A few years ago, I was doing well with my weight loss and I wanted to increase my vegetable intake as much as possible. Being creative with my food helped keep things new and fresh week after week. I also wanted to find ways to stretch our meat into more portions to save money because we were getting ready to buy a house at the time and every dollar REALLY counted. Well, I just started adding vegetables to lots of meat dishes — some were successful and others were epic fails. Thank you to my husband for trying them all, good – bad – and ugly! Some winners that I tried included meatloaf that was half vegetables – half ground turkey, mostly vegetarian burgers made with meat-beans-veggies, chicken that was stuffed with sauteed vegetables, and meatballs made with turkey or lamb and vegetables. This recipe is one of the meatball recipes I created during that time (there are 3 versions). I love how the beans add nutrition as well as protein to this dish, and you will hardly notice them. I did try making these without the meat, but because they have no egg, they did not hold together well (even with my egg replacer attempts) and felt dry compared to the meat version. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can likely increase your beans to be a full can or box, then cut out your meat. Then add in some kind of bread crumb or flour for stability. This might add the moisture you need as well as hold together better. If you try it, let me know how it works!
These pair well with traditional pastas, but I love them with a veggie noodle such as golden beets, daikon, kohlrabi, or zucchini. In this picture, I served them with tri-color carrot ribbons, collard green ribbons, and some sliced and roasted beets. Very colorful and appealing to the eyes as well as the palate! You can add grated cheese or a sauce if you like, but my husband and I don’t feel either one is necessary.
- ½ bag of frozen California blend (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)
- 1 cup of roughly chopped leeks (can use white onion or shallots as alternate)
- ½ can or box of beans (white beans: navy, cannellini, or black beans – but black will make the color look a little darker); don’t use dried beans as substitute
- 1 lb pkg of ground turkey (dark meat or 93% lean)
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp of basil
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1 tsp of dried parsley or a small handful of chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1-2 tbsp of olive oil
- Prepare a cookie sheet with foil and then parchment paper on top. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Set aside while you prepare your meatballs.
- Defrost your frozen vegetables for 3 minutes in the microwave. They do not need to cook all the way, just so they are not quite so frozen.
- Wash your leeks really well, then chop them and place in your food processor along with the California blend. Pulse a few times so that the large pieces of vegetable are smaller, closer to ½ inch in size.
- Now add in your oil, beans (make sure to rinse them first), meat, and spices/seasonings. Mix in the food processor until well combined and texture is soft and mold-able.
- Using a Tablespoon, scoop out the meatball mixture as a heaping – rounded spoonful, and shape it into mini-meatballs. The kids usually like them smaller because they are cute.
- This makes approximately 20-25 meatballs depending on your measurements. You can make them larger if you want, but you’ll have less meatballs and they’ll take slightly longer to cook.
- Line them up on your prepared cookie sheet with at least ½ inch spaces in between them. Bake in the oven for 25 -30 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs.
- These pair well with traditional pastas, but I love them with a veggie noodle such as golden beets, daikon, kohlrabi, or zucchini. You can add grated cheese or a sauce if you like, but my husband and I don’t feel either is necessary. Be creative, have fun, and enjoy your meal!