Dinner with a point: Fun-to-make, more fun-to-eat teriyaki meatball skewers

We’ve kept a bag of Trader Joe’s Mini Meatballs in our freezer since the early days of our marriage. Not the same bag, of course, but many, many different bags, which we have consumed at the rate of one or two per month for 27 years. I must admit that I have a very strong attachment to these mini meatballs. That’s what my husband earned on the evenings when I worked late and he was home with our little girl. He would cook two dozen little meatballs and steam a bag of peas and it would be dinner, bless his cotton socks. After a long day of work sandwiched between long commutes, coming home to something warm and filling was just the ticket. I plopped down on the couch, holding my baby in one hand and putting meatballs in my mouth with the other. Polka dots were a little messier but babies make everything messier, so if a few polka dots joined the dust bunnies on the floor, nobody was the wiser.

But back to the teriyaki meatball skewers. Set your oven to 350 degrees and gather your ingredients: long metal or wooden skewers (available at most grocery stores, if you don’t already have them), meatballs, teriyaki sauce, red peppers and greens, a red onion and pieces of pineapple. Cut the peppers and onion into small coarse squares and drain the pineapple. Now many of you may be wondering, “How do I put these meatballs on skewers if they’re frozen?” (At least, that’s what I wondered.) The answer: You don’t. You let them thaw in the fridge overnight. I’m sorry this dish took so much planning, but there you go. Life is full of challenges.

So, make sure your meatballs are thawed or nearly thawed. Don’t worry about ingesting anything horrible from raw meatballs – I mean ideally you should always worry about it and be hypervigilant when handling any meat product – because Trader Joe’s Mini Meatballs are fully cooked before freezing. . The instructions let you cook them from frozen or thawed; the only difference is the cooking time.

Next, assemble your skewers. I’ll give you an “assembly order”, but you can put things on the skewers however you like. You don’t even have to use the vegetables I mentioned. Use whatever you want because, let’s face it, teriyaki sauce is good on everything. Try zucchini, cauliflower, celery, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, squash chunks or (since it’s spring) asparagus. My pattern was green pepper, red pepper, onion, pineapple, meatball. This way the meatball soaks up some of the pineapple juice, at least in theory.

I made four large skewers with four meatballs on each skewer, but you could get 8 or 10 skewers from just one bag of meatballs; the Trader Joe’s brand has 42 1-inch meatballs in a bag. An additional note on food safety: if you’ve thawed the meatballs but aren’t using all of them, don’t put them back in the freezer. Use them within a day or two. Make a meatball sub or bake and serve with barbecue sauce. I used the leftover meatballs to make a sweet and sour stir fry, using leftover peppers, onions, and pineapple, along with chopped spring asparagus. It was pretty good, but it didn’t compare to kebabs, as the roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables and gives the meatballs a crispy exterior.

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