Total Pageviews

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Delish and Nutrish-- 'My Mama's Meatballs & Gravy'

I love to eat! And eating great food when you are TRULY hungry makes the experience of eating the gift and blessing that it really is. As I live my life now, so aware of health and fitness and working at achieving and maintaining my health and fitness, I've actually learned the joy of food -- much much more than when I was indiscriminately eating whatever I wanted or THOUGHT tasted good in whatever amounts it took to make me full. So often, if not all the times I ate like that -- I really didn't enjoy the eating of the food OR the food itself. PLUS, I would feel guilty and defeated emotionally, on top of feeling and BEING bloated, puffy, often 'crampy', overfed, and uncomfortable.

NOW, I get to enjoy food and eating. I am STILL a 'comfort-eater', but I find alternatives for snacks that help alleviate my 'yearnings', but yet that are healthier (see my previous post). I also make and eat versions of the recipes I grew up with that are SO delicious, YET nutritious. That's the key to lasting success in this whole effort to lose weight and keep it off for good AND to get and stay fit. One HAS to eat and ENJOY the foods that they LIKE and that also they associate with happiness, comfort, goodness, wholesomeness, and balance. Foods are meant to nourish our bodies -- yes -- but also our souls! Now, if you find that you are a person who has to totally chuck all your previous preferences and associations with food and start all over with a new diet plan, then so be it. You probably were never really eating a balanced diet to begin with. It's never too late to seek out and re-learn new and more appropriate selections and habits. But, I was raised in an Italian home where the Mediterranean diet was practiced. Unfortunately, my grandparents and parents were so fascinated with all the fast foods and convenience foods that were rapidly being developed and rolled out that, often, AFTER we ate dinner, just for 'fun', we would drive to the 'new' McDonald's or Burger King and get a burger, fries, and a Coke!! This was about an hour AFTER we had just eaten a full healthy meal of lean meat, vegetables, and salad!!! I remember eating watermelon for dessert -- this is what we were offered after meals -- fresh fruit in season. But, THEN, my Dad, God love him, would pull out from behind his back the newest 'invention' that he found at the grocery store -- snack-pack puddings! He thought this was so neat! One didn't have to slave away over a hot stove stirring milk and eggs and cocoa -- you simply flipped the top of the can and tucked in. So, here I was, full-bellied after a wholesome wonderful meal and then I would eat a pudding on top of it. They did this out of love and ignorance. They had NO idea that they were overfeeding us or fostering habits that would be our undoing as we got older. But, it's been a long, hard struggle for me to 'undo' the BAD habits while keeping hold of the GREAT habits and preferences I ALSO learned as a child. I'm an adult now and there's NO excuses. I KNOW better and I have to wake up every day and LIVE my 'knowing-better'. In the end, it makes me better and rather, GREAT!

Here's one of my mother's best recipes -- nutritionally, for sure -- but also for comfort. I've modified it slightly, but not too much as to take away from its original grandeur.

My Mama's Meatballs & Gravy
(feeds 4, but can double recipe for 8+)

Ingredients for Meatballs:

1 lb.LEAN (5% fat or less) (500 g) ground beef
1 beef or pork rib or lean, thin pork chop
3 -4 cloves chopped garlic
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley (curly leaf)
3-4 sprigs celery leaves, chopped finely
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons (or so) grated fresh parmesean cheese
2-3 tablespoons fresh grated whole-wheat bread crumbs (optional-- can omit if following Paleo or high-protein/low carb type diet)
salt and pepper

Method for meatballs:

Mix all ingredients except the pork rib or chop into a medium bowl. Add enough grated cheese to make mixture smooth. If you need less than the amount listed above, that's ok, especially if you are using the bread crumbs, too. If not using bread crumbs, you will likely need all of grated cheese. Add ICE COLD water if mixture actually needs more moisture. The mix should be moist enough, but not too wet so as to enable you to make firm meatballs. Best to make meatballs the size of a ping-pong or golf ball rather than bigger. Once all meat mixture is made into balls, set aside on plate, sitting on top of ice or cover and place in fridge.
Take a large non-stick skillet and sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons olive oil over it. Bring to a medium high heat. When oil just starts to bead, add the pork rib or chop and brown well on all sides. Remove from pan and place on plate to rest. Add 2 more Tablespoons olive oil to skillet and allow to just bead. Then add as many meatballs as you can to the heated skillet, but do not crowd them in. Keep turning them, until they are nicely browned on all sides. As they are done, transfer to a fresh plate to let rest, and continue this process until all meatballs are browned evenly on all sides and are more or less, cooked. Test one to see that they are not raw inside -- they really should be thoroughly cooked through. They are now ready to add to gravy.

Ingredients for Gravy:

4-5 16 oz. cans chopped or crushed tomatoes or 2-3 large cans chopped or crushed tomatoes (really, it's up to you how much tomatoes you want to add depending on how much gravy you want to make)
1 small can tomato sauce
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
2 generous Tablespoons olive oil
red wine, to taste (about 2 Tablespoons should be enough)
salt and pepper to taste

Method for Gravy:

Sautee` garlic and onions in olive oil in a medium large pot over a medium heat. Do NOT allow garlic and onion to brown -- only to soften. You can add a tiny bit of water if the garlic and onions look like they are browning while softening. Add chopped/crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a GENTLE bowl. Immediately lower to a simmer. Add the red wine and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to a very gentle simmer while slowly now adding all cooked meatballs. Now add cooked pork chop/rib. Let this meat/tomato mixture simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Keep tasting and add salt and pepper and, maybe more red wine, to taste.

At very end, you can add fresh basil for added 'zest'.

This sauce is wonderful over freshly cooked whole wheat pasta,sprinkled with grated parmesean cheese and basil or parsley sprigs for garnish, It's always best to have your pasta 'al dente' like the Italians like it. Serve with a big, green salad made of the freshest leaves!

Lower Carbohydrate Option:

You can also serve over spaghetti squash. This latter option is great for those of you on a low carbohydrate type diet. To make spaghetti squash, you can rinse a whole squash, slice in half, remove seeds, and place, halved sides down on a baking sheet that has a thin layer of water, in a medium hot oven (350F or 180C or Gas Mark 5) for about 40 minutes. Stick a fork through a half to test for done-ness. If soft and fork easily sticks through, it is done. If not, you need to cook it for as long as it takes for a fork to easily push through a half. This should take no longer than an hour. When done, take out of oven and turn halves over. Let cool a few minutes. Scrape out contents to form spaghetti like strands onto your plate. Ladle sauce over the squash and place meatballs on top. Garnish with basil or parsley. You can sprinkle more grated parmesean if you like. Enjoy.

No comments: