Friday, March 22, 2013

Good dinner

Last week started out as one of those weeks when everything was wrong. Not with the world, but with me.

To borrow a phrase from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, I was at the bottom of the well.

Instead of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, I was looking at everything through blue glasses.

I felt bad, felt sad, felt guilty, for not helping with more of the outside farm work, for being a yells-a-lot mom instead of a fun mom, for not keeping the house clean enough, for not losing this baby weight faster. The irrationality of it all was clear to me, but I couldn't stop the thoughts from coming or the tears that came with them. It was awful.

I needed a good nap and a good workout and someone to tell me I was doing a good job.

I think Glen knew.

After putting Dan and Monika to bed on Wednesday night, I delivered Glen's dinner to the barn and returned to the house to clean up the kitchen and put Daphne to bed. A little while later, I got this text message from Glen:

"Good dinner." text message from Hubby

Two little words. Such a big impact. My heart sang. I smiled.

I love getting unsolicited feedback on the meals and treats I make. Especially when I try a new recipe, which I had that night.

Plus, Glen's message was just enough to let me know that my efforts were appreciated.

So, what was the good dinner?

I tweaked a meatball recipe one of my friends shared on Facebook and added my own sauce recipe. I've been trying to rotate through the different types of meat in our freezer to keep dinner interesting. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it with our ground lamb.

The meatballs were served with chunky-mashed baby red potatoes and broccoli. Did you know that frozen broccoli is actually slightly more nutritious than fresh broccoli? And milk, of course. (I only thought to take the picture below the next morning – after all the potatoes were gone.)

lamb meatballs in raspberry sauce

Aromatic Baked Meatballs with Savory Raspberry Sauce
(using my No-Touch Meatball Method)


1 pound ground lamb (see ingredients note)
1 pound ground pork
3 eggs
2 or 3 tsp ground cumin
2 or 3 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chipotle chile pepper (optional)
½ cup oatmeal, ground fine (optional)

1 cup raspberry jam (with seeds or seedless)
2 tbsp soy sauce


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put meat and eggs in a large bowl. Using a sturdy spoon, stir together. Mix in spices. Then stir some more. Stir really hard. And when you think you've stirred it enough, stir it some more. The key to meatballs that hold together and have great texture is to extract the proteins from the meat so that they can combine with the salt and eggs; in other words, the mixture needs to become a sticky mass. (I learned this from Glen when we made homemade sausage, so he deserves some credit. He didn't know I was paying attention, though. The first time I served meatballs for supper, he asked me, in awe, "Did you make these?" It was one of my proudest culinary moments.) Then stir in the ground oatmeal. [You can leave out the oatmeal, but the meatballs will ooze a little when they bake.]

Using a #50 scoop (or whatever size you want), place one level scoop of the meat mixture into each well of a mini-muffin pan. There's no need to shape these meatballs by hand. This recipe makes about 60 meatballs, so you'll need several muffin tins. You could put them on a cookie sheet, too. (When I make hand-rolled meatballs, I bake them on cookie sheets. The recipe my friend shared suggested using large muffin tins, so I decided to give the mini tins a try.)

Bake until well browned or meat thermometer reads 160°F, about 15-20 minutes. [Update: If you hand-roll these and bake them on cookie sheets, it takes about 25 minutes for the meatballs to be well-browned.]

oven baked lamb meatballs in mini-muffin tins

In a medium serving bowl, mix together raspberry jam and soy sauce. The amounts are flexible; you can adjust the amount of jam and soy sauce to suit your tastes. Transfer meatballs from muffin tins to serving bowl. Stir to coat meatballs with sauce.

Ingredients Note:

I've used this combination of seasonings and sauce to make roasted pork loin and chicken breasts, so I think you could easily substitute any other ground meat for the lamb. I think I'm going to try using a combination of ground pork and ground beef after we run out of ground lamb.  You can also easily use a one-pound package of ground meat; just reduce the seasoning amounts accordingly.

I'm also going to try adding a little black or red pepper to the meatballs or the sauce; the recipe I use for pork includes hot pepper jelly.

This recipe was inspired by Vanessa Romero's recipe for Oven Baked Lamb Meatballs, which was adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Aromatic Meatballs.

Recipe Review:

You already know what Glen thinks of the meatballs. Dan and Monika thought they were yummy, too. I love this combination of spices and I love this sauce. (I love any recipe with raspberries involved.) I also really liked that I didn't get my hands dirty making these. I don't normally have a problem with getting my hands dirty, but (1) the skin on my fingers is cracked from this never-ending winter and getting food, especially salt and spices, in those cracks really hurts and (2) since I'm almost always parenting while I'm cooking, I didn't have to stop and wash my hands each time I needed to help the kids.

Not only was this recipe tasty, apparently it's also very trendy. During the Land O'Lakes Kitchen Conversation I participated in last month, Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman shared that meatballs are one of the hottest food trends of 2013. Who knew? She also shared a recipe for Meatball Tortilla Soup. I haven't tried it yet, but I hope to soon.

If you decide to try my recipe or Ree's recipe or my no-touch meatball method, be sure to let me know what you think.

Feedback – especially positive – is always appreciated.

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