Oh balls ...

As my kids have aged, it's led to phone conversations with the in absentia parent. Sometimes these are brief, parent-initiated calls, and sometimes they're more involved kid-initiated calls. I've called them at their dad's several times, wanting to say hi, only to hear them say politely "no thanks" when he asks them if they want to talk to me :)

But miss a kid-initiated call, and you'd think they actually saw you purging their toys while they were away. I've had several whining messages from Bean on my voicemail when I miss their call. I can hear her dad in the background, trying to talk Bean off the building's edge when mommy doesn't answer.

Yesterday was one such message, so when I called back, Bean had tons to talk about, including the request that I pick her up. It went much the same with Miss O, who insisted that I could come pick her up. As my conversation with her reached it's (mercifully soon) end, I asked to talk to her sister again.

Miss O: Okay, bye mommy
Mommy: Can I talk to your sister?
Miss O: No, you've already talked for her. You haven't talked for my daddy.
Mommy: That's okay. I'd really like to talk to Bean again.
Miss O: (firmly) You already talked for Bean, and you've already talked for me.
Mommy: (realizing the only way to return - as promised - to Bean) Ah, okay. Can I talk to your daddy?
Miss O: Daddy - come talk for my mommy!

In the car the other day, Bean was thrilled. She'd read the required 15 books in October to score a free Pizza Hut pizza. Her dad called to say hi, and she told him about it.

Bean: Daddy, I got a pizza coupon for reading 15 books! I'm going to take mommy to dinner!
Daddy: That's great! Next time we can go to dinner ...
Bean: Only if you marry my mommy.

Thankfully, I'm not held to the same standards. No-one tell her the certificate is only good for a personal pan pizza, okay? She's very excited about paying for dinner, and told me "This time you don't have to spend your money - I'll pay for dinner!"

Today's foray into cooking is muffin pan meatloaves. This is a serious win, because Miss O likes meatloaf but won't eat meatballs, and Bean likes meatballs but won't eat meatloaf (I seriously cannot make these things up). This way I can market the same product to my two disparate audiences: "Look! A big meatball!" and "Look! A personal meatloaf!".

I also used this to sneak in some veggies; jarred pasta sauce has veggies, and some of the newer baby foods sneak in some of the more exotic veggies (seriously, what typical American diet kids actually eat lentils?) Another cool thing about small-scaling? Way easy to freeze daily portion sizes.

Muffin-Pan Meatloaves/Meatballs

2 lbs protein (I used 1.25 pounds of 93/7 ground turkey and .75 pounds of 85/15 naturally-raised ground beef)
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 3.5 ounce package Sprout Organic Baby Food, Pasta with Lentil Bolognese, Stage 2
1/2 - 3/4 cup Ragu Organic Traditional Pasta Sauce
1/4 - 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix all the ingredients together. I actually did it in a gallon zippered plastic bag to shield myself from the dreaded "raw-meat-under-the-nails" syndrome, but, alas, when it came to making the balls, I had to sully my manicure.

Form into racquetball sized balls and drop into a standard muffin pan. This recipe made ten big balls (I loved typing that) - you can experiment with the ball size (giggle) and cooking vessel that suits your whims.

Cook at 350* for 30-40 minutes.

More sophisticated palates than those my children possess may note the blandness of the recipe and the sauce. I zinged my serving up with basil, oregano and garlic salt and it was nom-a-licious. If I were cooking for people to whom a McNugget was not haute cuisine, I'd have used onions, garlic and tomato paste. But the lentil Bolognese wasn't noticeable at all - I'll probably step that kind of element up on the next go-round.

(My conscience dictates that I note I'd really prefer not to use conventionally-raised meats, or even meats at all for the most part. But as I'm cooking for two picky kids on a single mom income, sometimes I just have to go with what works. Once I've got a couple rounds of this in the "accepted by both kids" pile, I'll switch to locally-raised, pastured meat. Another aside: my 5-year-old will eat, by the pound, these eggplant meatballs, so if her sister would deign to try them, that might be all I used.)


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