When I started working at my current job 7 years ago, I was a spring chicken at the ripe old age of 23, which back then I thought was ancient. During my interview, I wore my ‘I’ll-only-be-caught-dead-in-this-at-job-interviews’ black business suit, ready to impress. And while I was pretty sure I had the job in the bag, being that my future ‘boss’ was a family friend, I still wanted to come across as very professional and ‘adult’, even though I was only a year and change out of college, and still considered Thursdays to be the start of the weekend. But all you need to be a professional adult is a business suit and a fancy leather folder for your resumes right? Right!
I met Suzanne – she was sweet and inviting, putting me at ease – I could tell that she’d much rather chat about what had happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor than my credentials, which I loved! Then this other woman charged in the door – wide eyed and guns blazing – and she didn’t even have to utter a word for me to know that she meant business – “Hi , I’m Paula, the Exhibit Sales Manager – you’ll be working with me.” She asked me everything about myself but my blood type and social security number – and the room started to feel smaller and darker, like I was in the middle of an interrogation vs. a job interview. I left feeling good, like I nailed it, but at the same time thinking to myself “I’m kind scared to work with that Paula-woman!”.
And now, 7 years later, Paula is someone who has influenced my life in more ways than I could ever describe. She became a not only a mentor, but a friend, teaching me everything from how to count booths on a floor plan, how to make the best homemade pie crust and how in life, shit happens, and sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’. The life lessons and stories that she’s passed on and her ‘Paula-isms’ like “He’s as old as Jerusalem” or use of the word “Boink“, which still makes me blush, I now use myself, and stop myself. And every time one of them slips past my lips, I chuckle about how much she has rubbed off on me.
Today is her last day with the company – she’s pursuing her lifelong love of writing, hoping to inspire people all over the world with the ‘power of the pen’ and inspirational magnets – and if she can do for them 1/2 of what she’s done for me over the years, than the world will be a much better place.
In the midst of wisdom, she’s passed on some damn good recipes. As a self-proclaimed ‘guinea’, her cooking is beyond incredible – and her recipe for crockpot meatballs is a perfect fall dinner. Takes a little bit of time, but is well worth the wait if you can be patient – and the smell that will fill your house while they’re cooking is better than any celebrity perfume out there.
Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs
(straight from the horses mouth – or email from 2009)
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb ground beef 80/20 (more fat makes a softer better tasting meatball)
½ lb ground pork
½ cup Progresso Italian flavored bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup water
2 TBS chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
½- tsp pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
1) Mix bread crumbs, egg, water, cheese, parsley and spices together to form a soft paste like consistency.
2) Fold in ground beef and pork, turn to mix paste into meat. Do not over mix you’ll toughen the meat.
3) Shape into meatballs and place on cookie sheet bake at 350 8ish minutes both sides, remove to rack. No need to overcook as they’ll to in the crock pot.
FOR THE CROCK POT SAUCE:
2 large cans of Tomato sauce – whichever brand you prefer
1 large can of crushed tomato – I use a Whole Foods organic Marzano tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves minced
1 onion cut in quarters
3 TBS butter
5 TBS Olive Oil
½ cup beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cumin
2 tsp brown sugar – sugar cuts acidity and brings out the fullness of the tomato flavor
fresh basil – I use 3 leafs
1) In sauce pan melt butter and oil on medium heat, add onions and cook til translucent – do not brown.
2) Add garlic and let it flower – do not brown.
3) Add the 3 cans of sauce and all spices except basil, bring to a slow boil.
4) Add a couple spoons of sauce to crock pot bottom. Add meatballs, then more sauce and the rest of the meatballs. Make sure meatballs are covered with remaining sauce.
5) Cook on low for 5 hours. About 1 hour before done add fresh basil.
*NOTES FROM PAULA – that are totally true
PS – better to make the meatballs the night before and refrigerate this prevents them from breaking apart in the sauce.
PS – I also remove a lot of the onions during the cooking process because they have a tendency to make the sauce acidic
So thank-you Paula, not only for these fantastic crock pot meatballs that I’ve made 39843958490 times, but for everything you’ve been to me over the last 7-years. I’m sure that someday, I will be making these for my grandchildren, telling them about my “Good friend Paula who gave me the recipe.”