My kids, ages 3 and 16 months, aren’t very good at eating their vegetables. Fruit, cheese, bread, french fries, ice cream, cookies, chocolate? No problem. But vegetables are another story. Carson will eat a baby carrot from time to time, and Betsy will eat a few green peas if I mix them up in her macaroni. But that’s as good as it gets around here. So in an effort to get them to eat more vegetables I decided to hide them in meatballs. Both of my kids are pretty good at eating meatballs, so I figured this was a genius plan.
The first night I gave them the meatballs plain without sauce, and they weren’t the biggest fans. And I felt like a failure. I went to all that trouble and they didn’t want them!? But the next night I heated them in some pasta sauce and we had much better results. My kids ate vegetables! Without gagging!
These meatballs are simple and geared towards a picky kid’s palate. Not a lot of spice or heat. If your kids are more daring than mine (or if you’ve done a better job of exposing them to spices!) add what you like to the mix. You could also use half beef and half Italian sausage for a more interesting meatball. I used jarred sauce, but if you have a great recipe, then use it…and then share it with me! Do you have any great meals that are healthy and delicious that your kids enjoy? I’d love to hear them. We need all the help we can get!
Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrots
Makes 24-30 meatballs
1 pound ground beef (85/15)
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded zucchini (pressed between paper towels to remove excess moisture)
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and let soak for a couple minutes. Add in beef, egg, vegetables and seasonings and mix (clean hands are a great tool here) until combined.
Form into balls (around golf ball size) and place in a greased pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. You can pour on some sauce in the last 10 minutes of baking or heat the sauce separately.
Balls of meat stuffed with cheese and covered in a chunky marinara sauce?! I am all in. And I’m not sure if it’s being pregnant or the change in the seasons, or maybe both, but this kind of meal is right up my alley right now.
These meatballs are total comfort food and will leave you full and happy. Just like food should when it’s cold out. Who in their right mind is eating salad right now, anyway? I guess maybe I should be…but instead I’m eating meatballs, pasta and rosemary rolls. And I’m ok with that.
Like most meatballs you will end up with a mess in your kitchen. BUT you can form the meatballs ahead of time, refrigerate them, clean up that round of dishes, then fry and bake them for dinner that night, or even the next day. You can probably get away with not frying them at all and just putting them straight into the oven. Maybe just add 10-15 extra minutes, especially if you’ve refrigerated them. Regardless of the mess you make though, they are definitely worth it!
You have a few options with these meatballs. Pair with some spaghetti or other pasta (I made this spaghetti with simple garlic sauce and thought it was a nice combination) or load them onto some substantial crusty bread for meatball subs or sandwiches. One of the greatest things about these meatballs is that both of my kids LOVED them! So not only did Ben and I eat 2 dinners with them, but the kids had at least 4 meals of meatballs and ate them up. Carson asked for more! Rarely do they eat the food we do and enjoy it. This is definitely going into my kid friendly meal file.
One tool I use for cookies and meatballs and to get them to be uniform in size is a scoop like this. I have a small one (about 1 inch in diameter) and a larger one that is closer to 2 inches. It’s something I’d recommend you have in your kitchen if you do much cooking and baking. Get a sturdy one. It will be worth the money, work better and last longer than the cheaper ones will.
The original recipe simmers the meatballs in the sauce in the same pan they are cooked in. I finished them off in the oven and the only thing that wasn’t great about that was that some of the cheese escaped, which in the end was not a big deal. There was still plenty of cheese inside the meatballs! No need to worry. Enjoy!
1 pound ground sweet Italian turkey sausage (or mild or hot)
1 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 small white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup milk
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 27 cubes (or how ever many meat balls you get)
1 jar simple marinara sauce
Mix meat, breadcrumbs, seasonings, onion, garlic, eggs and milk. Clean hands are the best tool for the job, but a spoon or spatula is fine. Mix until everything is combined but not overly mixed.
Divide into balls of equal size, 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Place on a foil lined baking sheet, then take each meatball and press one cube of cheese into the center and form the meat around the cheese so that it is sealed. Place back on the foil lined baking sheet. At this point you can cover and refrigerate the meatballs for later.
Preheat oven to 350°F and heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Put 1/2 cup of flour into a bowl. Dredge each meatball lightly in flour, then place in the pan. Repeat until pan is full but not overly crowded. Cook for a minute or so on each side (I know this is hard to do with a round shape, but it’s not super important to get every bit of it cooked just the same. Just make sure the majority of the meatball is browned.) Be careful not to burn them. If they’re browning too much, turn down the heat. As the meatballs finish, move them to a 9×13 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Repeat with the remaining meatballs until they’ve all been browned, adding more oil if needed.
Pour the entire jar of marinara sauce over the meatballs. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the jar, screw on the cap, shake it up and pour it over the meatballs also. Spread it out as evenly as you can. Put into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (a little longer is you did not fry the meatballs or if they were refrigerated). Cut open a meatball to be sure they’re cooked thoroughly, there shouldn’t be much if any pink.
Enjoy on top of pasta, or on some nice crusty bread.
The lovely aroma of fresh ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions and cilantro filled my kitchen when I made these for dinner a few nights ago. Those ingredients alone make my mouth water. I am almost always up for Chinese or Thai food, but thinking about how a lot of that stuff is prepared makes me have second thoughts a lot of the time. It’s usually too oily and greasy and even if I opt for a dish with lots of veggies, it is often soaked in overly salty sauce. And then I somehow find myself ordering egg rolls, fried spring rolls, or maybe an order of crab rangoon…oh, the deep fried goodness of it all. These meatballs don’t quite measure up to the pleasures of pad thai and sesame chicken, but the flavors are there, and all without the guilt.
My dinner plans were to make these meatballs from this recent Smitten Kitchen post, Scallion Meatballs with Soy Ginger Glaze. But after reading through the recipe I decided to look for a baked meatball recipe (instead of pan fried) with more substance that would serve as a meal and not a glorified appetizer. That search led me to this recipe from Skinny Taste, Asian Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce. So I combined the two, and with a little tweaking here and there I wound up with these.
Serve these meatballs with some rice to soak up the delicious sauce. We ate them with white rice, but brown would be a great choice, and a healthier one. Simple steamed broccoli is a perfect side dish. There is so much flavor in the meatballs that you don’t really need anything else. I used a mixture of turkey and beef because I had an extra 1/2 pound of lean ground beef from another recipe I wanted to use, but use all turkey if you like. Enjoy!
Baked Asian Turkey Meatballs with Soy Ginger Sauce
1/3 cup panko crumbs
1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 1/2 tbsp peeled ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
Combine ground turkey, beef, panko, egg, salt, scallions, ginger, cilantro, and soy sauce. Mix with your hands until combined well.
Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with remaining mixture.
Bake at 400°F until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce, reduced sodium
1/2 cup white wine (or mirin)
1/4 cup peeled ginger, chopped
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely.
Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, wine and ginger.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced, 20-30 minutes. You can simmer it longer to get a thicker sauce.
Serve sauce on top of meatballs and rice. You can strain the sauce to get rid of the ginger pieces, but I left mine in the sauce.
This past weekend was one of the best I’ve had in quite a long time. During our time in Waco we met some of our very best friends. There’s something about being in the trenches together that brings people closer than they would have been otherwise, and this is what I have Baylor law school to thank for!
Ben spent most of his law school days with three great guys at Baylor, and as a result I became great friends with them, their significant others, and their kids. After graduation we moved to Amarillo along with one of the other couples, Tim and Jackie. Jason and Carrie and their adorable girls moved to Decatur and Christian moved to Houston. Being scattered throughout the great state of Texas makes getting together a tough endeavor. It’s also hard to find a time that works with everyone’s schedule. So, this weekend was a special one because everyone was able to meet up in the bustling metropolis of Decatur. Christian brought his fiancé, so we were able to meet her, and we definitely approve.
One of the great things about this group is our numerous shared interests. For Carrie H and I one of those is food! We had many incredible dinner parties in Waco, and when we get together now we usually plan a menu for one of our meals. This weekend, Carrie also planned great breakfasts and lunches. She is incredible.