Lettuce Eat Local: Meatballs and Mothers

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Amanda Miller
Columnist
Lettuce Eat Local

 

“What do you think about that, Benston?” 

It was hard not to grin at least internally every time that high-pitched little voice said something to “Benston.” Even though she actually asked to confirm a couple times over the course of the weekend, the 6-year-old foster girl we had on respite for three days was apparently convinced of the T in Benson’s name. I didn’t correct her since our son didn’t seem to mind, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. 

She, on the other hand, had no such qualms, and often corrected me since she was convinced I kept calling Brian “Ryan”; sorry, kid, I do know my husband’s name so I’m pretty sure I got it right. 

Unfortunately I can’t tell you her name, but we loved having her in our home for the short time we were able. I haven’t talked much about our involvement in foster care recently, since we took a break for the few months surrounding Kiah’s advent into our family. After Benson’s rough beginning, we just couldn’t anticipate how this one would go, and then even when we got to come straight home, we wanted some time for transition. It’s been hard knowing how and when to get involved again: knowing that just because we are in and committed to foster care doesn’t mean that we do it all the time or for all time. 

Many moms of littles can find themselves in “survive” mode, but right now I am in “thrive” mode, and I don’t want to give that up. It’s not that we don’t have our moments (or days, or weeks) that are rough — Benson is full of big emotions in this season of development (a generous way to describe his meltdowns), Kiah is still so chill but also several weeks into a major sleep regression, and being a mom has a lovely way of reminding me of my own things I need to keep working on. I don’t so much get hangry (hungry-angry), but I do get tangry (tired-angry), and what do you know, this constantly starving baby makes me so tired that I don’t have as long a fuse for her constantly volatile big brother. 

So we do have our moments where survival is the goal. Yet we are in such a Good Place in this season, and I want to be careful with and intentionally bask in this gift of my long-awaited children. 

That said, having extra kids in our home doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t, even though it does up the chaos levels a bit. I have several major caterings in the next month, so we are only considering respite care placements for now (unless of course we get a call for a baby, and then someone else will have to say no for me); we’ve had two lovely little girls for a few days each in the last couple weeks, a two-year-old and then this six-year-old. 

In a beautiful bittersweet twist, each of the four Mother’s Days since I became a mom have included foster kids. Here I waited so many years for babies, and now I get to love not only on my children but also on someone else’s — a heavy, precious role, as the kids are for whatever reason apart from their first mom. 

Our little friend this weekend said her favorite meal was spaghetti and meatballs, so that’s what I made for supper. It was a great excuse to pull out what is such a staple meal in some households but something that I haven’t made in years. Spaghetti and meaty sauce, sure, but not meatballs. I don’t like sticking my hands in raw ground beef and I don’t really like meatballs, so I don’t feel like making it and because I’m the Mom, I don’t have to. But also because I’m the Mom, I loved making it for this sweet girl — and the rest of my family sure didn’t mind. I had a lovely salad.  

But before you think I was too selfless, I knew there was my Mom Stash of chocolate pudding in the fridge and chocolate bars in my closet. What do you think about that, Benston?

 

Family-Pleasing Meatballs

Our girl who came with the warning that she doesn’t eat meals very well demolished five of these meatballs, so that’s all the stamp of approval we need. The baking step gets them nice and browned, and the simmering in the sauce coats them in flavor as well as lets dinnertime be flexible for whenever the rest of the things/people can get corralled to the table. I used a danish dough whisk to mix up the meatballs and a cookie scoop to portion them, so I only had to touch the raw meat a little when forming them. 

Prep tips: I added ¼ pound mild sausage to the mix, which is great if you have it available. 

4 ounces [1 cup] breadcrumbs

½ cup milk

1 pound ground beef

1 egg

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 ounce [¼ cup] grated Parm

a bit of chopped fresh parsley 

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Soak breadcrumbs in milk for 10 minutes; press out and discard milk, adding soaked bread to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well but gently. Scoop out onto an oiled rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning meatballs over after 15 minutes. Add to a pot of your favorite spaghetti sauce and simmer for up to 45 minutes. 

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