When in doubt, make soup!

Beef and Cabbage Stew 15

My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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Sponge Toffee

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I’ve discovered recently that there is no ambivalence regarding sponge toffee*.  Either you love it or you hate it.  There’s no in-between.  Well, I love it.  And so does Mags.  So I decided to include it in my holiday candy-making endeavours.

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While it’s a little terrifying to make (as is anything involving melted sugar), it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do (though you should read about Joy the Baker’s emotional journey through candy making, for a laugh).  Just make sure everything is just so and ready to go before you start.

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First, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Put that near your sink.

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Then, grab a whisk and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and put that next to your sink as well, but closer than the baking sheet.  Squash the baking soda around to make sure there are no lumps.

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Fill your sink with a couple inches of cold water.

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Plop a large, thick-bottomed pot on your stove.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 6 tablespoons water, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat that on medium until it starts to boil.  You don’t really need to stir it, but I like to give it a whirl every once in a while, to feel like I’m doing something.  You want the foamy stuff to reach 300°F.  I found that mine kind of stopped when it hit 225°F, so I slowly increased the heat and kept an eye on it.

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When the temperature of your sugar reaches 300°F, take the pot off the heat and gently place it in your sink full of cold water.  The pot will likely yell.  You will likely yell as your pot makes weird noises.

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Add the baking soda and start whisking like crazy.  SCIENCE WILL HAPPEN.  IT MAY BE SLIGHTLY TERRIFYING.  Keep whisking like a maniac.

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When the mixture turns slightly golden, quickly spread the stuff into your baking sheet. It’s going to set before it spreads too far, don’t fret.

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I didn’t work fast enough, so there was a lot of sugar that set in my pot, but that goes away with good soak in hot water.

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The candy will cool and set within 20 minutes.

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Break that stuff up into smaller pieces that you won’t feel terrible eating many of and plop them on some waxed paper.

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Here are some wee pieces I deemed too small to do anything with.

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Grab some chocolate (your choice as to the amount and type) and plop it in a double boiler to melt.

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Drizzle over the pieces (or dip them in the chocolate, I don’t care) and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow the chocolate to harden, and then go to town eating them.

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Or exercise self-restraint and give them away.  It is your choice to make.

*AKA sea foam, honeycomb candy, Crunchie, hokey pokey, etc.

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

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You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Fruity Oat Muffins (Gluten-Free!)

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Fussellette sent me this gorgeous recipe from the CBC and I had to try it out after listening to her rave about the results.

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The best part about this recipe is that it’s flexible — you can change the flavours around by changing up the fruit you’re using, even using fruit-flavoured yogurt if that’s what you have on hand.  I’d also like to play with the flours a bit, maybe swapping in some coconut or almond flour if appropriate.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and spray or line a muffin tin with paper cups. I recommend paper cups for these, because gluten-free baked goods tend to like to stick to what they’re baked in.

Take 1 cup oats (if you have a sensitivity, make sure they’re gluten-free), and pulse in a food processor until they’re all fine and powdery.  Plop that in a large bowl.

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Add to that 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour, 1/3 cup corn starch, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk that all together.

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Then add in 1/2 cup each dried cherries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins.  I had this multi-pack with all those in it already, so I chucked that in, together with some chopped dried apricots.

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In another bowl, rub 2 teaspoons orange zest and 2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 4 teaspoons orange because I had no lemons) into 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Whisk in 2 large eggs, then 1 1/4 cups Balkan-style plain yogurt1/3 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar.

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Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir only until just combined.  It will seem lumpy but don’t fret.  If you stir it too much you’ll end up with flat muffins, which, especially in gluten-free recipes, is the opposite of what we want to happen.

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Spoon into your muffin tin (it should make 12 regular-sized muffins or 6-7 super large ones).

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If you end up with some empty space in your muffin tin, add a bit of water into the empty cups — it will ensure that your muffins bake evenly.

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Sprinkle some more whole oats and maybe some brown sugar on the top of each muffin.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch.  Allow to solidify in the pan for about five minutes after removal from the oven.  Use a fork to transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.  As with most gluten-free material, they won’t last long, so make sure to eat them or freeze them within a couple of days.

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O Canada: Baked Beans with Toutons

Baked Beans with Toutons

My house currently smells like awesome.  All the windows are steamed up.  It’s great.

Baked beans, I think you’d agree, are a traditional staple all down the eastern seaboard of North America.  Add a splash of Québec maple syrup to the sweet, dark sauce and serve it with a side of Newfoundland toutons (“TAOW-tuns”), however, and you’ve got yourself a Canadian dish.  It all takes quite a bit of time (you have to start by soaking your beans overnight), but it’s worth it to have your house smell this good.

For the Baked Beans:

I cobbled together this bean recipe from three others, which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post.  I think baked beans are conceptually pretty fluid, so feel free to experiment on your own.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This recipe also involves some interesting food items that are not usual additions to my refrigerator contents: fatback pork and salt pork.  If you can’t find fatback pork or pre-cut scruncheons, you can also deep-fry the toutons in vegetable oil.  Here in St. John’s, salt meat, which you can buy in 4L buckets, has its own section in the grocery store, right next to the bologna section.  That’s right, bologna section.  As in, there are several different kinds and cuts of bologna available to the residents of this lovely city.  Luckily I found smaller amounts of fatback pork and salt pork riblets, and was able to get away with just a scant pound of each, rather than having to find a use for a whole bucket of meat.  You could probably use a salty ham (Virginia-style) in place of the salt pork if you can’t find it.  And of course if you want a vegetarian version of the baked beans, leave out the pork altogether.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Start with about 4 cups dried white navy beans.  Rinse them and plop them in a bowl.  Cover them with several inches of water and leave them overnight to soak.  You may need to add more water as it gets absorbed.

Baked Beans with Toutons

The next day, drain and rinse the beans and plop them in a very large pot with three times their volume of water to cover (so take the bowl the beans were in and fill that sucker three times with water and you should be good).

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop in 1lb salt pork.  Usually this comes on the bone.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans and pork simmer for 40-50 minutes, until they’re all tender and stuff.  Scoop out 1 1/2 cups bean cooking water and then drain the rest.

While the beans are simmering, finely chop up 1 large onion.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop the onion in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon dry mustard (Keen’s or Colman’s are the traditional versions around here), 2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and fragrant.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour into that 4-156mL cans of tomato paste (that’s about 2 1/3 cups), 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup fancy molasses, and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup.  Give that a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will bubble like the Thing from the Black Lagoon and get absolutely everywhere, so make sure to cover it.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour in the reserved bean cooking water and mix well.  You can purée it in a food processor at this point if you wish, but I didn’t bother.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Preheat your oven to 300°F.  You could do this earlier but it really doesn’t take long, so there’s no point in having your oven on for such an extended period of time.

Strip the salt pork from its bones and tear it into small pieces before tossing it back in with your drained beans.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mix the beans and the sauce together.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, then uncover and bake until sauce is thick and the beans are coated, about another hour.  Serve hot with toutons, or allow to cool and freeze for later.

Baked Beans with Toutons

For the Toutons:

I pulled the recipe for these weird little Newfoundland doughnuts/dumplings/biscuits from this site.  Most of the other recipes I found ended up being exact copies of this one, so I figured it was legit.  Toutons are essentially fried white bread dumplings.  Most of the time they are served doused with butter and maple syrup.  This sounds like a good idea to me.  You can buy pre-made touton dough at the gas station down the block from our house.  During the summer festival here they have touton-throwing contests.  These bready balls are evidently important to Newfoundland culture.

Start by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add in 1 tablespoon traditional yeast.  Allow that to stand for 10 minutes, then stir it in until it’s all dissolved.

Baked Beans with Toutons

In a saucepan, scald 1 cup low-fat milk (the recipe called for 2% but we use 1% so I figured that would only save us from an earlier death).  Add in 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening and stir until it’s all melted.

Baked Beans with Toutons

To the hot milk, add 1/2 cup cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Make sure the milk mixture is lukewarm and then add the yeast mixture and stir until well-blended.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add in 2 cups all-purpose flour and stir until it’s all smooth.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Gradually add 3-4 more cups of flour until you have a moist dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Shape the dough into a ball and plop it in a greased bowl, turning the ball to grease the top.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it somewhere warm and draft-free for the dough to double in size, about an hour.

Baked Beans with Toutons

While you’re waiting, you can make your scruncheons (or scrunchins), which are fried pork back fat.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mmmm.  Like bacon only without the actual pork.  So you take your backfat, about 1/4lb, and you cube it up as finely as you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This is harder than it looks.  Pig backs are tough.  Also see the surface of this particular chunk?  I’m convinced it was actual skin, because it was a pain to get through, and it fried up almost rock hard.  I suggest trimming that off if you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Set your raw scruncheons aside for a spell, until your dough is ready.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Punch down the dough and squeeze off pieces about 1/3 cup in size.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Flatten them to about 1/2″ thick, in a circular or triangular shape.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry your scruncheons until the solid pieces are golden brown and crisp.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Take them out and lay them on a paper towel.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry the toutons in the liquid pork fat until they are golden on both sides, a minute or so per side.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add a dab of butter to the hot touton, sprinkle with crispy scruncheons, and douse with maple syrup.  Serve hot!

Baked Beans with Toutons

Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go and have a heart attack somewhere.

Baked Beans with Toutons

More Baked Beans:

http://canadianwinter.ca/index.php?page=canadian_winter_molasses_baked_beans

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/maple_baked_beans.php

http://suppertonight.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/canadian-baked-beans/

Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs

To accompany the legendary Chocolate Moose Cake on Rusty and Mags’ inaugural Newfoundland dinner, the Pie and I decided to try something new and accompany it with something old.

These meatballs come from the Canadian Living Test Kitchen and are super scrummy.  There are lots of ingredients involved but the process is simple and they can be made ahead of time, which is great.  They also make for great hors d’oeuvres, if you put them on little pointy sticks.  Or plastic swords.  With paper umbrellas.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Crack an egg into a bowl and scramble the sucker until it’s nice and frothy.

Plop in the following:

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko but it doesn’t really matter)

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons grated carrot (I used one whole small carrot here)

1 teaspoon grated ginger (I used powdered because I had no fresh and no minced – if you’re using powder use a little extra)

Mix that all together, then add in 1 lb lean ground pork and smush that all together.

Scoop the pork mixture up with a tablespoon and roll it into balls.  Place the balls (I ended up with exactly 24) on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until they are no longer pink inside, about 15 minutes.  

Reduce the oven heat to 350°F and leave it on.

Meanwhile, you can start your sweet and sour sauce.

In another bowl, whisk together the following:

1 cup pineapple juice (I like to keep several small cans of this handy, for use in sweet sauces and also in starters for sourdoughs.)

1/3 cup ketchup (we used barbecue sauce, because the Pie won’t let ketchup across the threshold of our house)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 teaspoons grated ginger (again, I used powdered)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Chop up one small onion and sauté it in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil until it is tender.  I added some more green onions in, just for colour.

Add in the sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until the sauce is thickened (that’s the corn starch working there).

Add in your meatballs and stir them around to coat them.

Now, here is where you can stop, if you wish.  You can let the meatballs and sauce cool completely, seal them in an airtight container or freezer bag and then refrigerate or freeze them until you are ready to use them.  Just make sure they’re thawed completely before you do the final cooking.
Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a baking dish and bake in your 350°F oven, stirring once, for 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly.  You can sprinkle the meatballs with more green onions for garnish, if you wish.

We served the meatballs with fresh bread from the Georgestown Bakery and our favourite Hash Wednesday potatoes (minus the chicken).  Because it’s Wednesday after all.