Sunday Dinner -through the week: Meatballs and more! – Carol McFarland

I’m busy! Grad school is demanding and feeding myself and my hubby every day, three times(!), can be a real challenge. Especially because we like to eat well, and are on a budget. It seems like most of us live in a time (and money) deficit these days. Not having enough time to cook can be a real obstacle to eating in alignment with your values and can drain your wallet as more convenient options are found.

One of the ways we attempt to overcome this obstacle, is by cooking a whole lot of food at once. This can be a great way to save time invested in both cooking and clean-up. To do this, sometime on Saturday I usually start brainstorming about what I can cook on Sunday – I account for what our plans will be, what we have on hand in the freezer/pantry and anything that I have gotten a hold of from the Farmer’s Market or on sale at the Co-op or whatever drives the inspiration. Thinking about it on Saturday gives me a chance to visualize any preparations that I need to do ahead of time (usually nothing too big), such as pull meat out of the freezer, soak legumes overnight or pick up a special ingredient.

I often plan on making around 4 different dishes. These vary a lot but I seem to land on a big “main” item for the week, something that is very vegetable based, a starch and something else- this can be a baked good of some kind, that commonly doubles as desert or breakfast. I also allocate between 2-4 hours for this process depending on the week, not all time is active because I use the oven and just need to be around for things to bake or roast. Active time will depend on your cooking methods and what you are preparing. Shane says he also find clean-up to be more efficient overall because the net amount of dishes used is fewer, so this is a bonus! With all of that said – let’s dive into what I did for this week!

  • Gluten-free, special-mushroom-sauce meatballs
  • Roasted winter squash with lemon-herb sauce
  • Red cabbage and carrot winter salad with seeds, chickpeas and tahini dressing

Here’s a preview of what you’ll end up with if you follow this:

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Time: 2-3 hours Servings:10+

Budget Value Rating: $$$/10 = 3 (higher number on 1-5 scale, means better value per serving)

You can see that this is a pretty nice collection of super-versatile food that can be combined and added to in a variety of ways. Feel free to increase the quantities, I consistently cook for two – but these recipes can easily be adjusted up or down for the size of your family. Some of the items are in various stages of preparation too – I stashed the peeled and ready-to-go-other-half of my butternut squash to use in a couple days; I’ve got a nice big jar of cooked chickpeas to make something yummy like a soup, salad, spread/dip and/or wrap and that will continue to pair nicely with the extra veggies that I shredded, but didn’t end up in the salad – so, let’s get started!

Pre-prep: soak chickpeas and make sure to have the 2lbs ground beef thawed

Now, it’s showtime! Start by getting those chickpeas going on the stovetop- I find a 2:1 ratio of water to chickpeas works for me in my trusty old wok or a good stockpot

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Now that those are cooking let’s go to the Meatballs:

The beef-

There’s a few places around the Palouse-Clearwater region to get grass-fed beef: Palouse Prairie Farms who I’ve purchased from and seen at the Winter Farmer’s Market, the Moscow Farmer’s Market and Palouse Grown Market (online food hub!) and Tourmaline Farms both come to mind

I love beef, my grandpa used to raise the best beef. I think it gets a bad rap with being a red meat and all- but it is versatile and has a lot of redeeming nutritional qualities; such as being high in immune-supporting Zinc, Selenium, B-vitamins and of course, protein. Grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be supportive of heart health.

So, making the meatballs: because we can make the other stuff while they are baking –

We can’t include eggs or bread-crumbs in our meatballs (dietary restrictions), as per the usual recipe, so I invented a flavorful mushroom-based alternative “binder” to hold them together.

I love mushrooms too! They are super nutritious, being generally “medicinal”, high in the thyroid and immune supporting antioxidant, Selenium – and, the best part is that I’m growing some! I am still working on a post about them, and I’m sure it will make it up here before too long.

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Mushroom and red pepper sauce:

1/2 c dried mushrooms (and/or up to 1c fresh) – these dried mushrooms came to the Winter Farmer’s Market from Oregon

1/4 c dried red peppers – like the ones from Tonnemaker farms

2 cloves of garlic – mine came from the WSU Organic Farm

Add 1 c hot water to the dehydrated mushrooms and pepper and let stand for 10 minutes (meanwhile – you can peel your winter squash or see below), then add the garlic and blend into a puree

For Meatballs:

Add 1/2 of this sauce to:

2 lbs ground beef

and season to taste (the seasoning I used here, came from one of those little shelves at the Co-op where they have discontinued items marked usually for 30% off)

Then, form the meat into medium-sized meatballs and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes – this made about 25 meatballs

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Now for the squash – you know that part in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where Barbara Kingsolver talks about her relationship with winter squash? That part really spoke to me, if the world is ever about to end  – I will also have many, many winter squash recipes! My husband admittedly used to not like it, but he gave up on that quite a few years ago and actually has been enjoying it lately, and I deem it a win for well-prepared fresh food!

I have roasted a winter squash probably 3 out of 4 weeks of each month this winter (there’s the confession), but it always works out so well, on its own or going in other dishes. We bought 40lbs of winter squash from the WSU Organic Farm when our CSA ended and have stored/used them since. This recipe is pretty simple –

Lemon-herb Roasted Butternut Squash:

Peel and cube your favorite winter squash – I used half of a pretty large butternut here

Toss it with a favorite sauce or salad dressing – I found this prepared lemon-herb sauce (I know it says it’s for asparagus, but what can I say, I’m a rebel) at the Co-op also for 30% off, I think Drew’s Roast Garlic Salad dressing or something similar would be good on this too – then pop it in the oven with the meatballs and roast until tender, about 45 minutes depending on the size of your squash-cubes and your roasting preferences

I had just a few Brussel Sprouts floating around in my fridge too and tossed them with this yummy sauce and roasted them up too – they made a great pairing with the squash!

Now that those are in the oven –

Red-Cabbage, Carrot and Chickpea Salad

In late winter and early spring it can get interesting to find salad greens that were grown close by – this salad represents a recipe that could be made with all local ingredients this time of year

Hopefully your chickpeas are almost finished cooking and are tender but not mushy – go ahead and taste one to make sure it doesn’t taste “raw” or “green” indicating that they need to be cooked a few minutes longer

Chickpeas are so yummy and have been really growing in popularity – this is a boon here in the Palouse because it makes a great rotational crop to add diversity, value and a natural source of nitrogen to our wheat-based cropping system. The Palouse is a world leader in growing them, making us all very lucky that they are so abundant here. They score bonus points for nutrition, being high in fiber, protein and several B-vitamins as well as vitamins C, K, A and E. Combining these with the seeds in this recipe makes the combo a complete protein containing a balance of essential amino acids:

Complementary Protein

As you wait for those chickpeas to finish cooking-

Make the salad:

Slice:

1/2 head of red cabbage

Grate:

4 carrots

Add toasted sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds to a bowl with about 2/3 of the veggies you just prepped

Now, hopefully those chickpeas are done cooking and you can add 1 1/2 cups of those too (more or less as desired)

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Next, the Tahini dressing:

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I am of the opinion that the quantity of many ingredients to be included in any given recipe – is flexible. Please keep this in mind as you use my recipes, with some things proportion matters and others it doesn’t. Think of the quantities that I have provided here as a place to start and you can adjust the flavors and quantities based on your personal taste preferences – with that said, combine in your favorite small bowl:

1/2 c tahini

1/4 c red wine (or similar) vinegar

2 T stoneground mustard

1 clove of pressed garlic

1 t sriracha or similar pepper sauce

1/4 c olive oil

Salt, pepper, and thyme/other herbs to taste

Mix with a fork, whisk or blender and add water until the dressing is a desirable consistency

This recipe will make about 1 1/2 c of dressing, and this is one of those things where the longer it sits, the more the flavors will blend together – Here, I have taken the portion of salad base that is to be consumed just for dinner tonight and added dressing to coat it – and to serve I added some (optional) sprouted lentils on top

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I hope you have checked the meatballs and squash and found them to be cooked properly, because now it is time to put it all together for the main event: a delicious Sunday dinner

Below you can see the meatballs, squash (and brussel sprouts) served with salad and accompanied by some extra mushroom/red pepper sauce, an olive tapenade and a side of our homemade bread and butter pickles from last summer

And that’s it! Pat yourself on the back, your future self will thank you for your investment and now it’s time to sit down and enjoy the result-

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And now for the “through the week” part:

I also cooked up a batch of red-heirloom quinoa in my rice cooker that can fill out any of these meals and double as breakfast with some nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and honey or maple syrup on top – yum!

For brown bag lunch on Monday:  Meatballs and a side of roasted squash

Dinner on Monday: Cabbage-carrot salad and some leftover soup (not pictured here)

Lunch Tuesday: Cabbage-carrot salad with some of those extra chickpeas and dressing in a wrap

Dinner Tuesday: Peeled winter squash and chickpeas makes a quick soup served with a side of meatballs

Lunch Wednesday: Meatball sandwiches with mushroom sauce (mustard, mayo and pickles)

Dinner Wednesday: Leftover squash soup and cabbage-carrot salad

Lunch Thursday: Wrap with leftover sliced/grated salad veggies, dressing or red pepper-mushroom sauce and chickpeas

Dinner Thursday: The last meatballs with marinara sauce over pasta

Lunch Friday: There’s probably not too much left at this point, but maybe there’s still some of that pasta that will coast you through the week!

I hope that you enjoyed this first edition of “Sunday Dinner – Through the week” featuring meatballs and you have found it to save you time and even some money. Please share your comments if you cook this, hate the post because it is too long or have other recipe ideas, especially for lunches and weeknight dinners with the featured components and…

Enjoy!

With Gratitude:

especially, to Shane McFarland for always helping to clean up the mess I make!

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References:

http://www.beefnutrition.org/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stamets/oyster-mushroom_b_2522084.html?

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02870/selenium.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/371012-chick-peas-nutrition-information/

http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio104/compprot.htm (complete proteins chart)

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