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Double-duty Italian meatloaf & meatballs

January 26, 2012

It’s a busy time of year … my two youngest sons have wrestling practice two nights a week plus meets on the weekends, plus we have homework and Cub Scouts, so there isn’t a lot of time for four-course sit-down meals. My slow cookers are getting a workout these days. They keep food warm so it’s ready whenever my hungry wrestlers get home from practice, and they’re such a time-saver.

Another great time-saving tip is to make double batches of food or find double-duty uses for the same recipe. Lasagne, for example, is so easy to double up. I always make two pans; one to bake, and one to freeze. Meatloaf is also great for doubling. Whenever I make my mini meatloaves, I make a double (or triple) recipe, since they freeze so well.

I’ve been craving meatloaf lately, but I’m also trying to eat healthier, so I came up with a new recipe that doesn’t include cheese or bacon, which are delicious, but fattening. I used super-lean ground beef from the beef we split with our neighbor, but you could use ground turkey if you prefer. I made a 4-pound batch, then turned half into a meatloaf and half into meatballs. Two meals in one … POW!

4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary (I run a knife through it so the leaves are smaller)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup spaghetti sauce, plus extra to top meatloaf

Combine ground beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic, spices, eggs, oats, and sauce in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands or a potato masher.

Divide the mixture in half. Line a 5-qt. slow cooker with foil. Form half the mixture into a loaf and place in slow cooker. (The foil will make it easy to lift the meatloaf out and makes clean-up a snap.) Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Top with additional pasta sauce an hour before meatloaf is finished if desired. Let sit 30 minutes before cutting. (If you skip this step, the meatloaf could fall apart.)

Meanwhile, use a 1/4-cup scoop to make meatballs with the other half of the meat mixture. Freeze for later use by putting raw meatballs on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet and placing in freezer. Once meatballs are frozen, store in a freezer bag. Or go ahead and make the meatballs and stick them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Brown meatballs on all sides in a large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray. Place meatballs in a foil-lined crock pot to finish cooking, about 3 hours on high, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Serve meatballs with spaghetti and sauce, put them into a hoagie roll and top with sauce, or serve as sliders on mini bagels or small rolls.

This recipe makes both a 2-pound meatloaf and 16 golf-ball-sized meatballs. It was enough for dinner and leftovers for my family of five … twice. That’s a win-win-win-win for me!

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