are a lot of people out there that use actual recipes and measurements for smoothies, but that is not how I roll when it comes to most things in the kitchen.  Even when I use a recipe for something, I rarely bust out the measuring spoons and cups to get things going.  I like to pretend I’m on the Food Network and just “eyeball” all of the amounts.  What?  You don’t do that?  😀

5-step Fruit and Veggie Smoothie:

  1. Add something that will bind your ingredients together like a banana, an avocado, or 1/2 cup of egg whites.

2. Add a chunk of  frozen spinach- maybe a half cup size if you like to measure things.

3. Add frozen fruit.  I try and buy organic berries, and for me, peaches are a must almost every time I make a smoothie.

When you’re finished adding fruit, your blender should be about this full:img_5562

I decided that I wanted to add some kale on top of this.  So, I did-maybe a cup full?  Next come the liquids….

4. I typically go with orange juice and skim milk, but you can add any combo of two liquids that you prefer.  Some people like almond milk or coconut milk or whatever.  Try a few different types to see what you most enjoy.  Halfway up with one liquid and then cover the top of the fruit and veggies with the other. (Note: Kale seems to float, so you will never get it all covered with liquid!)

5.  Sweeteners and extras come next.  For this type of smoothie I go with two scoops of Chia seeds and a tablespoon or two of honey.  Chia seeds will remain a bit crunchy (unless you have a super awesome blender that liquefies them) so if the crunch will bother you, then just opt for something else.  You can use Flaxseed and/or a teaspoon of vanilla extract as other options.  If you prefer to make this a protein shake, add a scoop or two now before sweetening.  Blend up and then decide if you need an additional sweetener.

Blend up until you get something that resembles a gorgeous gray-green oatmeal color.  It tastes way better than it looks, and it’s packed with all that healthy goodness.  A blender-full usually yields 5-6 servings.  They will last about 2-3 days in the fridge.  Enjoy!

 

What other smoothie flavor profiles would you like to see?  Drop me an idea in the comments!

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

This post contains affiliate links to my favorite place ever: Amazon.com

 

Waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking makes for the sweetest of mornings.  And, with the help of the Crock Pot, this food fantasy can become real!

I have a couple of Crock Pot breakfast recipes on rotation, but this one stands out as a crowd-pleaser.  This can also double as a dinner recipe–leave everything in the crock pot all day while you’re at work, and come home to a warm, comforting meal.  Breakfast or dinner, it doesn’t really matter when you try it; just try it!

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 lb ground sausage, cooked

1/2 onion, minced

16 oz. frozen hash browns

1 c. shredded cheddar

6 eggs (or 18 T. egg whites)

1/2 c. light sour cream

1/2 c. skim milk

1/2 t. dry mustard

1/2 t. garlic powder

Preparation

Brown the sausage in a skillet and add onions in for a few minutes to soften.  (*Tip: I loathe the crunch of an onion! So, I always puree onions before adding them to a recipe.) When they become translucent, drain any grease that has accumulated and set the skillet aside.

In your crock pot, layer half of the hash browns, meat, and cheese.  Then repeat the layers.

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, sour cream, eggs, and seasonings.  (*Tip: If you don’t have dry mustard, use Dijon.  Mustard in a cheese sauce really helps the flavors pop!) Pour the egg mixture over top of the contents of your crock pot and cook on Low for 5-8 hours.

 

Click on the pictures to access my must-haves for this recipe:

These Slow Cooker liners are perfect for a no-fuss clean up.  With an egg dish like this, the liners will really come in handy.

 

 

The Crock Pot on the right is very similar to the one I own.  The nice part about this model is that you can clamp the top on for easy travel.

 

 

This Crock Pot, pictured left, will be my next purchase whenever my current one decides to bite the dust.  It is programmable! Oooh so fancy!  I’ve seen it on sale for under $40, too!

 

 
These silicone utensils are everything.  I love them for Crock Pot recipes because they don’t scratch the pot.  

And, last but not least, a liquid measuring cup.  I actually just received my first one for Christmas this year and I don’t know how I ever cooked without it!  Game changer, for sure.  I have used it at least a dozen times and it hasn’t even been a month!

 

 

What are your favorite Crock Pot meals?  Leave ideas in the comments section below!

Occupied for Hours

My name is Jordan Walz and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

There. I said it.

 

During the school year I barely have time to exhale it seems, but when summer comes along, my Pinterest obsession is in FULL FORCE!

I pin everything.  Household improvements, activities for children, recipes, party decor, cleaning solutions, hairstyles, wedding dresses…. But, still, I feel like I’m practical about my pinning. At just over 3,000 pins, I honestly feel like (someday) I will get to fulfill each and every last one of them.  Plus the couple dozen that I’ll end up pinning later tonight.

I have organized myself this summer so that I can tackle certain pins each week.  And so far, so good.  I am sure I will have plenty of fun things to write about before summer comes to an end.

One type of pin I consistently come across on Pinterest is the collage of bright colored pictures displaying all sorts of thrilling toddler activities- you know the kind.  After clicking on the link, it seems like every website supplying these wild activity ideas offers the desperate mother a dream come true:  “Glue, sand, water, pom poms, and a kitchen spoon: Toddler fun for 3+ hours” or, “Just a stack of newspaper and a jelly bean keeps your 4-year-old busy all afternoon.”

If you have a toddler or have ever played with a toddler for two minutes, you know that their attention span is about two minutes long.

These magical ideas on Pinterest would have you believe otherwise.

And I did start to believe otherwise.

Ooooh, if I just mix food coloring with water, fill seven glasses each with a different amount of the liquid, and hand my daughter a spoon, she’ll go crazy making music for the next hour and I can be free to get some housework done (or, let’s be real, try out that idea I pinned about makeup contouring).

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Not that I need an activity to “babysit” my child.  If I did, I would just turn on the TV and let her have at it.  But, when I’m constantly bombarded with these promises of hours of fun on Pinterest, because I’m constantly on Pinterest, I expect at least a good 15 minutes.  Wouldn’t you?

 

After trying many of these marvelous toddler activities over the years, her and I have had a lot of fun together.  But never once has my sweet toddler girl been so fully immersed for hours on end as Pinterest would have me expect.

Last night, I tried something new: coloring pasta shapes with a little food dye and rubbing alcohol.  My little girl was beside herself with excitement, wanting start playing with these noodles immediately.  I told her we’d wait until morning to make sure they were fully dry.

When I considered how much pasta I used and how long she would probably want to play with the shapes, I started wishing I just made pasta for dinner instead because eating it would be of better use.

Totally wrong.

This, folks, is the one activity that will keep your toddlers busy for hours.

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This is the only thing she played with this morning before her nap.  I had to pry her away from it for a play-date and then again when it was lunchtime.  She loves sorting the shapes, colors, stacking them, and I think just the whole sensory experience is thrilling to her.

Finally!  Mama can clean the toilets this afternoon! (Or, let’s be real, I’m going to try this or this or anything else on my Pinterest boards, really 😉)


 

Colored Pasta Shapes

Stir together 2 teaspoons of food coloring and 3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol.  Add the mixture to a Ziploc bag filled with 2 cups of pasta shapes of your choice.  Shake to cover the pasta completely, and then dump out onto parchment paper and let dry.