Recipe Friday: Meatballs and Broth Gravy

We needed a bit of comfort food the other day, so I came up with this. I adapted from a recipe that called for canned cream of mushroom soup, and breadcrumbs. With my husband coming down with a sore throat, I wanted something that didn’t contain any junk, only ingredients that would be healthful. (I also plied him with echinacea and elderberry syrup.)

We like to have this over mashed potatoes, but noodles or something else would serve as well.

Bone broth is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Make lots of it, and use it for soup bases, gravies, anything you can think of.

For more immune-boosting, I added extra cayenne, cumin, and onion (we like onion).

All the ingredients in this recipe are real food. Eat real food, folks, and give up the convenience in preference to health.

Yield: 2-quart casserole
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 25 min + 45 min to 1 hour

Ingredients:

For the Meatballs:

1 pound                     ground beef, venison, or other meat

1                                  small onion, diced

1/2 cup                       quick (not instant) oatmeal

1                                  egg

                                    sprinklings to taste of spices: paprika, basil, celery seed, cayenne,

                                             cumin

                                    salt to taste

1 tablespoon             Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon             tamari sauce

1/2 teaspoon             liquid smoke

1/4 cup                       barbecue sauce

For the Gravy:

2 cups                        bone broth

2 tablespoons           cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water

     Serving suggestion:

     hot mashed potatoes

Directions:

Preheat oven to broil at 400°
Mix all meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
Shape into 1-inch meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet. This recipe makes 20 – 24 meatballs, depending on size.
Place baking sheet on lower rack of oven and broil for 15 minutes.
Move meatballs to upper oven rack and broil for 5 – 10 more minutes.

In a saucepan, heat the bone broth to simmering.
Turn off broiler; turn on oven to 350°.
Remove meatballs from baking sheet to a 2-quart casserole dish.

Pour a bit of the hot broth onto the baking sheet, and scrape up the drippings.
Stir the cornstarch slurry into the saucepan with the hot broth, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the drippings from the baking sheet into the saucepan, and stir.
Pour the gravy over the meatballs.
Cover the dish and bake at 350° 45 minutes – 1 hr.
Serve over hot mashed potatoes.

Recipe Friday: Kathy’s Favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I fiddled with a cookie recipe I found, and came up with one I really like. I mean, like a lot. I can call it “healthy” because it doesn’t have wheat in it, or processed sugar. (Of course, you can substitute regular flour and brown sugar if you like.) And it’s got OATS! What’s healthier than oatmeal? (Be sure to get your oats from an organic, reliable source.)

This is a smaller recipe, making only 20 or so cookies (depending on how big or small you like them), but it can be doubled or tripled according to need.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup             butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup                coconut palm sugar

1                        large egg

1/2 teaspoon   vanilla

1/2 teaspoon   baking soda

1/2 teaspoon   baking powder

1/2 teaspoon   salt

1 cup                barley flour

1 cup                (heaping) quick oats

1 cup                (heaping) chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (butterscotch chips are delicious, too)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy and well-combined, 1-2 minutes.

Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and mix well. Add flour, oatmeal and chocolate chips. This can get a bit messy, so maybe cover your bowl as you mix because the flour poofs up everywhere. The batter will be stiff. Mix until no dry streaks remain (don’t go crazy; just mix until evenly combined).

Scoop the cookies into balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and place a couple inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.

Recipe Friday: Mongolian Beef Slow Cooker

recipecritic.com

I grabbed a photo from the Internet for this one, since mine, while tasty, did not shoot well. (Maybe it was the lighting, but it looked dirty brown and unappetizing.)

My husband’s favorite dish, when we visit a Chinese restaurant, is Mongolian Beef. I had never made it at home, but I found an Internet recipe, and, with a few changes, whipped it up. So easy! We used round steak, normally tough, but this was very tender.

Traditional Mongolian Beef calls for soy sauce. I recommend against “soy sauce.” Read your labels, and you’ll see that most soy sauces on the grocery shelves are mostly wheat. Tamari is soy sauce, actually made from soy. I buy the low-sodium style.

For the healthy sweetener, I use palm coconut sugar, but you can try others such as honey, date syrup, molasses, or even brown rice syrup. If you don’t have those, use brown sugar.

And, okay, I probably used a tablespoon or so of the garlic, since we like garlic at our house.

Bamboo shoots would go well in this, as well as the soft pea pods and other common Chinese-style veggies. Like the broccoli, add them at the end so they don’t get mushy.

Mongolian Beef in the Slow Cooker

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 3 – 5 hours

Serves: 3 – 5, depending on serving size and how much rice you’re serving with it

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds (or so) of beef (I used round steak)

1/4 cup                cornstarch

2 tablespoons     olive oil

1 medium            onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon      garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup                tamari sauce, low-sodium

3/4 cup                brewed coffee

1/2 cup                healthy sweetener

1 cup                    carrots, grated

4 cups                  fresh or frozen broccoli florets (if frozen, be sure it is completely thawed)

                              green onions for garnish

                              hot brown rice to go with

Directions:

Cut beef into thin strips. In a zip-close bag add beef pieces and cornstarch. Shake to coat.
Add olive oil, onion, minced garlic, tamari, coffee, sweetener and carrots to slow cooker. Stir ingredients. Add coated beef and stir again until coated in the sauce.
Cook on high 1 hour, then on low for 4- 5 hours (or cook on high for 3 hours) until cooked throughout and tender.
In the last hour or half hour of cooking, stir in the broccoli.

Can serve over rice and garnish with green onions.

Recipe Friday: Fambly

My dad likes to make up words. His pet word for our family is, “fambly.” We’ve all pretty much adopted it.

We had a family reunion last month. We do this every two years, for a full week, and we siblings take turns arranging the venue. We each pick a night to cook, so it’s only the one day that we need to be responsible for the meal.

My brother-in-law started this for us in 1997, and we’ve continued it. Nowadays, my generation is retired, or close-to retired. But our children are career-age and can’t always make it. My parents aren’t able to attend any more, but it pleases them to no end that we still hold it. This year’s reunion missed several of us, but those of us there really enjoyed each other.

God instituted family, and for good reason. We are to take family seriously, and work hard to make those bonds as close and good as we can. No, it’s not all in our hands to do so, but we are accountable to God, as far as it is possible, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12.18).

Sometimes we can’t change our family dynamics. For instance, I get to have a sisters weekend every other year. We went to a nice restaurant for dinner one night, and got into conversation with the waitress. She couldn’t believe we wanted to spend time with our sisters. “If I did that with my sisters,” she said, “we’d end up killing each other.” But she thought it was so sweet that we liked spending time together.

I love my fambly. Fiercely. Each and every one. How did that happen? My parents worked at it. They taught us to work at it. We work at it. It’s worth it to work at it.

Family connections go both ways: up generations and down. If you are a parent, make specific plans to strengthen those family ties. Establish traditions (yes, they can be crazy; we have some crazy little traditions in our fambly). Keep important routines. Bake that cake or that favorite meal. Cherish your moments.

So, call your brother. Send a note to you mom. Text your sister. Send a heart emoticon to your son. Keep the connections going with love, as far as it is possible with you. God loves family. He blesses attempts to grow the bonds of love.

Recipe Friday: Vacuum Beater Brush Tip (Also a Small Takeoff on Scissors)

It’s likely that many of you have already hit upon this easy solution, but here it is for those who, like me, were unaware:

I have this long hair. And I have a vacuum with a beater brush. So you can see where this is going: I have an issue. It doesn’t happen every single time, but often the beater brush gets wound up with hair.

I’ve attacked the problem with scissors*, but that mostly leaves me frustrated. Inspiration hit (thank You, Lord), and I thought upon my seam ripper.

Problem solved. 😊

I’m thinking a very sharp pair of manicure (or “cuticle”) scissors* might also work well.

image from amazon.com

*An aside: Words are funny.

“Scissors” is in a very small group of words that are the same word, whether singular or plural. “Glasses” and “pants” are the only other ones I can think of, off hand.

“The scissors are on the counter.” [Here, you can’t even tell if it’s singular OR plural. These kinds of words are always used with a plural verb. However, “a pair of” can be used to denote a singular (with a singular verb, such as The pair of scissors is on the counter).]

“Hand me a scissors.”

“She has a collection of several antique scissors.”

I looked up the etymology, and discussions referred to Latin and French origins. It is thought that it started out as a plural since there are two blades that slide against one another. I suppose that’s the logic behind pants (two legs) and glasses (two pieces of glass), as well. Merriam-Webster refers to such words as plurale tantum. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-of-scissors )

Can you think of other odd words we use?

Recipe Friday: Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Pasta

Serves: 5

Cook Time: 30 minutes from start to serve

We’re still working on those big bags of shrimp that my husband got. They are really yummy!
We decided, with the hot weather, we didn’t want a dinner as heavy as the Shrimp Alfredo, but we like the combination of the shrimp, asparagus, and pasta. So I looked around again, and mixed what I liked from what I saw.

Again, I used an eclectic mix of pasta: some spinach, some gluten-free (rice), and some semolina (regular kind). They were all spaghetti noodles. You could go fancy and use linguini pasta.

Steamed broccoli florets would be a nice swap for the roasted asparagus.

This recipe makes four servings, give or take, depending on everyone’s appetite. A side salad and some garlic bread would go great with it. Offer some grated Parmesan cheese to top it off.

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus, washed clean, dry ends cut off, cut into bite-size pieces

6 ounces dry spaghetti or linguine noodles (3 or 4 servings)

1 pound shrimp, pre-cooked or raw, but peeled and deveined (if frozen, thaw and drain well)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon fresh or dried lemon zest (if dried, soak overnight in a bit of water, or use the white wine)

5 – 10 drops lemon essential oil

1/4 cup dry white wine, optional

Directions:

Oil a baking pan, and spread the asparagus in it. Drizzle with more oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a hot oven (375°), stirring once, 15 – 20 minutes or until lightly roasted.
Boil pasta according to package directions.


In a medium-size frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Drain the shrimp, and sauté in the butter. When shrimp are 1 minute away from being done, stir in 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook and stir one minute, then add the lemon zest, lemon essential oil, and wine. Remove from heat.
Drain the pasta, return to low heat. Pour in the cooked shrimp mixture. Stir.
Add the roasted asparagus; stir.
Serve immediately.

Recipe Friday: Peace and Joy Essential Oil Diffuser Blend

Pretty much every day, and certainly every evening, I put essential oils in my diffuser. My daytime diffuser sits in our kitchen, which is an open space to the dining area. I spend a lot of time around there, so I like to enhance my moods and physical health with the benefits of essential oils

The essential oils, and their benefits, in my daytime favorite, which I name Peace and Joy are as follows. Benefits and other information are listed for use in diffusing (inhaling), topical application, and ingestion.

  • Lemon: cleaning, lymph drainage, cleanses the body, antibacterial, antitumoral, antiseptic, improves microcirculation, immune stimulant (increases white blood cells), improves memory; use for circulatory problems, arteriosclerosis, obesity, parasites, urinary tract infections, varicose veins, anxiety, hypertension, digestive problems; acne; use with local honey to treat/sooth a sore throat; drink in water to promote weight loss; detox for gallbladder and lymphatic system (drink in water)
    • Other info:
      • topical, inhale, diffuse, ingest
      • citrus family
      • Caution: avoid applying to skin that will be exposed to sunlight within 24 hours
      • Made from the peel
  • Sweet orange: eases stress and anxiety (when used as aromatherapy); Improves digestion and helps to relieve constipation; Nourishes dry, irritated and acne-prone skin when mixed with a carrier oil and applied as a cream; Promotes a feeling of happiness and warmth when used in aromatherapy; Helps to eliminate toxins from the body; Helps in stimulating lymphatic action to promote balance in water processes and detoxification of the body; antimicrobial properties; may prevent the proliferation of E. coli bacteria; Natural remedy for high blood pressure; anti-inflammatory; Reduces anxiety and boosts mood; Natural anti-depressant; mild tranquilizer
    • Comes from Citrus sinensis, the oranges you are used to eating. It is derived from the fruit, especially the rind.
  • Grapefruit: supports metabolism, cellulite reduction, antitumoral, metabolic stimulant, antiseptic, detoxifying, diuretic, fat-dissolving, cleansing for kidneys, lymphatic and vascular system, antidepressant. Rich in limonene, which has been studied for its ability to combat tumor growth. Used for Alzheimer’s, fluid retention, depression, obesity, liver disorders, anxiety
    • Other info:
      • Mix with coconut oil and rub on areas of cellulite, or take a few drops internally with water
      • topical, inhale, diffuse, ingest
      • citrus family
      • Caution: avoid applying to skin that will be exposed to sunlight w/in 24 hours
  • Frankincense: reduces inflammation, destroys cancer, spiritual awareness; boosts immune system, treats autoimmune disorders, fights infections, improves anxiety ,heals skin (acne, scars), balances hormone levels, regulates estrogen production, eases digestion (helps produce bowel movements), beneficial in reducing symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, sleep aid, antiviral; contains sesquiterpenes which stimulate the limbic system of the brain (the center of memory and emotions) and the hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary glands. (The hypothalamus is the master gland of the body, producing many vital hormones including thyroid and growth hormone.)
    • Other info:
      • Breathe it for immune, colon, lungs
      • Apply to neck and feet to boost immune system
      • sometimes referred to as olibanum
      • topically, inhale, diffuse, or ingest
      • This is a potent oil: if you ingest, dilute it first, and do not ingest large quantities.
      • Mix 6 drops to one ounce of carrier oil and apply to the skin to fight
      • sagging, wrinkling (helps tighten skin)
      • Helps speed digestion, like digestive enzymes (modulates the gut)
      • Add a few drops to a cloth and inhale for respiratory assistance (good for asthma or allergies); or an oil diffuser.
      • Inhaling also helps relieve muscle aches, stress, and negative emotions.
  • Rosemary: thickens hair, improves brain function and memory; good for Alzheimer’s, soothes aches and pains, balances androgen and estrogen, liver detox and gall bladder function (benefits bile flow, reduces plasma liver enzymes), lowers cortisol (lowers stress), protects the liver, anti-tumoral, antifungal, antibacterial, antiparasitic, enhances mental clarity & concentration, relieves throat & lung infections
    • Other info:
      • an evergreen oil
      • from labiatae family
      • part of the “four thieves” formula
      • add a drop to shampoo for healthy hair
      • dilute to apply topically, directly inhale, diffuse, ingest
      • Cautions: do not use on children under 4 years of age; avoid using on persons with high blood pressure
  • Peppermint: digestion, aids in absorption, cools heat in the digestive lining; focus, energy booster, fever reducer, relieves headaches and body/muscle aches. Anti-inflammatory, antitumoral, antiparasitic (worms), antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, gallbladder/digestive stimulant, pain-relieving, curbs appetite, helps with irritable bowel system; improves focus, improves breathing (bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies); relieves headaches (2 drops peppermint + 2 drops lavender, rub on forehead)
    • Other info:
      • Can rub right on the stomach to relieve symptoms; also rub on bug bites for a few days to relieve itch
      • topical, inhale, diffuse, ingest
      • inhale 5-10 x/day to curb appetite
      • do not apply to infants younger than 18 mo
  • Eucalyptus: good for respiratory issues like bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies; insect repellent (helps block malaria), expectorant, mucolytic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-aging; respiratory/sinus infections, decongestant, rheumatism/arthritis
    • Other info:
      • can use the leaves to cover wounds, to disinfect
      • a spray of 2% eucalyptus oil will kill 70% of airborne staph bacteria
      • topical, inhale, diffuse, ingest
      • myrtle family

Just think of all the health benefits we get from essential oils!

To make Peace and Joy Blend:

Ingredients:

  • 3 drops lemon essential oil
  • 4 drops sweet orange essential oil
  • 5 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 3 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 3 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 2 drops peppermint essential oil OR eucalyptus essential oil

Directions:

Fill diffuser to manufacturer’s instructions with tap water (mine holds 2 oz, or ¼ cup).

Drop essential oils into the water. (Amounts are really up to you.)

Replace diffuser lid.

Turn diffuser on.

Recipe Friday: Leftover Turkey or Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 5

Yield: 1.5 qt baking dish
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min

I pulled our leftover Christmas turkey from the freezer this week. It was more than enough for one meal. I served it with mashed potatoes and gravy (chicken bone broth, thickened with some cornstarch), and we had more leftovers. I didn’t want anything (again) that smacked of Christmas or Thanksgiving, so I browsed the Internet for ideas, and came up with this alteration.
I made this with leftover turkey, but any kind of cooked meat would do: chicken, canned chicken, beef, venison, buffalo, pork, etc.
The measurements for all the ingredients are just suggestions; but this amount fit easily into a 1.5-quart baking dish.
If you want to stretch this, you can add corn, peas, and/or green beans to the top of the pie before you put on the mashed potatoes.
As for the mashed potatoes: we like potatoes in this house, so 3 cups was just right. If you like potatoes even more than we do, pile ’em on!
I used a sour cream and chives mixture to add to the mashed potatoes. Any kind of cheese would be a nice substitute (I’m thinking cream cheese…yum).
As we ate it, I thought that perhaps mushrooms would be a good addition in the sauté. Also, I have another Shepherd’s Pie recipe for beef, and it includes a dash of ground clove. I had my doubts about that, but after tasting it, I now add a bit of clove to many of my beef dishes.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons     butter

1                            medium onion, peeled and chopped

3                            stalks celery, with leaves, chopped

2                            medium carrots, sliced

1 teaspoon          minced garlic

2 1/2 cups           leftover meat, such as turkey, chicken, or pork; cut to bite-size pieces

                              salt, to taste

                              black pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon       dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon       dried basil

2 cups                  gravy, more or less to appearance, texture, and taste

3 cups                  mashed potatoes, more or less to taste

1/4 cup                 sour cream

                              corn, green beans, peas; optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, celery and carrots, cooking until onions are translucent.


Gently heat mashed potatoes until stir-able, and stir in the sour cream.
Add turkey, seasonings, and garlic, cook 2 minutes.
Add gravy, cooking until heated through. Transfer to a 1.5-quart baking dish.


Spread mashed potatoes over the top of the meat mixture
If your meat mixture is pretty runny, leave the dish uncovered as it bakes. If it’s dry, cover it.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Recipe Friday: Beef Stew in the Instant Pot

This recipe takes a bit longer than the dump-set-and-forget-it types, as it takes some babysitting. I cook the meat, then add the potatoes and carrots and cook again. Total time is about 2 1/2 hours. A quicker way to cook it is to add all the ingredients and then bring to pressure for 18 minutes. I did that the first time, from a recipe I found; but the potatoes and carrots were too soft and mushy for me.
Any kind of red meat would go nicely in this stew.
A nice alternative to the cornstarch slurry is to add instant mashed potato flakes, a little at a time, until the desired thickness.

This is good with a crunchy, chewy bread, or biscuits.

Servings: 4 – 6
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 2.5 hours, includes coming to pressure and natural pressure release

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef stew meat (or venison or whatever kind)

2 medium-large onions, diced

2 generous stalks celery, diced, include leaves

a few shakes each of spices: paprika, celery seed, basil, cayenne, minced garlic, parsley

1 cup strong, hot coffee; mix 1 tablespoon salt into it to dissolve

1 cup water

4 or 5 medium potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

7 medium-large carrots, cut into bite-size pieces

4 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a small amount of water or broth to make a slurry

Directions: Use Sauté mode to brown meat and onion. When mostly cooked, stir in celery. Cook maybe 10 minutes more, then add spices and stir well. Cook another 5 minutes.
Add a small amount of the coffee/salt, and scrape to stir up the fond.
Pour the rest of the coffee, and the extra cup of water, into the pot. Stir.
Put on the lid, set to Seal. Set Meat/Stew mode to 10 minutes.
Since it was hot from the sautéing, the pot took about 10 minutes to come to pressure.
Natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then release pressure.
Press Cancel.
Remove lid carefully.
Add the potatoes and carrots, stir.
Replace the lid and seal.
Set Meat/Stew mode to 8 minutes.
When the 10 minutes is finished, allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release, then release pressure and remove the lid.
Press Cancel, then press Sauté.
Stir in cornstarch slurry and stir thoroughly. Allow to simmer and thicken.
Serve.

Recipe Friday: Funfetti Chocolate Bars

Just so we understand one another, this recipe has no nutritional value and is, in fact, pretty much a negative nutritional value. It has a lot of sugar, and sugar snags your immune system for up to six hours, while it processes the garbage out of your body.

That said, they are delicious, quick, and easy. These are good for church potlucks.

We had these at an assisted living lunch, and they were so good I looked up a few recipes online, and patched this one together.

For variety, you can substitute for the milk chocolate bars:

  • Chocolate almond bars
  • Krispy chocolate bars
  • Rolo caramel pieces
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Heath candy bars, or sprinkle Heath bits
  • Hershey kisses
  • Chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Any combination of these

These could be frosted, but it would really be overkill, I think.

Yield: 1 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

1 boxed Funfetti cake mix

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted

3 eggs

6 Hershey milk chocolate candy bars, full \ regular size, unwrapped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together the dry cake mix, melted butter, and eggs.
Press half the dough into a greased 9×13 baking pan.
Arrange the 6 unwrapped, whole candy bars atop the dough (If needed, break the bars so they fit the pan).
Working carefully, smooth out remaining dough on top of the candy bars.
NOTE: wet hands work well for spreading and smoothing dough.
Bake at 350° 13 – 16 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool. Cut into bars.