Things I’ve learned from dating a midwestern boy:
1. Cream of mushroom soup works in well, just about everything.
2. Jello is a perfectly acceptable dessert. Holiday worthy if it contains canned fruit.
3. A Hot Dish is a casserole.
4. A crockpot is an underappreciated appliance. Assemble in the morning before work and dinner comes together the moment you walk in the door.
I’ll never forget the first time I asked BL’s mom what his favorite dish is. C’mon ladies, we know the way to a mans heart- make a meal he won’t forget.
Which was exactly my plan shortly after I met Bryan, all of which turned south once I received his favorite requests: tuna noodle casserole and tater-tot hot dish.
Really? Really. Not only did I have to wikipedia ‘hot dish’, I didn’t have the slightest clue on how to make either of those meals. As an Italian girl who loves to spend any free time in the kitchen, I knew instantly we were never going to bond over my love of food. Thank god we have so many other things in common.
Fast forward 5 years and all is right with the world. BL gets giddy when I mention the word lasagna and I try, on occasion, to recreate his favorite midwestern meals.
Try being the operative word. I’ve scrounged a few yard sales for old church cookbooks, the ones packed with Aunt Jo’s famous
casserole hot dishes and enough crockpot recipes to satisfy. But, those recipes are harder for me to intuitively grasp. A sauce for pasta? I can improvise to my hearts content. One-pot meals have typically been more of a miss.
However, in trying to open my culinary eyes and please BL’s stomach, I kept trying. Soon, this meal was born. I admit, I kind of loved it. Throwing everything in the crockpot last Sunday morning to enjoy an early afternoon feast on the couch. Have I mentioned how much we relished our lazy weekend?
Subtly sweet, thanks to the addition of pure canadian maple syrup, yet spicy and rich at the same time. The sauce was incredible on these vegan meatballs, but I bet just about any protein would taste great here. Have leftovers? Stuff extra meatballs and peppers into a hoagie roll for a tropical twist on a meatball sub!
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, sliced thin
- 1 1/2 cups plain tomato sauce
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. corn starch
- 2 tsp. ground all spice
- 1/8 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
- 1 can diced pineapple, drained, 1/3 cup liquid reserved
- 1 bag frozen vegan, gluten free meatballs
- Cooked rice for serving
- Place crockpot on high setting.
- Add 1 tbsp. olive oil and chopped onion. Stir and let cook until onion is slightly cooked, about 10 minutes.
- Add bell and jalapeno peppers, stir into the onion mixture and let sit for another 5 minutes.
- in a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch, maple syrup, pineapple juice, tomato sauce, all spice, and liquid smoke (if using). Stir together until blended and pour onto the pepper mixture.
- Stir in the frozen meatballs and diced pineapple.
- Cover and let cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours.
- Sauce should be reduced and thick, meatballs heated all the way through.
- Serve over cooked rice.
I used frozen meatballs here but if you want to make your own, I love my mushroom meatball recipe!