Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mighty Make-Aheads: Meatballs

You (or I) may not want to think about it now, but childbirth is a fairly bloody business.

Consider that even before pregnancy 9% of us (women age 20-49, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are anemic, and that our blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy, stretching thin the precious supply of iron when our bodies and our babies need it most. Then take account of the blood lost during a normal childbirth, and during the postpartum recovery, and things start to look a bit dicey for one of the body's most important minerals.

The last thing we need during those first few weeks of breastfeeding and adjusting to baby's schedule is to be run down from the get-go by anemia. We'll need all the energy and restorative nourishment we can get; we'll need a lot of iron.

The iron most readily absorbed by our bodies is called heme iron and is found in meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron can be found in plant foods like beans, leafy greens and fortified cereals, but is comparatively not well absorbed (sorry vegetarians.)

Today's Mighty Make-Ahead, beef meatballs, are an easy way to boost your heme iron intake. Serve with fortified pasta and tomato sauce and you can pull an iron abundant meal from the freezer to the table in minutes. Use your favorite jarred sauce, or, make a big vat of marinara and freeze that, too. An added bonus: the vitamin C rich tomato sauce actually aids in the absorption of heme and non-heme iron!

Beef Meatballs
Makes roughly 40 two inch (precooked) meatballs
Active time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

3 1/2 lbs ground beef 
1 1/2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbs garlic powder
1/8- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Line 2-3 cookie sheets with aluminum foil (it makes cleanup much easier, trust me.)
In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly with your hands (make sure you wash them and all food surfaces well before and afterwards to prevent cross-contamination: critically important when you're preggo!)
Roll meat mixture into 2 inch balls and place at least 1 1/2 inches apart on foil-lined cookie sheets.
Place sheets in the oven and bake 30 minutes, rotating the pans and changing their location in the oven halfway through cooking.
Allow meatballs to cool on pans (if you let them cool on an angle--prop a towel or fork under one side of the pan, the grease will flow to one side and not cling to the meatballs when hardening.)
Store in your desired portion size in plastic freezer bags and freeze.

To reheat, vent bags and microwave, or warm in sauce on the stove top.

(For a list of more sources of heme and non-heme iron visit

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