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Giant Spicy Meatballs

I discovered this recipe in Real Simple while I was flying across the country.

I was being sent on a mandatory, no excuses, two week vacation by my boss, Mr. Boss.

I was not planning on coming back.

I wanted to leave the job, the life, the state. I wanted to find some other place, some other way of living, because this one wasn't working for me.

Things at the job were messy to say the very very least.

We could not pay our bills. It was a struggle to make payroll. We had a new client that was a nightmare of neediness that never seemed to end. Mrs. Boss was pregnant and having personality changes that made Sybil seem even-tempered and calm. Due to the wanna be monsoon season we had been experiencing, the office roof had leaked, destroying the lobby rugs, one bathroom and a portion of our training/conference room. The stink of muddy, swamp water in the carpet is unforgettable.

To make matters even worse, I was developing a crush on a new employee. I had a strict rule against ever getting involved with someone at work. I could feel myself wanting to break that rule.

Things were not ideal. I needed to get out of town. I had never taken a two week vacation, especially from this job. Taking a week was usually next to impossible.

My refuge, my place when I am under stress, is the kitchen. Cooking has served me well over the years. It is always a comfort to me. Focusing on the measuring, the ingredients, etc. makes me feel calm.

So, I went to visit my brother, sister-in-law and their children. It was wonderful. It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I got to go with them to get their Christmas tree. I got to make Christmas cookies with my niece and nephew. I got to experience just enough of winter to enjoy it and not feel punished by it.

I was able to read about 10 books. I took naps when I wanted to take naps. My brother and I went back to see our childhood home and neighborhood. And my sister-in-law and I cooked together.

That trip was when I started to hatch my plan for escape. That trip, in my mind, is a dividing line.

When I got back, things had changed.

Mr. and Mrs. Boss were no longer supportive employers. This were taking an ugly turn. They seemed to be setting me up for something. The air felt hostile.

On the other hand, the new employee...ahhh the new employee. Over the next few months, New Guy took up residence in my attention and eventually my heart.

One rainy day, New Guy met me at my car with an umbrella to walk me into the office. He would stay after hours and we would talk, for hours. We would talk on the phone almost constantly. We would email each other throughout the day. Something was definitely going on here, but I could not be sure what it was.

And then, with almost no warning, I smashed my rule. I smashed all of my rules (almost all of my rules), threw them out, obviously, they had not been working anyway, so what good were they?

By April Fool's Day, the New Guy had become Mr. Smith. But that is another story for another day. Or for several days.

Back to the original point of this post, this is a really big recipe (I would recommend cutting it in half unless you want a ton, and I do mean ton, of leftovers. Really really yummy leftovers.). And it makes REALLY BIG meatballs. I have never been a huge fan of meat shaped into other things (balls, loaves, etc.). This one changed my mind. The blend of beef and pork, really makes a huge difference.

Big Spicy Meatballs
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 pounds ground pork
1 medium onion, minced
2 slices soft bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients, 1 cup of Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons of the pepper. Mix just to combine.

Shape the mixture into 16 to 18 large meatballs (each should be about ¾ cup of meat). Place on a baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta with the remaining pepper; set aside.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes in upper third of oven.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture onto each meatball.

Broil 3 to 5 minutes or until the ricotta just starts to brown.

Serve with jarred marinara sauce or your favorite sauce. Or, if you are feeling sassy, you can leave the meat out of this recipe and serve it with the meatballs.

This recipe is originally from Real Simple, December 2004.

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