Posts Tagged panini

The Benefits of Marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

As you’ve been watching various tax forms appear in your mailbox, perhaps the marriage penalty has come to mind. But even this half empty thinker knows there are some benefits to marriage!

One of those benefits is sharing food. (Of course it’s not the only or best benefit, but stick with me…)

I don’t cook. Of course, I could cook. But I don’t enjoy it. Perhaps it has to do with my affinity for order and cleanliness. Cooking seems awfully messy for my taste!

gourmet foods paper

It looks like I learned something about cooking at some point in the 90s.

That isn’t to say that I never cooked. In high school, I got an A in Gourmet Foods. (I got A’s in everything, but that’s not the point!) We cooked and baked all sorts of things that I would never dream of making now. We made pumpkin pies from real pumpkins with crusts from scratch…ridiculous!

We even separated whole chickens. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a whole chicken in my life. I realize it’s cheaper, but it seems impractical for a single person, especially one who doesn’t like dark meat.

Recipe binder title

Mr. HalfFull’s mockery of my high school Gourmet Foods binder

I’m lucky to have found a partner who enjoys cooking and grocery shopping. Knowing my dislike for the kitchen, he finds it terribly amusing that I still have my Gourmet Foods recipe binder from high school. He even made a label for the binder reading, “Ms. HalfEmpty’s A+ Recipe Binder, Circa 1995” and constantly ribs me for my scores over 100% inside.

binder tab

The first tab of my “A+ Recipe Binder” for Quick Breads showcases my more than perfect score. Ha!

Last weekend, Mr. HalfFull commented that I’m becoming quite the “microwave chef.” You may think that’s an oxymoron, but my usual microwave cooking involves a bag or a box that goes in the microwave, followed by me pushing a few buttons. Sometimes I even have to uncover and stir in the middle of cooking. What a process!

But when I was lauded as a microwave chef, it was far more complex and a creation of my own. Mr. HalfFull bought a plastic egg cooking container for the microwave. Some of you (like my mother) may be freaking out about plastic leaching chemicals in the microwave. But most of my self-prepared meals are in far less sturdy plastic containers, so it doesn’t phase me.

Microwave Egg Cooker

Don’t worry, I cracked the egg before I cooked it!

The egg container allows me to cook a fresh egg without additional oil or butter and without creating splatter on the stove! After cooking the egg with spices, I added it to bread and various cheeses, and stuck the concoction in the panini machine. Thus, earning the title microwave chef (even though I used two kitchen appliances)! Yes, it was delicious.

Since my cooking skills and desire are in the low to non-existent range, Mr. HalfFull and I enjoy eating out. This gives us the opportunity experience a benefit of marriage — being cute and sharing meals. It also affords us the chance to take more risks when ordering because we know we’ll have a fallback. When done correctly, it can also help us save money and eat appropriately sized portions (instead of restaurant-size portions) with variety.

But sometimes, we go all out. Like on New Year’s Eve, we went to one of our favorite local restaurants and each ordered the prix fixe tasting menu with a small plate, main plate, and sweet plate for each of us. So instead of a 3-course meal, we each got a 6-mini-course meal!

If you’re thinking about eating healthier and have a partner (married or not) to split with, check out the ideas in my meal sharing post for Northern Virginia Magazine.

  • Do you enjoy cooking? Did you always or did you grow into or out of it?
  • Does cooking an egg in the microwave make one a chef? =)
  • Do you share meals?
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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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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