Freezer Meals are a Slippery Slope

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Freezer Meals are a Slippery Slope

By Jonathan Able

Freezer meals are a slippery slope. I should know. After all, I’ve tasted almost every different variation and flavor out there. But that’s because they’re perfectly portioned for one, reasonably priced and in recent years, they’ve really gotten much better in the taste department.

My foray into microwaveable entrees has been deeply intimate. There was a time, and I’m not ashamed to admit, that I would nuke one for both lunch and dinner. But hey, I’m a single guy, with a life-on-the-go. I didn’t have time to cook a three-course meal, nor did I know how.

That said, there really is nothing better than a home-cooked meal. The taste is fresher, and the feeling of pride that one feels after turning off the stove and taking the first bite out of your culinary concoction is one that cannot be described; well, unless you’ve burned your chicken and your rice is completely uncooked, like my chicken and rice fiasco last week. (There won’t be a blog post on that disaster.) Not to mention, you can control what you’re putting in your body. Many times, you can skip out on the excess sodium and preservatives that come packed in a microwaveable meal.

(I should note, I’m not hopping a soapbox here. I still bring freezer meals to work on occasion, but I’m trying to do so, less and less.)

However, portioning for one can be difficult when most recipes yield anywhere from four to six servings. I try to hang around one-pot meals, but occasionally, changing the size of a recipe is needed.

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Here’s one that I just tried this weekend, and I wanted to share with you. This was originally Paula’s Slow Cooker Cheese Stuffed Meatballs and Sauce. Here are some notes on how I made this recipe more suitable for one:

1. I cut the recipe in half. You’ll notice that the recipe still calls for the same amount of beef, but I’ve omitted the pork. That’s just a personal choice- I don’t care for pork all that much, so I just decided to go with beef. I’m sure it tastes delicious the original way as well. I also omitted the parsley, because…well, my grocery store was out.

2. The recipe calls for 2 oz. of fresh mozzarella, but I don’t think this has to be exact. You can kind of eyeball it. You’ll know what will fit inside of your meatballs.

3. This recipe yields really hearty meatballs. Even though this recipe has been cut in half, you’ll still have plenty of servings to last for more than one meal; which is a money saver because it reheats great.

4. You should only end up with six large meatballs, but I was able to squeeze seven out of the recipe. The package of ground beef I bought was slightly over a pound, so I was able to get a little more out of the yield.

Okay, and last but not least, the recipe!

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Slow Cooker Cheese Stuffed Meatballs and Sauce for One

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup Italian dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 oz. fresh mozzarella, divided into 6 pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jar of your favorite red sauce
1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl combine meat, parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, parsley and dried oregano. Add bread crumbs 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is not to wet and can be formed into balls easily. Form mixture into 6 balls using your thumb to press a hole in the center. Insert a piece of the fresh mozzarella into the hole and close the hole by pushing the meatball mixture around it to secure the mozzarella inside each ball.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and drizzle olive oil into it. Add meatballs and cook until just browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs into a slow cooker. Pour red sauce over the meatballs and cook on LOW for approximately 5 hours. Serve the stuffed meatballs and sauce over spaghetti.

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Reader Comments:

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I am anxious to try these meatballs. I am a household of one however I still try Pauls recipes and then have left overs. I would love more recipes for one. I love Pauls's cook books and mags.

By LaJean Miller on June 09, 2011

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By Ron on June 06, 2011

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YES!! More of these recipes for One Please. I LOVE Paula, and I think I have all of her cook books (and the Deen Boys too!!), but I am a single woman - hard to have all that food, and NOT want to eat it all in one setting (and I already have a weight issue (Bobby, can you get a cookbook together with you lighter versions of your moms recipes pretty please?? I am begging here!!!)!! I am really not a big party giver - when I cook any of Paula's recipes, I feel the need to invite the entire apartment building ('sides they all smell I am cooking and they come a'knocking!!), because i always have so many left overs!!!

By Pat Long on June 03, 2011

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thanks...we are small family of 3 and this is just the right size for each person to get 2 Meaballs..Loved the Queche by the way ...it was Perfect...I have an Idea to share...crepes for breakfast with fruit...for lunch with veggies...and My personal fav... for dinner with a meat sauce and manicoti filling baked .

By Maggie on May 28, 2011

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I'll be trying this one. Thanks for cutting it down.

By Beki on May 28, 2011

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I really like this!!!! It's just me and my 3 year old at home so it is like cooking for one and I am always making to much food and throwing alot of leftovers out. Would love to read and see more recipes on this.

By Nevada on May 28, 2011

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Rhonda, so glad you tried the pork! I didn't freeze mine, but I'll definitely try that next time!

By Jonathan Able on May 25, 2011

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This recipe is wonderful! I live alone and one person recipes are just what I need! I actually made a double recipe with this and I did use the pork and parsley. It freezes perfectly. Keep these great recipes coming. Rhonda

By Rhonda Dollins on May 25, 2011

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Tracey, thanks so much for the comment! I look forward to hearing how yours turns out. It really is a simple recipe. Great to do on a weekend- let the meatballs cook while you're doing laundry, chores...or out at the beach! wink

By Jonathan Able on May 24, 2011

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Jonathan, talk about perfect timing...my husband just retired and will be spending 3 weeks in Spain with his best friend leaving me home so a recipe for one works better than you know smile I do have three kids but they're teenagers, two of them work and the other will be helping my sister with her two young children so it will literally be just me. To make it more perfect I'm half Italian so hey, this will make my Mom proud - most of her recipes will feed a small army, something she is very proud of! My husband takes off 6/9, I will make this 6/10 and let you know how much I enjoyed it. Heck, I can almost taste the deliciousness just looking at that awesome photograph (Libby?). I'll go ahead and do the regular recipe when my hubby returns and my kids are home.....for now I'm excited to have the house to myself and a recipe for one. always - Tracey Lopez/Turlock CA

By Tracey Lopez on May 24, 2011

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This looks SO delicious. I had to try it! I am a huge pasta lover. Pasta is always an "easy" and "quick" thing to make if you are looking for something affordable that can yield more than one meal. I used this exact recipe but with turkey meat instead of beef and I poured it over whole wheat pasta. Still delicious! Felt like a yummy splurge but with less fat and calories. The best part is I have some left over! (I am guilty of eating the same thing for lunch AND dinner. And why not?) Thanks for the blog, Jonathan! I look forward to reading the next one! P.S. I am a very visual person when it comes to food and your photos REALLY make me want to eat what you created! ...This is both good and bad.

By Lindsay Calhoon on May 21, 2011

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Wanda, I can totally relate! Thanks for reading my blog, hope you enjoy PaulaDeen.com!

By Jonathan Able on May 19, 2011

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Hi Rosemary, thanks for the encouragement! I'd love to see some of your recipes! smile

By Jonathan Able on May 19, 2011

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Next time, you're not having leftovers, 'cause I'm coming over! Yum, yum!

By Jessica on May 19, 2011

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DEAR JONATHAN, I know what you mean I am a single person too. And why cook a meal for one person it's no fun. So I'll amit I've used the TV dinners before I mean you have your meat vegetables and sometimes dessert. Well I LOVE watching PAULA DEEN and learned to cook for one. Thank's for listing to me.

By WANDA on May 18, 2011

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Hey Jonathan, I was raised in a family of 11, and learned to cook for such...when I married and cooked pasta for the first time for 2...my husband came home from work to find large bowl of pasta, salad, garlic bread and wine on the tabe...and 4 equally large bowls of pasta on the counter...it was then I realized then that I needed to learn a different way of cooking...now 40yrs later and different husband..I still enjoy fixing fast meals for the 2 of us....put extra in serving size containers or better use a Seal A Meal/vac system to put your own meals together in... My son lives and works in Japan and I signed him up for Paulas newletters so he has access to two southern Moms to keep him with new ideas in the kitchen.... You will do good and I will try the recipe for the meatballs...Hugs

By Rosemary Azevedo-Martins. on May 18, 2011

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Yum-my! Great recipe! You can never go wrong with fresh mozzarella. Caprese salad (tomatoes, mozz, & balsamic vinegar) is a favorite!! I tend to "accidentally" add more cheese than the recipe calls for! Oops! smile

By Martha Lee on May 18, 2011

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This looks really yummy! I love the idea of having enough to take to lunch the next day. So much better than running to the closest fast food joint. Thanks for passing this along, it will be on my table this weekend!!

By Susans on May 18, 2011

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This looks SO good Jonathan!! Wish you all the best with your cooking journey. Looks like your off to a great start. ~Marina

By Marina on May 18, 2011

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This looks delicious! I will be trying that recipe this week!

By Jody on May 17, 2011

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