Monday, March 17, 2014

Honey Balsamic Meatballs

Dear Jess,

I hope you had a chance to make the Quinoa 'Fried Rice' over your March Break! I am so happy you were able to come by for a visit during your travels through Peterborough! I miss our chats and giggles. It was nice to be 're-charged' with them last week.

Today was grocery day. This is a good thing because my fridge was empty. It looked like the Grinch came and didn't leave us a crumb! As sad as my fridge sounds, I was actually happy, because the possibilities for meals this week became endless! I could potentially get ingredients for whatever I wanted! Woot woot!

Jason says he has been feeling 'foggy' lately, and has asked if I wouldn't mind making him lunches with no wheat and very little sugar in support of him trying to do a 'cleanse'. This was exciting for me, because it means I get to do more cooking!

Both of these stories, when combined, are what lead me to make these meatballs. I was trying to think of filling, yet wheat-free recipes that would be appropriate (and easy to eat) for Jason's lunch(es).

This recipe does have a little bit of brown sugar in the sauce, and there is sugar in ketchup. I did less sugar and ketchup than it calls for, and added more honey and some agave nectar. It's fun to play around with these things!

Honey Balsamic Meatballs

For the meatballs:
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2/3 cup water
1 lb lean ground beef
1 egg, whisked
1 large shallot OR 1/2 small onion, grated or minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper

For the Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup browns ugar
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients for Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring every so often, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until suace is thick and has lost its vinegary bite, stirring every so often.

Meanwhile, combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil (lid on) and turn heat down to medium-low, and then cook for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork then cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a cooking rack on top and sqray very well with nonstick spray. Set aside. (I didn't have a cooking rack that would fit on my baking sheet, so I just lined a large casserole dish with foil, and sprayed it well with olive oil.)

In a large bowl combine cooled quinoa, egg, shallot, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme and rosemary. Stir to combine. Add beef and mix to combine using hands. Separate mixture into eighths, then form three meatballs from each segment. This will give you 24 meatballs. (I got a few extra because I wanted to make them a tad smaller) Place on prepared cooling rack. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center. Add meatballs to the sauce and serve! You could also transfer them into a crock pot set to 'warm' if you are doing a potluck/hockey game/party type of night.

I hope your return to school is seamless and a breeze! I, of course, miss you terribly and can't wait until our next visit!

So much love,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

My Dearest Sally,

Your last post looks and sounds delicious! I'll have to try that one before the break is over.The house has been cleaned and is now slightly more organized. This post is something that I made just before March Break started. Jesse and I had dinner at his brother's house where we had a delicious sweet potato soup, salad and wine. Our responsibility whenever we visit is dessert.

Apart from icing the cake without the proper tools I found this recipe very enjoyable to make. It was loved by everyone at the table except their youngest son who does not share our fondness for blueberries. It is loaded with gluten and dairy so I was not able to take part myself but I was just happy to see that everyone else liked it.

The recipe comes from a site called Sally's Baking Addiction. She has a wealth of fantastic recipes on her website and her visual recipe index make deciding on a recipe effortless.

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake



- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature*
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour, careful not to overmeasure
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
- zest + juice of 3 medium lemons*
- 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258g) or non-thawed frozen (275g)

- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour


- 8 ounces (224g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3.5 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 - 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy cream*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt


Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray three 9x2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Make the cake. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 10 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat on low until just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point. 

Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.

Assemble and frost. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn't make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.

I don't have any pictures of the finished product but the website I got the recipe from does a very good job of making your mouth water. I think I may try a different combination of berries and citrus in the spring.

I can't wait to see you girls on Thursday! Until then enjoy the sunny and seasonal weather while it lasts.

Love you!