Friday, January 9, 2015

Stress Cooking: Moroccan Inspired Meatball Stew

Life in the wilds of West Texas can definitely be exciting.

With school out, the kids love going to the farm with my darling husband to help out. Well, Kid 1 is learning how to work with the module builder and helping pack the harvested cotton. But Kid 2 just goes to have fun and explore and let her imagination run amok -- all of this is important work too.

Well, recently the kids got more excitement than they bargained for, and I got pretty darn close to a heart attack. 

While the family was out at the farm, I was visiting a friend when I got a text from a stranger that said: "I have got your kids." 

It turned out, he was a kind soul with the Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department. My husband was moving the stripper (seriously, it's a cotton picking machine) from one farm to another when he managed to get tangled up in some electrical wires. The line was down and he couldn't get out until the power company came and turned off the electricity.

Fortunately, the kids were riding with his farm hand and following behind. So they were safe, but had front row seats of watching their father in trouble. 

As soon as I got the call, I drove like a crazy woman to get to my family. This is what greeted me:

When I got there, they'd managed to get the DH out and we were all able to unite for a family hug. But then he had to repair the stripper and move it off the road. Since the kids were shaken and I was of no use at the scene, I decided to take the kids back home.

I don't think I have ever prayed so hard or driven so fast in my life. It also left me full of gratitude and with an determination to cook. In our house, the kids help with the prep work and I figured that more than anything would help calm them down, bring back a bit of normalcy. Also, I wanted to greet my husband with a wonderful family meal.

Truth be told, I wanted, needed, the comfort of the kitchen, to do something. I wanted something warm to cut the chill of this experience, so I reached for the spices I'd grown up with -- bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and more. I added earthy turmeric and smoky cumin. To give it substance, I threw in hearty favorites like carrots, chickpeas and meatballs.

Working in the kitchen together, I saw my kids relax and listened to their thoughts and feelings. The aroma of spices melding together wrapped around us like a warm hug.

Somewhere along the way, I'd stopped watching the clock and so I was pleasantly surprised when the DH walked in the door. It was the best family meal we'd ever enjoyed. Life is full of blessings, big and small.

My Moroccan Inspired Meatball Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods, cracked
5 cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup baby carrots
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups beef broth
Frozen meatballs (as many as you want)
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced (optional)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 15.5-ounce canned garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained
1 cup whole green or black olives
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish
1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions
Serve over Brown Rice or Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon wedges (for garnish)


1. Heat oil in a large pot or a dutch oven.
2. Add whole spices (cinnamon to peppercorns) and cook for about 2 minutes. 
3. Add chopped onions, potatoes and carrots and cook until onions are softened.
4. Add in ground spices (turmeric to cumin), cook using bits of broth to keep the spices from sticking (but don't too much liquid at a time because you want to cook the rawness out of the spices)
5. When the spices look cooked, add in remaining broth, meatballs, jalapeno, tomatoes and chickpeas or garbanzos and apricots. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. (Potatoes and carrots should be tender by the end of it)
6. Add in olives and spinach, stir, Add salt to taste. Take off heat and top with fresh cilantro and green onions. Stir before serving over rice or couscous.


This post is part of Let’s Lunch (#LetsLunch), a twitter-based virtual lunch club where anyone interested can join our monthly ‘lunch date’. A topic is posted at the beginning of the month, and this motley group of food bloggers, writers and people who just love cooking from all around the world jump in and cook up a storm.

Cheryl Tan's Malay Vegetable Stew
Demetra's Coconut Shrimp Stew
Linda‘s Chinese Soy-Braised Pork & Peanut Stew
Lisa‘s Chicken & Fennel Casserole
Mel‘s Lamb & Harissa Stew
Betty-Ann‘s Salmon Sinigang (Tamarind Stew with Vegetables) 
Anyone can join at any time – just join us on twitter by searching and adding the hashtag #LetsLunch.


  1. I hate phone calls like that!!! So glad to hear everyone is OK and safe. I cook for comfort too - I find doing methodical jobs like chopping to be very therapeutic and calming. I love the sound of your meatball stew - I have never thought to use meatballs in a stew. And all the flavours are those I love.

    1. Thanks for visiting Mel! Yes, all those little jobs that go into making a meal are like pockets of zen. :) Welcome to #Letslunch

  2. Oh my god... how terrifying! Glad everyone's OK and love how cooking set everyone at ease again. (Not to mention that stews looks FANTASTIC!) Sending you a hug...x

    1. Thanks Cheryl! Yes, cooking is my stress relief...I know that sounds strange, but it is. (((Hugs back)))

  3. So glad everything turned out alright. Food is a great relaxer. And this stew looks like a great comfort food. Some of the ingredients I would never have thought to put together. I'm going to try this. Yum. Again, glad your family is safe and the emergency ended without injury.

  4. Thanks Nancy! I think it's moments like this that make us appreciate the quieter times. Yes, very glad we all came out okay from the experience! Let me know what you think of the stew. :)

  5. This Moroccan-inspired Stew has me drooling. The recipe seems so easy, too. Must try this one. Fun doing Let's Lunch with you. Happy Monday!