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I have only seen one (partial) episode of the Honey Boo Boo show, during which the best quote ever was uttered from her pudgy lips during an outing to the local diner: “Why can’t my sides be meat?” Why, indeed. If Honey Boo Boo wants her fried chicken with a side of pork chops, who is to deny her this simple pleasure? (Hopefully her parents, as I believe childhood obesity often stems from parental irresponsibility at worst and ignorance, at best.)

::Climbs off soapbox and goes on to detail recipes of questionable nutritional value::

This entry does not include sides comprised of meat; however, I will review a meatball appetizer and a spaghetti and meat sauce recipe (made on separate occasions).

The holidays are fast approaching and with them, social gatherings. You are sure to reach that moment when you just can’t decide what dish to contribute to the spread. Don’t panic! I am here to help with one of my favorite and most well-received appetizers: Pinot noir meatballs. This recipe is very easy (especially if you lazy out like me and buy frozen meatballs) and crazy popular. It will make the whole place smell like delicious red wine and is a nice, warm little treat with complex, yet universally satisfying flavors.

The link will take you to a page which details how to make your meatballs from scratch, but I have taken to using a 1 pound bag of frozen cocktail meatballs (after I made them the first time and realized there was very little difference in flavor).  The last bag I got was from Trader Joe’s and, while the meatballs were a little bigger than cocktail size, they were the best I’ve had yet (NOT including my grandma’s meatballs, of course!).

(Pictures show me making a double batch- which I recommend.)

Pinot Noir Meatballs

Ingredients

1 (1-lb) bag frozen meatballs

1 (16-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce (the Trader Joe brand came in 12oz sized jars, so I used 2 and 2/3 jars for the double batch)

1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar (I usually use about 3/4 cup, or 1 1/2 cups for the double batch))
1 cup Pinot Noir wine (or any red wine)
2 teaspoons hot Chinese mustard  (I used horseradish mustard since it’s all I had on hand)

 

Directions

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, add cranberry sauce, brown sugar, pinot noir wine, and Chinese mustard; stir to combine. Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Combine with frozen meatballs into the slow cooker and cook on high for approximately 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  (This is if you’re using frozen meatballs – if not, you just need to keep everything warm on low.  Frozen meatballs may be ready prior to 3-4 hours but that is how long I did them last time and I thought it was a good amount of time to let the flavors mix and the meatballs warm through.)

The sauce simmering

The sauce simmering


The finished product

The finished product

Next, I will share a recipe for spaghetti and meat sauce which I learned from my mom.  I mention my grandma as being an inspiration for my cooking in my ABOUT HILARY section, but my mom is also a major influence in my culinary interests.  She is known to be amazing in the kitchen and I have been spoiled from a young age with her delicious cooking.  One of the first things I taught myself to make was spaghetti with tomato sauce, which I doctored up with various spices to create my own spaghetti sauce.  Eventually, I learned to make my mom’s version, which was a major improvement:

Kim’s spaghetti with meat sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1lb box angel hair pasta, boiled to al dente
  • 1 24oz can Hunt’s spaghetti sauce (I prefer the no sugar added version, but it’s sometimes hard to find)
  • 1 14.5oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained (I usually get the kind with Italian seasonings added)
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dried basil, to taste (about 1 tsp)*
  • Dried oregano, to taste (about 1 tsp)*
  • Dried parsley, to taste (about 1 tsp)*
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

*Since the spaghetti sauce has some spices in it, and we’re using flavored tomatoes, I don’t typically add too many additional spices

Ingredients shown for a double batch

Ingredients shown for a double batch

Directions

1. In a large pan (or, for a double batch, use a pot) brown ground beef over medium-high heat, stirring frequently

2. Drain grease

See all that extra grease?  This dish has enough flavor that you don't need it

See all that extra grease? This dish has enough flavor that you don’t need it


I find it easiest to use a colander

I find it easiest to use a colander

3. Saute onions in same pan for a couple minutes over medium heat, then add garlic and continue to saute for another minute or two (there will be enough grease stuck to the sides that you won’t need any extra oil)

Left over grease

Left over grease

4. Return ground beef to pan and let cook with onions and garlic for a few minutes, stirring occasionally (this allows the beef to soak up some flavor)

 

5. Add spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spices and a few generous shakes of parmesan cheese

This is the point at which I realized I almost didn't use a big enough pot!

This is the point at which I realized I almost didn’t use a big enough pot!

6. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally

In case you were wondering how much a double batch makes- it's a lot

In case you were wondering how much a double batch makes- it’s a lot

Serve over pasta with some more parmesan cheese on top:

Kim's spaghetti and meat sauce

 

I made a double batch so I could take some to a new mom, feed Dr. Matthews and me for a few meals, and even froze some for later (sauce freezes well but you will need to make fresh pasta when you thaw it out).

Served with green beans and garlic bread.  Yum!

Served with green beans and garlic bread. Yum!

There you have it.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving – I will be sharing a couple of Thanksgiving recipes soon- too late for this year, probably, but you can hold on to them for next year or just make them any time 🙂

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