Thursday, August 26, 2010

make-ahead meatballs

I love, love, love, love make-ahead meals!  There's something comforting about knowing that you've got the "emergency" meal in the freezer for those times when you run out of time...or ingredients!

I've featured a lot of meals that are suitable for making and freezing.  Like this hearty potato soup for example...perfect to freeze and then heat up on a chilly day.

Or these marinated turkey wraps.  Make the turkey in your slow cooker and then freeze it for later!  The wraps are also easy to assemble one day and eat the next.

And what freezes better than pasta sauce?  This kickin' pasta sauce is a 15-minute meal in itself, but it is also incredibly delicious to make-ahead and freeze for a day when all you feel like doing is boiling the noodles.

And, no, I wouldn't forget dessert.  Blueberry vanilla pie is an easy-to-fix impressive dessert.  Whip up the filling and assemble the pie.  Freeze and then cook when ready!

The meatballs I'm featuring today are as easy as it gets.  I usually like to have a gallon size Ziplock bag of meatballs sitting in my freezer.  It's easy to pull out as many servings as I'm going to need, microwave, and go!

To make, whisk together one egg and 1/2 cup milk (or milk substitute) in a medium bowl.

Add a cup of quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs.  I like to use oatmeal in order to add a bit of hidden fiber, but bread crumbs also work well.

Toss in some spices and herbs.  You can use whatever you like - modify to get the taste you want!

I always recommend throwing in the basics...salt and pepper.  I've also been known to add basil and oregano for an Italian flair, or cumin and chili powder for a Mexican taste.

Today...well, today I added nutmeg.  Surprisingly, a hint of nutmeg makes a great, versatile meatball that goes well in just about anything.

At this point, you may also want to add some diced onion or peppers...or maybe some chopped spinach.  Be creative with what you put in!

I kept mine basic and left out the veggies.

Mix everything in your bowl together and then crumble a pound of ground meat (I use ground turkey) over the top.  Stick your (clean!) hands right in that mess and mix it all together.

[Pretend I have pictures here of me doing this. hands had raw meat all over them.]

Then, shape the meat into meatballs and place into greased baking dishes.  I put a little butter in between every few meatballs to enhance the flavor.  It's fun, but entirely unnecessary.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through.

If you want to freeze these, let them cool a bit and then freeze in a freezer-safe storage bag.  When it's time to eat them, simply microwave until heated!

We love these.  They are a great way to stretch a pound of meat.  Think of it - one pound of meat either makes 4 hamburgers or 28 meatballs!  At 4 meatballs a person, that's 7 servings!  They are also low in fat and a great way to sneak in fiber and veggies.

We eat these often smothered in BBQ or buffalo wing sauce and served over mashed potatoes.

We also like these served in a Swedish dill cream sauce with noodles (recipe for dill sauce below).

With make-ahead meatballs, you can't go wrong!

Make-Ahead Meatballs
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (or other liquid)
1 cup quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs
1 lb. ground meat
Salt, pepper, and other preferred spices
Onion, green pepper, spinach, or other preferred veggies

Whisk together egg and milk in a medium bowl.  Stir in oats, spices, and any veggies.  Crumble meat over the top and then use hands to mix in.  Form meat mixture into meatballs and place in greased baking dishes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.  Makes 28 meatballs.

Nutrition (calculated per meatball with ground turkey, oats, and no veggies): 40 cal, 2g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 103mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 4g protein, 0% vit. A, 0% vit. C, 1% calcium, 2% iron.

Swedish Dill Cream Sauce
(adapted from Taste of Home 2006)
2 T. flour (gluten-free is okay)
1 cup milk, cream, or milk-substitute
1 cup beef broth
1 t. salt
1/2 t. dill seed

In a bowl, combine ingredients until blended.  Stir into a skillet.  Bring to a boil, cooking and stirring until thickened.  Serve over meatballs.

Linked up with Foodie Friday and Potluck Sunday!


  1. Great idea! I can use quick meals! All those things look delicious. I'll be freezing some of those meatballs!

  2. Looks great, and for some reason I'm now craving Italian Wedding soup!

  3. Way to go! It all sounds great and looks delicious!

  4. I love to make tons of meatballs, bake them off, and freeze them in small batches for future use. Such a great time saver when I'm pressed to get a meal on the dinner table on a busy day.


  5. I'm all about making things ahead and saving time!! These look great! I also checked out those marinated turkey wraps, they look delicious! THanks!

  6. I am always looking for a good "make-ahead" recipe. We get so busy during the week that we hardly have time to eat. Let alone make something to eat! These look delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Italian wedding soup is in our near future ... thanks for this recipe!

  8. A make-ahead recipe for meatballs? Fantastic! Homemade meatballs are SO much better than the store-bought kind!

  9. i'm so with you on the make-ahead train. it is great! i'm starting school on monday (year 2 of 3 for grad school) and want to be prepared. maybe i'll go make these now. :)

  10. I also like to do make ahead meals. Cook alot one day and be able to do other things the other days.

  11. I love baking meatballs. Do you have a food save that you would recommend for freezing?

  12. Prairie Story - most of the time I use Ziplock gallon size freezer bags since we go through the meatballs so quickly. If I were freezing for long-term, I would bust out my Seal-a-Meal.

  13. That looks like a great recipe...and nice that you can make ahead! The potato soup looks great, too!

  14. I'd love to have a freezer full of these! Bookmarking :)

  15. Yum yum yum! I love meatballs and those look sooooooo good!


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