The Food Boys Eat
This is the story of Ashton John, my youngest child (#3). But you have to go back in time before he comes in play.
My parents named me Heather Joy. As a child, I was everything my name represented and more. I had this radiant (sometimes overwhelming) sense of Joy and energy. I went through life with glee and an occasional squeal. I knew from a young age that I would be a teacher, marry the boy next door and be a mother. From childhood into early adulthood my life unfolded like a beautifully wrapped gift. It wasn't perfect, but it was close. The challenges always seemed to be something I could face with patience and ease.
After having my first child (Aidan), I lost sleep, I began to worry more and take less time for myself. I pressed all of myself into this little being. Before I knew it, I was happily pregnant again (with my daughter Hailey Joy) and my mountain of work/demands grew.
I found myself on Tuesday at Bible study, Wednesday for mid-week church, Saturday for church again and Sunday for Catholic mass with my husband. It was as if my daily church meetings were my air supply and clarity. It was beauty and truth amongst the busyness of marriage and children. It was a holy covering for the long days and very long nights (Aidan happen to be a stinky sleeper).
As life grew more hectic, Ladies Bible study schedules changed, Wednesday night church was no longer and it started to get harder for the kids to attend the both churches. I pressed in and looked for any moment to find God, knowing I couldn't survive without the nourishment of his word. I felt like I had to be in the church to see God, to feel His presence. I would drive for an hour to attend another church's Bible study.
While in a church service, they spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit. I knew and accepted the Triune God, but what was I doing to form a relationship and connection with God? I was limiting myself to these experiences - thinking that was it. Relationship feels and looks much different. It is being in the present moment, in thanksgiving, need and peace. It is looking to God in that very second when you feel your heart aching or beaming. It is falling into the arms of comfort when you need rest and serenity. I had put my precious God into a church box and limited my access to his life giving power. When I took a hold of this thought, I prayed and chatted with God in my minivan, on the floor of the playroom, in elevators - giving myself to God at any time and in any space. I found myself releasing everything. Let me tell you, it was healing.
One day, as I was quietly waiting for my parenting class to start (because that is what parents do in their spare time), I heard the voice of God. In my silence and mind of preparation, I heard him speak! Now what he said was shocking. He whispered, "You will have another baby." It was simple. "Wait a minute, God! Can't you see I am at a parenting class because I need help with the two kids I already have?" There was no timing announced, just a fact stated that there would be a baby to come. After class, I rushed home and told my husband the message God had shared with me. I felt like a modern day Mary holding my treasured message from God.
In that moment, I learned that I needed to make time for silence to hear the Holy Spirit. Up to this point, I felt like our relationship was mostly about me - my requests for guidance, my feelings and thankfulness. When I slowed all the way down and just sat in silence there was a peace - a space - He was present. I started to find comfort in being still and asking God to share what was on His heart. Sometimes, I would be lead to a particular scripture or prayer, other times God would ask me to do an act of service. These experiences allowed me to relish in the beauty of being calm and listening with anticipation.
Two years later, just as God told me, I became pregnant. My pregnancy was was filled with ups and downs, extra ultrasounds and trips to the hospital. Shortly after we shared that we were pregnant with our other children, I began to bleed. My husband and took me to the ER per the on-call doctor's instructions. As the ER nurse rolled me to the back, she said aloud, "miscarriage in progress." In that moment I took a hold of everything God had spoken over me and declared His promises as truth. I praised Him and thanked Him for my baby and I prayed all protection and power would be upon this little child inside of me. My husband and I held hands, waiting to hear our baby's heartbeat. The first Doppler reading did not go well. But after our doctor insisted that our pregnancy was still viable, they brought in a high tech ultrasound machine. They found the little heart beat we were looking for. The next several months would be a test of believing and looking forward to God's faithfulness.
Even with all the complications during the pregnancy and some very scary moments during and after child birth we were blessed with Ashton John Fay, a healthy baby boy. We made it through. Erik and I finally cuddled our baby in our arms. He was named Ashton John for two reasons: after his father, Erik John and after John the Baptist. John the Baptist was filled with the power of God, he baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River and stood by him declaring all belief in God. That is what I wanted in my boy, a bold trust and strength in God! Ashton is our adventurous son who loves the outdoors and riding anything with wheels. He cherishes every opportunity to be around people and is always up for a good walk, play-date or better yet a campfire with friends! In celebration of Ashton, my fireball of a son and in recognition of all moms/dads with boys, I wrote this recipe with the help of my daughter Hailey Joy. Savor the chance to play with your food because that is what little boys do.
Introducing Ashton John Fay! On the journey to becoming the mama of this radiant boy, I had to lean on the Bible. The word of God is a tool we can depend on each day. It will helps us in celebration, joy, fear and when we experience deep pain. Here are a couple scriptures that upheld me on the journey to becoming a mom for the 3rd time!
Make it their way and they will come........
I have a firm belief if a boy is served food on a stick or it is shaped like a ball, there is enjoyment in the meal and they will stop to eat! I chose meatballs to share with you because it is one of Ashton's favorite meals. Ashton likes to "Pump Up" this meal by adding yummy bread and dipping marinara - wait don't forget the OLIVES.
I love to serve dinner family style when I can. Look how beautiful the food looks on one platter, different colors popping. Family style dinner slows things down and we chat as each person serves themselves. Let's get started with Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Meatballs.
Ground chicken is moist, it needs the proper binders to bring the meatball together. I always use homemade gluten free breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and 1 large egg. It consistently does the trick and the meatballs come together. I use Isernio's fresh ground meat for this recipe. I usually combine 2 packages of premium ground chicken (95%), with one Italian seasoned ground chicken. Isernio's is known for it's all natural products that do not have preservatives and additives (they are gluten-free as well). They have fresh meat shipped from Midwest farms several times a week to their Seattle location where they make ground meats and sausages. Their products are sold in almost all of our local grocery stores.
I use chicken for these meatballs for two reasons:
1. Chicken is a great choice for a summer time meatball.
2. Ground Chicken soaks up the flavors because it is a lighter meat, the flavors elevate the meat.
These are the ingredients that enhance this meatball: crushed garlic, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, minced onions, dry oregano and basil.
Preheat the oven to 350. Prep all ingredients and place in a bowl, incorporate and now you are ready to roll. Top the meatballs with extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper, I generally get two pans of meatballs from this recipe. Make sure there is enough oil below the meatballs that they don't stick to the pan.
When the meatballs are ready to go in, I place them on the baking shelves in the oven. I amp up the temperature to 375, this allows the meatballs to get that golden crusty look (please see recipe below - for tray rotation). Bake until the meatballs reach the cooking temperature of 165 degrees, I always cut the largest meatball in half just to be safe. Let your meatballs rest for 5 minutes while you heat up your marinara. Arrange your food with much loved accompaniments; olives, cheese, and bread with meatballs - I like it!!!
Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Meatballs
Makes approximately 34 to 38 meatballs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Baking time 20 - 30 minutes
- 2 pounds of ground chicken
- 1 pound of ground Italian chicken
- 1 egg
- An overflowing 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup of finely diced sweet onions
- 2+ large cloves of pressed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
- Dash of garlic salt
- 1/2 cup of finely diced sun-dried tomatoes
(I use the Trader Joe's sun-dried tomatoes that have EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) - I add both sun-dried tomatoes and the any excess oil to keep things moist).
- Olive oil for drizzling
- 1 jar of your favorite Marinara sauce
Add the 3 lbs. of ground chicken into your large mixing bowl. Salt and pepper the meat. Then continue to add the remainder of the ingredients. Incorporate all of the ingredients by hand, this mixture is super moist and sticky, so be aware.
The Way to Roll
Use a 1/8 measuring cup and get a heaping scoop of the chicken meatball mixture. Next, do a quick roll and place it on the cooking tray. When the trays are full, salt and pepper the meatballs and then drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top. Wash your hands as needed throughout this process.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When you're ready to put the meatballs in the, raise the temperature to 375 degrees. This allows for the meatballs to get a little bit crusty as the oven heats up 25 more degrees. I rotate my trays half way during this rising period, so each has a chance to be under high heat. When the oven has reached 375, switch trays again and then lower the heat to 350 degrees until the meatballs are fully baked (internal temperature should be at 165 degrees). This generally takes 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.
Pour a jar of your favorite marinara sauce into a pot and let heat at a low temp on the stove top.
Ladle some hot marinara on a large serving dish and place the meatballs accordingly. You can add bread and other complimentary roasted vegetables on the tray as a side too. Other yummy additions are basil, pesto, and sprinkles of Parmesan cheese.
I savor eating family style; dinner is time well spent with your loved ones at the table. It encourages all of us to share from one beautiful plate.
PS Just like in the movie, The Wedding Singer, I like to share my meatballs. Anthony, Jen's youngest, is sensitive to food textures, but has no problem diving into these meatballs.
PPS He may check for "poison," before he allows himself to take the first bite.