I’m a bit rigid on scheduling. Don’t like change. Once I’ve got my ducks in a row, I like to forge straight ahead without any detours, so this pretty much stinks. But, one day doesn’t really matter (or so I keep telling myself) and I’m working to shift gears. Luckily, my army of handlers can shift gears, too, and everyone who’s stepped up to help is still available on Thursday.
Including Trevor, who incidentally is The Birthday Boy today. Happy birthday, Trev. Glad you finally caught up to me. I hope they’re doing something nice for ya in Calgary. Being away from home on the day of one’s birth is no fun, but at least you’re getting a break from the heat and the swarming mosquitos. Those darn bugs are cramping my convertible style, big time.
Instead of relaxing in my windfall of an extra day, I am–you guessed it–running around like a crazy person, wanting to cram more, more, more into my life. Get ‘er done is usually my motto. The to-do list is long, and an extra day means not only more time to accomplish those tasks but also some wiggle room to add even more jobs to the list.
Crazy, I know. I could sit on the couch and watch the 22 episodes of Cake Boss that Macy has Tivo’d , or finish my book club book, or flip through the pile of magazines waiting patiently for me to get some “free time,” but no, I’m making a grocery list and planning how many meals I can whip up real quick to have on hand for my convelescing.
Here’s what’s even crazier — me, who does not eat meat, doesn’t even like to look at it in the grocery store and avoids buying it at all costs, putting 7 lbs of ground sirloin in my grocery cart. On purpose. Willingly. Yikes. I usually avoid the meat section of the store like the plague. I might tiptoe around the outskirts to grab a package of all-natural, hormone-free turkey breast for Payton’s lunchbox, but going headlong into the moderately bloody counters that stretch on for days? Not for me. I swear I can hear little cries of “Moo!” or “Cheep” if I do look into those cellophane-wrapped packages of former animals.
Despite the snippets of Food, Inc running through my head, I piled my cart full of meat (after putting the cellophane-wrapped packages into a plastic bag and scrubbing my hands with antibacterial wipes, of course). Then I took that meat home and actually put my hands into it to mash the eggs, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese together to make Mrs C’s famous meatballs & sauce. I rolled an endless line of meatballs with my own two hands and cooked them up the old-fashioned way: in hot olive oil studded with slivers of garlic.
It was a meatball factory in my kitchen. The flash on my iPhone camera gives everything a yellowish tint, but you get the gist. My dogs just about hyperventilated from sniffing the smells of meat, fresh meat, in their very own home. They don’t get that much. Tofu doesn’t have much of a scent.
The first pile of the finished product. This batch of meatballs was rather erratically shaped because I was being a big baby (I admit it) and was trying to roll them as fast as I could to avoid the amount of time the meat came into contact with my body. After I saw how lumpy they were I decided to suck it up and roll them for real. The next batch came out much more even and pretty. Not that it matters one little bit, because once they take a dip in the sauce and simmer for an hour, it’s hard to tell what shape they are, and once they are on the plate, they tend to be devoured quite quickly by the meat-eaters of the world.
After the balls were cooked, it was time to create the sauce. It’s a simple red sauce, composed of tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. No chunks in this age-old favorite. A generous sprinkling of parmesan and a glug of red wine is all that’s needed for flavor. Sometimes I’ll throw in some fresh basil but today I had none so the sauce went unadorned of herbs.
The tile backsplash behind the stove isn’t that ugly in person; again with the too-flashy iPhone camera, and me in too much of a hurry to fiddle with it to get the light just right. I’m cooking, man, no time for fiddling.
If you’re wondering why there’s such a copious amount of sauce and such a sky-high pile of meatballs, you’re not alone. I thought the same thing as I searched for a small oar with which to stir the vat of sauce. The recipe makes a lot to begin with–enough to serve double-digit guests or one very fat Italian family. I doubled it to pass some along to a friend who had surgery recently and has 3 hungry kids underfoot. Some for my kids, some for hers and everyone is happy.
Meatballs & sauce done, so it’s on to the chicken pot pie.
I was happily chopping the onions and celery — chopping has always been weirdly therapeutic and calming for me — when I realized I’d completely forgotten the carrots. My mind is going a million different directions, and apparently the chopping therapy isn’t working so well.
My sweet mama always said the skinniest carrots taste the best, so I dig out the narrow ones to get chopped.
The chicken is poaching while I’m chopping, but I’m not taking a picture of it because raw chicken is even more disgusting — IMHO — than raw ground sirloin, so use your imagination there.
Once the chicken is poached and the veggies are sauteed in olive oil, I combine them with a can of corn and a simple white sauce. Throw in a few potatoes and away we go.