Breaded Meatballs

DSC_0159 (1600x1060)Mrs J drove into town to do her part at the shelter so I fiddled about in the kitchen.  I knew breaded meatballs were a thing but I’ve never tried any until today.  The meatballs were basic Italian sausage with lots of Parmesan, chopped parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, an egg, a splash of milk and salt and pepper.  I knew the breading would burn if they had to cook for a long time so I made mine fairly small – about an inch or so.  Smaller than golf balls, anyway.  I tried one rolled in just the breadcrumbs and it did OK, but the rest of them were floured, dredged in egg, and then rolled in the breadcrumbs.DSC_0156 (1600x1060)I used olive oil and watched the heat, keeping it medium low, and tried to roll the meatballs to keep any one side from getting too brown.  You pretty much need to stand over the pan the whole time.  This skillet is pretty full because it’s the last batch and my legs were tiring.DSC_0162 (1600x1060)This is the photo the whole effort was leading up to.  I buttered both halves of one of my buns and toasted them before adding the meatballs and spooning on sauce.  After grating Parmesan over it all they went back into the toaster oven for a minute or two.DSC_0164 (1600x1060)

Sammich Pr0n – Fiesta Burger!

DSC_0150 (1600x1060)It’s a Party In Your Mouth™!   I had some leftover pico de gallo and shredded cabbage from a taco dinner last night so I made a quick vinaigrette and used the combo as a burger topping instead of the usual pickle and onion.  Worked pretty well!

Chicken Lo Mein and Garlic Green Beans

DSC_0141 (1600x1060)I like green beans cooked this way:  Parboil the cleaned beans for about 4 or 5 minutes then dump them in an ice bath to quickly stop them cooking.  I drain them and put them aside until right before dinner is due then saute them in oil with garlic and ginger.  I use olive oil with a wee drop of sesame oil for the flavor, and add a dollop of oyster sauce right at the end before plating.  The sesame seeds are a garnish, optional.

For the lo mein dish the chicken marinated in soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and a spoonful of chili garlic paste with some cornstarch.  I make a brown sauce that is pretty much the same as the marinade plus a slug of chicken stock.  To prepare the dish, heat some oil in a wok, add chopped onions and frozen peas, garlic and ginger, and add the chicken with its marinade.  Leave it alone in the hot wok for a minute or two without tossing and it’ll brown nicely.  Add the cooked and drained noodles and stir to combine, add the brown sauce and stir and toss as it thickens.

A Sister’s Worst Nightmare

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Paul and John (Harris), shamelessly stolen from my brother’s facebook page. 

This post is a bit different, but I wanted to share this interview with members of my brother’s Army National Guard Unit.

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Ten years ago my youngest brother was stationed in Kuwait, running convoys to Iraq as a National Guardsman. It was a tough time on a lot of levels. I’m sure tougher for him :-D. But from my perspective, there were a lot of sleepless nights, waiting by the computer when he was out on missions. He would always check in when he got back, via Yahoo messenger, where I could IM or video chat with him.

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Then one day the phone rang. It was my brother. Dread set in, because a phone call meant something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. He didn’t tell me much, just that their convoy had been ambushed, some of his friends had been injured, but he was okay. I have always said it was the worst/best phone call I’ve ever received. Worst because of the sound of his voice, best because the SOUND of his voice. I’m glad they all made it back home.

In all honesty, we’ve never talked much about it. Most of what I know about it I have learned over the years from various news accounts and interviews with the soldiers. On the tenth anniversary, Nebraska Public Radio aired this piece.

To listen to the full story, as told by several members of the convoy, and watch video of the attack,  click here

Ten years ago today a group of Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers was in a life or death battle on a highway in Iraq. Mike Tobias looks back at the Battle of Bismarck, with reflections from the soldiers who fought it.

“One of the most beautiful days I can remember weather wise, the entire deployment I was over there,” is how Jay Schrad remembered the morning of March 20, 2005.

Schrad and 13 other soldiers from the Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1075th Transportation Company were rolling out of a base in Kuwait, taking a 33-vehicle supply convoy into Iraq. They were young, most in their early 20s. Most were from the Columbus area. They’d been doing this for several months at this point, halfway through the deployment. This convoy included pairs of Nebraska soldiers in green semi-trucks, civilians driving white semis and three Humvee gun trucks providing security.

They had been attacked on previous missions with roadside bombs and small arms fire, which was no surprise, because regardless of tactics, mile long convoys attract attention in a war zone. “We made our presence known,” A.J. Bloebaum said. “They knew when we were coming.”

But they’d always sped away from the trouble.

“You’re in a semi with a 40-foot trailer. You’re not equipped to sit there and fight,” said Josh Birkel. “So our SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) honestly was to hit the gas go.”

Normally this worked. But soldiers say that beautiful day, 10 years ago, was different from the moment their trucks pulled out on a four-lane divided highway called Route Bismarck.

“There were things that kind of triggered a sense of, hey, there’s something weird going on today,” recalled Schrad, driving a semi toward the back of the convoy. (the rest is here)

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been ten years. They all got together this weekend and I’m guessing it didn’t feel like 10 years to them, either. Always grateful for their service – TaMara

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Random Wildlife

DSC_5200These two diving ducks showed up on the front pond yesterday, I didn’t know what they were but went online and a nice fellow told me they were both female Common Goldeneye ducks.  Thanks, Mike!DSC_5209 (1600x1060)Mrs J maintains a suet feeder that woodpeckers like a lot.  This one is a Red Bellied Woodpecker.DSC_5211 (1600x1060)These are a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.  The male has the red patch.  Downys are our smallest woodpeckers.P1000260 (1600x1060)Canada Geese are frequent visitors and can really honk up a racket when the dogs show themselves.  I took this one through the window of the truck as we returned from an expedition.DSC_5210 (1600x1060)Spring is turtle roaming season.  Homer is keeping a wary eye on this one as he heads back towards the pond.PICT4485 (1600x1060)I include this one of a deer, taken by an automatic camera that overlooks the spot where Mrs J scatters corn and other seeds, because of the groomed look of her hair.  I’m guessing it results from walking through thick vegetation – maybe that’s why they call it brush.

Pasta Pr0n – Breaded Chicken Cutlets with Spaghetti and Broccoli

DSC_0120 (1600x1060)Pasta and veggie tossed in a lemon garlic butter sauce with Parmesan.  Chicken was floured, then dredged in beaten egg and breaded with my famous garlic breadcrumbs.DSC_0123 (1600x1060)

Friday Recipe Exchange: Spices and Sauces

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I’m heading out for a much needed girls’ day out with LFern. But I didn’t want to leave you without a recipe exchange. I thought it would be fun to focus on one of JeffreyW’s specialties, he likes to make his own spice mixes and hot sauces. Tonight’s recipe exchange was inspired by his great post this week, Chinese Five Spice.

I was a believer in making my own spice mixes when I put together his Fajita Spice (recipe here), which is better than anything pre-made in the store.

He also loves to make hot sauces, recipes and photos here and here.

One of the most requested sauce recipes is a guest recipe from Down Under, Piri Piri (recipe here).

Not technically a spice, but JeffreyW made his own Garlic Breadcrumbs this week, (click here).

What’s on your plate for the weekend? I’ll going to a few open houses and taking Bixby out to enjoy the predicted spring weather. Do you make any of your own spices mixes or sauces? Give us your favorite recipe.

I knew what tonight’s featured recipe would be as soon as I saw JefferyW’s beautiful photographs (top and below).

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Chinese Five Spice from his post:

I was browsing among various recipes for green beans and noticed a call for Chinese five spice in one of them and wondered if I had the ingredients to make my own.  Yes!  –  or at least close enough for my purposes.  I looked over several recipes and they all had the same ingredients with a few variations:  Star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns.  Some used Szechuan peppercorns and others called for the more familiar black peppercorns, one recipe used cassia bark in lieu of the cinnamon, there were differences in the ratios so I just eyeballed mine as I loaded them into my little spice grinder.  I ended up with about a quarter cup of some great smelling stuff.

Those are the Szechuan peppercorns between the cinnamon sticks.  They have an interesting effect in the mouth, some heat and a numbing sensation on the lips.  Another name for them is prickly ash seed.

After all of that, I used about a teaspoon of the spice powder in the soy sauce marinade of the chicken for the green bean dish pictured above.  That was a simple enough recipe, the most prep went into the sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup chicken stock, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar with a little corn starch to thicken it in the pan.  I steamed the beans for five minutes while the chicken was cooking then added them to the pan with the chicken and then poured in the sauce and cooked until it thickened, a few more minutes.

That’s if for this week. No Bixby update, but he’s doing great, each day he surprises me by what he learns and understands. My little black kitty, Missy has to have surgery next week, so good thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks and have a great weekend – TaMara

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Sammich Pr0n – Cheeseburger

DSC_0110 (1600x1060)I’ve been buying fresh jalapenos at the store and keeping them in the fridge for use in Tex-Mex dishes.  When they start to get limp I’ve been slicing them and dropping the slices into a jar of dill pickle slices.  In a few weeks they become interesting.  I have some of those dilled jalapenos on this burger along with a nice slice of sweet onion and a squirt of hot mustard atop a slice of provolone.

I was thinking a mushroom swiss burger when I started the mushrooms in butter and olive oil but changed my mind and went with the gravy over the fries.  The gravy is an ad hoc mixture of stock and various other oddments.  I cooked the burgers in a toaster oven so the drippings from the beef weren’t available but it turned out well enough.

Sammich Pr0n – Chopped Pork

DSC_0118 (1600x1060)Occasionally a pork sammich purist will announce that the only proper pork bbq is pulled pork without any sauce.  Nonsense!

Hamburger Pasta Bake

DSC_0112 (1600x1060)This is an old family standby, we usually make it with egg noodles or elbow macaroni but these large tubular shaped pasta things worked really well.  I looked all over the package for the Italian common name to no avail but the handy pasta shapes dictionary tells me they are probably rigatoni.  Heh, I was in my 20s before I knew there were more shapes than elbows and spaghetti.

A lot of chin scratching went into the recipe for this dish, lots of false starts and pantry restocking but it finally came down to ground beef, a chopped onion, a bit of chopped green pepper, chopped celery, a can of tomato bits with green chilies, and a ton of cheese sauce made from a basic white sauce and several different cheeses: Cheddar, yellow American, provolone, and Parmesan – whatever a search of the fridge for opened bags turned up.  Put lots of milk in the white sauce because the pasta seems to soak up more than you’d think and this needs to be creamy.  This is a dish that’s better the first time but you can reheat it later and bring the creamy back with added milk stirred in as it comes back to temperature.

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