My New Go To Cookie: Semi-Homemade Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

My sister hosted a Christmas cookie swap this weekend and it was such a success. All of the guests brought such a great assortment of cookies and my husband was ecstatic when I walked in the house with a perfect mix of holiday cookies. 

This past week was an unexpectedly stressful week for us filled with Christmas parties, unplanned get togethers, and an EXTREMELY sick dog. When it came time to start baking for the cookie swap I was wiped out. I wanted to make something home made and delicious but I didn’t really have time or energy to whip up some complex, cookie cutter, frosted masterpiece. 

Continue reading →

Meatballs for a Crowd

I am a sucker for meatballs. They’re my go to at parties, they taste great in pasta, and they are one of the best pizza toppings. Meatballs are also a great alternative to a Bolognese sauce. Imagine sitting down to a group dinner and having hefty meatballs sitting on your plate instead of your standard meat sauce.

DSC_0764

As a kid I remember watching my grandmother make pasta sauce and meatballs from scratch. Her meatballs were not your standard size either. They were huge and full of flavor. Since I’ve been cooking, I’ve always modeled my meatballs after the ones my grandmother makes. They’re huge and they are sure to fill and empty stomach.

I use ground beef and ground pork in this recipe. Ground beef provides a nice texture and the ground pork adds moisture and a unique flavor. Ground turkey can be substituted for the ground pork for those who do not eat pork. The breadcrumbs, eggs, and milk work as a binder but also adds great flavor to the meat.

DSC_0639 DSC_0644

The key to these meatballs is the way that they are cooked. The meatballs are placed on a cooling rack set in a cookie sheet. Cooking the meatballs this way allows for them to cook evenly. Is also allows excess oils to drain out of the meat.

DSC_0668

I like my cookie sheets with foil and parchment paper for easy clean up. The oils from the meatballs can be a mess to clean up if you don’t line your pans.

DSC_0673

DSC_0683

Make these meatballs as a base for spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, or pizza toppings. Extra meatballs can be frozen and used at a later date. This recipe can be halved to make a smaller portion.

DSC_0758 DSC_0729


Classic Jumbo Meatballs

Total Time: 45 Minutes | 28 Jumbo Meatballs or 14 Servings

Recommended Specialty Cookware: Parchment Paper, Cooling Racks, cookie sheets

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1.5 lbs ground pork
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 4 cloves garlic – minced
  • 5 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup grated parmesan and romano cheese blend
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk until they have a consistency of wet sand. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine pork, beef, garlic, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, and eggs.
  4. Add in the breadcrumb mixture and use hands to combine all ingredients. Break up any large clumps of breadcrumbs.
  5. Using your hands, create 28 – 30* equal meatballs. Make sure all meatballs are the same size to ensure they cook evenly.
  6. Place two cooling rack on top of two separate cookie sheets.
  7. Place half of the meatballs on each cookie sheet leaving at least 1/2 inch between each meatball.
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, turning meatballs half way through. Cut a meatball in half to check for doneness.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

* This recipe makes approximately 45 smaller meatballs. Adjust cooking time according to size. The smaller the meatball, the shorter the cooking time. 

Quick and Easy Entertaining

DSC_0211

I recently celebrated my first birthday as a married woman. My husband and I had our families over for cake and ice cream in the middle of a long and busy weekend. We wanted to have heavy snacks that would keep our guests full, but wanted food that did not require a lot of prep.

I went last-minute grocery shopping and filled my cart with easy to prepare items, dressings that I planned to doctor up, chips, salsa, cheeses, and meats. Purchasing foods that don’t require much preparation but look good on a spread is key for last-minute entertaining. Here are my 7 simple tips for creating a welcoming (and delicious) spread for a last-minute party.

1. Cook simple favorites that you’ve made hundreds of times: I love chicken nuggets. I’ve made them hundreds of time and chicken nuggets tossed in BBQ or Buffalo sauce are “Boneless Wings”. Boneless wings are easy, delicious, and most people love them. I served my boneless wings in a crudite server with a blue cheese dressing and fresh celery sticks.

DSC_0216

2. Do as much as you can the day before: I cut all of my cheeses the day before and refrigerated them in ziplock bags. Cutting the cheese the day before was a simple step that saved me a lot of stress. I also “set” my table the day before. Knowing where my dishes, cutlery, and plates were going to go ahead of time allows for me to have a more inviting setup.

DSC_0213

3. Create a menu with foods that can be eaten at room temperature: I am a fan of cheese platters and since the items tend to be eaten rather quickly they don’t need to be kept warm or cold. Chips and salsa are easy and lately my guests have loved pita chips with hummus. Having to keep foods cold or warm means more work for the host.

DSC_0218

4. Be selective with processed and pre-prepared items: Avoid pre packaged or pre-prepared foods as much as possible. If you have to use pre-prepared items, doctor them up where you can. I used a pre-bottled blue cheese dressing but to give it a bolder taste I crumbled fresh blue cheese and added it on top.

5. Use disposable plates and cutlery (when appropriate): I love having clear glass plates available for my guests to eat off… but I opt for sturdy and simple disposable plates when I’m on a time crunch. Disposable plates are being produced at a higher quality and the best part is that you don’t have to stay up as late clearing and washing dishes.

6. Invest in quality serving trays and platters: One tip I came across when registering for wedding gifts was, “Invest in white”. Plain white dinnerware, platters, and serving trays are timeless. Foods look better on white and you don’t have to worry about the color of your food clashing with the color of your plate. Food also looks better in sturdy and quality dishes. Take the extra few minutes to place the chips in a bowl, the lemonade in a carafe, and the turkey on a platter. Macy’s The Cellar line has a variety of items available in all price points. Most of my serving dishes are from The Cellar line. Crate and Barrel has slate boards which are pretty to use as a cheese trays. Use soapstone chalk to label your items.

DSC_0215

7. Buy Ice: I believe the best way to keep canned beverages cool is by placing them in a beverage bucket filled with ice. If you forget to buy ice, you won’t have any ice available for your guests to use in their cups. Spend the extra $2.00 and buy a bag of ice.