Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)


Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?



Stuffed Shells


One of my least favorite things in the world is leaving work at 5PM, getting in the car to drive the 35 minutes (or longer as I travel on the interstate…in rush hour…most of the way) home, and realizing I didn’t plan for dinner that night.  My boys like to eat at 6PM, so if I didn’t plan something earlier in the week, it’s pizza or take out for dinner.  Not that they complain about that mind you.

I like to do my meal planning, shopping, and meal prep on the weekends so when it’s crunch time, I already have a plan.  Plus things like sloppy joe, pre-cooked Dad’s Spaghetti sauce, or this little recipe are the perfect make ahead meals for Jeff to throw together at the last minute when I have to work late!

As you guys may know by now, is one of my favorite places to go for meal inspiration.  One day I was perusing and a little gem of a recipe popped out at me.  I thought it looked intriguing, so I added the ingredients to my grocery list, cooked it, and the rest is history.  Now we have Stuffed Shells at least once every few weeks.  It also freezes beautifully.  The recipe makes two 6×9 pans of shells or one 13×9 pan.  It’s also a great meal to take to someone who recently had a baby or moved into a new home!


Stuffed Shells
(adapted from

1 box large shells
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp parsley
**In place of the oregano and parsley, you could just use a couple teaspoonsful of Italian seasoning
1 jar pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350º.  Cook your shells according to the package.  There should be a shorter time on the box specifically if you’re going to further cook the noodles in the oven.  I think mine is 9 minutes or something like that.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, eggs, garlic, and seasonings.  **Hint:  if you want to sneak in some veggies, replace 1-1.5 cups of the ricotta with pureed cauliflower.  They’ll never know… 

Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water until the noodles are cool enough to handle.  Prep a 13×9 or two 6×9 pans with cooking spray and a little drizzle of the pasta sauce (just enough to barely coat the bottom).  Transfer your filling to a large Ziploc bag.  Cut one of the tips off the bottom of the bag to turn it into a piping bag.  Fill your shells with the filling and then place filling side up in the pan.  Top with the rest of the pasta sauce and the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until everything is hot and gooey.

Make a double batch and freeze in some foil pans.  These shells make a terrific meal on a cold, snowy night with a large loaf of crusty Italian bread and some salad.

Calendar of Eats

It’s so secret that I love to cook.  I like being able to make my family dinner on a (somewhat) regular basis.  With my crazy work schedule, that takes planning.  See, on any given week, my schedule could look like this:

Sunday:  7:30a-5p
Monday:  1p-10:30p
Tuesday:  OFF
Wednesday:  4:30a-2p
Thursday:  1-10:30p
Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  7:30-5

So you see how challenging dinner making can be?  On days I’m off or early, it’s not a big deal as I’m at home for dinner.  On days I close (work til 10:30p), it’s a little more tricky.  I have to plan meals that my husband can make like a casserole, crock pot meal, or something that’s already cooked and just needs to be reheated.

I used to have a spreadsheet that listed the day of the month, my schedule, and what meal I would make.  This was a pretty good system, but I could only plan a couple weeks at a time because I needed my work schedule.  I only get it a couple weeks in advance, you see.

For some reason, I got away from this meal plan.  I think it was because every day was a free for all.  By that I mean I didn’t have a set cuisine type for each day.  I just filled in the meals with what I had a taste for.  This is a fine way to do things, but I found myself always picked the same meals.  Meatloaf, beef stroganoff, and sloppy joes were big hits and always found their way into the plan.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a new way of meal planning.  With this new way, I took a calendar and assigned a cuisine or meal base to each day of the week.  It looks something like this:

I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but I quickly found myself actually following the plan!  I would grocery shop for the week on one of my days off, then prep any meals I needed to.

The nice thing about this meal plan is I can switch days around if necessary.  For example, you’ll notice in the first row I had Steel Drums Chicken on Monday and Chicken Spaghetti on Tuesday.  Steel Drums Chicken has to be grilled and Chicken Spaghetti is a casserole.  Since I closed on Monday, it was easier for Jeff to reheat the casserole than it was to watch the baby and grill chicken.  Who are we kidding?  Jeff doesn’t grill.  Well, not much anyhow.

One thing I have run into, oddly enough, is having too much food!  If you look at my original post, you’ll see there are no days for leftovers.  My plan, initially, was to have the leftovers for lunches or to only make enough for one meal.  Well, some days I don’t want the same thing I had for dinner.  My plan for August incorporated a leftover day.  Know what happened?  Yep, we ran out of meals for leftover day and I ended up having to order pizza, something I was trying to avoid with this whole plan!

It’s a work in progress.

For the most part, however, the meal planning has been a great project.  It has allowed me to make some of Jeff’s favorite meals (read: meatloaf) as well as try out some of my pinned and cookbook recipes.  I have more cookbooks than I have shoes.

I am still perfecting the system.  I am trying to get healthier meals included instead of just ones that sound good (like Paula’s Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken which we had last night…YUM!).  I am also trying to put the meals I make into My Fitness Pal so I can just add them when I eat them.  That is a big downfall for me…eating dinner and then not logging it because I don’t want to put each ingredient in my log.

Some of the meals I have tried out with this new meal plan are Chicken Stir Fry, Swiss Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Glaze, and Pulled Chicken Quesadillas.  What are some meals you have pinned or bookmarked lately that you most want to try?