Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Mama's Italian Meatballs" & National Play-Doh Day

When I was a little child, my favorite toy to play with was Play-Doh. I loved the cool feel and the soft texture of the Play-Doh in my hands. Play-Doh came in 4 colors, White, (this was the first color) Yellow, Red, and Blue. (these were added later on) It had such a whimsical scent that today if I smell a Play-Doh can it brings back so many memories of my childhood. I remember creating many different shapes. Then, I experimented with the colors by mixing them together which would get my imagination to run wild. I also had so much fun trying to emulate my mom as she was cooking dinner by creating food items. When I was young they did not have computers and all the digital technical items we have today, so we had to use our minds and thoughts with play to keep us occupied. The reason why I am writing about Play-Doh is that believe it or not, National Play-Doh Day is September 18th. To date, over seven hundred million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold. Did you know that? I had no idea, but it has brought back fond memories that I had as a child.

What is Play-Doh and where did it come from you may ask? Play-Doh is a nontoxic modeling compound. It is easy to use and easy to clean up. It was manufactured in 1930 by Noah McVicker in Cincinnati, Ohio and was used for a wallpaper cleaner. When a classroom of children began using the wallpaper cleaner as a modeling compound the product was reworked and in 1956 it was launched in the toy market at an educational convention. Then, history was made! In 1958, Play-Doh’s sales reached nearly $3 million. In 1964, Play-Doh was exported to England, France and Italy. In the 1980’s the cardboard can was discontinued for a more cost effective plastic container. The colors Gold and Silver were added to Play-Doh’s palette in 1996 to celebrate Play-Doh’s 40th anniversary. Since it's conception, Hasbro (current owners) has created many accessories to go along with Play-Doh, which includes the Play-Doh Fun Factory and The Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber & Beauty Shop just to name a few. More than 2 billion cans of Play-Doh were sold between 1955 and 2005, plus Play-Doh is being sold in 75 countries around the world at 95 million cans a year. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association placed Play-Doh into its “Century of Toys List”, of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the Twentieth Century.

If you can’t find Play-Doh in your area, I have a simple recipe for Play-Dough to be made at home with your children. I used this recipe with my nieces and nephews one Sunday afternoon and they loved the fact of making the Play-Dough but also being able to use it to create Christmas ornaments.  
¼ cup of salt
1 cup of flour
¼ cup of water

Have your child mix the flour and salt together in a bowl, then add your water. Knead and squeeze the dough to make a clay consistency. You may need to add a little more water a few drops at a time. You can also add food coloring to part of the dough. This can be kept in an airtight container for a few days.

My mom Madeline and myself
Children love to imitate their parents. I know, I did years ago with my Play-Doh. My mom was making spaghetti with meatballs, one night for dinner and I tried to copy her with my Play-Doh. I rolled it out just like she did with the meatball mixture and then I tried to create the spaghetti in long thin strips. (you can use the accessory that extrudes the Play-Doh, which really looks like spaghetti) So as I end this blog post for this week, I thought it would be a fun project for you and your children to make memories. Let them create their version of Spaghetti and Meatballs with Play-Doh and you can make the real thing! The recipe this week is “Mama’s Italian Meatballs” one of my mom’s favorite recipes which I would love to share with you. Her meatballs are very flavorsome to your taste buds. They are mouthwatering and the aroma of them frying is just like being home again. My dad loves to sneak a few after they are fried. Just before they go into the sauce, he says, “I want to make sure they are cooked right. “ We know, dad, you just can’t wait to gobble them up, with the flavors of spices and cheese all rolled into one delicious meatball. So, treasure Play-Doh with your children and enjoy “Mama’s Italian Meatballs.”

Mama’s Italian Meatballs”

Yields: 30 meatballs-(10 meatballs per pound)
2 cups of bread crumbs (if too stiff add a sprinkle of water)
3 lbs of beef chuck chopped meat (80% lean, but not too lean, you need a little fat for moisture)
1 ½ teaspoons of minced garlic
¾ cup of fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
6 eggs
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
3 fistfuls of fresh parsley-chopped
Vegetable oil or Canola oil 
Place oil about ¼ to ½ inches in frying pan. Heat oil before placing the meatballs in pan.
Put the beef chuck in a med-sized bowl and add all ingredients except the oil. Gently combine the meat using your hands until evenly mixed. The mixture should be slightly wet and workable, not too sticky. Using your hands, gently shape meat into balls. Don’t worry if they are not perfectly round, but try to make them all uniform for even cooking. Don’t roll them over and over, be gentle.

Add the meatballs to the pan and fry them until they are brown on one side then turn. Keep turning with tongs until they are completely and evenly browned. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel to drain. Now it is time to place your meatballs into your sauce to cook for a while and then serve with pasta of your choice. If you need a very tasty and easy marinara sauce, check out my post on Aug 18th for my mom’s recipe.
In place of bread crumbs, take chunks of stale Italian bread and soak in a bowl with water. As it softens remove crust and squeeze water out of bread chunks. Separate into small pieces and add to chopped meat mixture.    Abbondanza!

Till Next Time……
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