Posts Tagged how-to

Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Lean Meatballs

Meatball

A great meatball doesn’t crumble when you slice into it with a fork…delizioso!

In this second installment of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with an easy recipe loosely based on my Italian grandmother’s meatballs, as further clarified by my “meatballer” little sister.  This version has an improved nutritional profile for today’s carnivorous HalfEmpty wife.  Buon Apetito!

Half Full Mug

 

Lean Meatballs

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 30-45 min (ovens vary, ensure meatballs are brown)

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs extra lean (95% or more) fresh Ground Sirloin —  this is usually the smallest package found at grocery stores
  • 6 slices of soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread, grated into bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Skim Milk just enough to keep mixture moist
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped Parsley (fresh) — since fresh parsley comes in bushels, chop it all and freeze extra for later
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Oregano & Basil (dried, to taste)
  • Crushed Red Pepper if you like to kick things up a bit

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixture is consistent (not dry)
  • Hand roll meatballs gently to avoid packing them too densely

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  • Place meatballs on rack in a pan and bake until brown

Ms. HalfEmpty loves these meatballs because in addition to tasting delizioso, they allow her to control her protein portions.  When this Italian soul food is paired with a small portion of fresh whole wheat pasta and leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, she easily gets her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.

I enjoy the almost Zen-like ritual of creating a batch of meatballs on a leisurely Sunday with football on TV in the background.  [Aside from Ms. HalfEmpty:  cooking made Mr. HalfFull somewhat useful on football Sundays.  I don’t know if NFL Sundays will continue this fall, but I know he’ll still make meatballs and I may not be a football widow…win/win!]

Meatballs in sauce

Meatballs need to simmer in sauce

Once baked, I can put a few in a small pot of “basic tomato gravy” (a possible future “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” recipe) to simmer all day, and then freeze the remainder.  A great meatball (even the lean ones) should be tender and moist with absorbed tomato sauce, ensuring a light texture that doesn’t crumble when sliced with a fork.

Freeze Meatballs

Freeze meatballs so Ms. HalfEmpty can sustain herself when I’m away…happy wife, happy life!

One of my favorite ways to utilize leftovers is to fill a panini with thinly sliced meatballs, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, and arugula.  Likewise, if you have pizza dough on hand, lean meatball slices are a perfect topping!

Finally, it’s important to consider Lemony Snicket‘s words of wisdom:  “Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

Mr. HalfFull is a 40-something extroverted optimist who spends his days teaching and coaching teenagers. He occasionally authors posts on his wife’s blog halfempty4now.com in support of his life’s work to help her see life from his sunny point of view.

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Healthy Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie Slice

Healthy Zucchini Pie slice -- delicious!

I’m pretty sure our wedding vows include my promise to be Ms. HalfEmpty’s personal chef.  When we first started dating, she lived nearby and would walk over for home-cooked meals in what she called my café.  Now that I think about it, it’s unclear if she was ever formally invited!  Regardless, since then I’ve perfected a few tried and true recipes she loves, and it seems like a fun idea to share them with her readers.  In this first post of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with a recipe loosely based on my Armenian grandmother’s Zucchini Pie, with a bit of nutritional improvement inspired by Ms. HalfEmpty’s healthier eating style.  Bon Appétit!

Half Full Mug

 

Healthy Zucchini Pie

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 45 min – 1 hr (ovens vary, use tooth pick test to make sure pie is fully baked)
Ingredients

Simple ingredients make preparation easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 small Zucchini, diced
  • 1 large Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 large Red Pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter (for greasing 9″ glass pie plate)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until zucchini is coated
  • Lightly grease a 9” glass pie plate with real butter (Ms. Butter would approve)
  • Spoon bowlful of ingredients into pie plate, and bake until golden
Finished Pie

A golden Healthy Zucchini Pie hot out of the oven

Besides the simplicity of my grandmother’s recipe, what I really love is the versatility.  You can serve a slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie in the morning with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, at lunch with leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, or even at the dinner table as the hearty side to a bowl of fire-roasted tomato bisque.  Ms. HalfEmpty is particular about getting her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein at each meal, and one slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie does the trick.

I have been known to kick things up a notch on occasion (Emeril Lagasse would approve), and over time I have used this Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe as the canvas for using up any left over sundries in our fridge, such as sun dried tomato pesto, shredded Mexican cheeses, or even the remnants of a salsa jar after a leisurely Sunday watching football on TV.

And don’t get me started on how good bacon tastes when sprinkled into this (suddenly not so) Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe.  But as Oscar Wilde said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Mr. HalfFull is a 40-something extroverted optimist who spends his days teaching and coaching teenagers. He occasionally authors posts on his wife’s blog halfempty4now.com in support of his life’s work to help her see life from his sunny point of view.

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The Countdown Begins

Ms. Butter is my good friend from college.  [She earned this name by consuming copious amounts of REAL butter in the dining hall and professing its health benefits.  Julia Child would approve.  My little brother had only met her once, but whenever I spoke of her by name, he would confirm, “Do you mean the butter girl?”]  Unfortunately, I don’t see her very often since she lives hours away, but we do communicate regularly via Twitter and email.  Recently, she asked me if I had a countdown going for my 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion.  Um…why do I need a countdown?  I have a calendar.

Ms. Butter suggested that I make a paper chain for my countdown, but I was definitely not sold on the idea.  I’d heard of and seen paper chains before, but never for a countdown.  I thought they were just for kids to decorate schools.  But Ms. Butter explained that her family always created paper chains at the beginning of December, and made a paper ring for each day left until Christmas. Then every day they would remove another ring, and as the chain got shorter, she had a great visual of how much closer it was until Christmas.

Hum…ok, I get the idea, but is this really something I need to do?  Who has time to cut strips of paper and assemble them into a chain?  Where would I put such a thing?  What if I forgot to remove a chain one day and lost count?  Do I really need another project or to-do item?  Why would I spend the time to create something if I was just going to rip it up in the end?  I was definitely half empty on this project.

strips of paper

Strips of paper cut from an old map

Despite my negativity, Ms. Butter was persistent…

Ahh, I think a paper chain is in order. 🙂  This is totally good fodder for your blog!  There is the whole question of whether you are going to view its getting shorter with each passing day as “ruining all your work” (half empty), or… getting you closer to the REAL and exciting goal of going on the trip (half full)!

Ms. Butter checks the calendar

Ms. Butter counts the days on the calendar (after we finished the bottle of wine)

Ms. Butter and her husband were in town last week and joined us for tapas and paper chain making.  Ms. Butter had previously cut strips of paper from an old topographic map.  (Coincidentally, it was a map she got from our college and had saved all this time to bring full circle!)  I found myself starting to get excited about the project after seeing the multicolor paper strips from a map.  How perfect for a travel countdown!  Perhaps this wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

Ms. Butter links the first two paper strips together

Ms. Butter links the first two strips of paper together to start the paper chain

To make sure the paper chain was completely accurate, we broke out the calendar and Ms. Butter began to count the days.  Of course, I asked her what would happen if I couldn’t remember if I had removed a link or not.  She knows me well and was already armed with an answer — that I would write the actual date on the inside of each link.

Paper Chain

The paper chain grows longer

So we started our assembly line with me writing dates on the back and Ms. Butter linking the strips together with tape.  We had an efficient system and the chain began to grow longer until it was finished.

Complete Paper Chain

Finished paper chain displayed on top of our world tour map

I found the perfect spot for the paper chain — on top of the world map tacked to our bulletin board.  We originally posted the map to help us plan our trip and it now has tacks for all our trip destinations, as well as ribbon to connect the various legs.

Each morning as I leave for work, I remove a link from the right side of the chain.  I randomly hung up the paper chain as I was holding it and didn’t realize the earlier dates (remember that I wrote the actual date on each ring) were on the right side.  At first this bothered me since our world moves from left to right.  But as I thought about it’s placement on the actual map it made a lot of sense for the flow of our westward trip.  Right now, in the early part of my countdown, I’m on the right side of the map with the early trip destinations.  By the time the countdown is done, I will have moved through the whole map and all the destinations to be back in the US to start the actual trip!

One of my concerns with the paper chain was destroying it after all the work that went into fashioning it.  Mr. HalfFull already pokes fun at me for the way I open wrapped presents, carefully removing each piece of tape at the seams.  He and Ms. Butter joked that I’d probably undo each link delicately at the seam and maybe even preserve them in a box.  But after using Ms. Butter’s cool tape gun, we realized that the paper was too stiff and thick to be held in place by a small piece of tape on the inside.  So Ms. Butter started using tape all the way around each ring to make sure it stayed intact.  This had the added benefit of forcing me to actually rip each ring off.  It wouldn’t be so easy to daintily unroll each ring.

At one point while writing the dates on each paper strip, I got distracted and wrote the wrong month.  So I had to scribble out what I had written.  Ms. Butter made me save this one for a test run.  So I put the current date on it and she added it to the chain.  My first test was to rip it off and discard it as a half full thinker moving toward a goal.  I did rip it and throw it out.  But that was pretty easy since I had already messed it up.  I’m not sure if I’m half full on the countdown since the chain is starting to make me nervous about having fewer days to plan and prepare.  But I became half full on the project, probably because of Ms. Butter.  Lesson learned:  butter fills you up. =)

  • Have you ever used a paper chain as a countdown?
  • Do countdowns make time pass faster or slower?
  • Are countdowns more useful for adults or children?
  • How do you open presents?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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