Family Fun Night

Our local beach has a wonderful tradition; every Friday they host a Family Fun Night. Each week there is a theme with a special menu built around it. It is not five star dining but they really make an effort to cook authentic dishes. In addition to the food they also set up a Tiki Bar.  (I think I can speak for most people that this is the real draw!)

This past Friday the theme was Family Fiesta, before that was Fisherman’s Catch, Tapas night and American BBQ. They even had a Hawaiian Luau, complete with a pig roast. Sadly we missed that one. Upcoming events include: Mardi Gras, Italian night, and the end of year Clam Bake, a huge favorite.

They call it Family Fun night but it is really more of a Happy Hour (kids welcome) for the Moms & Dads. It is a great way for the working parents to connect with the stay-at-home parents after a long workweek on both sides. Since the beach is small most everyone is a familiar face. And the best feature of our beach is a six-foot fence so kids can’t escape! It is nice to be able to let the boys run around and they are thrilled to have their little bit of freedom.

The beach has extended hours Friday nights and most kids (and some parents) get to stay up way past bedtimes. But after dinner and the obligatory ice cream we usually don’t make it much past 8pm. Once we start to see the beginnings of a meltdown it’s our signal to pack up our brood and head home for bath and bedtime. The boys always give us a hard time about leaving but we remind them that there is always next Friday…

For Tapas night, there was a dish on the menu called Albondigas.  Sounded very exotic, turns out it means meatballs, which is right up our alley. Traditionally, they are served in a soup with similar ingredients to Matzo Ball Soup so I thought the boys might like this one.

Albondigas Soup (adapted from recipe of Chelsie Kenyon)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1/2 cup rice (uncooked)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin, divided

4 cloves garlic, finely minced, divided

2 quarts chicken broth

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 white onions, diced

3 large carrots, or 12-15 small carrots, chopped

2 cups baby spinach, fresh

Handful fresh cilantro leaves

2 tsp oregano

 

Directions:

In a large bowl mix ground beef, pork, salt, 1 tsp cumin, 2 cloves garlic until well blended. Do not overwork. Form small meatballs, about 1” in diameter.

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Bring chicken broth to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and add in meatballs. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients.

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Simmer for two hours, until vegetables have softened and rice in meatballs has cooked through.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6):  “This soup is so yummy but don’t be sad Mommy, I like Grandma’s          carrots better”

Liam (age 4): “I ate a carrot!”

Dylan (age 4): “These meatballs keep rolling off my spoon!”

Even with the runaway meatballs, I considered this a very successful meal.

Carbo-loading

It’s been a long four months of training but the moment has finally arrived. 4 more days till the NY marathon. Hurricane Sandy tried to interfere but at the moment it looks like the race will go on! I will not miss the long runs but I will miss getting to eat anything I wanted afterward. Since this is the last week of training I get to carbo-load to my heart’s content- poor me.

We have been without power since Monday but we can cook so there will be lots of pasta this week!

I had some mini meatballs already frozen in the freezer that were rapidly defrosting. So spaghetti and meatballs it will be! Kids love anything mini and I love that I can add some veggies to them. Seems like a win – win to me but of course anything can happen with our little crew.

This recipe has a ton of vegetables – since we are eating by candlelight they won’t even notice!

Pasta and Mini Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs:

2 small cloves garlic

1/2-cup fresh spinach leaves

1 large carrot or 10 mini carrots roughly chopped

1 small onion roughly chopped

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 lb. Ground turkey

2 eggs

1/3-cup milk (2% or whole)

1-cup Panko breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper

Sauce:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 28 oz can of crushed or pureed tomatoes

1 lb dried pasta

Note: Any shape works here unlike Mac & Cheese (see previous post on Oct. 19)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the garlic, spinach, carrots, onion in food processor to make a paste.  Reserve 1/2 of paste for the pasta sauce and add rest to a large mixing bowl. Add ground turkey, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, basil and oregano, pinch of salt and pepper. Gently knead with your hands to combine. Form small meatballs approximately 1” diameter. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Make the sauce – heat olive oil in sauce pan and add the remaining vegetable paste. Cook down for about 5 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and add meatballs. This recipe yields about 40 meatballs so the balance may be frozen.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to directions. Drain the pasta and then top with meatballs and sauce. Top with grated cheese.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big bro): This is yummy Mommy!

Liam (little bro): Can we blow the birthday candle out?

Dylan (little bro): Whose birthday is it Mommy?