Oh how I wish he was here. While he didn’t ever want to make a big deal out of his birthday, that just wasn’t an option when you are married to me. I’d think long and hard on the menu, the gifts, etc. When I think back to his last birthday, I obviously didn’t know at the time that it would be his last. I’ve just recently started to read my old blog posts from that summer of 2014 when we were back and forth to Mayo Clinic. What I can’t believe is that even though he hadn’t had an appetite for the longest time, and even the smell of cooked food sometimes turned him off, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to make him lamb chops because they were his favorite. I think he maybe ate two bites of one chop, and was apologetic about not eating more. And as I was clearing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, I remember hearing him snore because he fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. like his did.
Maybe next year will be easier to sit outside without the constant reminder that he isn’t sitting across from me with his cigar and Grey Goose on the rocks. Yesterday when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner that all three of us would eat, Jacob said that he loved a vodka tomato sauce. Suddenly the idea for pasta and meatballs was on the menu and as I was going to the grocery store to pick up a small bottle of vodka for the sauce, I realized I hadn’t bought vodka at all since the summer of 2014. I am not sure Tony would have approved of my $8.99 choice though!
This is my version of a vodka sauce with meatballs. I love buying what my store calls “chili meat” which is just a thick ground chuck of 85/15.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 2 ounces of chopped stale Italian bread
- 1/4 cup 1% milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the vodka, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vodka has been reduced by half. Add in the Italian seasoning, crushed tomatoes, crushed red peppers, salt pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Taste for additional salt.
- In a large bowl, put the stale bread and the milk together and mix until the milk is absorbed into the bread. This is called a panade and keeps your meatballs tender while cooking. Add in the ground chuck, 1 egg, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, salt, pepper and dried parsley and mix just until combined, careful not to over mix the meat mixture. I got 45 meatballs about the size of a marble out of this recipe – each meatball comes in at 1 smart point each.
- Heat a skillet with Pam – there is enough fat in the meat that you don’t need to add any additional fat to the pan. Cook over medium high heat so that there is a nice crust on the outside of the meatball, but not yet fully cooked. Throw the meatballs into your sauce and put the pan back on a low simmer to let the meatballs cook through, about 10 minutes.
I ate 6 meatballs for 6 smart points, 1 point for the sauce and 5 points for the cooked pasta for a filling 12 point dinner. I may be having a mini meatball sandwich for lunch today.
My goal for the day is not to binge eat just because I am feeling sad that Tony isn’t here on his birthday. Luckily today is a workday – a private party for just 5 people which should be interesting because I haven’t worked a small party like that before. And I love the chef I am working with and know I can learn a lot from her. It’s a California Wine Country Menu today: artichoke focaccia; arugula, avocado and orange salad with a pistachio vinaigrette; roasted chicken with fig balsamic glaze; fennel and new potato salad with whole grain mustard and lemon cheesecake with whipped cream. Doesn’t that sound delicious?!
So my only request today is to give your spouse or significant other an extra hug and a kiss today. Hugs!