I'm all for letting my kids have a say in their breakfasts and lunches. Their choices aren't a free for all; I customize the foods available to them by managing the Food Library on our LaLa Lunchbox and LaLa Breakfast apps and the rest is (well documented) history. The process makes my life easier, and as a working mom of 3, it's exactly what I need to survive.
But dinner is all mine. I love thinking about and talking about what to cook and what to eat for dinner. While I appreciate the occasional request, and even ask my family what they're in the mood for when I'm in a dinner rut, I like being Queen of the Dinner Castle. Lately I've been making turkey meatballs with tomato sauce and pasta about once a week. It's a meal that comes together in under 30 minutes, it's filling and satisfying and if I'm lucky, there are leftovers (usually requested for lunch by my 3 year old). Despite the fact that 2 of my 3 kids won't go near a tomato, somehow they like it in the form of sauce, so this is a meal that all five of us can enjoy together. Major victory.
Here's the secret: A couple of months ago, we harvested a bounty of basil from our tiny garden and I pureed it to make vegan pesto with garlic and olive oil and froze it in small containers. It's the "flavor pouch" to our meatballs, and as long as I can remember to defrost one of those containers in the morning, everything else falls into place. It's easy to find basil even if it's not in season, so don't fret – just puree a large handful of basil leaves with one clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil and you've got it. Here's the confession: I don't always use homemade sauce. Time is tight. There are a few places by me that make a good marinara sauce (and in a perfect quantity) so if there's no time to make this one, I outsource the job. Bottled sauce also works perfectly well.
These Quick Weeknight Meatballs have just 5 ingredients:
1.5 pounds of ground turkey (I prefer dark meat to white meat)
3/4 cup panko (or unseasoned breadcrumbs)
1 jumbo egg
2 tablespoons pesto
1 scant teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)
Preheat the oven to 375. Combine all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and form meatballs about 2-3 inches in diameter. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
The meatballs will be fully cooked. You can eat them just like this! Or you can place them in a pan, cover with tomato sauce and heat until everything is warmed. While this is happening, cook the pasta as directed. We make 1 pound of pasta for our family of 5, and because it's not a ton of pasta, the meatballs really take center stage. While you wait for the water to boil, it's a great time to enlist the help of kids to quickly gather and wash salad ingredients, peel produce or do some basic chopping, if they're old enough. Dinner will be on the table in 30 minutes or less. Score!
What are your go-to weeknight meals?