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Fast Meatball Chili with Greek Spices

Updated on January 10, 2012
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

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

The "recipe"

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

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!


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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Looks good and enjoyed the hub!

    • The Jet profile image

      The Jet 5 years ago from The Bay

      Sounds good!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA


      You are so funny. I thought maybe you had Greek in your family and were thus above such elementary recipe.

      You could get those ingredients in your home! easily!

      But thank you for visiting and voting. That's awesome.

      Alekhouse,how marvelous! That is great news for the new year! Did you know we have another hubber who just published a novel? Yes. Shadesbreath.

      But a memoir is a whole nuther level of fabulous!

      I wish you all the best finding an agent and getting your story out there.

      I'm working on lots of projects but they are all for clients. Life in transition. Maybe 2013 will be my mighty personal writing year. This is a big transition year. Go with what I know....

      Keep us all posted on your progress, please! MM

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks for the personal note, MM. I was going to say the same to you...haven't seen you in a while either. It's probably because I'm not hubbing as much as I used to. I finished my memoir and am in the process of a final (hopefully) rewrite. My query letter's done and I'm finishing up my proposal. Will be taking the big plunge soon...looking for an agent. Are you working on any large projects now?

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Mighty Mom, now that's special. LOL! But, then again, what Mom cannot do that. :P With that said, I enjoyed your detailed description of your Fast Meatball Chili with greek spices. I don't plan on making, just to let you know. I don't have half the ingredients in my home. LOL! :) Great Hub! :P Voted up, useful, funny and awesome. :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Well hello alekhouse! Haven't seen you in awhile. How are you? How's your hubbing going?

      Yes. This is extremely fast. The heating up times noted are generous. As soon as the frost comes off those meatballs, it's good to go!

      I hope you enjoy it. MM

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Sounds pretty good...shouldn't take a lot of time either.

      Thanks, MM

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Awesome, hubbers! I hope you enjoy it. I strongly suggest you start out light on the spices and taste as you go. I (as always) guesstimated on the amounts. You can always add more, but hard to un-cinnamon the sauce if it's too much.

      I hope you enjoy. We found it delicious.

      Will look forward to hearing how it comes out with the turkey meatballs, Steph!




    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hey - I have all those ingredients in my house right now! (Well, actually, they are frozen turkey meatballs, but they will do). Thanks for the yummy recipe. Bookmarking and making it this week for sure. Best, Steph

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      This does look fast and yummy. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      Have to try this. We really like chili