Thursday, January 19, 2017

Crockpot Greek Meatballs

It's been about 6 months since I discovered the handy dandy bag of frozen meatballs from Costco.  It was served as an appetizer with tzatziki dipping sauce at our family reunion last fall.  I watched as the hostess just poured them straight out of the thawed bag  into the serving dish.  How easy was that?  I was amazed at how good they were.  I knew I was onto to something.  It has now become my go to for when I just didn't get supper going and I need something quick.  Not only have I done the traditional spaghetti and meatballs (can't be simpler with jarred sauce), we've also enjoyed meatball subs, meatball soup and  meatballs in cream sauce.

Yesterday I took them a bit to a higher level by making a sauce from scratch.  It was still super simple, took no time whatsoever and used ingredients I had on hand.  The sauce is started in a skillet but continues to cook and marry all the delicious flavors in the crockpot.  This was a delicious change up from the usual pasta sauce.  It has cinnamon in it!  Yes cinnamon!  I never would have thought to put cinnamon in a pasta sauce had I not come across this recipe.   Hubby commented that the sauce tasted like something we would get in one of our favorite restaurants here in town.  Score!  I knew I had to share it with you.

I adapted the recipe from this one here.  Because we don't drink the only thing I didn't have on hand was the red wine so I made adaptations for that.  Super simple, super delicious.  Had I have known how delicious and that I would share it with you I would have taken a picture but alas you'll just have to trust me and make it for yourself to see how it looks.  😇


-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-1 Tbsp flour

-1 28 oz. can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
-1/4 cup apple juice
-1/4 cup chicken broth (or skip the apple juice and use all chicken broth)
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (about a tbsp dried but fresh is so much better)
-2 tsp  paprika
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp oregano
-salt and pepper to taste

-28 oz. of frozen meatballs (comes to about 30-34 of the Kirkland brand meatballs from costco)

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large saute skillet.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking and stirring until bubbly and browning.   Add remaining ingredients except the meatballs.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce.  If it gets too thick you can add more broth.

Puree with an immersion blender to reduce the tomato chunks.  It can also be done in a blender but I like the sauce a bit chunkier.  The blender would make it smoother.  If doing in the blender make sure to take out the center cup out of the lid and cover with a kitchen towel.  This lets the hot steam out and stops any hot liquid from blowing out and burning you.

Use a little olive oil to grease the sides of the crockpot.  Place meatballs into crockpot and cover with sauce.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Again if the sauce is reducing too much you can add more broth.

I served it with orzo and a Greek salad on the side.  It can also be served with rice or mashed potatoes.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #413

Welcome everyone.  Friday is our time to look for the blessings which touched our lives in the past week and share 5 of them.  Sometimes it's super easy to see them and sometimes we need to reach deep within as they are not quite so obvious for varied reasons.  But that is when establishing this discipline comes into play.  Please join us.

1.  Free Books!   We had taken a bunch stuff to Thrift Village that we were no longer using and in exchange they gave us coupons for 3 free books.  Now that's a reward if I do say so myself.  The only thing was I could only use 1 coupon per day.  Good thing they are only about 6 blocks away.  But mostly, do you know how hard that was?!  It was torture.  When looking the first day I found all 3 that I wanted.  Now I had a dilemma.  Which one to take for sure and which 2 to risk not being there the next couple of days.  I ended up with 2 Kate Morton books (The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours) and also The Other Story by Tatiana De Rosnay.  All hard cover and all in excellent condition.  Score!!  I hope they are good.

2.  Unexpected treat of a lunch out.  Since Christmas day we have had a ton of snow since Christmas Eve.  Hubby has been driving to my mom's, sometimes several times a week to shovel for her as the guy she usually has do it hurt his back.  In appreciation she took us all out for a Chinese food lunch after church.  It was a nice surprise.  The food was excellent and is a favorite of hubby's so he was pretty happy.

3.  Massage.  Very grateful for my massage therapist this week.  Last Friday while shoveling I felt muscle seize in my lower back.  Ouch!  A few back pills later and taking it really easy on the weekend and lots of stretches later, I couldn't wait to get to my appointment that I already had.  She really worked hard on it and it feels good as new now.

4.  New Recipe.  I noticed in the grocery store that they had butternut squash, cubed and frozen.  I've been wanting to try more squashes, so I nabbed a bag then got on Pinterest to look for  recipes.  Found this one, tweaked it a bit by adding a couple of cubed potatoes in the last 20 minutes and then adding a bit of cornstarch slurry to thicken it just a bit.  It was delicious.  Yum.  And using the bag of frozen squash was so easy.  Just threw it in in the last five minutes.

5.  Fresh squeezed orange juice.  Nothing compares.  Yum!  And especially goes down good when kids are bringing all sorts of coughs and colds to dayhome with them.

What have been your favorite blessings from the past week?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron ~ Book Review

This is the story of two women who's lives were changed by the Ringling Brothers Circus of the 1920's.  Both had to find the courage to take a step of faith to make their dreams come to life.  Mabel was a young woman who left the comfort and familiarity of the farm she was raised on to head to the big city.  Taking a cigar box filled with clippings of her dreams she is working towards those  when a stranger comes into the restaurant she is working at and talks her boss into allowing her to escort him around the Chicago World's Fair.  Mabel at first has no idea who he is but later learns he was none other than John Ringling.  Meeting again in another city they eventually marry.  Mable is popular amongst the circus crew and performers for her quiet kindness and strength.

Rosamund Easling is a young lady who is raised in the wealthy parlors of her English Earl father.  He beloved brother lost his life in WWI and Rosamund misses him dearly.  She finds solace in barebacking riding with the precious horse her brother had given her.  But when her parents are forcing her into a marriage to another wealthy man and selling the horse to a man who is buying it for the Ringling circus in America, Rose is heartbroken.  When Colin sees her riding Ingenue he sees her potential as a performer and invites her to America with the horse.  Rosamund agrees and sneaks off with Colin on a boat to America leaving her parents a note.  Intending on returning eventually, Rose's life is changed when she encounters not only the fame and bright lights of the circus world but also the life of a type of nomad during show season and the harsh competitive nature of it.

I enjoyed this historical fiction novel that highlights the early life of the circus.  The story is told from the viewpoints of the two women and goes back and forth between them.  Though of both women's stories are centered in the 1920's Mable's starts of a bit earlier on the timeline.  There was a small issue for me in that a couple of times as the two women's stories started to intertwine that the timeline jumps got a little confusing and I did have to backtrack to the the beginnings of chapters to find out what year I was in.

Mable was the real life wife of John Ringling.  She was known for her wisdom and kindness and her and John built an amazing estate in Florida where they wintered in the off season but also had amazing parties whose invitations were coveted by both performers and the public. Rosamund and Colin are fictional characters added to the real life story of Mable and it makes for a good read.  It was interesting how Mable came from humble farming beginnings and rose up to be wealthy and Roseamund started very wealthy and chose to leave it and start from the bottom in the circus.  I thought the author did a wonderful job of conveying what the circus culture of the time would have been like.  How hard they all worked together and were like family and yet there was a competitive dynamic in some of the relationships.  A good clean read, I gave it an 8.5/10

Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #412

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to Friday's Fave Five!  I'm sorry I was a no show last week which was a bummer, it being the last friday and Fave Five of 2016 but it just couldn't be helped.  Real life interrupted and I just had to go with the flow.  Our daughter and son in law drove up from Saskatchewan and about an hour out from here they had a breakdown.  So it was parents to the rescue and by the time we got home it was late and we were all exhausted and hungry .   My time for writing the post just disappeared in a poof.   Then Friday was my birthday and my family had plans and I wasn't about to put that on hold while I got on the computer.   So here we are in 2017 and looking at the first week to look for blessings and be thankful.  Please join us!

1.  Family together.   This last holiday I am more thankful  than ever to have family together at holidays.  I gained a whole new appreciation of the effort it takes for those who have to travel to get here.  Taking time off from work, making pet arrangements,through snow storms, bitter cold, and sometimes downright scary roads my brood worked to get home.  Though we were actually all 6 together at the same time only about 3 days out of the week and a half it was all treasured.  Son was in and out as he was working ambulance shifts.  Oldest daughter and hubby couldn't make it till the 29th but it was wonderful to have them no matter when they could come.  Our youngest, working in retail, had to work a lot but it was nice when she was able to hang out and nice that she had New Years off to celebrate with us.  

2.  Travelling mercies.  Our son works ambulance about 45 minutes from here and towards to the mountains.  During the couple weeks he was home and driving to work for his shifts he had some of the scariest driving conditions.  Quite a few days it was crazy windy and he drives through an area that is notorious when the wind howls.  There were several overturned semi trucks on some of the days and one day he even felt his car being pushed towards the ditch.  We had a white Christmas which saw a crazy amount of snow over 3 days and he had treacherous roads while that was happening to contend with too.  In fact, sadly, the shift before his had to deal with a horrible fatal highway accident.  So getting the texts saying he had arrived safely and seeing him walk in the door after his shifts found this mama very, very thankful!

3.  Lovely birthday dinner cooked by my oldest girl.  Long story short, because of the car breakdown my birthday dinner was postponed for a few days so we could all be together for it, but my girl wanted me to still have a night off of cooking so she spur of the moment cooked up an absolutely delicious chicken fajita dinner for me.  Mexican is one of my favorites meals and so this was a lovely unexpected birthday gift from her.

4.   Game time.  All my kids are board game fans so when they come you know there is going to be some noisy shenanigans going on.  This year we bypassed the familiar and tried some new games.  We played a wildly crazy and hilarious game that totally messes with your head called Ghost Blitz.  It's listed on amazon for kids but it was all adults playing it here and it was fun.  Then on New Year's the young adults played an insane game called Bean Boozled.  A gift from my son to his cousin, this game is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  It's basically a Russian Roulette of Jelly Belly jelly beans where you spin the dial and for each color of bean you can land on you will either get a yummy flavor or a horrendous one.  And you don't know till you start chewing.  Defintely a fear factor vibe to the game.  You can make your own rules so our rules were you had to actually swallow the bean to get the point.  If you spit it out no score.  My brave sis and her hubby played the game at Christmas but "politely" opted out at New Years stating that one game was plenty for them.  I totally jammed out but gamely tried the lime/ grass clippings which was the tamest of the "yuck" flavors.  Gotta hand it to them they played about a dozen rounds.  No way I woulda/coulda done that.

I believe this was the reaction to the Buttered Popcorn/ Rotten Egg.  Guess which she got.

And this was the dead fish/strawberry banana smoothie color.  The bucket being good- naturedly offered by his wife while his the rest of us were having a good laugh tells you which flavor my son in law got.   Happy to say nobody actually used the bucket.

And this is definitely the spoiled milk, her biggest disliked flavor at anytime.  Unfortunately she never did get the alternate flavor of coconut.

And another game was played, Time Stories. but it was way too involved and long for me but it was nice to hear the young people around the table playing for hours.

5.  A really blessed birthday.  From the beautifully thoughtful gifts my family gave me, to those who were here during the actual day indulging me in some boxing week shopping, to the fajita meal and finally to the dinner out when were all together I have to say I felt truly blessed and truly thankful for every moment.  

I'd like to take this moment to wish you all a very blessed 2017.  May you have many moments that lift you, that bring you joy and laughter, and may you find those blessings daily.  Thank you for sticking with me on this little space on the internet, the highs and the lows, the prolific times and the writing slumps.  Thank you for the encouragement and friendship.  It means more than you will ever know.

So now it's your turn.  What are your blessings from the first week of 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sorry Friday's Fave Five today, for me anyway, not that I don't have much to list to be thankful for but we've had some unexpected things that need our immediate attention and I don't have the time to do a post.  I will put up Mr. Linky anyway and you guys can all join in.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fave Fives #411

Sorry this is up late.  Was too busy over the last few days and I totally forgot.  I admit it.  But no matter when whether late or not, I hate to miss the opportunity to be thankful for good things in my life.  Please join in if you can!

1.  Funny moment with massage therapist not discussing muscles or massage but teaching each other things the other didn't know about our galaxy phones.  Who knew swipe texting was a thing?!

2.  Binge watching "When Calls the Heart".  We got Netflix free for trial this month and I found this charming tv series and I must confess I've been binge watching it all week to catch up.  It's based on a novel written by an Albertan who has written tons of historical Christian fiction and I remember reading this novel so it's been fun watching the show.

3.  Getting sweet treats and gifts from the dayhome families.  So appreciate that they think of me at Christmas!  And it's fun to watch the kid's excitement as they hand me the presents that they bring.  That is the best part.  They are so cute.

4.  Getting an extra holiday off inadvertently.  I didn't ask for today off but everyone said they weren't going to be here today so an extra day for me to get things done.  Yay!  Cause I really, really need it.

5.  West Jet does it again.  West Jet is a Calgary based airline and for the past I don't know how many years, they have been doing a special thing at Christmas time.    The first one is here, the likes of which boggles my mind that they pulled it off, then another sweet one here, and another year they did this.  And this one was fun.  But this year's hit close to home.  See, Alberta has had a tough few years.  The oil sector is taking a huge hit and thousands have lost their oil jobs.  And the city of Fort McMurray is especially hard hit being an oil town and then the devastating fire where the whole city was evacuated and thousands lost everything.   So to see an Alberta company bring them a bit of cheer is awesome.

What were your favorites blessings for the week?

And before you leave I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  May your Christmas be joyous, peaceful and bright and filled with the wonder of that very first Christmas where God Himself came to earth to show how very much He loved us.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #410

Thanks for coming by on this frosty Friday morning.  Hope you are all staying warm.  The cold snap has gone on way too long for me and I'm looking forward to next week where it supposedly is going to get a couple degrees above freezing.  That is a welcome relief considering we've been in the -20*C range for over 2 weeks now.  Hopefully it will actually happen!  But today no matter the weather,  it's Fave Five day.  Please join as we look for and share 5 of our favorite blessings from the past week.

1.  Dinner cooked for us on a busy Saturday.  Usually dinner on Saturday is non-existent in the traditional sense at our house.  We tend to just "pick" all day or grab a bite out if we've got lots of errands.  But last Saturday, while out Christmas shopping, my daughter called to say she was cooking supper.  She made an absolutely delicious pot of Potato Soup that was most welcome on a very cold day.  Along with a batch of hot Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits it was the perfect supper.  Much appreciated after a busy day.

2.  Study group Christmas party.  I rarely hold bible study at my house but I do like to host the Christmas party.  No studying tonight, just good food and lots of fun.  We have a fun gift exchange and play a couple of games which usually results in much laughter and chaos.  I always look forward to it.

3.  Christmas crafting with the kids.  The 4 and 5 year olds just love to craft especially at Christmas time so we've been doing lots of fun crafts this past week.  It's especially rewarding and worth all the clean up I have to do afterwards to hear one of them say how much they like Susanne's crafts.  They are so proud of their little creations.

4.  Accomplishing a fitness challenge.  I'm really starting to like small fitness challenges that push me beyond where I thought I could go.  Nothing to big but something to push for.  The Curves gym I go to had a 12 days of planking challenge running this month and I was really thrilled to accomplish the challenge.  When I think of how far I've come it's actually really fun and motivating.  When I think of what a couch potato I basically used to be, it feels really good to now feel stronger.

5.  Homemade chocolates.  The lady I go to for a massage always makes homemade chocolates and gives them out at Christmas time.  Last night was the night I was gifted with mine.  Always a nice little treat.  Yummy.

Well I can't believe it's only a week to Christmas.  I still am not quite finished yet and I haven't even started baking.  I'm thinking I'm going really simple this year.  Maybe just some shortbread and the toffee I make.  It's going to be a busy but fun weekend.  Hope yours is great.

Now what were you're favorite blessings from the week?