Are we really being sucked back into the cold reality that is January 4th tomorrow morning? Although the holidays have been wonderful and busy, I feel like I haven’t spent quite enough horizontal time on the couch in my flannel PJ pants surfing food blogs and watching The Office and Flight of the Conchords on DVD. What I love best about this time of year is that no one expects anything of you – to answer your emails, even – for the week between Christmas and New Years’ Eve. Of course I was back at work last week anyway, covering traffic for the provincial shows on Tuesday and Wednesday – but any work done during the last week of December seems extra-productive somehow, sort of like working on a Sunday.
I also feel like I haven’t quite kept up with my end of the bargain here – over the past few weeks I let a good half the festivities slip through the cracks without keeping you abreast of what was being consumed, where and why; my synapses dulled by butter, cream, wine and Robaxacet. And now it’s not timely anymore. Spinning the tale of my gingerbread trifle the week we all get back to work is about as appealing as spinning some Bing and Bowie on Easter weekend. I do have paragraphs written (that truthfully sound more like an uninspired letter home from summer camp) – I do believe I’ll just go ahead and hit delete and get on with it. Out with the old and all that.
So yes, things have changed around here. Almost as if Santa had brought a Guinea pig for Christmas, W has acquired a new big brother, Ben. B turns seven in a few weeks, and looks just like a slightly larger version of W. The two are inseparable. A few days before the move, W said to us, out of the blue: “when Ben moves in across the street he won’t be my cousin anymore – he’ll be my brother.”
Did I tell you this already? Sorry, it was just too cute to not repeat. So mostly we now have either two boys or none (!! Hello movies and restaurants! I’ve missed you so), and sometimes an 11 year old niece and 19 year old nephew, who luckily (for them) share Mike’s taste in music. As often as not I’m cooking for 7 now instead of 3, which requires a little adjustment but makes sense, since I’m cooking anyway.
(Also? B is hungry ALL THE TIME. For the past two weeks whenever he opens his mouth to say something I could safely bet that it would be on the subject of something to eat. Let’s just say we’ve gone through a lot of banana bread.)
So along with leftover turkey and chocolate I’ve been trying to oust the excess cheese from my fridge. Shrinking wedges of chevre, Piave, smoked Gouda… and it wouldn’t be Christmas without the requisite little triangles of foil-wrapped cheese – my preference is those with the happy cow with dangly earrings on the label, which your New Year’s Resolutioning self might be interested to know allows a creamy cheese fix for a mere 35 calories (and 3 grams of fat) per wedge. (And that’s for the regular stuff – The Laughing Cow now has a light version, too.)
But wait, it gets better: the ultra-meltability of L.C. makes it really great to cook with, if you like melty, cheesy sorts of things. (No, they are not paying me to say this. It really is creamy and melty when heat is applied.) One of my favourite things to do with these little triangles is to make inside-out cheeseburgers by shaping ground bison, beef or turkey around each wedge, which then melts as it cooks and oozes out with the first bite. Of course the same technique can be applied to giant meatballs. Honestly – who wouldn’t love a crispy meatball the size of a small orange that gushes warm melted cheese into your tomato sauce? I know of certain 4 and 6 year olds who would.
The Laughing Cow Mega-Meatballs
One or two of these babies nestled atop your spaghetti is far more exiting than the mere walnut-sized kind; they also make a fine meatball slider, tucked into a soft dinner roll and slopped with tomato sauce. Bison has about half the fat of beef; you can find fresh ground bison at Calgary Co-op and Sobey’s.
1 lb ground bison, lean ground beef or turkey
1 lb mild or spicy Italian sausage (or just use more bison, beef or turkey)
1 slice sandwich bread, whizzed into crumbs
1/4-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
salt and pepper, to taste
olive or canola oil, for cooking
8-12 wedges of The Laughing Cow cheese, unwrapped
In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper with your hands, mixing just until blended but not overworking it, which could result in tough meatballs.
Shape small handfuls (as much as you’d use for a small burger) of the mixture around each wedge of cheese, pressing to seal any gaps and make smooth meatballs about the size of a small orange. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large, heavy, preferably ovenproof skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches and brown, rolling them around as you need to until they are golden and crispy on all sides. Transfer them to a plate while you finish browning all the meatballs, then return them all to the pan or transfer to a 9”x13” baking dish and bake for 20-30 minutes, just until cooked through. Serve on spaghetti or in soft rolls, with warmed tomato sauce.
Makes 8-12 giant meatballs.
One Year Ago: Walnut Granola Trail Bars