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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2010-03-07

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce

When you're a pasta addict like me, you're always looking for new ways to coat it and dress it up.

Okay, I would take just olive oil.  I'm cool with that.

But not everyone else is.

So when I'm having a serious pasta craving, I'll get crafty and say, "Hmmm...maybe I'll make a big pot of sauce and meatballs this weekend".  And what goes with the sauce and meatballs? Pasta!


Last weekend, though, I had an actual excuse.  Family was coming over for dinner and pasta is the great equalizer.  Plus it can be made in bulk.

So I made a great big pot o' love.  Let's explore the process, shall we?

My first task was to make the meatballs.

Mmm, parsley.  The store didn't have any flat-leaf parsley but really, curly parsley is okay.  I grabbed a huge handful and chopped it up fine in the food processor.  This was for both the meatballs and the sauce.

Instead of using canned breadcrumbs, I sliced Italian bread which was on its last leg and dried it in the oven.  I also used several slices of white which, again, was about ready to kick the bucket.

The bread went into the oven for 20 minutes @ 300 degrees until it was golden and crisp.  Then I used my oh-so-trusty food processor to make them crumbly.  I love that food processor so much.

 That's a lot of meat, huh? Yeah, around 5lbs.  Why? Because I'm all about leftovers, baby.  And we definitely had leftovers.

I poured in my breadcrumbs.  Around 1 1/2 cups.

On top of that went 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese.  Yum.

And 1/2 cup of parsley.

What you see there is a teaspoon of onion powder.  I wound up putting almost three of these in the mix so really it was more like a tablespoon by the time I was finished.

And there's a tablespoon of garlic powder.  See? I got smart.

Then three eggs went in, along with a generous dose of salt and pepper.  I think that salt and pepper are a personal choice, "to taste" and whatnot.  I'm not a huge pepper fan so I probably under-pepper everything.

Then I rolled up my sleeves and got my hands dirty.  What can I say - I'm dedicated.

Once mixed, I took out my trusty, scratched ice cream scoop and used it to make fairly uniform meatballs.

Here's what I was left with.

Into the 350 degree oven they went for 30 minutes, and when they came out they

Kinda gross.  I took them out with a slotted spoon and drained them on paper towels before putting them in my sauce to finish cooking.

Speaking of saaaaauce....

I started with two small onions and 5 cloves of garlic.

The onions went into guessed processor.  Why? Because I cannot seem to deal with onions without crying my eyes out all day. 

But honestly, when it does this for you...


...why not?

Then mince up your garlic.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large (laaaarge) pot.  Remember, you are not only going to be cooking sauce, you'll be cooking the meatballs as well.  So just keep that in mind when you choose a pot.  Otherwise you'll have to switch pots once you've run out of room...

Not that I, uh, did that myself.  Or anything.

Moving on.

Cook you onions in that olive oil until they turn translucent.  Don't brown them! Add your garlic and cook that for about a minute - it's a-gonna smell-a pretty good...a.

Then quickly add 12 oz of tomato paste and stir it all around to let the paste brown a bit.

Then it's time for the tomatoes.  I added 5, count 'em, 5 large cans of diced tomatoes.  That's right.  5.

Time for spices! Dump in the rest of your parsley that wasn't used in the meatballs.

I ask you: How beautiful is that?

Now it's time for basil.

Here is basil.

Stack the leaves.

Roll them up into a cigar type thingy, starting from the stem end.  Or the other end.  Go crazy.

And slice it thinly.

I just love food.  Food is pretty.  Am I alone in this?

Whew.  Okay.  Get it together, Jen.

Once you're done staring at your pretty basil, put that in your sauce and stir it around.

To this I added lots of salt and pepper, dried thyme and oregano.  That's all "to taste".  You might like some wine in your sauce.  Add it! You prefer more garlic or onion? Toss that in there, too!

One other thing I did add as the sauce cooked down over the course of several hours was a healthy, healthy pinch of sugar.  I've been told that brown sugar does a better job of cutting the acidity than white.  However, white was what I had on hand so that's what I used.  Use what you have, folks!

The message: If you have your basics down, everything else is just waiting for you to put your own touch on it.

Once the basic sauce was finished being put together, I ladled out a small pot of sauce for the vegetarian guest, then added the meatballs to the large pot.

Then switched out for a larger pot. 

Then cooked it all up on low heat for around 6 hours.  And let me tell you...the meatballs were like heaven.  I love cooking them for hours in the sauce, it gives them the best flavor and does wonderful things for the sauce.  Plus a couple of the meatballs broke down as I kept stirring the sauce to prevent stickage, and it made the sauce that much thicker and more wonderful.

Fact: I never cooked a meatball in sauce until I met my husband.  I also never added parmesan cheese to them.  True story.  He says my meatballs have gotten better over time but they still aren't as good as his.  Well I like to think that he taught me how to improve on them.

Sometimes it really does take an Italian.  Go figure.  Just don't tell him I told you.  Oh wait...he reads this.


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Friday, March 12, 2010

Wet Weekend?

Looks like we're in for a wet weekend here in good ol' South Jersey.  And the entire surrounding area.  But that's okay, because there are a ton of things that can and should be done this weekend...

...for instance, our bedroom is still not unpacked.  There are boxes everywhere.  My greatest hope is that by Sunday night, I can walk freely through the room without turning sideways and perhaps have a place to put the rest of my clothes.  A girl can dream, can't she?

...I still need to post about the dinner I made last weekend.  I posted about the tremendous, awe-inspiring cake here but have yet to finish my entry about the meal itself.  And seriously, if you're in the mood to just throw all caloric caution to the wind, make that cake.  I'm serious.  It is so worth it.  You will tearfully thank me even as your waistband tightens.

...I would like to make an Easter craft.  I don't really know how well RD will take to having an Easter wreath or something of that nature, but I guess there's only one way to find out, right?

...laundry.  'Nuff said.

...I'm hoping to perhaps buy a spring jacket at some point.  I don't have one and can't wear the same sweater every day.  It just doesn't look right.  Tonight we're going on another Date Night and hope to get a bit of shopping done afterwards.  I'll have to keep my eyes open.

...I am totally making banana bread with the plethora of overripe bananas in my kitchen.  Mmm...I can taste it now...

...relaxing.  We'll see how that goes!

Oh, I would like to state for the record that last week's Date Night did not go as planned.  That awesome Italian restaurant I found? I should have called for a reservation.  Had I tried to do so I would have discovered that they are no longer in existence.  Which we found out as we drove up to a darkened building.  Don't you hate it when your tastebuds are all set for something and you end up disappointing them?

What do you Company Girls have in store this weekend? Whatever it is and whatever the weather, I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Day In The Life

Kelly over @ The Startup Wife posted a "day in the life" timeline yesterday and inspired me to write down the events of my day in order to share them with her and all of you.  Of course, I forgot to post it yesterday.  C'est la vie.

Anyway, here's a typical day in my life, starting in the AM of course.  I'm avoided as much of the mundane, boring stuff as possible. 

Oh, and you can just assume that I'm actually working in the empty spots that occur between 9 and 5.

4:30 I'm sort of awake but determined to not get out of bed. I doze.

5:00 Awake again. Doze again.

5:15 Okay, time to get out of bed.

5:25 Get on treadmill - feeling very self-righteous. Start walking @ 3.5 speed.

5:35 Accidentally unhook the safety cable while reaching for bottle of water - shuts the treadmill down. I think I broke it. Turn it off. Turn it on. Nothing. Try again. Still nothing. Panic sets in.

5:40 Figure out problem. By now am fed up and decide to get dinner prepared.

5:45 Remember to run dishwasher, which I forgot to do last night.

6:10 Pot roast is in crock pot and potatoes are mashed. I decide that I can hardly wait to get home to eat those potatoes. They're killer.

6:15 Sneak into bathroom. Close RD's adjoining door. Get in shower.

6:25 Out of shower. Towel and robe. Open RD's adjoining door.

6:30 Remember clothes left in dryer. Take them out in order to put pair of pants in to de-wrinkle. Leave clothes on top of dryer and promise self to fold them tonight. Get dressed for work.

6:50 TURN ON CROCK POT! Woo hoo, I remembered this time! Also clean up potato and carrot peels in sink and get lunch together. I'm all about remembering to do things today!

7:00 Catherine shows up to relieve us while Rob drives me to train.

7:32 I get on first train.

7:55 Off of first train, mad dash through mall to get to second train. Witness a young man knock an older woman to the ground, causing her to hit her head on a pillar. He sneaks off but is followed by a gentleman who he clipped right before knocking into woman. I get her a bottle of water and wish her luck while the security guard talks to her and she waits for an ambulance. I also manage to get coffee for myself.

8:10 Second train arrives. Text Rob about what I saw in the mall.

8:35 Off of second train, walk to work.

8:45 Sit down at desk.

9:15 Start typing this, then time to actually start working.

9:20 Okay...gonna get started...really...

10:00 Time for a meeting that I'm fairly sure has nothing to do with me.

11:00 Yep. Nothing to do with me.  Work.

11:55 Watching clips from "Modern Family" to make me laugh and be able to get on with my day. I love that show.

12:30 Field frustrated texts from Rob regarding the "getting Dad out of bed in order to see the doctor" situation. Then the "getting Dad out the door because he keeps stalling" situation.

12:30-12:35 Quickly and quietly eat lunch at desk.  Today is leftover spaghetti and meatballs.  Yummy!

1:08 - 2:00 Lunch break, where I go to Bed Bath and Beyond to purchase placemats and a dustpan and brush for the kitchen. I wanted to get a small wastebasket for the bedroom but they were all either cheap and ugly or expensive and still ugly. Or very ornate, which really isn't necessary. Oh, and I stopped at Starbucks and got coffee to get through the afternoon. Actually felt rather warm walking back, which is a very good thing. Warmer temperatures, baby!

2:03 Okay, back to work.

4:15 Call my brother Jason since I know he had a job interview today.

4:40 Realize I need to leave in 5 minutes so I get off the phone with Jason (I have been working this whole time, though - for real!).

4:45 Dash outside.

5:00 First train.

5:25 Off of first train, rush to second train.

5:35 On second train - in the front seat! Super cool! (It's the little things) This train used to scare me because it crosses the Ben Franklin Bridge and when you're looking out the window over the water you can't see the railing because it's below the window. That bothers me. Plus the train bounces a little and sways from side to side. Freaky. But riding in front makes me feel safer somehow.

6:00 Off of train.  Get in car.  Kiss Rob.

6:30 We're home! Time to finish preparing dinner even as I'm reminded by RD that he already HAD dinner. Which of course he didn't. I ask if he could manage to eat a little bit anyway.  He agrees.

7:00 Eat dinner, joyfully (that pot roast was one of the top 5 best things I've ever cooked in my entire life, no exaggeration).

7:45 Rob chats with RD in living room while I putter around kitchen. Placemats are too big for table. Drat. At least they were only $1.99 apiece.  Kitchen is clean. Time to get changed out of yucky, constrictive work clothes. I go upstairs to find a present on my pillow! A bottle of perfume and a sweet, sweet card from Rob. SQUEAL!

8:00 Go downstairs, fold laundry (see, I told you I would!). I ask Rob if he would mind taking it upstairs. He says he would. I say I don't care. We laugh. Menacingly.

8:15 RD decides it's time for bed.

8:30 Chocolate cake. Thank you, Lord. I have to say, I'll be happy when this is gone because it's far too tempting. We watch "The Middle".

9:00 "Modern Family" time!

9:30 Start shutting things down for bedtime. Soon I crawl under covers and Rob joins me shortly thereafter.

10:00 (if not sooner)  Zzzzzzzz.....


H is for Happiness

I'm having a really hard time trying to think of an H post for Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday. I know I want to talk about happiness but...happiness is such an elusive subject. Every time I think I've pinned down my ideas, they scatter.

Of course I'm having a difficult time in general with focusing myself today. It's not helping.

I find that happiness is most often something we discover when looking back on things. "I was happy then" is something I'm sure we've all said to ourselves at one time or another.

Rarely do I stop in the middle of a moment and say to myself "I am happy right now".

I try to find those moments, I truly do. And from time to time I am fortunate enough to be able to say those very words.

But like so many good things in life, you can't hold onto happiness. It's not something you can put in a box or a cage. When you try to close your fist around it and hold it tight in order to observe or dissect it, you find yourself empty-handed.

So it's best to let it flow.

To create a welcome environment for it, so that it may come in and stay a while.

To surround yourself with things that bring you pleasure, whatever they may be. No matter how simple they are.

To engage in work you like to do, even if it's not the work that provides your daily bread. Writing isn't what I make money from, nor is cooking. But they are two things that bring me peace and contentment.

Loving provides that as well. I'm not getting paid to love. But love is where I find the most happiness.  And I'm lucky to have so much of it in my life.

I think that knowing and appreciating love creates happiness as well.  Gratitude reminds you of all you have to be happy about, and that just creates - you guessed it! - more happiness.  Because once you get the ball rolling you start seeing miracles in the most random places.  In the most ordinary things.  And if you have that sense of gratitude in you, it becomes second nature to rejoice in life.

What makes YOU happy?

**EDIT!** Just a moment ago, I was covering the front desk, which I HATE doing.  But the Good Lord sent a message my way.  A guy called, looking for our former human resources manager.  I explained that she was no longer with the company.  He told me that he had just found her wallet at the mall and when he got back to work he looked her up online.  As luck would have it she still has this company listed as her place of employment on LinkedIn.  He gave me his number and I contacted her to give her the message.  She was just about to start cancelling her credit cards and was totally shocked that someone went through the trouble of finding her.  See, there are good people in the world.  And I'm happy to have been reminded of that!

Jenny Matlock


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Cake with Truffle Frosting

Oh, this cake.  This cake this cake this cake.

I have a deep, personal relationship with this cake.  Truly. 

This is my signature cake.  The one I make when I want to impress.  The cake to beat all cakes. 

The one I make when I want to die of chocolate overdose.

I haven't died yet.  But I've come close.  What a lovely way to go.

Wanna know how to make it happen? Let's get it going.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (or whatever it says on the cake mix box).

First you'll need a box of chocolate cake mix.  Put it in a bowl.

Then you'll dump a large (5.9 oz) package of chocolate instant pudding mix on top.  Mix that together.  Or not.  It'll be okay either way.

On top of that add a cup of sour cream.

Then four beaten eggs.  I have a picture of this but for some reason, Blogger keeps turning it on its side.

Well, you know what four beaten eggs look like.

Add a cup of vegetable oil.

And a half cup of warm water.

Mix that all up together.  And be prepared.

It is THICK!

The first time I made this I literally could not believe how thick this was.  It's more like a thick mousse than a cake batter.

Pour this into your prepared pans.

Well, maybe not "pour".  More like "plop and try to spread evenly".

Good luck with that one.

I used 9 inch pans which were buttered and floured in advance.  For chocolate cake it's better to use cocoa powder instead of flour...but I didn't have any cocoa powder.  Still working on stocking my pantry.

You can follow the instructions on the back of the box of cake mix for baking instructions.  The additional ingredients didn't do anything to change the bake time.  I had the cakes in a 350 degree oven for 33 minutes and they turned out just great!

While the cakes cooled (and they do need to cool totally and completely!), prepare the frosting.

This, friends, is what sends this cake over-the-top in a big way.

I will give you the original measurements here, even though I did 1.5 times the original.  Why? Because I tend to go overboard.  There is no such thing as too much of a good thing in my world.  Hence my figure.

And once again...this frosting is beyond ridiculous.

Heat 2 cups of heavy cream until it is very warm and just about to simmer.

Stir in a quarter cup of light corn syrup.

And then add 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  You can use chips or chopped baking squares or a mixture of the two - it matters not.


Here's what this will look like when you first add the chocolate to the cream.

Turn the heat down to low and then whisk...

And whisk...

And whisk some more.

In fact, never stop whisking or stirring or whatever it is you're doing.  Just never stop until it is all smooth and there are no lumps of chocolate left.

Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.  Here is what your mixture will look like when you're finished.

Oh lordy.  Oh lordy, lordy.  Lordy.

Try to refrain from drinking this.  It'll ruin your appetite for the finished product.

Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover it and place it in the fridge.  This will need to get cold enough to whip up so it'll be in there for a while.  Don't be afraid to get in there and stir it once or twice, but it's not necessary at all.

Eventually...after some time and nail biting and daydreaming...your mixture will be nice and cold.  Time to beat it up!

Finally you'll get to this lumpy, wonderful consistency.

I love you.

Now, don't do what I did at this point.  I had visitors show up just as I finished whipping the frosting so rather than leaving it out to get melty (and it will - remember, this is fancy whipped cream we're talking about here, so it'll get soft if left out), I popped it back into the fridge for a little while.

Don't do that if at all possible.  And if you do, let it sit out for a little while before you attempt to frost the cake with it.  Because if you don't and try to use it right out of the fridge, it'll be darn near impossible.

Above, you'll see the bottom layer of my cake prior to the start of frosting.  Notice the squares of waxed paper underneath.  This really is a great technique to clean up smeary frosting.  Use four squares, overlapping them to make sure you cover the whole plate, but be sure that you can easily yank them out from underneath when you're finished.

And voila! You'll be left with a neat presentation!

Now let's skip ahead to the finished product.  Again, visitors distracting me and leaving me unable to take pictures, frost and converse at the same time.

Plus I couldn't sing love songs to the frosting like I normally do.  Which hurt a little bit.

And here she is.  Isn't she lovely?

Try to get yours in the center of the plate, okay? Don't be like me.

And here she is inside.  Because it's what's on the inside that counts.

I think it's hysterical that I totally lost my sense of proportion and went INSANE on top.  It's, like, as thick as the cake itself! Meanwhile, the sides are so poor and almost naked.

Bakerella I am not.  I'm sure she's breathing a sigh of relief somewhere, knowing that she's safe from me.

Hey! Again: Visitors.  Distractions.  Plus I had meatballs and baking bread to tend to.

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.

But not with this cake.  This moist, rich, decadent cake with the frosting that totally melts in your mouth.  Keep it in your fridge so the frosting stays firm.

It should be a sin.  But happily, it is not.

I'm going to eat some of this now.  Because, well, I just blogged about it and looked a many pictures of it.  Plus it's taking a ton of room in my fridge and I, uh, need to get it out of there.  I'm sure Rob will be heartbroken if he is called upon to help me.



1 boxed chocolate cake mix
1 5.9 oz box of instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
3 beaten eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Pour into two prepared pans - follow directions on box for cook times, depending on size and type of pans.

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 oz semisweet chocolate

Heat cream and corn syrup until barely simmering. Add chocolate and turn heat to low. Whisk constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer to large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin forming on top of mixture. Chill in refrigerator for a least one hour, or as long as it takes for mixture to become fully chilled. Beat mixture once cold until texture becomes thick and lumpy.

Frost cake layers with truffle frosting and enjoy!

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