Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Treats: Mud Pies & Meatballs

As a kid, I liked to play “cook”—you know, making mud pies. I once stuffed dried grass into a little cast-iron stove and lit it with a match I had borrowed from my dad—without his knowledge. My mother was not amused in the slightest at that culinary experiment, and apparently she communicated clearly because I never started a fire in the little stove again.

I still have no urge to stuff dried grass into our kitchen stove, but, quite frankly I still don’t mind getting my hands messy in the kitchen, so when it comes to making holiday treats that require special handling, I volunteer.

This year Ellen and I agreed we’d make baked veggie meatballs and cranberry-apple chutney for the holiday luncheon of her quilt guild and for my Master Gardener holiday celebration. Of course I volunteered to make the meatballs because I like to scoop the meatball mix with a teaspoon in my right hand and dump it into my left hand, where I then squish it around—no, no, where I gently roll it into a ball. You get the idea—just like when I was a kid, but now the mud pies are edible.

The recipe we use was given to us 30 years ago or so by Lola Benson, a great New Jersey cook, who’s now 89 years old. Thank you, Lola. It’s an unusual meatball recipe in that you bake the meatballs rather than frying them in fat of some sort.

Last year we glazed the meatballs with a sweet-and-sour sauce, but this year we’re taking a bowl of chutney to accompany the meatballs as a traditional holiday relish. To link to the chutney recipe, CLICK HERE.

Lola’s recipe makes friends wherever we take it, so, before you ask, here’s the recipe:

Lola Benson’s Baked Vegetarian Meatballs

4 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon chopped or minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 package onion soup mix

Mix all ingredients, adding water a tablespoon at a time as needed until ingredients stick together when you form the balls. Bake on cookie sheets until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, at 350° F.

Bob’s notes: I make 48 to 55 small meatballs from the recipe, but you may want to make them larger. That is no problem, but check while they’re in the oven to prevent overbaking. Both pecans and walnuts work well. I put a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet for easy cleanup. I take the meatballs from oven when they’re golden, not dark, brown. They freeze well, so I often make a double recipe and then freeze half. Then I pull out six or so when we make spaghetti and add them to the bubbling sauce long enough to warm thoroughly.

I made 109 meatballs from a double recipe this time. Ellen put 40 in a covered bowl that she warmed in the microwave and took to her guild this week. I put 65 in another bowl and then into the freezer. I’ll thaw and reheat them for luncheon next week.

Now let’s check those figures: 40 + 65 = 105.

What happened to the other four?

Ho, ho, ho.

I’ll never tell.

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