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Gobble, Gobble (Up Some Turkey Meatballs!)

Okay, so the title isn’t so great today, but I was trying to come up with some way to introduce today’s meal. Sean picked this one, and to be honest, I was little surprised he wanted this, but he elected Turkey Meatballs in Gravy, Baked Potatoes, and Broccoli. Since we’ve already made broccoli on the meal plan three times I believe, I won’t bore you with the steamed broccoli that Sean has chosen. I am going to find some more broccoli recipes since I am getting a little bored with it myself (if anyone has any suggestions, please pass them along!)

Okay, so turkey meatballs are not tough to make and they can be quite tasty. I use ground turkey in my chili all the time instead of beef and I think it tastes better and it is better for you. The one thing about ground turkey that I have found is that it can be very dry and needs seasoning. Personally, I have found through some experimenting that the best seasoning to add to ground turkey has been McCormick’s Montreal Chicken blend seasoning. It has a nice mix of garlic, salt, pepper, onion, paprika and orange peel and adds a really nice flavor to the turkey. For a little bit of added moisture to the mix I also put a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce as well. Other than those additions, this is basically the same exact recipe I used for the meatballs last week for our spaghetti and meatballs dinner.

Turkey Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound ground turkey

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Blend Seasoning (use less or more, depending on if you like the flavor)

2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

1 recipe All Purpose Gravy (recipe to follow)

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the ground turkey, Montreal Chicken seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if you make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more. I always make smaller for the turkey).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the gravy, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Very, very easy to make. As a matter of fact, I think I will have Sean help me with this one since he did such a good job last week with the dinner he helped make. The all-purpose gravy recipe really is an all-purpose gravy. You could use it for any type of meat or poultry or just for over mashed potatoes, and you don’t need any pan drippings to make this one. It relies solely on vegetables. chicken and beef broth.

All Purpose Gravy

3 tablespoons butter

1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

1 onion, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth (used canned, box or your own. I am using my own because I have it. otherwise, use low sodium)

2 cups beef broth (same as the chicken. i don’t have my own right now, so I am using Swanson’s low sodium)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

5 whole black peppercorns

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until softened and well browned, about 9 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly browned, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broths and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20-25 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface.

Pour the gravy through a fine-mesh strainer (or gravy separator) into a clean saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

You can make the gravy ahead of time and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 2 months. Just re-heat it over low heat, stirring to recombine, until warm and smooth.

A nice, tasty, very versatile gravy recipe to use any time. Sean wanted baked potatoes tonight ( I personally would have gone for rice) so that’s what were making. You can make baked potatoes the traditional way in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour to 1 hour, fifteen minutes, or you can do it this way, by using the microwave first and then baking them to finish them off. I have found that starting them in the microwave and then cooking them the rest of the way in the oven produces a nice fluffy potato with a crispy skin and takes half the time of just baking them.

Baked Potatoes

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried

Butter (for serving)

Salt and pepper (for serving)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Poke a few holes in each potato with the tines of a fork and microwave the potatoes on high until slightly soft to the touch, 6 to 12 minutes, turning them halfway through.

Carefully transfer the potatoes to the oven and cook directly on the hot oven rack until a knife blade glides easily through the flesh, about 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and open them as soon as possible (the longer a potato sits after being removed from the oven, the more dense the flesh becomes. Opening immediately allows the steam to escape, resulting in a more airy potato). Serve immediately with butter, salt and pepper (or anything else you like to add – cheese, sour cream, chives, crumbled bacon, etc.)

Throw in the broccoli, and we are all done for the evening. I am getting to like these easy meals. Quick cooking, quick clean up and we can spend more time together instead of a long time in the kitchen. You could cut the meatball recipe in half if you want less meatballs and then use the leftovers to make some chili or some turkey sausage (which is what I am going to do. I’ll post the recipe for this on another day). Tomorrow is our meatless night, so we will be having Potato Soup tomorrow, which we made last night so it’s already done and just needs to be re-heated. We’ll be having a salad with it and some crunchy bread, but a nice sandwich would go along well with it also if you were looking to do that. I love a good sandwich! Any favorites out there? I plan to do a sandwich recipes day soon, so pass along you might know of and really like. Enjoy your dinner tonight!

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Gravy, Potatoes, Poultry, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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Jennifer Probst

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