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One of my favorite things about cooking is having leftovers.  I used to loathe them, actually, but I think that had more to do with the ingredients I was using (lots of pasta/cans/boxes/etc.) than the fact that there was food leftover.  Nowadays, I find that using fresh vegetables, fresh meats, and good spices makes not only the meal delicious, but the leftovers as well!  There may only be two humans in my house (the 4 dogs and 7 chickens eat a surprising amount of food), but I generally cook meals big enough for at least 4-6 people.  That way I only heat up the house once, but make enough food for at least a couple of meals for each of us.

One recipe that I really stock up on when I make it is meatballs.  And what good are meatballs without marinara sauce?  So, I’ll give you both recipes here:

Meatballs

4 pounds grass-finished ground beef
4 pounds italian sausage (spicy or mild, whichever you prefer)
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
**The meatballs will let off liquid, so be sure to use a baking sheet with a rim (also known as a jelly roll pan, but who makes jelly rolls anymore?), or a deeper pan of a similar size (like a 9×13 glass baking dish). I can fit everything on two baking sheets, but two 9×13 pans should also work.

1. Measure out all of your spices, get your baking sheets out, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees first, so that you won’t have to wash your hands multiple times while cooking.
2. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.
3. In a very large bowl, put ALL ingredients together and mix with your hands just until the eggs and spices are evenly distributed.
4. Roll meatballs approximately 1.5″ in diameter, and place them fairly close together directly onto your baking sheet (no grease required, the meatballs won’t stick I promise). This should yield between 70 and 80 meatballs.
5. Bake at 350 degrees farenheit for 40 minutes.
6. Let the meatballs cool, and store them in airtight containers in the freezer. I usually keep one third of the batch in the refrigerator, and freeze the other two thirds in separate containers.

Marinara Sauce

2 – 28oz cans of diced tomato
4 – 6oz cans of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons thyme (dried)
2 tablespoons oregano (dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
**If you are lucky and have fresh herbs growing, subbing fresh herbs for dried is a wonderful treat (I included fresh sage last time I made marinara, and it was delicious)

1. Open all the cans
2. Dice the onion, crush and chop the garlic
3. Heat the oil, then sautee the onion and garlic until they just begin to brown and carmelize (about 10 minutes on medium heat)
4. Pour in the diced tomatoes, stir up to incorporate the garlic/onions
5. Put in the tomato paste and dry spices, stir everything up really well
6. Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes on low, or longer if you have some time. Once you’re ready, put the marinara sauce in jars, leaving about 1/2 an inch at the top for expansion, and put your extra jars in the freezer.

Keep in mind that either recipe can be easily scaled up or down, depending on how many people you’re feeding or how much room you have in your freezer.

When you pull your meatballs and marinara out of the freezer, all you have to do is make a vegetable! I’m particularily fond of bacon roasted brussel sprouts, spaghetti squash, and roasted broccoli (courtesy of Emily over at joyful abode). See, with a little planning ahead, a delicious made from scratch dinner can be had in 20 minutes. Yum!

I just came back from a short but wonderful visit to Arizona, where I was helping my dad recover from major heart surgery.  Seeing as my primary domestic talent is to cook, I figured that he would appreciate some help in the meal planning category of his extended recovery.  Not only was I able to feed him (and a few others!) for the few days I was there, I was even able to leave enough food for a few weeks worth of meals.  See for yourself!  This freezer started out 100% empty, and is only holding about 75% of everything that I made:

Nearly 100 meatballs, marinara sauce, spaghetti squash, salsa chicken, chicken broth, shrimp stir fry ingredients, cubed sweet potatoes, trail mix, and pulled pork fill these shelves, while a few other things fill the fridge and inside freezer.  I promise I’ll share a few of these recipes, but for now, I really want to share the pulled pork recipe as well as the accompanying salad that I love to serve it on.

Ingredients:

4-6 pound Boston Butt (a cut of pork shoulder, bone in) depending on the size of your crock pot
2 bay leaves
6-9 full cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons paprika (Spanish, Hungarian, Smoked, not smoked…whichever your favorite is)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chili flakes to taste

1. Set Boston Butt in the crock pot
2. Cut slits in the meat big enough to insert the garlic cloves all over
3. Combine all spices and sprinkle over the top of the meat
4. Cook on low heat for 12 hours
5. Drain off most of the broth (and save it for later in a jar of course), and shred the meat with two forks. Try not to eat most of it while shredding.

This will make A LOT of pulled pork, which can be eaten as is, with scrambled or fried eggs or as an omlette, or with a “southwestern salad” using guacamole as dressing. The latter is one of our current favorite meals!

For the guacamole, start with the following ingredients:

2 ripe avocados (they should feel soft to the touch, but not mushy)
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (in place of sour cream)
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons spicy salsa (or more or less depending on your taste for spiciness)
juice of half a lime
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocado with a knife lengthwise around the entire fruit, not cutting through the pit. Pull the pit out, and spoon the flesh into a bowl (this will be very easy if the avocado is ripe).
2. Smash the avocado with a fork, then add all of the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly, and you’re done!

Use your favorite salad toppings, add the warm pulled pork on top, then as much guacamole as you like.

I added grape tomatoes, bell pepper, and sliced red onion to this salad. If you’re worried about the amount of fat in the guacamole, and therefore think the salad will be just fine without it, please think again! The veggies in the salad are fat soluble: they NEED the fat in the guacamole and pork in order to be digested by your intestines. Eating your veggies without fat means they go in and out, and your body is not able to unlock the important fat-souble vitamins including Potassium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A housed in them. So eat your guacamole, and like it, because it’s probably the most nutritious part of your meal!