Fast Meatball Chili with Greek Spices
Dinner on the fly? Yes, you "can!"
If you're looking for haute cuisine, this ain't the right kitchen. At least not tonight. Tonight's recipe-on-the-fly is a typical Mighty Mom concoction, born out of desperation and pulled from the pantry, the fridge and the freezer. With love, of course!
The key to last-minute meals, I've found, is to become so engrossed in your work that you totally forget to plan anything for dinner. Suddenly, it's 6:30 and Hubby is starved. Takeout ... again? Not so fast. I guarantee you can do better and healthier, for a lot less money.
You have all the elements of a great meal already in your kitchen. The trick is to look at the ingredients you have on hand in a creative way. I mean, I can open cans with the best of them. What I'm talking about is rising above (if only just a dash) the expected. Just because it's pulled from the pantry doesn't mean it has to be pedestrian.
Pride of the Pantry
You can internationalize these Swedish Meatballs
1/4 to 1/3 bag IKEA (or other) frozen meatballs
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 ribs celery, chopped (I include leaves as well)
1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 tsp. Cavender's Greek Seasoning* (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. dried chopped onion
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Saute onions and celery in butter (or olive oil) till soft in a soup pot or pasta pot. Add canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir in frozen meatballs and let simmer for 5 minutes. Drain most of liquid off kidney beans, then add beans to pot.
Stir in spices and let simmer for 10 more minutes till meatballs are heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve over rice or pasta if desired.
*If you don't have Cavender's Greek Seasoning, substitute oregano and garlic powder.
Note there is no salt in this recipe. Unless you use no-salt-added tomatoes, there's more than enough. But feel free to add more if you like.
Genesis of tonight's idea
Ingredients I knew I had to work with:
Bag of IKEA frozen meatballs
Can of diced tomatoes
Honestly, these two are staples in my home. If you haven't experienced the incredible IKEA brand meatballs (or kotteballar, as they proclaim on the package), take yourself Swedish furniture shopping ASAP. They are divine, with or without the traditional Swedish cream sauce they serve at the IKEA restaurant. And oh so versatile. But any frozen meatballs (beef, turkey or chicken, homestyle or Italian seasoned -- truly any kind you like will work).
I'm also a huge fan of canned tomato products. They instantly add Vitamin C and lovely red color to any dish. I could wax eloquent on the joys of stewed, diced, whole and crushed tomatoes. But you get the idea.
So there I was, scanning my pantry for something to pump up the volume of my meatballs + tomatoes main dish.
A few more cans, some veggies, add heat
Let's be clear: spaghetti and meatballs was never an option. I have my standards. If I'm not making my own sauce, I'll go with Newman's Own, thank you.
But finding a can of kidney beans was like striking gold. Chili? Meatball chili? Why not?
Quickly chopping an onion and some celery, I set them to saute in a soup pot.
Simultaneously, I dumped the frozen meatballs into a frying pan, covering them with the chopped tomatoes. Sensing one can wouldn't be enough to properly "sauce" the meatballs, I added a small can of tomato sauce and then a can of stewed tomatoes, for good measure. As I said above, I can never get enough canned tomato products!
Greek Seasoning -- in a can, of course
Greek Seasonings & Spices
- Greek Food: Herbs and Spices
Greek cooking is very simple and does not rely on a large variety of herbs and spices but the combination of a few
- Cavender\'s Greek Seasoning - All Purpose Seasoning - Harrison, Arkansas
S-C Seasoning Company offering Cavender's Greek Seasoning.
Spiced with a Greek Accent
Once the onion-celery mixture softened, I transferred the meatball-tomato mixture to the big pot and added the can of kidney beans.
Now came the moment of truth.
Should I go with the traditional chili spices, relying on the meatballs alone to render my dish different (and undoubtedly delicious)?
No! I wanted to surprise Hubby with something unusual (well, as unusual as a canned meal can be, anyway).
The inspiration actually came from the two main ingredients: meatballs and tomato sauce. Suddenly I flashed back to the Greek diner in Cambridge, Massachusetts I used to frequent back in the day (meaning, in my 20s, after a night of partying). Cinnamon-infused tomato sauce ladled over a scoop of rice and topped with green beans. Yum! And while my IKEA meatballs are of mixed heritage (beef, pork, and veal, I think), I can pretend they are keftedes. Keftedes (kef- teh -des): Deep-fried Greek meatballs.
And so Meatball Chili with Greek Spices was born. I told you this wasn't going to be gourmet. But if the second helping Hubby helped himself to is any indication, it's a keeper.
Opa! (o-pa): Traditional Greek exclamation with no specific definition. Yep, definitely fits tonight's meatball chili!