Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

GCC: Pork Meatballs with Lemon & Thyme over Homemade Whole Wheat Angel Hair Pasta

I'm a bit late this week in posting my Gutsy Cooks Club recipe for the week. Bare with me here (if you want to go straight to the recipe please scroll down).....Given the absolutely unexpected events of this week I'm both astonished and now content in pulling this off at all this week. Although this is not the place to dump my grief it is the place we created to share our stories through food and this is one of our stories.

A little less than 2 weeks ago we brought my father who had been diagnosed in 2010 with prostate cancer to stay with us because although up until the past few months he had been symptom free thus far...recently he had deteriorated to experiencing a great deal of pain, loss of strength. We wanted to get him eating, taking his meds and meet with him along with his oncologist. We fully expected to pull this off in a week or two and have him back on track.
He really loved this dish!

The first night we did get him to eat some leftover baked ziti with sausage. He raved that it tasted "just like lasagna." The way we most expressed our love for my father in the past 10 years was by cooking for him. He loved food & of course we love cooking which made for a great relationship.

After being at our home 4 days his strength, lucidness, appetite and pain became unbearable for us to watch. Jointly with everyone who loved him and his oncologist we decided he needed to go to the ER. He was insanely anemic and within the first two pints of a blood transfusion the color that we hadn't seen since before Christmas came rushing back into his skin. Although he was admitted to the hospital that day we, along with his doctors and nurses, were confident within the week he'd be coming back to our house following his first chemo treatment. (Frankly, we all knew the cancer had spread almost everywhere in his body and significantly so in his bones thus the excruciating pain he was experiencing...we knew at this point the chemo would not put him into remission but rather just slow the progress down a bit, relieving his pain a bit and giving him up to another year with us. Time we wanted to have.)

Those next few days while he was in the hospital felt like an extreme waiting game: waiting for his liver and blood levels to be "good enough" for him to have a CT scan to see how significantly it was in his organs, then waiting for the results of the scan, then waiting to get him moved up to the oncology floor to start chemo and come home. The waiting was so hard. But finally 4 days into the hospital stay we all met with his oncologist, he appeared "according to the tests "  that he was finally strong enough for his first round of chemo. We left him @ 8:00 p.m. Thursday expecting him to receive his chemo within 12 hours and come home with us within 24 hours later.

I promise I'm almost to the recipe part....We came home that night had a glass of wine and I decided that since my dad had still barely eaten more than few bites of his hospital meals that I would make this week's Gutsy Cooks Club recipe of Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta and Pork Meatballs with Lemon & Thyme and bring it for him for his lunch to the hospital on Friday. My thoughts: "He loves pasta, he'll eat it if only because I went to the trouble of making it  and bringing it in for him."

I didn't set my alarm that night for this reason and regretfully forgot to bring my phone upstairs to our room as well (maybe the first time ever I had wished we still had the land line.)

When I came downstairs Friday morning my phone was on the dining room table ringing, as I picked it up I could see there was also 5 missed calls! My sister was on the phone, hysterical, rightly slow. The hospital had called her, they couldn't reach me, she tearfully told me our dad was in ICU, she was saying the nurse had told her to get there, dad had asked for pain meds at 5 a.m. when they checked him around 8 a.m. he was unresponsive, gurgling..."he coded" the rapid response team worked on him, and resuscitated after being out 10"minutes...I needed to get there ASAP.

Either to spare my still fresh pain or speed this post up...we made the decision that we had sat at my kitchen table and discussed with my father 5 days earlier to remove the life support that he didn't want to be keeping him alive. Within 4  surreal and excruciatingly painful hours my father passed in the presence of all of us that loved him most.

It's still not real, I've woken up the past 4 mornings since then....overwhelmingly feeling sad, still not believing this could of happened so fast.

But today, Monday, after spending the morning at the mortuary, making arrangements...I was ready to do something from our "normal" life again just to feel like maybe sometime soon I will feel normal again.

I decided I needed to cook. I needed to make the recipe that I was going to make last week for my dad.It was time consuming, needed lots of gadgets and would keep me busy for almost 3 hours straight. I needed to cook this recipe.  So I did.

I had actually already taken out the pork from the freezer on Friday so there was no excuse not to do it.

I started with the pasta. I went with the whole wheat pasta recipe. We've made our fair share of homemade pasta but we had not made whole wheat before. Nor had we used our angel hair Kitchen Aid attachment yet. Originally I had thought the angel hair would be easier for my dad to eat if we cut it for him.

With the pasta ready to go I moved on to making the meatballs. I actually also had some pork chops that needed to be eaten so I cut the pork up into ribbons and pulsed it in the food processor a bit and added it to the ground Sweet Italian sausage that I decided to use for  making the meatballs. Which I had never done before but it actually worked pretty well.

I soaked the breadcrumbs in milk.

Sauteed some onions and I added garlic too.

And made the meatballs. We actually ended up freezing half of them.

After cooking the meatballs and setting them aside I started the Lemon Thyme Sauce.

The meatballs were fantastic. The fresh whole wheat pasta was very good, almost like a soba noodle I suppose.

We enjoyed the  meatballs and pasta with a bottle of 2008 Fume' Blanc from Robert Mondavi. An everyday white we are really loving right now.

The sauce was okay.  A bit too lemony I think, next time I might use only half the lemon called for and add just a pinch of sugar to round it off a bit.

I'm pretty sure this wouldn't of been the favorite meal I had ever cooked for my father. But compared to the hospital food he'd been eating and that I know he would of loved the meatballs it still would of been a hit with him.

When I tell folks I'm 43 they imagine my parents being older. My father was 63. I never thought 63 would seem so young but it is. It was far too young for my dad to pass away at. I will miss cooking for him so much. He loved of our food blog and actually bought me my latest lens for my camera as a birthday present in November because he really got a kick out of the fact that I took photos of all of our food.

It will be a long, long time before I stop thinking, "oh, dad would love this dish" every time we eat or make something that we know he would like. Maybe we never will.

Recipe Links:


  1. I found your blog through Tracy's Facebook shortly after Valentines Day and loved the whole family's interaction together in the creation of the dinner. Michael is my son and Hunter my grandson.

    It is so sad that you lost your father. The death of a parent is like a piece of ones being has been torn away. It is nice to see that the process of preparing what was to be your father's meal provided you a means to connect with him.

    Take care, Joanne

  2. Thanks so much. Its definitely something I wasn't prepared for. Looking forward to meeting you in person at the wedding this summer.

  3. Tammy... Oh boy were do I start? Nowhere, there are no words. Simply put, my thoughts are with you and your family in this painful time. Keep on cooking, your father, where ever he may be, I'm sure is smiling down on you.

  4. Tammy,
    I am so sad for such a sudden loss of your Dad. While no true comfort, your passion for cooking will be a beautiful way to have him with you in the years to come
    Kristy Hilden


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