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.
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!
Slow Cooker Cheese Stuffed Meatballs and Sauce for One
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
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.