Baking Hacks | Christmas Baking with Ease

I love to bake, especially around Christmas time, and after two years living in a country at a high altitude which complicated baking, I am excited to be back in the US this Christmas to enjoy the season!

tree-jpp

Over the years, I have learned some baking hacks from friends and family, out of trial and error, and by necessity. I have compiled a list of helpful hints for you to use this holiday season. If you have some of your own, please share them so we can all make this an effortless holiday baking season!

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Our Mother’s Day BBQ | Inspiration for Your Next BBQ

During are recent whirlwind trip to the US fitting in visits with my family, my husband’s, celebrating our friends tying the knot, and visiting a few friends, we planned in dinners at our favorite places and even a well-timed mother’s day BBQ. Excited for summer ingredients in the US and the opportunity to prepare meals with them, I set out to devise a menu with my sister that would showcase fresh ingredients we love and some of our mom’s favorites.

Lemon and Bay Leaf Shrimp Skewers on the grill

Need inspiration for your next summer BBQ? Here’s what we planned (and the links to the recipes we used, too!)…

  • Corn, tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad
  • Grilled beef in a red wine marinade
  • Lemon and Bay Leaf Shrimp Skewers
  • Grilled veggies (squash, onions, peppers, and potatoes)
  • Lemon Meringue Pie – *our mom’s favorite…store-bought because we were short on prep time

Corn, Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Salad

Knowing how we love to go overboard on menu options and that we are always overly excited to try new recipes, we restrained ourselves well this time! We still had left overs, but one of the best parts of a get together is having the leftovers for the next day when you are craving another helping and tired from all the work and clean-up from the day before.

Grilled Veggies

Be on the lookout for more great BBQ recipes to come. You know we love grilling and entertaining!

 

Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread & Cucumber Salsa

Weekends are great for getting creative. With so many fresh and colorful ingredients, lunch can always be bright and healthy. This past weekend, I sought to try out a few healthy and tasty lunch options to add to my repertoire.

Chickpea Spread - Before and After

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Mama Cheryl’s Meatball Sub

Years ago, we used to spend the weekends with our friends at their parents’ house lounging at the pool, relaxing in the hot tub, and joking around with them. Even better were the Italian dishes Mama Cheryl made for us and her meatball subs were no exception. They were consumed for dinner and as we drank the night away. She always made enough to feed a village and had them ready to go at a moment’s notice. My husband and I loved them so much that I learned her technique and have continued to make them that way ever since.

After making meatballs for New Year’s, we realized how long it had been since either of us had eaten a meatball sub and instantly craved Mama Cheryl’s meatball subs. So, here we are…

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Italian Meatballs

As I sit here writing this post listening to my husband’s sneeze attack, I hear the childhood song ringing in my head…on top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed! Can’t tell you the last time I even thought of that song. Of course, when I made these for our New Year’s Eve party, we didn’t lose a single one to anyone’s sneezes.

Meatballs 3

Often times, I make things for our get togethers or for dinner and they are just okay, not blog worthy or even worth making again…but then there are those that get cleared off the plate faster than the time it took to plate the food. These meatballs are an example of the later so naturally I want to share with all of you as well so you too can enjoy them or share them with your friends.

Serve these with toothpicks as an appetizer, on hoagie rolls topped with mozzarella cheese for a delicious meatball sub, or on top of a bowl of spaghetti…just don’t let anyone sneeze around it!

Meatballs - Pinterest

Italian Meatballs

Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 2-14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Meatballs

  • 2 cups bread, crust removed and chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 kilo or 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

Sauce:

  • In a shallow, wide skillet pan, heat oil over medium heat, add garlic and onion and cook until softened. Add tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender and puree the ingredients.
  • Return to stove and add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat while you make the meatballs.

Meatballs:

  • In a small mixing bowl, add bread cubes and milk. Let it sit until the bread has absorbed all the milk.
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer add beef, eggs, cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix using the dough attachment. Add bread cubes and continue mixing until it is combined for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Wet your hands or apply olive oil to keep the meatballs from sticking as you roll. Roll meatballs into 1 inch balls. Gently put into pan with sauce simmering.
  • Once all meatballs are in the pan, cook for about 12 minutes or until cooked through.

Meatballs - Appetizer

 

The end of 2015 has been quite busy for us, I’ll get you all caught up soon on what we’ve been up to…trip to Germany and the recipes I’ve been cooking up in the kitchen. Over the last year, I’ve worked to try different ingredients in my cooking, getting creative with the limited options we have here, improving my food photography and styling skills, and my ability to put out crowd pleasers at our get-togethers. I feel like I came a long way to accomplishing these goals and look forward to doing even more in the year ahead. In 2016, I hope to do even more to improve myself, my cooking, and this blog! Hope you all start 2016 with your own goals and plans for yourself.

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Blue Cheese & Pecan Spread

A crowd favorite for the blue cheese lovers in your family at your next holiday meal or get-together. Pair with french bread, apples, or celery for a unique appetizer spread.

Over the years as all the nieces of my family got older and feel in love with cooking or baking or trying recipes they found on Pinterest, we have inspired new traditions in our family and brought new flavors and ingredients to the mix. Our family get-togethers have since turned into foodie events, whether brunches for mothers day or an “appetizers only” New Year’s Day gathering where we ended up with enough food to feed twice as many people as were there. We also take the opportunity to share new favorite dishes and recipes and share secrets of what we’ve found work and don’t work with each of them.

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