Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hidden Tomatoes

Lunch Menu: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Chicken Noodle Soup and Tomato Soup
Dinner Menu: Roast Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans

So… this is a frat kitchen and things break. Things break all the time because a. the things were cheap to begin with, frat boys don’t tend to purchase things with thoughts of them enduring beyond their stay here and b. it’s a frat house and things get used, abused and just plain trashed. Yesterday I noticed that the BBQ chicken I had put out for lunch was cold after an hour. I had put it on the black and decker griddle turned warming plate (they are after all, essentially the same thing), turned the griddle on and left it as usual. The guys, oddly, didn’t say anything about the cold chicken. (Eww… hot things should be kept at 160 otherwise they become a bacterial breeding ground. Besides who wants to eat a cold BBQ chicken sandwich?) I mentioned that we needed a new one to the guys in charge, but in the mean time I have to find a way to keep stuff warm over lunch. While some might enjoy cold tomato soup, I doubt gazpacho is something the guys will go for. Because of this, I have guys traipsing in and out of my kitchen (grrr!). However, it did lead to me to an interesting insight. One of the guys, in complementing the lovely meal I made last night (Swedish meatballs, buttered egg noodles and broccoli and cauliflower), let me know that none of the guys ate the veggies. He said, “We’re just not veggie people”. Then he filled up a big bowl of tomato soup and said, “Mmm, grilled cheese and tomato soup, my favorite!”. One of my rotational lunches is grilled cheese and a choice of chicken noodle or tomato soup. It’s easy and cheap and generally well liked (they are gourmands, not gourmets). While none of the guys may have touched the veggies last night, it seems that tomato soup is the favorite today. Never having monitored the soup intake before, I find it rather amusing. I didn’t even hide the veggie here. It’s right out there in all its pureed goodness. The most amusing part is that the same gentleman from above let me know that I put too many tomatoes in my chili. Yet here he is filling up on tomato soup. Some things I will never understand.

I had my first taste of Swedish meatballs at Ikea. At first I wouldn’t try them because with the light tan gravy, they look a little like they’re covered in snot. Then I tried them, and I found that I loved them. Tyler and I used to live rather close to Ikea and would sometimes go for a lunch of meatballs and walk it off looking at the interesting room configurations (if you’re going, plan on spending an afternoon and coming out with at least 3 things you didn’t plan on purchasing… like a room-size rug and an giant stuffed rat). Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Eww… over processed, mass-produced meatballs from a furniture store?”. Well, we all have our dirty little secrets and one of mine is meatballs. (So you can just hush! I won’t say anything about the McDonalds cheeseburger/ stadium nachos/ movie theater popcorn drowned in “butter” habit you have). Now that we no longer live within lunching distance of Ikea, I had to find another way to get my Swedish meatball fix. I researched recipes on the web, and came across one that looked promising, a little complicated, but promising. Well… it was ruination and a trip to pizza hut that night. With humiliation, I shelved my Swedish meatball dreams and stuck to random trips to the big blue box (Ikea…). Then… it crept back up. I was flipping through my Rachel Ray Orange Cookbook over the holidays trying to come up with some new meal ideas for the upcoming semester when I saw it, a recipe for Swedish meatballs. Say what you will about her, but Rachel Ray’s recipes are usually simple, straight forward and many of them are guy friendly. Well, I tried it out, making a couple changes as per usual, and found it was easy and resulted in a very tasty meatball and gravy. It was perfect to serve to the guys, and I could make a few changes for home to make it more figure friendly (I’m not going to bother with figure friendly for the guys; it’s wasted on them). Besides, who doesn’t love the novelty of a surprise ingredient? Cookies in the gravy…

Swedish Meatballs
Serves 25

10 lbs Ground Beef
1 cup Flour
2 cups Butter
7 ½ cups low sodium Beef Stock*
7 ½ cups low sodium Chicken Stock*
Salt and Pepper
14 slices White Bread, torn up
1 ¾ cups Milk
7 Eggs
2 tbs and 1 tsp Ground Allspice
35 Gingersnap Cookies, ground fine**

Pre heat oven to 375. In a bowl, pour milk over bread slices and soak briefly. Remove bread, squeezing to get rid of excess milk. In a mixer combine bread, ground beef, allspice, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until combine thoroughly. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, portion out meatballs so they are roughly the size of a walnut (about a large tablespoon’s worth). Arrange meatballs on a cookie sheet so they are about ½ inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cooked all the way through.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour; cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and beef stock to the saucepan slowly, whisking while you do to prevent clumps. Season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then lower the temperature and simmer for 10 minutes. The gravy should be on the thin side. Add in ground gingersnap cookies, whisking to prevent clumps. Add the gingersnap cookies, whisking to prevent clumps (they will thicken the gravy). Add in the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, etc.
* You may need more stock depending on how thick the gravy turns out; you don’t want it to be too thick as the gingersnaps will thicken it later.
**If get small cookies, you may want to do 40-45 cookies. I used about ¾ a pound of gingersnaps.

A family friendly/ Slightly Healthier version:
Serves 5

1 ½ lbs Ground Turkey Breast or Ground Chicken Breast
¼ cup Low-Cal Butter (Yay Smart Balance)
2 tbs Flour
1 cup low sodium Beef Stock
1 cup low sodium Chicken Stock
2 slices Whole Wheat Bread, torn
¼ cup Skim Milk
1 egg
1 tsp Ground Allspice
Salt and Pepper

Follow the directions from above


  1. Hi Kristy - scientifically speaking, tomato is a fruit not a vegetable :)

  2. Eh... Details details! They're not that keen on fruit either. Anything that smacks of healthy is right out