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Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

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Parenthood has strengthened my heart (both literally and figuratively) but it has seriously weakened my brain. Seriously, it’s like mashed potatoes in there. Between lack of sleep and the daily routine of chasing around three very young children, my brain is melting. I used to be smart. Honestly, I was. I used to do smart people stuff like earn a 4.0 GPA while completing my Master’s degree at Johns Hopkins and lead presentations at statewide teaching conferences about things like disaggregating and analyzing student assessment data to inform differentiated instruction and improve student learning. See? Smart people stuff.

Nowadays, a good deal of my time is spent trying to figure out what to do with the 500 tiny Legos, which the boys have amassed over the past few months, and retrieving bits of chewed paper from the baby’s mouth. (I’m certain he’s part hamster.) I fruitlessly clean messes while the boys are busy making even bigger messes. I watch shows like Diego and Bubble Guppies and count some children’s shows amongst my favorite television programs. I repeatedly chase the boys from floor to floor of the house, with the baby dangling off of one hip and a laundry basket balanced on the other. Good for the heart. Bad for the brain.

So, some things have started to slip my attention. It’s become more of a challenge just to keep on top of life’s little responsibilities. Take my car, for example. I’ve been staring at the little sticker in the windshield which had an expiration date of 2/25 on it. So, I told my husband we needed to get the car inspected. He made the appointment and spent last Saturday morning at the auto service shop. Job completed. Or at least we’d thought. Until I noticed that the expired sticker was still in our window the next day. That’s when I’d realized that I hadn’t been looking at the inspection sticker at all. I’d been looking at our (expired) car registration. I panicked. How in the world did I mess this up? We’ve got systems in place to stay on top of this stuff! The registration renewal comes in the mail. It gets filed with the bills. I pay it. They send a new sticker. It’s a system which has never failed us, no matter how distracted my brain has become. I tore through the house trying to find the misplaced registration renewal notice, yet it was nowhere to be found.

So, I hopped online to determine my next steps. That’s where I read that you can not operate an unregistered vehicle. I had been unknowingly operating an unregistered vehicle all week. My heart started pounding. I am not a rule-breaker… I cross in the cross walk and I wait for the little blinking man to tell me when it’s time to go. I always come to a complete stop at stop signs, even when no one is around. I return my library books on time. I follow the rules. It’s just part of who I am. So, this discovery that I had been a rule-breaker all week long was distressing. I immediately tried to renew the registration online. When that failed, I gathered all of the necessary paperwork and cautiously drove my unregistered vehicle to our local Department of Motor Vehicles, heart-pounding over my reckless rule-breaking.

I arrived before the office opened and barely sat for a second before they called my number. At that point, I was feeling pretty impressed at how efficient the DMV was…not at all like the dreadful stories you hear. I approached the window, children swarming around me like flies on a horse, and shamefully admitted that I’d been driving an unregistered vehicle for the past week. I mumbled a few excuses about mushy brains and unnecessary inspections, then handed over my paperwork. She made the necessary photocopies, then sat down to process my registration. Things were going smoothly and I wasn’t even scolded for breaking the rules. Relief.

Then she turns to me and says “Who is Jose Sanchez?” At that point I’m wondering if this is some sort of trick question. Like years ago when my husband and I went to open some bank accounts and the bank associate suddenly asks, “Do you like the Bills or the Ravens?” right after gathering our names, address, and all of the other normal info required to set up a bank account. Umm…What??? Neither? Being a grown-up can be confusing.

So, I explain to the DMV lady that I do not know a Jose Sanchez, but was curious as to what he had to do with my car registration. Well, your car is registered to a Jose Sanchez. Well, this was a twist I never expected. And again, my heart started to pound as my brain struggled to process the situation at hand. A moment later she determined that Jose’s plate number was off by one digit from ours and that someone had made a clerical error…an error which explains why I never received a registration renewal notice. My car was in fact already registered, just not to me. Nice work, DMV. Thankfully, after a lengthy phone call, she returned and was able to process my registration. I left with my newly renewed sticker for my windshield and the reassurance that my brain isn’t total mush, at least not yet.

Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner…hands-down my favorite holiday for eating corned beef, wearing green, and celebrating my Irish heritage. Having already shared some delicious recipes for traditional corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and shepherd’s pie with you, I wracked my (semi-functional) brain for some interesting twist on a corned beef and cabbage meal. And I’ve got just the thing…corned beef and cabbage egg rolls! My Irish ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves. But this is quite possibly fusion cooking at its best. A simple filling of leftover corned beef, sauteed with very thinly sliced cabbage and carrot, gets rolled up in egg roll wraps and fried until crispy! Dip them in Thousand Island dressing or your favorite mustard for a fantastic day-after St. Patty’s Day treat!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup leftover corned beef, chopped
  • 2 cups cabbage and carrots, very thinly sliced (prepackaged cole slaw mix works well)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4-8 egg roll wraps (My grocery store sells them in the refrigerated produce section.)
  • Thousand Island dressing or mustard, for dipping

Directions

To prepare the filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To assemble the egg rolls: Arrange an egg roll wrap with one of the points facing you. (If desired, you can layer two egg roll wraps, for a chewier egg roll.) Place a mound of the corned beef filling in the center of the wrap. Grab the point closest to you and wrap it up and around the filling. Then, grab each of the side points and fold them in towards the center. Brush the points with a bit of water to help them stick. Brush the top point with a little water, then continue rolling up towards the top point.

To cook: Heat about 1/2″-3/4″ vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Give it a few minutes to get good and hot. Carefully place a few of the egg rolls into the hot oil. They should sizzle when placed in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on all sides, until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel before serving.

Makes 4 Egg Rolls

Leap Day Monkey Breads

The interior springs, which prevent the unusually heavy dishwasher door from recklessly crashing to the floor, busted the other day. The repair man has assessed the damage and the necessary parts have been ordered. In the mean time, we’re fondly referring to the dishwasher as “toddler crusher”, which certainly kicks up the level of excitement in the kitchen. Because being in the kitchen should always feel a little like Thunderdome, shouldn’t it?

Aside from the added thrill of crashing appliance doors (thank you, LG), we are all buzzing with excitement around here today, because it’s Leap Day…and if we learned anything from last week’s episode of 30 Rock, you can do anything you want on Leap Day, because nothing counts. (Buh-bye diet!) Being as I learn most of life’s important lessons from Thursday nights’ TV line-up, we’re going to celebrate Leap Day as it ought to be celebrated.

Which means we’re going to wear mismatching socks, forget about chores, and eat ice cream sundaes for dinner. I might even buy that Mercedes E320 I’ve always wanted. And I’m totally going to bathe myself in salted caramel. Because it’s an extra day and you can spend it however you want. In an ideal world, I’d actually spend my extra day taking one very long nap in a warm, quiet sensory deprivation chamber. But since I still need to take care of my children…even on Leap Day…we’re going to go the recklessly over-indulgent and silly behavior route for the day.

In between our ice cream sundaes, we’ll eat monkey bread…because it has a funny name that I don’t understand and it’s just really, really yummy. It makes me happy. Monkey bread, though an old familiar to many, is pretty new to me. I made (and tasted) my first monkey bread for my super bowl party (aka the DeLine family super bowl massacre). I fell in love. Big time. It was a pepperoni pizza monkey bread, with gooey mozzarella cheese and bits of spicy pepperoni scattered between buttery, garlicky bits of pizza dough. But, the thing I loved most of all were the infinite possibilities.

You can make monkey bread with any number of flavors. Use whatever sort of dough floats your boat. Stuff the little balls of dough with anything your heart desires. Roll the balls in any coating. Go savory. Go sweet. Go crazy. It’s monkey bread! This time, I made two types of monkey bread. The first (your dinner course, if you will) is a buffalo chicken pizza monkey bread…gooey balls of pizza dough stuffed with spicy chunks of chicken, mozzarella cheese, and bleu cheese which are then rolled in a buttery wing sauce. Dip ’em in bleu cheese dressing…holy yum!

The boys enjoyed my second variation; s’mores monkey bread. We stuffed the chunks of pizza dough with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, then rolled them in a sugary graham cracker crumb mix. The final result is oozing with s’mores flavor. For an even more decadent treat, dip the warm chunks into hot fudge or some sticky marshmallow fluff!

Go ahead, indulge. All foods are 0 calories on Leap Day. Google it.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce, divided
  • Bleu Cheese Dressing, for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the hot sauce over the chicken and toss to coat. Mix the remaining hot sauce in with the melted butter. (If desired, add additional hot sauce for a spicier result.) Set aside. Pull off small chunks of the pizza dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a little chunk of the chicken and a pinch or two of both cheeses in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the butter/hot sauce mixture to coat, then place it in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Scatter any remaining crumbled bleu cheese over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm with bleu cheesing dressing and/or additional hot sauce.

S’mores Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 40-50 mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 full-sheet graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Stir the graham crackers crumbs and sugar together. Pull off small chunks of the dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a mini marshmallow and several mini chocolate chips in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the melted butter, then roll the ball in the graham cracker crumbs. Place the ball in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Sprinkle any remaining mini chocolate chips over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm. Dip in hot fudge or marshmallow fluff, if desired.

No diet report today. It’s Leap Day. Diets don’t matter on Leap Day!

Cocktail Meatballs Three Ways

When it comes to any type of sport, I’m more of a go-to-a-game kind of person than a sit-on-my-couch-cheering-and-cursing kind of person. There’s a whole atmosphere to being at a game. There are people passing out beer and food. There’s music and singing. There are people doing ‘the wave’. And I really like ‘the wave’. I like the whole experience of attending a game. But watching sports from my couch…boring.

So, sports-watchin’…not really my thing. But game day snacks…totally my thing! We’re throwing a little super bowl party this year, because it’s a great excuse to have some friends over and enjoy some tasty food. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. We’ll laugh. We may even do the wave.

I’ll be serving of few of my old favorites, specifically chicken wing dip, creole-deviled eggs, and spinach dip along with a few new items, like pepperoni pizza monkey bread (doesn’t that sound delicious??) and these cocktail meatballs in three different sauces.

We’ll start with a basic, versatile meatball, made with a mix of beef, pork, and turkey, then we’ll dress them in three different, but equally delicious, sauces. Make one, two, or all three! These meatballs can be made ahead of time, tossed in their sauce and refrigerated or frozen until use. Reheat in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes or so, until heated through. Meatballs can be reheated from frozen, but allow for extra time.

**Each sauce recipe makes enough to thoroughly coat 1/3 of the meatball recipe. Doubling any of the sauce recipes should make enough sauce for the entire meatball batch.

Basic Cocktail Meatball

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients until well blended. Roll the mixture into balls, about 1″ diameter. Place the balls in a single layer on baking sheets which have been lightly rubbed with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

Makes about 90-100 meatballs

Honey Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Directions

Combine all ingredients, except green onions, in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Stir in most of the green onions, saving some for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional red curry paste, as desired. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with remaining green onions.

And if those meatballs don’t do it for you, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom meatballs…

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs in Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

My baby has entered the period of development I refer to as the crash-helmet phase. This is the period of time where I’m inclined to swaddle my children in bubble wrap and coat everything else in cotton balls. Would that be so weird? He’s learned how to stand now, but his balance is poor and he forgets that he needs to hold on for support. He often gets so excited by his new skill that he throws his hands wildly outward in a grand gesture of success, which usually results in propelling his little body backwards. Oh, and he climbs. Things which were never meant to be climbed. Like his older brothers or the dog. That rarely ends well.

His sweet little head is already peppered with pale yellow bruises. Seriously, do you think people would laugh if I wrapped him in bubble wrap? He’s just too stinkin’ cute to be bruised. What if I just turned down the heat and dressed him all day in his puffy winter coat? It won’t be long before he’s chasing his brothers around the house. Everything always seems to happen so fast from this point.

Good thing I’ve gotten back to my running lately, since I’m going to need strong legs to keep up with all of the active little men in my life. You may assume that running is part of my New Year’s weight loss plan, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I don’t run to lose weight (though I certainly hope it will help). Running makes me feel capable and confident. I yearn to be leaner and swifter, so I can glide through my runs with more grace than the current charging-rhino thing I’ve got going on. I’ve got my eye on running the Disney half-marathon someday. Becoming a better runner is one of the driving forces behind my desire to lose the weight. Lose weight, run better…double win!

If you’ve been following this blog over the past month, you know that I’ve been following the South Beach diet in order to shed some of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around since having my third little love. I’ve been at it for a month now, with only a few little ‘cheats’ and I’ve already lost 12 pounds. The diet basically comes down to eliminating refined carbs and focusing on lean proteins, fresh produce, and whole grains. It’s clean eating, which is an idea I can stand behind! Eliminating refined, sugary foods keeps your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn drastically cuts down on the insatiable cravings for naughty things. That works for me.

But though my hunger and cravings are kept at bay on this diet, I still have that afternoon urge to snack like I haven’t eaten in years. It’s more of a comfort mechanism than a hunger thing, usually corresponding with the time of the day when all three boys are tired, cranky, and stir-crazy…the ‘magic hour’ which falls sometime between lunch and dinner and usually fools me into thinking I’m ravenous. So, I need to keep my house free of my most tempting snacks (I’m talkin’ about you, Cheez-its) and well-stocked with more nutritious, but equally satisfying options, like these roasted chickpeas. I can pop a hundred of these little babies and still feel good about the way I’m satisfying my snackiness with loads of nutritious protein and fiber! The hardest part is trying not to eat the whole batch!

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the cans of chickpeas, then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and seasonings, then shake the pan to evenly coat all chickpeas. Place the baking sheet on the middle oven rack and bake for 25-40 minutes, until as crispy as desired. (25 minutes should produce a crisp exterior with a more tender center. 40 minutes will produce a crunchier result.)

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Makes a great addition to salads too!

Leftover roasted chickpeas sprinkled over mixed green salad with broiled salmon

Diet Day: 31   Weight Loss: 12   Motivation: Rejuvenated! Hit a plateau, but the scale seems to be moving again!

Baked Clam Spread

We try to teach our kids about generosity and about giving to those who are in need. To this end, we send in donations when their school collects for the food pantry or bags of toys for sick children who spent Christmas in the hospital. Periodically, we go through the boys’ toy boxes to gather and donate neglected toys to children who would be happy to have them. And the kids watch as we package and donate baby supplies to families in need. We could do a lot more than we do. But through all of these small actions, it is our hope that our children will learn to appreciate how fortunate they are and to think of others in need.

So, you can imagine how proud I felt when the boys offered to donate their old, worn toothbrushes to ‘kids who don’t have any toothbrushes’, after Santa left shiny, light-up toothbrushes in their stockings. I suppose we still need to work on what items have donation value.

As this year comes to a close, I continue to be eternally thankful for all that we have; a beautiful, healthy family, a warm home, dear friends, close family, love. We are so fortunate. It is my wish that 2012 brings the very best of everything to each of you. Take stock of the things which really matter and let everything else go. All the rest is small stuff. Health, love, family, and friends…these are the things worth being concerned about.

I’ve got another quick and delicious appetizer idea for your New Year’s celebrations; a simple baked clam spread made with canned clams. Now, you all know I’m a big fan of from-scratch cooking, but there’s a major convenience factor here. Using canned clams turns this recipe into something you’re very likely to cook as compared to something which seems like too much work to be worth it. For the purpose of this recipe, canned clams work perfectly. And, by all means, if you’re up to cleaning, steaming, and removing the fresh clams, even better!

Baked Clam Spread

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of chopped or minced clams, drained
  • 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender and golden. Turn off the heat. Add the clams, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh parsley. Stir until well blended. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Spread the mixture into a small baking dish. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Spread onto crackers or slices of bread.

Alternately, the mixture can be stuffed into real or aluminum clam shells and baked for about 10-12 minutes. (To be honest, stuffing the mixture into clam shells is the best way to do it, but I couldn’t find those little aluminum clam shells in any of my stores, so I gave up and baked it in a dish.)

Mini Chicken Parm Hors d’oeuvres

Last week, in the rush of finalizing Christmas arrangements, I lost my baby’s stroller. My angel-faced three-year-old was in the midst of a full-fledged tantrum at the time. We’d actually needed to make a very rapid exit from Panera due to the aforementioned tantrum. My head was spinning to the sound of his screams. I drove off without the stroller. I’m lucky I didn’t forget one of the kids in the parking lot!

I didn’t realize my mistake until two days later when I went to retrieve the stroller from the back of my car. After a bit of confusion, I remembered the last time I’d seen it and figured what I must have done. In the hopes of getting the stroller back, I returned to the store to inquire if anyone had turned in a stroller. The cashier proceeded to pull out and paw through the store’s 12×18″ lost and found box. Ummm…I don’t think you’re going to find a stroller in that little box. Once the cashier was satisfied that the stroller was not in fact hiding under the mittens in the lost and found box, she called over the store manager who reported that it had been seen in the parking lot, but no one had turned it in.

Buh-bye stroller.

But my three-year-old, the cause of the commotion which led to the stroller’s loss, was still certain he was on Santa’s nice list. He was also certain that Santa would be delivering the very item he desired; a samurai castle play set. So certain, in fact, that in the days leading up to Christmas, he began practicing his reaction for discovering the samurai castle. And when he came bursting into our room before dawn on Christmas morning, anxious to run downstairs to check under the tree, he exclaimed “I’m gonna go downstairs and I’m gonna say WHAT??? A samurai castle?? For ME???”

Lucky for him, Santa must have decided he was nice enough to land on the nice list.

We had a lovely Christmas weekend all around, beginning with Christmas Eve. For many years now, it’s become our tradition to eat chicken parmesan on Christmas Eve. I made it for my husband’s family one Christmas Eve, many moons ago, and the tradition just stuck. But this year, we planned to have lunch at Dinosaur BBQ on Christmas Eve. We all agreed that a big BBQ lunch and heavy chicken parm dinner would be way too much indulgence for one day. So, we decided we’d have a few little hors d’oeuvre type snacks for our dinner instead. Hors d’oeuvre dinner happens to be my family’s longtime Christmas Eve tradition. But, not to sacrifice our annual chicken parm, I came up with these little baby parm hors d’oeuvres. It sort of feels like this melding of our family’s traditions was always meant to be.

For those of you planning New Year’s Eve menus, these mini chicken parms would make a delicious addition! We also enjoyed Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs and Mini Crabcakes with Chipotle Remoulade. And for a few other hors d’oeuvres ideas, click HERE.

Mini Chicken Parms

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken tenders or thinly sliced chicken breast
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 1 French baguette, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh parsley, torn or chopped
  • 1 cup thick, smooth, full-flavored tomato sauce (I used a smooth pizza sauce.)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the chicken tenders into small pieces (about 1″ square). Dip the chicken into the beaten eggs. Then dip each piece into the bread crumbs. Press the crumbs onto all sides of the chicken. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When good and hot, place a few of the breaded chicken pieces into the oil. Cook for about two minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Place the cooked chicken onto paper towels to remove the excess oil. Repeat, in small batches until all chicken has been cooked.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan and a bit of fresh parsley. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Spread some of the cheese mixture onto each slice of baguette. Place a cooked piece of breaded chicken on top of the cheese. Drizzle each piece of chicken with tomato sauce. (Don’t overdo it on the sauce.) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of each.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until hot and melty.

**The chicken can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until assembling the hors d’oeuvres. If you prepare and chill the chicken ahead of time, it will take about 5 minutes longer in the oven to reheat during the final baking.

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

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