Meatballs and Lasagna.


First, the recipe.  Then, the story.  ‘Cause the other way around is a thing that everyone hates now.

Lasagna & Meatballs

Lasagna & Meatballs

I don’t measure much.  I had stuff from Aldi, Shop ‘n Save, & Giant  Eagle by the time I was done.  The kids helped.  They have been into helping to cook lately.  We like meatballs on the side, not meat sauce in the lasagna.  Get out of here with your sausage or pork or pepperoni too, this is BEEF territory.

We eventually decided on…

Ingredients:

  • A box of no-bake lasagna noodles from Aldi.
  • A 2½ lb. package of ground beef from Aldi.
  • Fresh spinach from Shop ‘n Save.
  • Fresh parsley from Giant Eagle (could’t order it from Aldi or Shop ‘n Save via Instacart.)
  • A tiny tub of Ricotta from Aldi.  (Instacart size fail.)
  • A giant tub of Ricotta from Giant Eagle.
  • 2 Aldi zucchini.
  • A 2-cup bag of “Italian Blend” cheese from Aldi.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded parmesan & romano cheese from Giant Eagle.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded mozarella cheese from Gaint Eagle.
  • 2 eggs
  • “Shake cheese” – Used both Parmesan & a Parmesan Romano blend.
  • A bag of “Italian Seasoning” croutons from Aldi.
  • Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing.
  • 3 jars of the cheap Aldi marinara sauce.  (It is way better than the supposedly more delicious and expensive ones.)
  • Condensed Tomato Soup
  • Brown Sugar
  • Various spices no, I didn’t measure:
    • “Italian Seasoning” {Whatever that is.)
    • Dried spice-rack Parsely
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • White Pepper
    • Coarse Ground Black Pepper
    • Sea Salt
    • Whatever Aldi “Seasoned Salt” that looks like the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt bottle or McCormick Season All is.

🌡️ Cook temp:  400° F

⏱ Prep time:  This isn’t Food Network, All Recipes, or Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg.  How do I know?  I had a 6 year old and a 4 year old helping.  So, it was slow.

⏲ Cook time: 20 to 25 min. for the meatballs.  (Cook to a temperature, not a time.  The USDA says ground beef needs to be 160° F so you don’t die or something.  Get a food thermometer.)  45 min. covered in foil for the lasagna, 15 min. uncovered.

Method:

  1. Get out all your pots, pans, utensils, cutting boards, and stuff before you cook.  If you have children helping, get paper towels.  Get the ingredients out.  Wash your hands.  Wash the eggs.  We used 2 large mixing bowls, and an inordinate amount of oddly shaped glass baking dishes.
  2. Chop the parsley & spinach like a madman (or mad woman, or mad person of a non-specific gender).  Have the kids help.  They love sharp knives.  It’s important that they respect them and that you watch closely.  Very closely.  We sometimes use one of those still sharp plastic lettuce knives for stuff like this.  I didn’t measure.  We used about the whole bunch of parsley & a handful and a half of spinach.
  3. Slice up that zucchini as thinly as possible.  I don’t have a mandolin, so I did that instead of the kids.  Actually, I would still do that if we had a mandolin.
  4. We divided the parsley & spinach about equally into the 2 mixing bowls.  I talked about that thing where you add the same flavors across different dishes to tie them together, but I have no idea what the word for that is.
  5. In the meatball bowl, we tossed in the ground beef & the croutons.  We smashed the croutons first.  Oh, that was fun.  It probably got out of hand, but the bag didn’t pop.
  6. We also poured in some Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing in the meatballs.  Amount?  Yes.  Until it looked good.  This is one thing I won’t bend on.  It is far more superior that any other Italian dressing.
  7. The we dropped in some Italian Blend shredded cheese & some shake cheese.  Measuring is for the timid.  Eyeball it.  Use the force, let it guide you.
  8. Mix it with your hands, roll into balls, and pop in into a glass baking dish, or 3 odd little ones.  We spaced them out.  I mean, you could use a baking sheet, and I used to prefer them in the electric skillet, but this is so easy.  We put all of the above spices in there too.  And sprinkled a bit on the outside once formed.
  9. We washed out hands again, and I set that in the oven & set the timer for 23 minutes because I couldn’t decide between 20 or 25.
  10. We poured the marinara & tomato soup in a pot, added some brown sugar (just a bit), shake cheese, parsley & italian seasnonings, & garlic.
  11. The kids stirred that.  And stirred that.  And stirred that.
  12. We put the ricotta in the 2nd mixing bowl already containing spinach & parsley.
  13. Add eggs, the rest of the “Italian Blend” cheese bag, some shake cheese, and some minced garlic… and whatever spices you want.  I told the kids here about depth of flavor in using the dried parsley vs. the fresh parsley and minced garlic vs the garlic powder… but I don’t know if they were paying attention.  They had just cracked eggs and we were about to mess with a giant gooey bowl of cheese.
  14. Go easy on that white pepper if you have it.  It goes a loooong way.
  15. Spread the sauce on the bottom of your biggest glass baking dish.
  16. We layed out the no-boil noodles.  It was my first time using them.  I think it went pretty well.  They fit 4 across and 1 at the end in our pan.
  17. On top of the noodles we did half of the ricotta mixture, the Parmesan/Romano shredded cheese, the zucchini, sauce, more noodles, the rest of the ricotta mixture, the shredded Mozzarella cheese, sauce, noodles, more sauce, and a mix of the Parmesan/Romano & Mozzarella cheeses.
  18. We like cheese.  The kids tasted the different shred varieties as we layered.  Ian liked the Parmesan/Romano & Molly liked the Mozzarella.
  19. I covered that in foil & put it in the oven for 45 minutes.  Then I uncovered it & let it go for 15 minutes.
  20. The extra sauce goes on the meatballs.

Ooh.  I snuck the story in on you didn’t I?  Wow.  Would you like to speak to the manager?  You might like my other blogs about meatballs or meatloaf or wedding soup… or any of my food stuff.  The kids went absolutely primate-poop over the meatballs.  The no-boil noodles were fine.  I liked that they were al dente.  There was enough liquid that I didn’t add any like the box suggested.  Be a rebel!  (OK, I asked for opinions on FB for that first on my page & in an Aldi recipe group.)

View this post on Instagram

Definitely firmed up after sitting more. #lasagna

A post shared by Eric Carroll (@aixelsyd13) on

Oh yeah, completely unrelated, I made these this morning too:

Found the recipe here via Google: https://tasty.co/recipe/potato-flower-breakfast-cups

 

A CONTEST FOR YOU! Gimme a recipe, win some Bronco Berry Sauce.


240 Packs of Bronco Berry Sauce!

Want 13 of these?

OK.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have an entire  case (& a little more) of Arby’s delicious Bronco Berry Sauce just taking up space in my dining room.  I would eat it all if I could, but it’s probably not an achievable (or wise) goal.  Sadly, my Bronco Berry Sauce will have to go without its perfect partner Arby’s delicious Jalapeño Bites… as they have not yet returned to the menu here in Pittsburgh.  Perhaps there is still reason to Occupy Arby’s even if Hala asked me nicely not to?

I’m left with a few tasks… figuring out what to do with the sauce besides dunking Tyson’s chicken tenders in it, and trying to pawn some off on friends, family, and maybe even a busker.  It expires in June, and I’d hate for any (more) to go to waste.

I was thinking it may make an excellent glaze for meatloaf, or even as an internal ingredient.  It would also probably be good as a glaze on grilled or baked chicken, but I’m guessing the high sugar content would make it blacken quite quickly.  I wonder if it will freeze?  A Bronco Berry Popsicle could be either incredible or disastrous.  Would there be a way to work it into an icing (or again as an ingredient) in a chocolate cupcake?

My readers and commenters are obviously the most enlightened and intelligent group of people I know, so I’m turning to you for ideas.

I promise to wrap it better than my last gift from Arby's if I need to mail it to you.

I promise to wrap it better than my last gift from Arby's if I need to mail it to you.

Here’s where the contest comes in.  Give me your recipe for something including Arby’s Bronco Berry Sauce as an ingredient.  You may want to familiarize yourself with it if you’ve never tried it.  The name is misleading, it contains no berries or horses.  It’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s awesome.  This will be like Chopped or Iron Chef, except instead of TV fame and butt-loads of money the prize is… Let’s say 13 packs of Bronco Berry Sauce, because I like the number 13.  Also, I’m not Alton Brown or Ted Allen.  If it’s really good, we’ll maybe eventually have to make copycat recipes to continue making the prize winner.

You have until Friday May 4th to get your recipes to me.  I’ll post them in a blog, put up a poll, and have the readers vote.  We’ll close the poll & pick a winner on May 13th.  You can enter multiple times within reason.  Voting will happen with the little poll widget here, so encourage your friends, neighbors, family, and even enemies to vote for you.

The only way to enter: You can email your fantastically delicious recipe to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com with the subject containing the hashtag “#Bronco13” & the name of your recipe.  We’ll annoy people with it on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, & wherever else hashtags work.

In the event of a tie, both of you will get 13 packets of Bronco Berry Sauce.

What are you waiting for?  Get to work!

Get a proclamation from your state governor that says “diarrhea”!


Food Allergy Awareness Week

FAAW

So, Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011 is still a little far off, but at the same time it’s quickly approaching.

Personally, I’m all about pushing it from a consumer-level rather than having some government mandates handed down to reluctant (and perhaps allergen-ignorant) business owners.

But, at the same time, I see the monumental importance of government recognition.  It spreads awareness and gives hope to those of us trying to express the validity and seriousness of food allergies and anaphylaxis.

So, I urge you to do your part, and write to the governor of your state asking for them to declare recognition of Food Allergy Awareness Week.  From the FAAN website:

Take ActionFood Allergy Awareness Week: May 8-14, 2011

Ask your Governor to Issue a Food Allergy Awareness Week Proclamation

Issuing a Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) proclamation is a great way to help raise awareness in your State!

Ask your Governor to declare May 8-14, 2011 Food Allergy Awareness Week!

In 2010, FAAW was recognized in a RECORD 37 STATES! Let’s break this record in 2011!

As of Feb 8, 2011, only one proclamation has been issued (Minnesota). Only 49 more states to go!

So, what are you waiting for?  It only takes a few minutes, and you may even get a nifty official-looking document from your governor with a state seal that has the word “diarrhea” on it.  I mean, how funny is that?


Prepping for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011


Okay, so I’m on a roll this morning.  That Subway stuff struck a nerve.  It reminded me that I would like to have more consumer-driven responses to food allergy issues, and less government mandates.  Food Allergy Awareness Week is not for a few months (May 8-14, 2011), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting ready now.

I just wrote to the Food Network, requesting some Food Allergy Awareness.  I used their contact form, and this is what I had to say…

I’m a big fan of all the Food Network shows.  I’d love to see an Iron Chef battle where they can’t use any of the “top 8” allergens.  I am allergic to shellfish, and always recoil slightly when it’s a lobster or crab battle… or when the inevitable prawn works its way into a dish.  There is a Food Allergy Awareness week every May.  It would be great timing for such an event… and really help the allergy awareness and cross-contamination cause.  There are MANY food-allergic foodies out there!

I’m sure you’re aware that the top 8 allergens are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  TO have an Iron Chef battle where they ahd to prepare meals without any of the top 8 allergens would be truly epic, and help show others out there that there ARE indeed alternatives & work-arounds when dealing with a life-threatening allergy.  Food allergy awareness week this year will be May 8-14, 2011.

Thank you for your time, I hope to hear your thoughts on this matter!

-Eric

I’d like to ask that you also write your own letter or email.  And, why stop at one? Please, share with me other places where you think we ought to write, and I’ll write to them too!

I’ll definitely be writing more, perhaps armed with statistics like the following (from Top8Free.com):

Prevalence of food allergies in the United States

Ninety percent of food allergies in the United States are caused by eight foods:  Milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish.  This website is dedicated to a diet free of these allergens.  Of course, it is possible to be allergic to just about any protein.  In Japan, rice allergy is one of the offenders.

Just to give you a sense of how many kids are suffering from food allergies today, here is a table of the most common food allergies.  This does not count children with milk-soy protien intollerance or Celiac disease, only children with Ig-E mediated food allergies.

Percentage of young children with allergy to:

  • Milk 2.5%
  • Egg 1.3%
  • Soy 1.1% (There is little agreement on this number.  Estimates range from 1 to 5%)
  • Wheat 1.0%
  • Peanut 0.8%
  • Tree nuts 0.2%
  • Fish 0.1%
  • Shellfish 0.1%
  • Overall 6 to 8% of population

Percentage of adults with allergy to:

  • Shellfish 2.0%
  • Peanut 0.6%
  • Tree nuts 0.5%
  • Fish 0.4%
  • Milk  0.3%
  • Egg 0.2%
  • Soy 0.2%
  • Overall 3.7%

Source: Hugh A. Sampson, MD. “Update on food allergy“, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2004

While writing to politicians does gain some inroads, there are other productive avenues to explore.

 

Food Allergies and the Food Network…


So, during Food Allergy Awareness Week, I urged others with allergies that we may want to take the focus off of the government and move it on to other titans in the food industry.  While I said it ought to be next year’s plan, I started early.  I submitted a note via contact form at the Food Network site, and this is the reply I received (my original message following);

From: Scripps Networks Customer Service <IS6061_22115@is.instantservice.com>
To: ____@_____________.___
Sent: Thu, May 20, 2010 2:57:14 PM
Subject: RE: Food Network Specials (#6563-175954277-3355)

Thank you for your email.

We appreciate the time you took to contact us and will be glad to forward your comments and suggestions to the Programming Department for review.

Scripps Networks
Customer Service

Show: Food Network Specials
Cable Company:
Last Viewed:
Type: question

Comment:
Hello Foodie Friends,

I write to you today to express my disappointment in that fact that I haven’t seen a prominent (or any) acknowledgment of this week as Food Allergy Awareness Week, either on your website or on the network itself.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network:

• More than 12 million Americans have food allergies. That’s one in 25, or 4% of the population.

• The annual number of emergency room visits due to food-induced anaphylaxis in the U.S. ranges from 50,000 to 125,000, depending on the source.

• Eight foods account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

• Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

These are just a few of many other interesting and informative statistics.  As a (or THE) leader in food related information and entertainment, I feel that you ought to consider yourselves somewhat responsible for informing chefs and cooks everywhere of the dangers of cross-contamination.

I love watching many of your programs, and would love to see one geared toward allergy-friendly meals, procedures, and adaptations.  Even a one-off special with several food chefs or someone intelligent/informative with impeccable cleanliness in the kitchen like Alton Brown would be awesome… but even an online article or PSA would be a great start.

Like Spider-Man’s uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”.  You, my friends, are the great food power.

Many state governments have declared this week Food Allergy Awareness Week.  With your help, we could sway the rest of the states and perhaps the Federal Government next year!

Here are some resources for your convenience:

► Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network: http://www.foodallergy.org/
► Food Allergy Initiative: http://www.faiusa.org

Thank you for your time & attention, I hope to hear from you soon, and look forward to your thoughts on the issue at hand!

-Eric

____@_____________.___

Odd.  Who are the Scripps Networks Customer Service?  Is this automated.  It took over a week to get a reply, and this was it.  I’m highly disappointed.  I’m going to have to try an email onslaught, & perhaps some snail mail.

Food Allergy Awareness Week


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’re most likely already annoyed by my Food Allergy Awareness Week related updates, links, and tweets.  I would apologize, but I’m not sorry.  I rant occasionally about my deathfish troubles without the need of a week dedicated to it, and I generally get at least a good dialog going.  I thank you know for your patience and interest.  This week is set aside for just such ranting and lunacy, and as one of the afflicted, I feel it’s my duty to be vocal all week.

Again… I realize that food allergy cures and research aren’t top priority to everyone, and that there are many many other diseases and health issues that also deserve research and attention… a lot of them much higher on the “urgency” scale.  But, I refer you to the aforementioned duty to be vocal this week.

There are many food allergy stories out there this week if you’re looking for them.  You’ve heard my rant, now I invite you to hear the stories of others.

These sites have many many excellent resources for information, education, activism, & general awareness:

I encourage you to take the time and explore the sites if you’d like to know what it’s like to deal with an allergy yourself, or have a child with a severe allergy.  (You can also hit up my Allergies category.)

For my fellow Food Allergy Afflicted Friends…

While I get behind these campaigns to wrote to your local, state, & national politicians…  I just get a feeling that this needs to come form somewhere else.  Maybe it’s a political ideaology thing… I don’t want toe government to take care of me.  Perhaps I don’t want the government to force people to take care of me.  I feel that if that’s the case, it will be a bare minimum.  We need to get the food and health industries behind this movement.  Companies have to want to be allergy and cross-contamination friendly because it gives them an edge on the competition.

Instead of writing to a politician and getting a nifty gold-sealed proclamation… I’d rather see a special on the Food Network, a cooking publication that’s not allergy related already to pick up on it and do a special issue. I’d like to see Pizza Hut finally tell me where and how their sauce may come into contact with shellfish. I’d rather know why Subway uses one knife to cut all of their sandwiches.  I’d love to know why restaurants with multiple deep fryers don’t assign one for shellfish and one for other foods.

I’d like to see labels have to declare more than just the big 8 allergens, but to clearly define all ingredients. Even mollusks, which I’m allergic to (and which fall under the “shellfish” category) don’t have to be listed prominently under current FALCPA regulations.  There are many other things that people are allergic to… corn, peppers, chocolate, … it’s imperative that everything gets labeled!

We also need to stick together.  To me, it seems like the bulk of allergy literature relates to wheat/gluten and peanuts, and these are the ones people are most aware of.  You can somewhat easily get peanut butter substitutes, and on the other side of the ‘Burgh there’s even a gluten-free bakery.  I’ve never seen a place advertise “Shellfish Free!”  It makes me a little jealous.  (I always joke with the wife that if I ever win the lottery, I’m opening a restaurant called “F___ Shellfish”.)

I’d like to remind all of us in the top 8 that there are not only eight categories of us, but many many others without a name or a voice out there.

Let’s go after the Food Industry next ear, and not the government.