Friday, August 22, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Baking Powder Biscuits

My apologies for being so dreadfully late with this post.  I honestly thought I'd be EARLY, but ahhh, best laid plans.  I got my weeks mixed up and thought that our TWD week was the previous week, so I made these biscuits and was all proud of myself and then realized my date error.  No big deal though, now I'd have time to get the post done and up in advance, right?  Well, evidently not!  Where is that free time I sometimes have to create my posts?  It seems to have gotten lost, so if you happen to find my free time, would you please send it back?  It is sorely missed. 

I did try to get sort of scientific about this recipe.  Indeed, it is a very simple recipe, involving only 5 ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, white shortening, and milk.  But while I was getting out those ingredients, I thought, "why shortening?  Why not butter?"  So when I made my biscuits, I made some with white shortening, and some with butter.

I made a half batch of the butter ones, as really, how many biscuits does one family need?  Oh, and I used frozen butter to ensure I'd have some nice fluffy layers....

When Mr. Clever Mom came home, I asked him to taste one biscuit from each pan and tell me what he thought.  Note that the pans are now switched, sorry, but the shortening ones are on the left and the butter on the right.  He said that he thought that the LEFT biscuits were more BUTTERY, but the RIGHT biscuits have a nicer TEXTURE.  Huh.  Super confusing, considering the fact that the LEFT biscuits are the shortening biscuits!  (I asked him to eat another to verify his analysis.)

Looking at the photos above, you can see that the butter-made biscuits spread a bit, while the shortening ones did not.  Neither batch rose how I thought they should, though.  And I used a brand new container of baking powder...

Since I made these in advance, I decided to give the recipe another shot.  This time I used 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter in the recipe.

Good, but I thought that the texture wasn't as good as either of the first two batches.  On this batch, I did not put them into the pan touching, to see if maybe that had anything to do with them not rising much.  Obviously, that did not make a difference. 

So why didn't they rise as much as they theoretically should have risen?  The photo in the book shows puffy, tall biscuits.  I was SUPER careful to use a very light hand and stop mixing before it was over done, only kneaded the dough the suggested 10 times, etc.  I did mix the dough with my hands, could my body heat have anything to do with it?

I did not twist the biscuit cutter after using, I lifted straight up.  But I didn't flour it each time, so maybe it stuck to the edges a bit, preventing them from rising up.  Or maybe my biscuit cutter is too old, so the edge has gotten dull, so it squishes the edges together when it cuts, again preventing the rising.   Hmmph.  Any thoughts?  I would love a big fluffy biscuit.

But here is another question.  Why do people make baking powder biscuits instead of buttermilk ones?  Could I use buttermilk in this recipe instead of the milk??  That might be worth a try...

The recipe can be found here, or on pages 211-212 of Baking with Julia.

So, I know this post is dreadfully late, but I hope some of my TWD bakers will let me know their thoughts.  I want to perfect the biscuit!



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pistachio Ice Cream

It's here, as I promised.  In case you missed out, I made baklava and pistachio ice cream for a little get together with a couple of my neighbors recently.  Both turned out quite well, I must admit. 

I am really enjoying my DIY ice cream adventure this summer.  Besides being delicious, it is fun to try different things and see what recipes are out there.  The one thing that has been true for all of my homemade ice creams, is that you have to take it out of the freezer a bit before you actually want to scoop it.  Since we do not have a commercial ice cream maker, we don't incorporate as much air into the ice cream, thus it freezes a bit more solid.  If you want ice cream right away, you will need a chisel!  (Not as pretty but still delicious!)

I found this recipe on Epicurious.  It is very straight forward and didn't incorporate green food coloring, as I found in other recipes.  YUCK.  Why do you need to add food coloring?  I did not alter the settings of my camera or do any fancy photoshop technique and as you can see, the ice cream does actually have a natural green color.  No food coloring necessary, to get that not truly natural color of pistachio ice cream you might find at the grocery store.  Not that I am anti-food coloring in general, trust me.  Did you see my rainbow cake?  Yep, lots of food coloring there.  But let's save it for applications that actually NEED food coloring, okay?  

Oh, one thing to note:  The recipe calls for unsalted shelled pistachios.  I actually bought salted pistachios on accident, so I gently rinsed the pistachios in a colander and then spread them out on a sheet pan and put them in a very low oven (around 200F) to dry them out.  It seemed to work.  Still some salt but the ice cream was tasty so it didn't matter!

Anyway, here is the recipe I used for this truly amazing pistachio ice cream:

Pistachio Ice Cream
adapted from Epicurious
makes about 1 quart

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (I used salted and tried to get some of the salt off... )
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted, coarsely chopped

Directions
Put 1 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and finely grind.  Heat the milk and pistachio/sugar mixture to a boil in a heavy saucepan.  Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract.

Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl.  Slowly ladle the hot pistachio/milk mixture into the yolks, while whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and gently heat on low until the custard thickens.  When the mixture leaves a trail on the back of a metal spoon when you run your finger down it, it is ready.  Ths takes about 10 minutes of constant stirring.  Do not allow the mixture to boil.  Strain into a large bowl and chill overnight (or at least 2 hours).

Stir in 1 cup of whipping cream.  Process in your ice cream maker according to it's instructions.  When it is at the correct consistency, stir in the 1/2 cup pistachios by hand.  Transfer to an air-tight container and freeze overnight.
Printable Recipe

If you are a pistachio fan, go for this ice cream.  Yum.  There really is nothing like homemade ice cream!
  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lemon Buttermillk Rhubarb Bundt Cake

The town where I grew up has been all over the news lately.  And not for a good reason at all.  I grew up in Ferguson, MO.  Until recently, you might not have ever heard of the place.  It's a northern suburb of St. Louis, sort of near the airport.  And if you still haven't heard of Ferguson, well, that is awesome.  Do no further research and just know that town produced the baker/sewer/knitter/crafter/clever person whose blog you are reading right this minute.  That is all you need to know.  Because the news is just awful.

As an aside, I find that most news in general is just awful.  Something isn't "news" anymore, it seems, unless it is just outrageous in some way, usually in a not so pleasant way.  Why is that?  Why can't super-awesome things be newsworthy?  Or just regularly-occurring good things?  *sigh*  Probably for the same reason that there is all sorts of trash "reality" television out there.  Outrageous sells. 

Anyway, here is the deal:  A young man was shot and killed by a police officer in my home town.  The race of the individuals in question really should not matter.  Someone was killed.  That is horrible.  A human life ended.  His family and friends will grieve him for the rest of their lives.  Another human being shot and killed that young man.  Yes, police officers are trained for this type of thing but regardless, it awful for anyone to live with.  That police officer will carry this with him forever.  And people around the location where this happened saw someone get shot and killed.  To actually see something like that would be horrifying, and not something you would ever forget.  It is a tragedy all of the way around.  The circumstances surrounding the incident do not change the fact that this is an awful tragedy.

But then random people seemed to go crazy.  There was all sorts of rioting/fires/looting/insanity going on.  Why?  What is the purpose of this?  I just don't understand the mentality of why people think this might be an appropriate response to a tragedy.

Here is what I think...  I think those angry rioters need to stay home and eat a piece of cake.  Cake makes you happy!  And while they eat that cake, maybe their brains would get in a better place and they could re-evaluate their decisions!  Don't we all need moments like this?  When we are fed up and wound up and about to blow up?  We need someone to say, "here, sit down and have a piece of cake" so we can decompress a little bit.

And if you are going to do that, you might as well eat this beautiful Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake.  I am certain it will put a smile on your face!


I mean, look at it.  First of all, I (of course) used my super-favorite new bundt cake pan, which is so beautiful it always makes me smile!  And do you see the white glaze dripping down the sides?  That's a lemon glaze.  Mmmm-hmmm.  Now, do you see the red dots and spots inside the cake?  That would be the rhubarb.  Rhubarb is a vegetable, so now you can proudly tell your momma that you ate your vegetables today.  She'll be proud.  Now you might think that rhubarb is tart enough already, why would you add lemon to that?  I'll tell you why - because it is delicious, that's why!  This cake is a delightful mixture of sweet and tart at the same time.  It is super moist, and almost custard-y in those places where the pieces of rhubarb are hanging out.  Add this soft texture to the zip of the lemon glaze and it is just blissful.  This cake makes your taste buds sing. 

And how can you go out and do angry things when your taste buds are singing?  You can't!  See?  Problem solved.

Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts

Ingredients
Cake:
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (for rhubarb pieces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
zest of one lemon
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon oil (I used lemon extract)
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced, making 3 cups

Glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste)

1 TB softened unsalted butter

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350F and thoroughly butter a 10-cup Bundt pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  This will take about 4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each.  Stir in the lemon oil/extract.  Mix in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.  Start and end with the flour.  This batter will be thick!  Toss the rhubarb slices with 2 TB flour until all pieces are well coated.  This helps prevent them from all falling to the bottom (or top since this is a Bundt pan) of the cake.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 30 more minutes, until it is golden brown on the edges and the top springs back when gently pressed.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue cooling on the wire rack.

Glaze:
Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon juice and butter together in a medium bowl.  Place a piece of waxed paper under the cooling rack that holds your Bundt.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake.  
Printable Recipe

Relax and eat some cake.  Place your anger aside for a bit and decompress with some yummy-goodness.  Now, isn't this a much better alternative??

Note:  My parents are fine.  Yes, they still live there, but they are in a different area and are staying away from the drama.  They are really saddened by the situation and the dreadful news reports that are linked to their town.  It is hard for any town to recover from this type of bad news.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baklava! Opa!

When we moved into our new house a year ago, we had no idea the blessing that we were being given.   You never know what you'll get when it comes to neighbors, and we really lucked out by having two neighbors that are really super.  We have started having dinners together periodically, so we can have the chance to chat more than the wave from the driveway, the "hey, can I borrow X" text, etc.  It's awesome.  We are so lucky!  So when our neighbor decided to have Greek food for our dinner recently, I decided to bring Baklava to share!  I also brought homemade pistachio ice cream, which will be described in another post!

This was my first endeavor into Baklava, and though I had some phyllo-fear going into the experience, it was not that bad at all!  Yes, you have to take some precautions when it comes to phyllo, and you have to be super gentle, but it wasn't so bad!

I found the recipe on allrecies.com, and of the over 1800 reviews, 1600 love it, so I figured that was a good sign.  Crazy, right?  I read SOME of those reviews (a very small percentage, considering) and took a couple of suggestions that were made.

Baklava
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:
1 16oz. box phyllo dough, containing 2 packages/rolls of dough
1 pound chopped nuts (I used pistachios)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange
3/4 cup honey

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter a 9x13 inch pan and set it aside.

Make the sauce:   Boil the water and sugar until the sugar melts.  Add the vanilla, zest and honey, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and then set it in the refrigerator while the baklava bakes.

Chop the nuts and toss with cinnamon.  Set this aside.  Melt the butter in a separate bowl and set this aside as well, with a pastry brush nearby.  You are creating an assembly line for when you start! If your box of phyllo dough came did not come with two rolls, unroll the one roll and cut it in half so the sheets will fit in your pan.  Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out as you work.  (The towel keeps it moist, the plastic keeps it from sticking to the towel!) 

Place two sheets of phyllo in the dish, and brush with melted butter.  Repeat this until there are 8 pieces of phyllo in the dish.  Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the nut mixture on top of the butter.  Top with 2 sheets of dough, butter, nuts, and repeat this process until you are about out of nuts.  You want to have 6-8 sheets of dough left for the top, which you will butter between every two sheets, just like the bottom.  Butter the very top sheet of phyllo. 

Using a sharp knife, cut the uncooked baklava into diamond or square shapes, STOPPING about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the pan in each slice.  This helps so the bottom doesn't get as soggy.  Bake for about 50 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy.

Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the COOL sauce over the top.  Let it cool completely, then cut the slices through the rest of the way.  Serve in cupcake wrappers. 

You can freeze leftovers.  Or put it in your refrigerator uncovered (again, to prevent sogginess). 
Printable Recipe

This tasted just like the baklava we get at a local Greek restaurant!  Delish.  Don't fear the phyllo!  It really isn't so bad, especially since you can get it in the boxes with two rolls so you don't even have to cut it! 

My neighbors know I'll always show up with dessert.  It works out for all of us!  I get to try out  new recipes and they get to enjoy a great (hopefully!) dessert.  Win - win! 

Thank goodness for great neighbors.  What would we do without them??


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Finally! Crunchy Granola Bars!

 
This was supposed to be a week that I do a Tuesday's with Dorie post, but I just couldn't make it happen this time.  We've been on vacation and to be honest, the recipe for the group didn't excite me enough to make it happen way in advance so I could post about it on time.  I am interested to see what other bakers thought of the recipe - maybe they'll encourage me to give it a shot!  Who knows?

Instead, I bring you crunchy granola bars.  I have been searching for a crunchy granola bar recipe for approximately forever.  I have tried recipe after recipe, and ended up with either chewy bars or very crumbly bars, not the crunchy bar that I wanted.  Enter, Nigella's Breakfast Bars.  I will admit, I was VERY skeptical about the recipe.  Would it REALLY make crunchy bars?  The reviews all seemed to agree that it would.  However one of the ingredients really threw me - sweetened condensed milk!  When I think of sweetened condensed milk, I think of super sweet, cloyingly sweet, instantaneous cavity-producing sweet.  I was extremely skeptical that the granola bars would actually taste good and not make my teeth hurt, but I decided to give it a try anyway.  And boy am I glad I did! 

I am not sure how it works, but the sweetened condensed milk does NOT make these granola bars horribly sweet.  In fact they are just the right amount of sweet, actually.  It is magical!  And the bars are very easy to make and completely adaptable to your own personal tastes.  I will give you Nigella's recipe and the ingredients that I chose, to give you a jumping off point!

Crunchy Granola Bars
adapted from Nigella Lawson
makes approx. 16 bars

Ingredients
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries (I used cherries)
1 cup mixed seeds (My pantry was low, I only used sunflower)
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts (I used blanched slivered almonds)

Optional supply:  disposable rubber gloves

Directions
Preheat the oven to 250F.  Spray a 9x13inch baking dish with cooking spray, or, better yet, line the pan with parchment.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a microwavable dish and warm it a bit.  It doesn't need to be very hot, just warmed up a bit.  You could also do this on the stove.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.  Fold in the warmed sweetened condensed milk with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.  Put on your disposable rubber gloves and press down on the mixture, pushing it out into the corners and making the surface even.  You can also do this with your spatula or wooden spoon.  I would not suggest using your bare hands.  Even if they are dampened, the condensed milk makes this one sticky mixture and you may end up with more on your hands than in the pan!

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  I used a metal 9x13 pan and should have baked for a little less time, so start checking the time at 45 minutes.  You want the bars to be nice and golden on top.  Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a rack.  After 15 minutes, cut into bars, then allow to cool completely.  If you used parchment, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan and onto the rack with the excess parchment on the edges.  Easy cleanup and no sticking! Store in an airtight container.

Just don't think about the sweetened condensed milk.  These granola bars are so easy, and so versatile, I foresee having some version of them in my house in regular rotation.  What a great breakfast or mid-day snack!  What a find.  My search is over!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Vanilla Pound Cake

I made Vanilla Pound Cake for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.  Yum.  This pound cake is made in a bundt or tube pan instead of a loaf pan, so it served as a great excuse to use my new beautiful bundt pan.  I do have other bundt pans, but now that I have this one, maybe I should give the others away?  I mean, why use a different pan when I have THIS one?  It's so pretty!  AND the cakes come out perfectly!  This pan is a wonder, I tell you.

Not only is this Vanilla Pound Cake beautiful, it is also delicious.  I made it to bring to a friend's house for Independence Day here in the States, and dressed it for the occasion with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, to give it the appropriate red, white, and blue accessories. 

Covering it with berries and whipped cream does take away from the beauty of the cake a bit, but such garnishes are never a bad idea for the palate!  Oh, and I macerated the strawberries in sugar and balsamic vinegar, so they were extra scrumptious! 

But to be honest, I did like the cake best when it was solo.  That is when the vanilla flavor really came out and I could savor the flavor and the texture in my mouth a bit longer (instead of shoveling it in my mouth on July 4, while sharing dallops of my whipped cream with the clever boy.)  This cake is not only tasty when it is made, but it is also delicious the next day, and actually for several days thereafter if wrapped well in plastic wrap.  In fact, I'd almost say it was even better a day later, as it seemed like the vanilla was even more prominent at that point.

This recipe is a definite keeper.  It is easy and delicious.  What more do you need?

Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from Baking with Julia
serves 16-20

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, whisked to blend
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions:
Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto some waxed paper or parchment paper.  Set this aside.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer using the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth.  Add the sugar in a steady stream while the mixer continues to run.  Stop and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.  Beat at medium until the butter and sugar mixture is very light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.

With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time.  If the mixture becomes watery or shiny stop adding eggs and turn the mixer to a higher speed until the mixture smooths out again.  Then decrease the speed ad continue adding the eggs, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary.  This process will take 3-4 minutes.   The mixture is properly combined when it looks white, fluffy, and increased in volume.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour alternately with milk.  There will be 4 additions of flour and 3 of milk.  Scrape the bowl frequently and mix until the batter is smooth after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix just to blend.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, an cool to room temperature.  Serve the cake in very thin slices.

Keep the cake covered at room temperature or wrap airtight and freeze for a month.
Printable Recipe

Very soon after making this pound cake, a friend told me that he was craving a chocolate pound cake.  Anyone have a favorite recipe to share?   I'd love to see it!

Check out the TWD blog to see what other bakers thought of this pound cake!



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Italian Meatballs with Creamy Polenta

After the clever girl's dance recital, we went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants to celebrate/relax.   The recital was tons of fun for the clever girl, and lots of work for me!  She had 2 costume changes which is a lot of running back and forth to the back-stage area, trying not to break my neck in the dark.  But why we (i.e. I) really needed to relax is from the make-up situation.  Yes, for the dance recital, the clever girl has (HAS would be my word, GETS would be hers) to wear makeup.  And we aren't just saying a tad bit, it's, well, a lot, by my standards.  Powder, blush, eye shadow, mascara, and the dreaded/beloved (again, a perspective thing) "Cherries in the Snow" lipstick.  This is by the request of the dance studio, of course.  If you aren't part of this particular dance studio, you probably are not familiar with Cherries in the Snow.  Because, honestly, I can't for the life of me figure out what grown woman would wear this color lipstick.  It is a BRIGHT red/fuschia color.  And when you apply it to your little 6yr old girl, the look is shocking.  Kind of a "how to make your child look like a... " well, let's not go there, but I think you probably get the drift.  The first time we put it on the clever girl, she even said that it needed to be toned down a bit.  Okay?  Anyway, after the hair is done (no fly-aways!!) and the make-up is applied, my innocent little girl looked about 16 years old, and my future flashed in front of my eyes.  It was scary!  As you can see, I am still a bit traumatized by the situation. 

Are you wondering what this has to do with meatballs?  I'll tell you, I promise.  We went to the yummy Italian place for dinner, where the clever boy absolutely went to town on these giant meatballs that we ordered.  He LOVED them.  A-HA!  I thought.  I must make giant meatballs!  I decided to serve them with creamy polenta because, well, it's a really great idea and because the clever boy loves polenta as well.  Win-win dinner plan!

After lots of research into the best Italian Meatball recipe, I settled on the recipe below.  Though many swear by using beef, pork and veal in meatballs, I have a THING about veal so I needed a 2-meat meatball.  These were perfect!  Don't be alarmed by the long list of ingredients - they are easy to find and the recipe is pretty easy and fast to put together!

Italian Meatballs
adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes about 16 meatballs

Ingredients:
Meatballs
1 pound ground beef (at least 16% fat)
1 pound ground pork
2/3 cup milk (whole or 2%)
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 TB chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
about 1 cup flour, for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups (24 oz.) tomato sauce (your own or use following recipe)

Tomato Sauce
2 TB olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28 -oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice (I recommend using San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 TB chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
If you are using the above recipe for tomato sauce, start with that.  The sauce will simmer while you prepare the meatballs.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and parsley (I chopped them all together in the food processor).  Stir to coat with the oil, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan.  Cook until the vegetables are soft and coked through, about15-20 minutes.  Remove the cover, add the garlic, and increase the heat to medium-high.  Cook the garlic for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes.  If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your fingers as you add them, otherwise just dump in the can of crushed tomatoes.  Add the tomato paste and basil and season with salt and pepper.   Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook uncovered until thick 15-30 minutes.  Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor, or push through a food mill, and pour it back into the large skillet.

For the meatballs:  Heat the milk in a small saucepan until steamy.  Turn off the heat, tear the bread into little pieces, and soak it in the milk until the bread partially dissolves.  Mash the bread until it is paste-like.  Pour it onto a plate to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the meats, cheeses, eggs, salt, herbs, pepper, garlic and the bread-mixture (all of the ingredients ABOVE the flour for dusting).  Mix well with your hands until it barely combines.  Don't overwork the mixture, this will make for tough meatballs!  It's ok to have some clear bits of bread or meat in the mix - better than than tough meatballs.

Pour the flour into a pie pan or other flat dish.  Wet your hands and form meatballs.  A traditional size is 2-3 inches.  Mine were closer to 3+.  Once the meatball is rolled in your hands, roll it in flour.   Set each floured meatball on a baking sheet as you finish the other meatballs.

When all of the meatballs are ready, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the meatballs on at least 2 sides.  They will continue cooking in the sauce, so don't worry about getting them all the way done.

Arrange the browned meatballs in the sauce, turning each one over so it is coated.  Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with the sauce and creamy polenta!
Printable Recipe

Creamy Polenta
adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 cup cheese (optional)
1-3 TB butter (optional)

Directions
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt.  Pour the polenta into the boiling water while whisking constantly.  Turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk as the polenta thickens.  Cover the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring vigorously every 10 minutes or so.  Make sure you scrape down the sides and around the corners of the pan.  If you are using cheese and butter, add this after the polenta is at the consistency that you prefer.  Serve immediately, or cover and let sit for up to 15 minutes before serving. 
Printable Recipe
 
Yum.  Happy baby, happy family!  This is great comfort food!  The meatballs are nice and soft in the middle, but a bit of a crisp on the outside.  The tomato sauce is really flavorful and quite good.  Serve it all on a bed of creamy cheesy polenta and it is happiness on a plate!  This is a wonderful way to recover from any particular stressful situation.  Add a glass of red wine (or not if you prefer) and you have taken a giant step in the direction of AHHHHH.  I wish for you to have more time in bliss, and to never have to experience the Cherries in the Snow!