slow cooker meatballs in mushroom marinara

_MG_7831Note: I received a mix of dried wild mushrooms from the lovely people at Marx Foods to test for this recipe! Thank you!

I realize that a post about delicious meatballs probably doesn’t need to start this way, but I’ve been falling apart at the seams this week. Over the weekend I had an allergic reaction to something. This happens to me every few years. I eat something new, I wear a new article of clothing, the moons aren’t properly aligned in my house or whatever, and I break out in hives. Then, on Monday, I received the dubious honor of being anointed the only person in my family to get pinkeye. I was a big, red, itchy mess all week, and as a result, we’ve been surviving and thriving on takeout and pizza. Even food writers need takeout sometimes.

Before my rash-splosion,  in the throes of just another regular ole’ work week I threw together some pork meatballs in the slow cooker. My new friends at Marx Foods, a fine food purveyor in Seattle (and the folks who sponsored the amazing lamb contest I had the opportunity to compete in) sent me a variety of dried mushrooms and chilies, which I’ll be using in recipes for the next few weeks. The slow cooker is a good friend of ours here at home, although I’ve taken a long break from using it after I started realizing that a lot of the meals I was preparing ended up being bland and/or too one-note. As it turns out, that’s a common problem for slow cooker meals.

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my son is better than me

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This month’s issue of Northern Virginia Magazine features three pieces involving our family. Most notably, Ge Ge was a dueling food critic with the magazine’s resident food editor and critic, Stefanie Gans. Featuring Ge Ge wasn’t an easy decision for the hubby and me. We’ve always known he’s a great eater, but we worried that at age four, he might not be ready to tackle a commentary about food. We warned Stefanie that Ge Ge could clam up, or maybe he would just decide not to eat on the appointed night out of stubbornness. Plus, the restaurant that she chose, Airlie Garden Bistro in Warrenton, Virginia, wasn’t exactly a hop, skip and a jump away from our house.

On the night of the dinner, Ge Ge and I loaded up into the car and inched along I-66 for over an hour and a half. Along the way, he peppered me with questions. “Are we going out to the jungle?” “Is this closer or further from Charleston?” “Do you think they’ll have dessert at this restaurant?” “How many deer do you see?” I answered every question, then asked more of my own, mainly to keep both of us distracted from the mind-numbing speed at which we crawled.

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recipe: shepherd’s pie, no irish here

shepardspie

It’s the first day of spring! Of course, this means that winter here had to squeeze in one last gasp, so it’s snowing here today. Nevertheless, there’s signs of life in our little neighborhood. The kids were spending longer afternoons outside earlier this week, which gave me more time in kitchen to pull together some fun meals. On St. Patrick’s Day, I got in the Irish spirit and baked some mini shepard’s pies for everyone. When the hubby got home and the kids finally ventured back into the house, there was jaunty Irish music blasting on Pandora and the smell of hot beef and potatoes wafting towards them.

The hubby laughed. “We are many things, honey, but we’re not Irish.”

“I know,” I said. “But LOOK! Meat pies! In miniature!”

“There’s beef in there? Sure, I can get behind that.”

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tips for making happy kid eaters

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Look, I’m going to be honest. I’m not an expert on parenting or kids by a long shot. The hubby and I still rely heavily on Google and word-of-mouth on how to figure out our kids. We delight and marvel at them, but we also constantly ask ourselves whether we’re doing the “right” thing, whatever “right” is.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that while I constantly tout the hubby’s unfailing support of my passion for food, photography and writing, I’m also not giving enough credit to my kids for being the adventurous travelers and eaters that they are. Genetics may not be on their side when it comes to athletics (much to the hubby’s dismay, at least one of our kids has inherited the slow clumsiness of their mother), but when it comes to trying new foods or hitting the road with their parents, these kids are champs. I can test new recipes, try new restaurants and visit places far down the highway because I’m lucky enough to have kids who are game for it.

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