Homemade Meatball Sliders with Homemade Marinara Sauce

I have been going out and about trying to support the local small businesses for the past few days, but I wanted to do some cooking, and today was a good day to do it. I had a really productive day. I woke up around 3:30 AM and got some things accomplished early on. It left me with plenty of time to prepare what will probably be the basis of many meals this week.

I started by making some roasted peppers and onions, which I used with my marinara sauce and my meatball sliders. I also made an Italian type meatloaf. So there was a lot of prep work to do and a lot of good smells and tastes going on at my house this morning and afternoon.

I started things off with some roasted veggies. I set the oven to 475. I coarsely chopped 3 bell peppers (one orange, one yellow, and one red), along with three medium sized onions. I drizzled some olive oil and added some fresh ground salt and pepper. When the oven was ready, I turned it down to 450 and then let them cook for 45 minutes.

The aroma in my house was incredible. When I took these out of the oven, I had to prevent myself from taking a fork and eating them right then and there. I let these cool for about 20 minutes.

The next thing that I planned on making was some homemade marinara. I took about half of the roasted peppers and onions and finely diced them. Do not clean the roasting pan – it will be worth it to set it aside for later. I put the roasted peppers and onions in a pot with some olive oil (about one Tablespoon), and then started adding the rest of the ingredients for the marinara sauce, with the burner set at medium. I added one 30 ounce can of tomato sauce, plus half the can filled with water. This helped get the rest of the tomato sauce out. Next, I added one 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, plus half the can filled with water. After that, I added one 6 ounce can of tomato paste and about one can filled with water (it takes more effort to get the extra bits of tomato paste out of the can). I stirred that all around for a bit, and then added some dried herbs and spices. I added 1/4 teaspoon marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon savory, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 2 teaspoons of parsley.

I continue to stir until the first bubbles started coming to the surface. At this point I added in 1 Tablespoon of molasses and continued to stir until it came to a hard boil. I set the heat to low, loosely covered it with a lid, and continued to occasionally stir for the next 30 minutes. If I was going to be making pasta, I would let this cook for another hour or so, then I would let it cool, and then toss it in with the hot pasta.

The next step was to make the meatballs. I started by setting the oven to 400 degrees. I took the rest of the roasted peppers and onions and chopped them up. Not as finely diced as the ones for the marinara sauce, but cut up enough to be bite sized.

Next, I took one of the Cheddar Parmesan rolls I had purchased at The Breadery and ripped it up into little pieces. I added about 1/2 cup of milk and one egg and then mixed them all together. I could have used 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, but I thought using the same roll I would be serving on would tie the flavors in well.

I then added in the roast veggies and continued to mix these all up. I did this by hand, but feel free to do whatever feels best for you.

Next, I added one pound of ground lamb and one pound of ground veal. You can use whatever meats work best for you, but I thought these two would make for a nice flavor combination. I added one teaspoon basil, one teaspoon rosemary, one teaspoon dill weed, one teaspoon crushed mint and one teaspoon anise seed. I then mixed all of these together until everything was just combined. I started from the outside of the bowl and folded it into the center, and continued doing that until everything was just blended.

I placed about three spoonfuls of the marinara sauce in the roasting pan and mixed it all around, making sure to get the bits of roasted pieces still stuck to the pan. I then rolled the meat mixture into one inch round balls and placed them in the roasting pan. I only made 20 meatballs, but this could have made between 30-35. I made a mini meatloaf with the rest of the mixture – let me know if you are curious about that recipe as well.

The meatballs cooked for 25 minutes, until they were at the proper temperature (160 for the meats I used today). Next came the assembly of the meatball sliders.

I heated up the Cheddar Parmesan rolls to give them a toasty exterior. I put in some shredded cheese and a little bit of marinara sauce, and then added the meatballs.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how this would all turn out, but these were the best meatball sliders I’ve ever had. I tried a meatball by itself, and it had really good flavor, but nothing that was over-the-top spectacular. The meats and roasted veggies worked really well together. But when I added the marinara sauce and the bread, the combination of those three things made my taste buds really happy. I don’t know if I’ll be able to replicate this again in the future, but at least I’ll be happy to be eating this for my next few meals during the week.

My weekend is not quite over, but this was a great way to end it and I was happy to get in some home cooking. It was easy to stay positive with my food tasting this good!

Cafe EZ – Ellicott City, MD – 03/22/20

This morning I had a couple of errands to do early in the morning, and wanted to get a coffee drink. I was down in Ellicott City, and decided to go to Cafe EZ. I had checked before to make sure it was still open (still opening at 8AM), and I made it there a few minutes after it opened.

I had already eaten breakfast, but I was craving a coffee drink, and I really enjoy the Nutella Frappe from Cafe EZ. I get the same thing every time, which is not what I can say about most places I get my coffee drinks. But their Nutella Frappe is fantastic. They put a generous portion of Nutella in the drink, and it tastes like you’re drinking Nutella. The Nutella also helps with the consistency. There is no iciness to the drink. It is a creamy sips of deliciousness all around.

They plan on staying open for as long as they can, and they continue to have a positive attitude. As good as my morning was, this frappe made it even better.

The Breadery – Catonsville, MD – 03/21/20

When I was out in Old Ellicott City yesterday, I also drove over to The Breadery in Catonsville. I was lucky I got there when I did, because they are going to be closed to walk-ins for awhile. You can still order food and can still pick things up at the side window, but their walk-in service will be temporarily closed.

One of the pretty cool things when I was there was seeing one of my former co-workers picking up some goodies. When I normally go out and about, I don’t see anyone that I know or that I used to work with, so when there are even fewer people out, it makes it even more rare. So it was an added bonus and brought a smile to my face.

There were so many good options, but I decided to go with the Cinnamon Swirl bread and the Cheddar Parmesan rolls. I was debating between the Chocolate Pumpkin loaf and the Cinnamon Swirl bread, but the Cinnamon Swirl bread looked too good to pass up.

I also picked up an almond croissant while I was there. The croissant had a nice, flaky crust. Biting through it, I got the buttery layers of dough and also got the delicious flavor of almond. I enjoyed this croissant. I ate it the next day and it was still good, but I can only imagine how much better it would be fresh right out of the oven. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.

I also wanted to make sure I tried the Cinnamon Swirl bread. The bread itself is really good, but the gooey cinnamon just takes it to another level. This was outstanding, and I will be happily enjoying this for breakfast during the week.

I also had the Cheddar Parmesan rolls, which were really good. I used them with homemade meatball sliders, but I’ll be writing about that a little later.

Visiting The Breadery was a great experience, but getting to eat all of the goodies made yesterday a really great, positive day.

Mo’s Cafe – Eldersburg, MD – 03/21/20

When my errands for the day were complete and I finished up some of my grocery shopping, I decided to try and grab some local food for lunch. I made my way over to Mo’s Cafe, which is still open for carry out only. I usually go there for a breakfast of chipped beef on toast, but I wanted to try lunch.

After reading through the menu a couple of times and narrowing my top choices, I finally decided on getting a Grecian burger. I enjoy Feta cheese and Greek seasonings, so I thought this would be a good one to try. And I was right. The burger patty was nice and flavorful. The outside was nice and crisp, and the inside was cooked to perfection. There were some bites where you could taste the freshness of the meat. The feta was extra crumbly, so in addition to the nice flavor, it also had a smooth consistency with each bite. I would have enjoyed more of the seasoning, but that’s just me. There was plenty on there, and it was really good, which is why I wanted more. The bun held together well, down to the last bite. This was a big burger, and it comes with fries (but I opted out, since I knew I would end up eating them all). Definitely a continuation of a day with positive experiences.

The food at Mo’s Cafe is made to order. Mo is always in the back cooking, and his passion for cooking good food always shines through. I was talking with one of the other patrons (at a proper social distance, mind you), and he said that he had ordered the Philly Cheese Steak, which he feels is the best in the area. So now I have something to try the next time I go back there. I won’t be able to go during the week (they close at 4PM every day, so I’ll still be working), but as long as they remain open during the weekends, I can make another trip back there to try the Philly Cheese Steak, or one of the other great options, depending on my mood.

It was nice to see Mo again and his positive attitude and outlook made my day even better!

Little Market Cafe – Ellicott City, MD – 03/21/20

This morning I took my car in for a checkup. This had been scheduled in advance, and there was no alert for the appointments being cancelled. I always like to go for a walk and possibly end up at Double T Diner, or Bob Evans for breakfast. I did end up going for a walk, but since there are no sit down restaurants right now, I just took an extended walk. I did manage to go to a Giant grocery store and scored with a couple of boxes of powdered (dry) milk. They will be good to have just in case things get to complete lockdown mode.

Once the appointment was over, I decided to head over to Old Ellicott City. I made a couple of different stops, but one of them was at Little Market Cafe. Fortunately, they were still open for carry out.

I decided to go with the Cookies and Cream Frosty Frappuccino (with an extra shot of espresso). They really did a nice job with the whipped cream. The flavor and consistency were both good. This tasted very much like cookies and cream, so the flavor was nailed. I’m glad the Little Market Cafe was still open and glad I was able to get this drink.

While I was walking around a little, I felt bad for a lot of the stores in Old Ellicott City. Some of the store owners rebuilt after one bad flood, and then rebuilt again after the next one came. Just when things are starting to pick up and some new stores are opening, they have to deal with a shut down. It’s got to be extremely tough for the small business owners who struggle every day to stay open. That’s why I’ve been trying to do a little extra this week with supporting them.

When I walked out of the Cafe with my drink, there were a few people sitting around a fire pit. They were all in good moods and positive spirits. I’ve had a lot of positive interactions these past few days, and I hope the positivity remains.