Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pre-flight Jitters

I love the night before the big event.  It’s when all of those butterflies really kick in and you wonder how in the world we are going to pull this one off. 

I am fortunate in that I work for a wonderful organization that does great things for thousands of families and children in our community.  One of the most rewarding (and stressful) times of the year for our Spirit Committee, is when we pull together the final details for the Y’s annual fundraising campaign kickoff.

This year’s kickoff theme is centered around travel - We’re Going Places.  The event venue will be filled with maps and globes, airline jargon, and vacation destination vignettes. I happily volunteered to work on the props for the French/Italian caf√© street scene.   

With all of the snow and cold weather we’ve been experiencing, who wouldn’t welcome thoughts of strolling through an outdoor market or relaxing at a bistro table while sipping wine and sampling bread and cheese?

So I say to myself and our committee, do as they would in France - relax, take a deep breath, it will all work out fine….. just like it does every year.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Green Envy

The transition is complete.  I have successfully finished packing up the last of the Christmas decorations.  Well, almost all of them.  I know, but I always dread this time of year.  I try to stretch the season and keep them up as long as I can.  And then I start wondering if my neighbors think I’m a weirdo. 

Dining room topiary centerpiece
It’s just that the house seems so open and bare without the warmth of the lights and greenery.

That’s it!  It’s the green that is missing.   To think, all this time I have suffered from post-holiday decorating blues. 

Twiggy moss wreath with gingham burlap ribbon
Adding a little green back into my rooms fills the void completely. 

I found a couple of earthy twig wreaths with dried moss and hung them with burlap gingham ribbon in my kitchen and dining room. 

Preserved boxwood topiaries
And then there are topiaries.  A new topiary centerpiece on my dining table brightens my mood.  Have I mentioned how much I love topiaries?

 I do.  Even more than burlap…..
Kitchen window wreath with burlap bow

Monday, January 6, 2014

Move over Meatballs - Here comes the Cheese

Happy New Year everyone!   It has turned out to be quite an interesting beginning as this past weekend brought record snowfall and arctic temperatures below 0°.  Way below….

No problem.  Everyone can use a little snow day once in a while, even us big kids.  It’s a time for us to stay home, be cozy, and make something warm and comforting for dinner – like my grandmother’s cheese balls. 

These cheese balls are not served as an appetizer with crackers; rather they are similar to meatballs in that they are browned in olive oil and simmered in tomato sauce.  My grandmother cooks hers in the pot along with her chicken cacciatore or veal scaloppini – no need for pasta in these dishes as the cheese balls take its place.    

When my grandmother was growing up, her mother would make cheese balls on Fridays when the family didn’t eat meat.  While this dish was derived out of necessity, it was also very creative in that it took simple, pantry ingredients and turned them into a hearty and satisfying family meal.  That concept is what makes Italian food so desirable. 

As it is with many old family recipes, there is no real written recipe, only a guide from someone's memories.  Please use the following as your guide and feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Italian Cheese Balls

8 slices of day-old Italian bread with good texture – crusts removed and torn
into small pieces
3 oz. of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese or a mixture of the two
¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon  garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
Olive oil for browning

Combine all ingredients except olive oil.  Shape mixture into patties.  You should have about eight.  I prefer patties to balls because they brown nicer when flat.  Brown the patties in olive oil until golden on both sides.   Simmer for at least one hour in your favorite tomato or pasta sauce.   While simmering, your cheeseballs will absorb the flavors from the ingredients in your sauce. 

Buon appetito!