The key to getting whole, unprocessed weeknight meals on the table in 40 minutes or less comes down to prep and organization. I am always met with awe and a “how do you do that” when talking about what shows up on our weeknight dinner table. It’s time consuming, but it is so worth it. Meal planning and knowing what’s on the menu each night helps keep me on task. Having veggies washed, dried, and chopped, stocks, marinara’s, and sauces frozen in 1 quart containers, and condiments like teriyaki sauce and homemade barbecue sauce bottled and ready to use makes weeknights in the kitchen almost effortless.
When I make marinara sauce, bolognese, enchilada sauce, and tomatillo sauce I always double or even triple the recipes. Taking a quart of marinara sauce out of the freezer first thing in the morning defrosts in perfect time for dinner. And doubling this meatball recipe gives me at least three sometimes four different meals. Left overs can be warmed and packed up in the kids lunch or a hearty meatball hero becomes the ultimate after school snack. I have even used up the meatballs by making little crostini’s as a fun weekend lunch.
I am fortunate to have a big ass freezer in my garage. Flash freezing summer, organic fruits, homemade waffles, and cookie doughs is easy. After about an hour and a half I remove the rimmed sheet pans from the freezer and pack up the frozen goodies in freezer safe containers. I much prefer spending an entire Sunday morning-afternoon in the kitchen, getting all my basics prepped for the week ahead. Weekdays get busy, very busy. Unexpected activities or spontaneous guests come up for the kids and on these days, knowing that I have stuff that I can grab and go keeps me at ease. A home cooked meal beats ordering from the local pizza place any old day of the week.
5 Key Tips to taking the stress out of weeknight meals:
• Meal Plan: come up with a few simple weeknight meals that share some of the same ingredients.
• Write up your market list and don’t go to the market without it! Make only one trip to the market – this will save both time and money.
• Wash, dry, and chop your vegetables in advance. Bag them up and use them up during the week.
• Most leftovers can be made into a delicious, new meal. Make soft tacos with leftover chicken or steak. Extra veggies can be thrown into a fritata, and a little bit of pasta sauce goes along way. Combine it with pasta and a simple bechamel sauce – you’ve created the perfect comfort dish.
• Preparing a batch of grains and legumes can be tossed into salads and soups. What ever is left over becomes patties and burgers.
Baked Turkey Quinoa Meatballs
24 ounces | 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
12 ounces | 3/4 pound mild turkey sausage, casings removed
4 ounces | 1 cup cooked quinoa
3 ounces | 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
5 tablespoons whole milk
1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 quart homemade marinara (or your favorite jar sauce)
• preheat oven to 350*
• line an 11″ x 17 1/2″ rimmed sheet pan with heavy duty foil. brush with olive oil. set aside.
• in a large bowl whisk quinoa, Parmesan cheese, parsley, whole milk, egg, egg yolk, Celtic sea salt, ground pepper, and nutmeg.
• add ground turkey and turkey sausage.
• using your hands or a potato masher, mix gently to combine. don’t overwork your meat.
• using a 2 tablespoon ice cream scooper, scoop meat mixture on to prepared baking sheet. to avoid using more than one baking sheet, meatballs can sit pretty close together.
• bake 30 minutes or until meatballs begin to turn golden brown around the edges. cool on wire rack.
• if using a portion of them right away, simmer meatballs in warm marinara sauce.
• flash freeze the balance of the meatballs by placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet. freeze, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until the outside is frozen. place frozen meatballs in a freezer safe container. use up within 2 months.
yield: 65 1 1/2″ meatballs