Wednesday, March 30, 2011

White Wine Infused Meatballs

I grew up eating my Italian Grandmother's homemade meatballs every time we visited. I surprised myself yesterday when I realized that I have never made her delicious meatballs for my own children.

Pulling out the old yellowed index card handwritten with her recipe, it became clear why I had been ignoring this treasure over the past few years. It calls for Italian bread and Romano cheese, both of which we haven't had in this house for years now.

Recently, I've made up my mind to not let that hold me back on my old-time favorites.

In this slight variation of my Grandmother's recipe, in place of Romano cheese, I use Sauvignon Blanc white wine for the sharpness that cheese usually offers.

White Wine Infused Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
4 slices Italian bread, slightly moistened in white wine, then torn into small pieces (I use gluten free white bread)
1 egg (do not beat)
1/2 tsp dried crushed basil
1/4 tsp dried crushed oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
a few shakes of salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup canola oil

Preparation Method:

Mix all ingredients together. 
Shape into small balls, each the size of a golf ball.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. 
Place meatballs in hot oil and saute on all sides until dark brown.
Remove from skillet and place into tomato sauce and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
Serve over pasta or in a meatball sandwich.

For the visual learners among us:

1 pound ground beef.

1 medium onion. Chopped as finely as possibly.

1 egg, not beaten.
4 slices Italian bread.

I used Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread. It worked wonderfully.

Slightly moisten the bread in the white wine. I poured the wine onto my cutting board and let the bread slices sit in it for a moment.

Then my six-year-old helper tore the bread slices into small pieces.

We added the 1/2 teaspoon of basil

1/4 teaspoon of oregano

1 clove minced garlic

And just like my Grandmother taught me, I then used my hands to combine the ingredients.

My six-year-old Sous-Chef helped roll the meatball mixture into small balls.

And we fried them up.

Being very careful to turn them in the hot oil without splashing everyone in the room!

When completely brown on all sides, remove them to the sauce waiting in a separate pan. Cover. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 30 minutes over medium-low heat. This will ensure they are cooked through.

When ready the meatballs should look like a little sweaty.

Serve and enjoy!

After our spaghetti supper, Grandma and I would relax watching reruns of things like this...

The Rat Pack Live - Dean Martin - 1965

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

7: Is The End The Hardest Part?

Not sure if anyone else can attest to this, but it seems that the very end of a countdown might possibly be the hardest part of the whole darned experience.

In high school it's Senioritis.

In pregnancy it's those last weeks of waiting and wishing for the baby to arrive.

In planning a big move it's the boxes and the arrangements and the cleaning and the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

In grad school—I can't quite put my finger on it—but something about this whole thing drawing to an end is wearing on the psyche of everyone in this house.

We've done this for four long years now, but these last few weeks seem like they might never end. Like life might possibly carry-on this way forever.

But just as high school, pregnancy and labor, and packing boxes do not last forever, in the same way I know that the endless hours of studying and projects and small groups and fatigue will also come to an end.

It just can't be soon enough.

Until then, I dream myself away to a warm beach where I do this for hours on end:

Yes, this is a picture of my son lounging on top of a roof. What can I say, the child likes to climb.

Instead of being irritated that my six year old son's "Quite Place" is on rooftops, I'll let this be a good reminder that we can all take a moment to bask in the sun.

And feel the warmth.

And embrace the wind.

And picture in our minds a scene on a tropical beach somewhere with a margarita in hand and sand at foot. 

For this is my "Special Place". And you will find me rehearsing "Special Place" quite frequently over the course of the next seven weeks. Hallelujah "Special Place"!

Until then... the good stuff. Take it away Kenny.

Kenny Chesney - The Good Stuff

Friday, March 25, 2011

Better Than Bouillon

There is one thing that Bubba LOVES more than fluffy dogs, wheelless skateboards, and backyard chickens combined... and that's tasty food.

One of the most important staples in my pantry is the Better Than Bouillon line of concentrated paste food bases. According to their website, "these bouillons are made primarily from meat, seafood or vegetables which gives them a richer and more natural flavor than ordinary bouillon cubes or granules."

True dat. I cannot live without my Better Than Bouillon bases. Trust me, I've tried. But my soups don't taste nearly as delicious when I use regular bullion cubes. I can get an 8 oz jar at the grocery store, containing 38 servings of bouillon, or if I go to Costco a 16 oz jar with 76 servings for just a dollar more than the smaller jar. This just might be my favorite reason for going to Costco lately!

Something I learned early-on with this brand is that their Premium line of bouillon bases contain dried whey. Which is a no-no for our casein-free family. Thankfully, most of the Organic line is free of dairy ingredients. Thanks, Better Than Bouillon, you make me one very happy dancing cook.

And the best part about it is how easy it is to use. One teaspoon is equal to one bouillon cube. So for every cup of chicken stock my recipe calls for I quickly grab a teaspoon of bouillon paste, mix it with one cup of hot water and we are good to go.

This brand makes bouillon in so many different varieties—Vegetable, Mushroom, Turkey, Au Jus, Clam, Fish, Ham, Lobster, Vegetarian-No Beef, Vegetarian-No Chicken, Reduced Sodium, Kosher, and much more. If you are working with food allergies, just be sure to double check the back of the package before purchase, as some of them do contain dairy.

I hope this deliciousness finds its way into your pantry soon!

And just in case you were wondering... this is not a paid advertisement. My motivation to write about the food in my pantry is quite simple—I love this stuff and want to share it with you all. 

And now a little something to dance to...

Rihanna - What's My Name? ft. Drake

Thursday, March 24, 2011

8: Spring Break ~ Pillow Skateboarding

Hello Dear Bloggy-Blog,

It's been quite a while since we last saw each other. Please excuse my absence. It's spring break over here at The Little White Kitchen and we've had our fair share of spring break excitement.

Each day holds a new adventure. Today it was the scientific examination of rocks and all of the geological fantasies that come along with this type of creative play. The oodles upon oodles of rocks on the back stoop were enough to keep everyone busy while mama prepared Creamy Mushroom Quinoa Chowder for din-din.

Just the other day, however, the theme of the morning was "pillow skateboarding".

It began by properly applying shark tattoos to the top of the wheelless skateboard deck.

Then properly identifying said object as the "charcs scatbord." (original spelling prior to Mommy making a few suggestions—which you see reflected here)

Teaching baby brother the proper stance atop a pile of wobbly pillows.

And wrapping up the lesson with true couch surfing lessons and hand-sign gesturing. With all good intentions, said hand-signs were believed to represent hang ten, dude, but mistakenly got confused with the hand-sign representing the Devil or The Texas Longhorns. I place my vote for the Texas Longhorns. Hook 'em, horns!

It's been good to spend a little time with you today dear bloggy-blog. We'll be seeing you again soon.

Yours truly,

PS — This post signifies the 8 week point in our countdown, not that I'm keeping track :)

I'm convinced my eldest son watched this video prior to his instructional wheelless skateboarding lesson with baby brother.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Saturday Morning Sentiment

A thought...

A second thought....

And a smile...

I hope you find time to enjoy the simple things today. 

Happy Last Day of Winter!!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Earth Balance Buttery Spread

I am starting a new section on Dance While You Cook called My Allergy Friendly Pantry. Here I will be compiling a list of my pantry items that are free of gluten, diary and corn.

This might be helpful if you're just getting started with gluten-free and dairy-free living. Since corn has recently become a no-no for our son we're back to the intensity of reading the back of every single label we bring into our home.

I remember how lost I felt in the grocery store when we first started on this journey. You can read more about that on my sparkling new page called Getting Started.

These three allergens can be especially challenging because so many common products include gluten, dairy and corn in trace amounts as fillers.

So today, I kick off this new section with my favorite butter alternative, Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread.

What I love about it:

Easy to spread.

Has a mellow flavor. I surprise myself by saying this, but I've come to like the flavor better than real butter lately.

Comes in a huge tub at select stores. This way, our family doesn't run out at the most inopportune times—like family french toast morning.

Is easily used to grease pans for baking, or pots for cooking.

Can be used 1:1 instead of real butter in a lot of recipes.

That said, this is our go-to butter alternative. We LOVE it around here!

Let's dance to celebrate our love for feeling good even without real butter in our lives.

I may have played this song before, but these images do an amazing job of transporting me exactly when I need it most. Who needs butter when you can feel like this!!!! Beautiful pictures—nice job RumShopRyan.

Zac Brown Band - Knee Deep (ft. Jimmy Buffett)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

Not sure if you noticed, but I have a thing for creamy soups. 

Not sure if you noticed, but I also have a thing for bacon.

Bring them together in a simple and inexpensive one-pot dinner and you'll see one happy domestic engineer standing in my shoes and wearing my apron.

Being dairy-free for the past few years we've gone without creamy things for far too long. I have finally decided to put my foot down and call an official end to the lack of all things creamy in our lives.

Cream LIVES! Cream LIVES! It just doesn't come to us as a product of cow lactation. (Come on now, I'm a childbirth educator, I can say things like that in the middle of a recipe :)

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

2 small leeks
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 strips bacon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
5 cups chicken stock
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch chives, snipped

The Preparation Method:

Use only the bottom portion of the leek—the white and bright green part. Slice the leek down the center and rinse under cool water to remove any lingering sand and dirt. Once all cleaned up, slice thinly and set aside.

Peel and cube the potatoes. Set aside.

Thinly slice the bacon.

In a large soup pot, brown the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.

Now there are two ways to go about this next part...

A) Cook the bacon into the soup. This will mean that you will add the leeks to the bacon in the bottom of the pot, and then puree the bacon at the very end along with all of the other ingredients. I found this to lead to a very heavy soup, almost too strongly infused with bacon flavor, if that is even possible. Personally, I prefer option B.

B) Once the bacon is cooked to a crisp, remove it from the pot and set aside. Stir in the bacon chunks after the soup has been pureed. This method offers fun little surprises in every bite.

By now you've decided if you're going with Option A or Option B. This picture depicts a cook who chose Option A.

Either way, saute the leeks in the bacon grease. If you've got a swimming pool worth of grease in the bottom of your pot, you may decide to remove some (but not all) before adding the leeks.

Either way, saute the leeks for about 5 minutes, or until they have softened.

Now add the white wine and bring to a boil.

As soon as it begins to boil add the chicken stock, potatoes, fresh thyme sprigs, bay leaves, white pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

After 30 minutes, remove the bay leaves and fresh thyme sprigs and bring out your handy immersion blender. Blend soup until smooth.

If you chose Bacon Option B above, you'll want to add the crispy bacon back into the soup now.

Garnish with fresh chives.

Serve and Enjoy!


I heard this song on the radio today and it's been playing in my head ever since. Gotta love me some George.

George Strait - Give It Away

Monday, March 14, 2011

9: All Before 9am

We're into the single-digits on our countdown. That's something to celebrate!

The single-digit number nine made me think of another number nine I saw once. Steam of consciousness. Bear with me...

I always get a kick out of those emails that ask people to reveal personal details about their life in a survey format.

I never fill those things out. Not that they don't pique my interest, but because my computer time is so limited with three little monkeys running loose around here.

The one and only time I did oblige was a few months after I had my third baby as I found myself awake near the computer at all hours of the night while breastfeeding.

I've always liked to engage both my boob and my brain at 3:23am, so I decided to record "25 Random Things About Me" and post it on Facebook.

In the first item I divulged, First off, ya'll know that I NEVER do these lists. I don't know what's come over me.

And the last item confessed, Ahhh, I finished. It literally took me two whole months to complete this list... working on it one piece at a time, typing one handed while breastfeeding in the middle of the night. I never thought I'd get to #25.

25 Random Things About Me was the first—and last—friendly email survey I've ever done.

There was one, however, that came around a year or so ago that really got me thinking.

"What Do You Accomplish Before 9am?" was the question.

I did not respond to that survey. But there are plenty of mornings that I make a mental list of all that I do before 9am. Just for kicks. I like to remember the days when the list was only two or three items long. And then I weep. I miss those days. How things have changed.

Most days, I am running around like a crazed lunatic in the mornings.

Packing lunches. Helping small people dress themselves. Attending to a few business emails. Cooking oatmeal. Changing diapers. Transferring laundry. Making grocery lists. Searching for socks. Searching for shoes. Searching for backpack contents. Searching for the meaning of it all.

It is obvious that I need a better system. But all systems seem to be lost to me before 9am. One day perhaps I will do all of these things before 9pm. But until then, our mornings will remain chaotic.

As always, feel free to chime-in and tell us what you're day looks like before 9am. I'm curious if anyone's list will include bathing and dressing, leisurely eating breakfast and sipping coffee. And that's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If so, please include your home address, because tomorrow morning I'll be knocking on your door—bags in hand—ready to move-in with you.

In some distant dream of the future, if I do ever find myself with the opportunity to have just four simple things on my list, you will find me in a lounge chair listening to this song while I take it easy in all those hours leading up to 9am.

Simon & Garfunkel - El Condor Pasa

Friday, March 11, 2011

Present Moments

They all say it. And now I know it's true.

These moments go by so fast. Too fast to try and hurry them along.

Seeing as Bubba is my third and final baby—to the best of my knowledge, that is—I find myself cherishing all of the little things he does throughout the day. It is such a gift to observe a child as he learns to do things for the very first time.

Take for instance Bubba on the soccer field, as seen in this video...

I love watching him discover the joy of kicking a ball down the field. It won't always be this new. Or this precious.

Soon there will be sweat. And stinky socks. And jock straps.

But I digress. 

In my short seven years of parenting, I realize that I have spent a lot of time wishing my child was onto the next thing. Too often finding myself saying things like,

Boy, does he seem frustrated just sitting in one place. I can't wait until he can crawl.

I'm so tired of carrying him around everywhere. My arms are about to fall off. When will the child learn to walk on his own?

Please God, give him words to speak. All this whining and crying is short-circuiting my mind.

Now that I'm officially saying goodbye to the baby years, I realize how quickly these kids move through each stage. And how each and every moment is to be cherished.

Like this brief moment in the video below. Bubba has recently been learning to formulate words to express his thoughts. He wanted to tell brother and sister all about his morning at soccer practice. It is a wonderful privilege to witness the process unfold...

Take some time this weekend to cherish the unfolding of something beautiful in your life.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Money' Breakfast Tacos

"How did breakfast go with your study group?" I asked walking in the door from my Sunday morning outing with the kids.

"The group was good. We finished early. And those breakfast tacos were money!" He replied. Emphasis on the word 'money'. Which must be grad school slang for good, delicious, satisfying, and popular all rolled into one concise two syllable word.

Within moments of entering the house, he had four plates dished up for me and the kids.

He was right, those tacos were money.

Being gluten-free and dairy-free you can imagine how it might be difficult thinking of breakfast foods for pot-luck style gatherings.

Pancakes. Biscuits and gravy. Cinnamon rolls. Granola and yogurt. Sweet breads. Egg and cheese casseroles. On and on the list goes. It's not easy thinking of a hearty, protein filled breakfast dish to share that extends beyond bacon and eggs.

But, as of today, it looks like we've found it.

On my hubby's recent trip to Mexico he reported that this was what they ate at least two meals a day. Rightly so. There is so much you can do with this simple concept. So much to add. Yet so easy. Especially for a group. Play around with the ingredients here. There is no limit to the deliciousness that this easy breakfast holds.

'Money' Breakfast Tacos

1 pound ground pork breakfast sausage
12 eggs, beaten
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 firm avocado, chopped
1 cup onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 dashes red pepper flakes
2 dashes hot sauce
1 TBS cilantro, minced
12 corn tortillas
1/2 fresh lime, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
Optional toppings: salsa, hot sauce, and cilantro

The Preparation Method:

In a large heavy skillet, cook the ground breakfast sausage with the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Crumble the sausage with a wooden spoon as you stir.

When the sausage has no more pink, add the red bell pepper, avocado and cilantro to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the red bell pepper starts to soften slightly.

Pour in the beaten eggs. Stir continuously until the eggs are cooked. Remove from heat.

If serving buffet style, place the taco contents in a nice bowl and cover.

Now, it's time to heat the corn tortillas so they become soft and scrumptious.

We will refer to the next part of the recipe as "the sauce".

Mix together the olive oil and juice from half of a lime. Add a couple dashes of salt and pepper. Stir it all around. And set aside.

Heat a large griddle or frying pan to medium-high heat. Once hot, brush a light coating of the sauce onto the surface of the griddle or pan. Place the corn tortillas one-by-one onto the hot surface. Brush the sauce onto the top side of each tortilla. Allow each to warm up just until soft, this usually takes about a minute, but don't walk away for fear of frying them to a crisp.

Reserve a plate to the side with tin foil over the top to place your warm tortillas in.

When ready to serve, make a buffet line with the tortillas, filling, and optional toppings of salsa, hot sauce, cilantro and whatever else you've got laying around. The more the better here, friends.


I don't know why this breakfast recipe made me think of this song. Something to rock out to in the early morning hours. Turn it loud. Wake up the house. They won't mind at all when they catch a glimpse of what you're cooking. They'll be happy you did.

Beastie Boys - Root Down

Monday, March 7, 2011

10: The Grand Countdown

And The Grand Countdown is ON!

Only ten more weeks until my endearing husband wraps up four long, hard years of grad school.

Yesterday afternoon he and I had the opportunity to chat while we prepared Depression Era Pasta e Fagioli for dinner after our family movie. We had just finished watching The Diary of Anne Frank with the kids and walked upstairs to the kitchen with a slightly different perspective than usual.

As he sautéed the onion and I minced the garlic, a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness overcame the both of us. In that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks that I sure have been doing a lot of complaining over the past few years as we've tried to figure out this grad school plus work plus family thing.

Pouring in the tomatoes to the sauce, he mentioned how lucky he feels to even be attending grad school in the first place. And I agreed. And I thought to myself that I'd like to take a moment to reflect on all of the good things that have been born of the sacrifices and commitment over the past four years.

I do believe a Top Ten list is in order.

Top Ten Things I Can Thank Our Grad School Experience For...

10. A deep sense of living in the moment—because the moments pass far too quickly around here—and our time together is precious.

9. My new motto, "Why not?" Wether it be a passion, a dream or a wish, considering the "What's holding me back?" question sets us on the right path every time.

8. Learning how to function (in a very basic way, mind you) alone in crowded public places with three kids.

7. Finally making peace with people snarling at me in crowded public places with my three monkeys in tow. Did I say snarling? I meant staring. But sometimes they do snarl, especially when one child is whining, the other is screaming and the last has transformed into a ferocious dinosaur. The grocery store clerks love me.

6. The realization that grocery shopping by myself at midnight feels like a privilege.

5. Functioning on a tight grocery budget—which has lead to beautiful creativity in the kitchen and a whole new repertoire of delicious dishes that the whole family is thankful for.

4. Understanding just how important our community is to raising a family. We can't do it all on our own.

3. Taking joy in the simple things. There is a lot of complicated stuff out in the world, but taking the time to find joy and peace in the simple things makes a big difference for how it feels on the inside.

2. Helping me realize how much I really do love being around my husband.

1. And making me all the more eager to fall in love with him all over again—once we are no longer ships passing in the night.

This is quite awesome. Watch it through folks—I promise you'll be smiling by the end—and it might help you think of a few things you are grateful for. First thing that comes to my mind... dancing.

Paul Simon - Me & Julio (on Sesame Street)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moist Chocolate Cakes (Gluten-Free)

I am the first to admit that I've had some struggles in the gluten-free baking department. Therefore, I don't do it very often. But when I do—and I need a desert that is sure to impress—I make these Moist Chocolate Cakes. They are super easy, require only a few ingredients, and turn out great every time. This recipe is exactly what every wounded gluten-free baker needs in her life. 

Moist Chocolate Cakes (Gluten-Free)

1 cup unsalted butter (I tried these with Earth Balance and they didn't turn out quite right, real butter works so much better in this recipe)
8 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar (Ultrafine Bakers Sugar works nicely here)
pinch of salt
4 tsp white rice flour
12 paper muffin cups
small carton fresh raspberries
powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preparation Method:

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter and chocolate in double-boiler. This is my crafty version of a double-boiler because I don't have a real one. Simply put a few inches of water in the pan, place a heat-proof bowl over the top and away you go. It works well.

Continue stirring butter and chocolate until melted; remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved. It would be ideal to use a hand mixer. If you don't have a hand mixer handy, simply use your hand to mix her.

Now combine the egg mixture with the chocolate mixture. Beat until smooth.

Stir in the rice flour, just until combined. Don't over stir. These things are touchy.

Line the muffin tin with 12 muffin cups. Spray the cups with vegetable cooking spray. This will help in your presentation later, if you're trying to be fancy with it.

Divide batter evenly into the cups.

Bake for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until batter puffs just a bit but the center is not entirely set.

In the meantime, grab some fresh raspberries and granular sugar. Wet the raspberries slightly and roll them around in the sugar to coat.

Carefully unwrap the baking cups from the cakes and transfer to desert plates. Top with the sugar coated raspberries and dust with a light covering of powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Something mellow for you while you sit back and relax with your quick and easy gluten-free desert tonight...

Matisyahu - Running Away + Beatbox Freestyle (Bob Marley Cover)

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