She works with willing hands.

Pantry Meatballs

I’m an unbored housewife and I can’t just make a quick run to the grocery store when I forget an ingredient.  Grocery shopping with three tiny humans is much like attempting to appease a ferocious beast that grows increasingly savage the longer it is strapped into a ridiculously large shopping cart shaped like a car.  And can I just express my love/hate feelings towards said shopping carts?  I love them because they actually contain all three of my beasts…I mean children.  I loathe them because they are absurdly immense and difficult to steer.  Much like the large SUV that I drive, I’m always paranoid that someone is watching me attempt to maneuver my cart and thinking “she doesn’t know how to drive that thing.”

Today I have approximately a pound and a half of ground beef on hand and not much else in the way of fresh ingredients.  But I sure as heck don’t feel like loading said large SUV with my three beasts, driving to the grocery store and appeasing them to buy just a few ingredients.

So I’ll make my pantry meatballs!

These babies are easily made with just ingredients that you probably already have on hand.  If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, we should chat about appropriately stocking your kitchen – but we’ll save that conversation for another day.

Growing up I didn’t eat much Italian food, but my husband is a Jersey Boy.  Italian cuisine is as synonymous with New Jersey as hair gel, sweet corn and going “down the shore.”  So I learned to cook Italiano style.

For some real deal Italian cooking, I will feature some of my Italian friends’ recipes in the coming weeks.  It will be fun stuff.

But today we’re talking pantry meatballs.

Start with roughly one and a half pounds of ground beef.  This was frozen and I defrosted it in the refrigerator overnight.

defrosted

In order to feed the beasts, I buy my ground beef in family-sized packs and freeze it in smaller, one to two pound increments.  It’s economical, baby.

Break up your ground beef just a bit and toss it into a mixing bowl.  Crack two eggs into the bowl.

crack egg

Next add three-quarters of a cup of seasoned dry bread crumbs.

bread crumbs

Now go to the fridge and survey your parmesan cheese situation.  I have these two.

parm cheese

I’m going to use the shredded variety because it’s higher quality and tastier.  But if you don’t have it on hand, go for the grated cheese.  It will turn out just fine.  Add one-half cup of cheese to your mixing bowl.

cheese in bowl

Measure two tablespoons of dried parsley and add it to your ingredients.

dried parsley

Next add one half tablespoon of minced garlic.  I buy this jarred stuff and keep it in the fridge.  Some folks might turn their noses up at jarred minced garlic, but I’m okay with it.

minced garlic

Add one teaspoon of dried oregano.

oregano

Add salt and black pepper according to your taste preferences.  I go fairly light on both.  The parmesan cheese is salty.

Finally, add one-half cup of water.

Now take off your rings and get ready to squish some meat.  Use your hands to squish the meat and mix the ingredients.  But don’t overwork it!  Too much squishing compacts the meat and makes it too dense.  Lead meatballs are not so yummy.

squish

Find a nice-sized baking sheet and rub it with a little olive oil.  Now shape your meatballs.  I like mine on the medium-to-large side.  My Jersey Boy says these are a little larger than a golf ball.  I don’t golf, so I’ll take his word for it.

shaping

shaped balls

Now bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.  Cooking time of course depends on how large you shaped your meatballs.  Smaller meatballs will be done sooner.

Now pop open a jar of sauce or make your own if you’re so inclined.  Grandma will be assisting me today.

pasta sauce

Serve on crusty rolls for meatball sandwiches or with spaghetti, of course.

These meatballs also freeze well for later use.

Whew, grocery shopping avoided.  For today, at least.  I’ll appease the beasts another day.

final meatballs

INGREDIENTS

1 and 1/2 lb. ground beef

2 eggs

3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. dried parsley

1/2 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup water

Drizzle of olive oil

Simple Red Beans and Rice

I’m an unbored housewife and I don’t have all day to craft gorgeous meals.  I’m typically cooking with a toddler clinging to my calves while my two preschoolers systematically destroy my house room by room.  I need a repertoire of meals that are easily prepared and consistently well received by my brood.  Enter red beans and rice.  Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I grew up eating them.

Much like your favorite pair of underwear, red beans and rice may not be the most glamorous thing to look at, but man are they comfortable.  You just keeping going back to them over and over again.

Did I just compare my family’s favorite meal to a pair of old underwear?  Why yes.  Yes I did.  It makes perfect sense in my head.

For some inexplicable reason, folks are intimidated by cooking with dried beans.  Let me assuage this fear, dear ones.  There is almost nothing easier to use in cooking.  However, dried beans take a bit of planning ahead.  They are definitely not for the 5:45 p.m. “oh crap what the hey am I going to feed these people” moment.

Oh, and it’s a cheap meal.  I’ve never calculated the total cost but smoked sausage is the most expensive ingredient at $3.99 from my local Wegmans.

Here are the main ingredients.  I told you it was simple.

red beans

I prefer Goya beans but any decent quality dried red bean will do.  You can also buy organic, of course.

Empty your beans into a large pot and quickly look through them, tossing out any grody-looking beans.  Cover your beans with a few inches of cool water.  Now you have a choice depending on your time frame.  Either:

(1) soak your beans at room temperature for at least eight hours or overnight; or

(2) bring your beans to a rapid boil and boil briskly for two to three minutes, turn off the heat, cover your beans and let them sit for at least an hour.

This is called soaking the beans and it both reduces cooking time and breaks down some of the indigestible sugars that make you fart.  Yes, I just said fart.  We’re talking about beans, okay?

After your beans are done soaking, drain the water out of your pot and re-cover the beans with a few inches of fresh water.

beans clean water

Dice one large onion (or two medium onions) and throw it in your pot.

onion

Cut your smoked sausage into bite-sized pieces and throw that in, too.

sausage

Add one tablespoon of minced garlic.  Fresh is best but for convenience you can use this, too.

garlic

Throw in a bay leaf.

bay leaf

Now salt and pepper.  As with all seasoning, your measurements are really a matter of taste but I typically add approximately one teaspoon of salt and one-quarter teaspoon of black pepper at this point.  Then I adjust after the beans are done by adding a little more salt to taste.  It’s always best to go light on the salt and add more later.

Now crank up your heat to a rapid boil and allow your ingredients to boil for two to three minutes.  Stir your beans (making sure none are stuck to the bottom of the pot) and turn down your burner to medium low.  Your beans should be at a simmer.  Place the lid ajar on your pot, permitting just a little steam to escape as your beans cook.

lid ajar

Periodically stir your beans and make sure they remain covered by water.  Add more warm water if necessary.  Cooking time will vary depending on how you soaked your beans, but generally red beans will be done in one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours.  You will know they are done when the beans are soft and slighty mushy.  Mash some of the beans to thicken up the texture.  The beans should be a soupy but not watery consistency.  You can cook them even longer (until they start to break down) if you prefer a thicker, creamier consistency.

Remove the bay leaf.

Serve over cooked white rice.  Sprinkle a little Tabasco on top if you’re feeling spicy.  (I prefer the green variety.)  Yum yum.  They’re comfy, I tell you, just like your favorite undies.

Go make some in honor Madi Gras!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

INGREDIENTS

16 oz. dried red kidney beans

1 large or 2 medium onions, diced

14 oz. smoked sausage

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 bay leaf

salt and black pepper