Weeknight Dinner Chicken Tetrazzini

I have major spring fever.  As frequent readers know, I have a new house with quite a lot of yard that we are unaccustomed to.  Last year, we were moving in and settling at the time planting was supposed to happen and I ended up with a small, haphazard garden that was eaten by my stupid groundhogs (woodchucks). This year I have plans in mind.  I have ideas to make it better. Chicken Tetrazzini pan Last year we converted an old dog kennel into a raised bed garden.  All the viney things on one side and all the other stuff on the other.  I made some mistakes.  I didn’t put down enough weed blocker or mulch or compost.  I didn’t really think about where things were supposed to be planted or garden design.  I just wanted to get things into the ground.   One of my lovely friends took an afternoon and helped me.  Because of the lateness of getting things into the ground, I bought most of my plants from the greenhouse instead of planting things from seeds.  All of that is about to change.  My husband knows to be wary of me when I get these ideas in my head.

I have this plan…Chicken Tetrazzini CloseI have this obnoxiously large jetted tub in my bathroom.  We don’t use the tub unless we put all the kids in swimsuits and let them swim for a while.  It is too much water for one person to bathe in.  With people in Capetown, South Africa on the verge of lining up for water and one of my colleagues telling me about places in India where they can only get non-river water every other day, I feel terribly guilty having a tub large enough to let 3 children “swim”.  Plus the tub is hard to get in and out of and my water heater isn’t large enough to fill the tub with hot water.  I haven’t even mentioned the part where the tub is located underneath 2 windows on the front of the house (on a busy street) and 2 windows on the side of the house all of which are very look-inable from the wrap around porch.  (This whole thing sounds obnoxious now.) I’m not in a place to remove the tub at the moment.  It’s time I just don’t have.

Ok, so let’s tie all this together because if you’ve gotten this far with me already, I know you are in for the long haul and are probably reading this for the content anyway and not just for the recipe.

I have this plan…

There is absolutely no reason in the world that this tub would not make the best ever place for starting seeds.  In seed trays, not just filling the tub with dirt.  And I need you think about this with me because I might be completely crazy.  It’s in a place in my house where there is natural light, but could also support a grow light.  It could be covered with a clear shower curtain or something like that to create a “greenhouse” and keep the moisture in.  And it has the added bonus of having a water source and drain right there.  Is this nuts?  Chicken Tetrazzini Plate

Ok, so how does the recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini relate to any of this?

I’ve got a lot going on lately.  I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans and lots of things that I want to do.  I’m a working mom and don’t have the time I used to have to prepare the exact meals I want for my family.  It’s a lot harder than when I worked at home.  Being done at 4 PM these days (if I’m lucky) doesn’t mean that I get to leave my desk, go to the kitchen, and start making supper.  Which means meal planning and figuring out how to make leftovers last through the week and planning ahead and all of that fun stuff.  And it all has to be done at a reasonable time because people have things to do and kids have bed times and the kitchen still needs to be cleaned.  Are you exhausted reading this?

With the spring coming (in another 4 weeks according to the groundhog’s prediction), I want to be able to do projects and play around in the yard when the sun is out.   Which means I need dinners that can be prepped in 30 minutes or less.  With a little pre-prep this one can be.  (Actually, with some extra liquid, a rotisserie chicken, and some aluminum foil, I bet you could do this whole recipe in the oven while you did something else.)  Chicken Tetrazzini log

I have a friend that goes to Italy frequently.  He has a favorite restaurant in Rome that he visits on each trip.  As Italian as this dish sounds, I doubt they make it this way in Italy (or probably much of anywhere else).  If he’s reading this recipe, he’s thinking of ways he could make it better.  Truth be told, I am too.  Which is not to say this is not something to make.  It’s good.  It’s comfortable.  It’s like yoga pants and bare feet at the end of the day.  Chicken Tetrazzini

If you want other good weeknight supper ideas Sausage Bean Casserole, Hot Chicken SaladSupper In a Bread Loaf,  but if at this point you are just overwhelmed, perhaps a nice Whiskey Slush is more your speed.

Pork Meatballs

In which I make pork meatballs

Who even knew that Cream of Onion soup was a thing? Apparently, it’s just me.  I asked John that question when he got home and he knew. I know my friends are laughing at me as they read this.


I haven’t used canned soup in over a decade.  There were all those articles about sodium content and then I realized that it just didn’t taste like homemade soup from fresh ingredients. I am a snob. I like what Andy Warhol did with cans of soup.  I ate canned soup growing up.  I have eaten recipes that other people have made with canned soup, but I just didn’t buy it or use it in my own cooking.


So when Miles chose this recipe and it called for a can of cream of onion soup, I had no idea that was a thing that still existed.  I knew about cream of asparagus, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, I think I had even seen cream of shrimp at one point, but because I don’t look in the canned soup section of the grocery store, I just didn’t know.

In the rules I set up for myself, I decided that I was going to follow the recipes exactly as written (except in cases where there were no instructions).  So with my shopping list, the boys and I set out for the grocery store.

The grocery store with children is always a challenge.  I like the company, to a degree, but they need to figure out how to steer the cart where I want it.  I hate the number of times I have to say “no” about things.  We are normally the loudest people in the store (and everywhere else we ever go), but our loud is normally more pleasant than obnoxious (or so I like to think).  We enjoy being together and making each other laugh and we are friendly.  Anyway, we went to the meat section and there was no ground pork.  There was pork sausage and pizza sausage, but no plain ground pork.  I asked the guy at the counter if there was any.  He explained that he couldn’t get any out because he was cutting something else and cross-contamination and whatnot, but if I could wait until 2.  It was noon.  I wasn’t going to drive back to Stoughton for ground pork.  I could’ve gone to the meat market across the street from my house, or as the kids suggested, I could just grind my own.  It’s a pain, but doable.  I grabbed some country style ribs and put them in my cart and started to walk to the yogurt area, when I saw the guy from the meat counter waving behind me.  I’m sure we were hard to find in the store since we are so quiet and all…This sweet, sweet man had taken pity on me and had stopped what he was doing and secured me the two pounds of ground pork I needed for the recipe.  He wouldn’t let me thank him or say anything to him about it or even acknowledge that he had done it because the store cameras may pick up the action.  I just hope he realizes how much I appreciate his efforts.

DSCN2340I, stupidly, didn’t start the recipe until much later than I should’ve because I was baking something else that I had started too late.  The oven was set at 375 for that and I forgot to turn it up to 400 which I didn’t realize until the end of the cooking time.  It might’ve cost me a bit on the browning of the meatballs, but they were still cooked through. I ended up getting supper on the table and had just enough time to eat before I sent John off to a Euchre tournament at the coffeehouse.  You know, like everyone does.  I figured it might be a good way to start meeting people in town.  John likes Euchre.

At dinner, instead of having epic rap battles, coming up with punny new jokes, or discussing new game ideas, we discussed these meatballs.  Nick was sure they had too many onions and picked them out.  (Reminder to self to cut them smaller next time).  The flavor of the pork was good.  The bread soak held in the juice.  Nick doesn’t think meatballs should have bread. I didn’t bother to explain the bonding principles to him this time.  I just rolled my eyes.  For some reason, the meatballs’ flavor reminded me of the inside of potstickers.  No idea why.  The cream of onion soup didn’t make the creamy sauce I was expecting from reading the recipe.  It was creamy, but could’ve probably benefitted from the addition of some milk to thin it.  John commented that this was one of those recipes where, if he had made it, he would’ve been very proud of himself, but because I had made it, it was just ok.  Miles ate it and declared it delicious, but that might’ve been partially prompted by the ego he had invested in having chosen the recipe.  He declined seconds and was “starving” by bedtime.

It’s not a pretty recipe.  It doesn’t make something eye-catchingly beautiful.  I’m sure there are ways to make it look better, but I’m not going to make that sort of effort for family dinner when it’s already late and everyone is starving and has places to be.DSCN2354

This is the sort of dish that is a great base for experimentation.  It could benefit from the addition of mushrooms, or French-fried onions on top of it.  You could easily make the balls smaller and serve them at a party on toothpicks.  Throw them on bread with whatever sort of veg you want, add some cheese, make a sandwich. Make the meatballs, make the soup, make meatball soup.  Add to pasta.  Meatballs are good.  Make your own cream sauce for these, if you prefer.

These are good basic pork meatballs.  Not the sort of dish I get overly excited about, but am rarely disappointed to be served.
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*This recipe is part of a red spiral bound book that was originally the Iowa State College Freshman Handbook that was presented to the Class of ’53.  The pages have been pasted over with recipes.