Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fields of Meatballs and Flax Raisin Muffins

I love that my life now is unpredictable enough that at the end of the day, I am even surprised at what I've made. I had no idea what I'd make when I woke up this morning, but I now know, and have an overwhelmingly happy sense of accomplishment.

Boy-O and I decided to go to the Discovery World Museum for the first half of the day, since we had the luxury of a vehicle at our disposal. When we got home, just after Noon, I figured I should plan something for supper. Now that I'm fortunate to have the deep freeze full of brick-hard meats at my disposal, I took out a pound of ground beef. I immediately heard echos of Alton, since there are, according to him, only 2 safe methods of food defrost methods for the modern cook: A.) Under Refrigeration and B.) Immersed in Cold Water. I opted for method B., and began my cold water soak around 12:30. I figured I'd add a little bit of pork to the meat mix, and added 3 of the pork "breakfast" sausage links to the cold bath (in a separate plastic bag, of course) closer to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, I sauteed the Holy Grail of Italian meatball ingredients - well, in my mind anyway. Onions, red and green pepper and plenty of garlic happily cooking down when I waited patiently for the meat to thaw.

Now would be a good time to mention that I absolutely love portioning things. I love my scoops, one large that I use for muffins and cupcakes, and one small that I use for meatballing and other bite sized confections such as rum balls. There is a zen-like quality to standing still and measuring, cautiously making sure that all things look equal. The methods of my madness are always rewarded in even baking as well.

I like to bake meatballs at 375 degrees f. for about 30 minutes, until they are nicely browned. I tossed them with some marinara sauce (laden with hidden vegetables for my veg challenged boys) that I had in the freezer as well, and let them simmer together when the pasta cooked. This meat is so nice and lean, I didn't even bother baking them on a wire rack.

Not bad for not knowing what would be on the table for supper tonight.

During the defrost time, I took time to peruse The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal, a recent library rental. I have no food allergy problems in our family, but that won't stop me from reading a cookbook devoted to helping bakers who are. Most of the recipes look amazing, and I'm thinking to either stock up on gluten-free baking supplies, or maybe trying my hand at conversion back to gluten formulas. If you click the link above, it will take you to her amazing website, packed with info and more recipes.

On second thought, an exception to that food allergy statement would be that on my birthday last September, Sasa, GOP and I had raw oysters and my upper lip started to swell after supper. I don't think I was panicking about it, but I do think it really started to swell after I was conscious of it. My friends politely didn't mention anything until I did, and then I think I may have really started to panic when they agreed that it was indeed swelling. I do like to dismiss that event, since I finally started to love oysters and can't really be bothered with the fact that I may be forever unable to eat them. I'm going to give it another 6 months, and see if I can't give them another shot. My Mother does warn me to stick close to a hospital if I should give it another go... since I suppose it could be possible that I would go into anaphylatic shock.

That said, I am always intrigued by food allergy and substitutions therefore. Since we aren't gluten intolerant here, I modified a recipe for Flax Raisin Muffins, since they had seriously small amounts of fat and sugar. My picky Boy-O will eat anything in muffin form, and it's my new plan of attack to pack as much nutrition into a single muffin as humanly possible. These have no eggs, no refined sugar and boast a whole 3/4 cup of flax meal! Not only that, they look fab and the Boy-O ate a whole one after eating his dinner of pasta and peas (the first time he's eaten non-cereal for supper in about 3 weeks!)! Imagine my excitement!

I was even more excited to see these restaurant worthy muffin tops when I pulled the tray from the oven...

Banana Flax Raisin Muffins

Adapted from their gluten-free form...

  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 c. agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 c. mashed banana (this was 4 medium size)
  • 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 3/4 c. flaxseed meal
  • 1 c. white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. and line a muffin pan with 12 liners.

combine canola oil and agave nectar, mixing until emulsified, about 20 seconds. You can use a stand mixer with paddle attachment as Pascal recommends, or a hand mixer as I did.

Add mashed banana, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix another 20 seconds. Then add flax meal and mix until combined.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and add them to the wet. Mix on low until just combined, then fold in raisins by hand.

Fill the liners to the rim with batter. It's a stiff batter, but if you heap them up over the top, they turn out wonderful!

Bake in center of oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top and tester comes out clean.

I am so glad I tried a recipe from this book! Not only would it be a great help to someone who actually needs the allergen advice, but the base recipes are great. I truly think that I'll make up some gluten-free flour mix and try some of these as written. You can be sure I'll let you know the results.

I suppose I would be remiss in not offering up a humongous Thank You to my Husband who is the reason I am able to stay home and get excited about such things as muffin making and bathroom cleaning. I love every second of being a Stay at Home Mami, and truly consider this the best job I've ever had... and there have been quite a few. I know he's not as apt to excitement over the little things I do, but deep down, I know he appreciates it. I appreciate that he lets me get excited over the details, and doesn't mind my food photography at meal times. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I let him traipse around in the fields of meatballs either.


  1. Rebecca,
    Do you have a recipe for those meatballs?

  2. Julia,

    I make them different each time - but this basic recipe is how my Mom does it. You can use all beef, but many recipes I see call for pork as well. I added 3 breakfast sausage (pork) links, since I had them on hand and they weren't overly spiced. I'd say if you were buying it, a pound of beef and a half pound of pork would be good mix. I know that some markets sell a "meatloaf mix" of beef, pork and veal, and that would be a good mix too.

    1 lb. beef
    1/2 lb. pork, optional
    1/2 - 3/4 of a medium onion, chopped fine
    1/2 red pepper, chopped fine
    1/2 green pepper, chopped fine
    1 or 2 garlic, thinly sliced
    dried oregano, about 1/2 t.
    dried basil, about 1/2 t.
    bread crumbs - I used a 2 inch thick slice of my homemade wheat bread blitzed in the food pro - but you can use dry or panko - whatever you have!

    Saute onions, peppers and garlic seasoned with salt and pepper in a bit of olive oil, until cooked down. Let them cool a bit before adding to the beef and pork, and then add the rest of the ingredients.

    Toss gently (I like to use my hands, and kind of "fluff" the meat - try not to overwork it). Portion into balls about 1 1/2 T. or so big, and bake in preheated 375 oven for 25-30 minutes. If you have meat that isn't too lean, bake them on a wire rack so the fat drips down. You could also decide to pan fry them until they are browned on all sides and then add them to your sauce to finish cooking.

    For my amounts, I got about 50 meatballs. I like freezing them fully cooked, too. Instant quick meal!

  3. Love, love, love meatballs. In fact, we were on the same wavelength. Just ate the leftovers from a batch of meatballs I made and froze before the holidays. YUM.

    Meat (nearly) aside, I'm lamenting that possible shellfish allergy... but celebrating the muffins. They look incredible!

  4. I admit I am a fan of baking meatballs vs. a saute on the stove top! They look delicious - I may steal this recipe for superbowl sunday!


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...