Monday, January 7, 2013

I is for: Italian Meatballs {gluten free} with Broccoli "Noodles"

Like so many things in my life right now, these meatballs are a work in progress. They aren't perfect yet, but they have potential. And I liked them well enough to still share the recipe (and maybe even solicit some help), so I decided to still post them even though they weren't a complete success.

As boring and lame as it sounds, I'm sort of doing  a January detox. (Yeah, I know, we'll see how long it lasts). For starters, I'm *attempting* to cut out alcohol for the entire month. It's a little sad that this challenge seems so difficult, but it really is hard when you're out to dinner with friends and everyone is ordering wine and you're stuck with sparkling water. I'm also trying to get back to going to the gym 3-4 times a week, which can also be difficult with my schedule, but again...I'm going to try. And finally, I'm going with a high-protein low-carb diet for at least the first couple weeks of January.
Why am I doing all this, you ask? Well, like most of us, I really overindulged in December. Between my trip to Australia, Thanksgiving and Christmas, my pants have increasingly grown a little tighter. So...I'll join the masses with their New Year's resolutions and try to get back on track.

I decided a healthy, gluten free meatball was in order with some sort of healthy "pasta." If you remember wayyyyy back to the beginning of the blog, I already did a take on this with gluten free meatballs served over pesto spaghetti squash. But those had pork and gluten free breadcrumbs. I wanted to do a full turkey version with no grains of any sort. I know mushrooms can sub as a good alternative so I decided to try grinding up dried porcinis. (Apologies in advance for resorting to iPhone photos for some of the procedure photos).

I combined the turkey and porcinis with onion, carrot, garlic, egg, fresh basil, Romano cheese, marinara sauce. red pepper flakes, and freshly ground salt and pepper. The easiest way to thoroughly mix everything together is with your hands. Just remember to wash them before and after, and to avoid over mixing (otherwise your meatballs will be too dense). After mixing and rolling, I ended up with 15 meatballs. To keep them a little healthier, I decided to bake them in the oven (similar to before).

This is where things started to go a little south. When I checked on the meatballs to flip them over, I was a little (ok, a lot) shocked to see them sitting in a pool of liquid. Even though turkey is very lean, I presumed some of this was fat. I'm guessing the rest of it was water from the vegetables, and also due to the fact I didn't use any breadcrumbs to soak up the excess moisture.

But here's the thing...I still thought they tasted really good, and I didn't find them to be too dry, despite the fact they lost so much liquid. I'm wondering if a.) I could've placed them on a broiler pan to drain the liquid or b.) simply cooked them on the stove in a little olive oil to sear in the juices or c.) add a chia seed paste like I do for turkey meatloaf and/or some molasses like I did for the other meatballs. I'm thinking "b" is the way to go next time (or possibly a combo of b and c). I plan to try making these again in the next month or so and I'll update the results when I do.

(And if anyone has any recommendations for this...please let me know!)

Onto the "noodles." I love using spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta because it really does take on the consistency and shape of spaghetti. But since I've already done that, I wanted to try something new. I know that zucchini can serve as a good "faux noodle," but since its not really in season right now, I came up with the idea of using broccoli stems. (And please, if you are not on a diet, feel free to use regular pasta or even whole wheat pasta).

I don't know about you, but I get really lazy when it comes to broccoli stems. I generally use the heads, save the stems with the intention for using them later on, but then inevitably end up throwing them away. So this is a great way to use up some leftover stems. I used a vegetable peeler to create ribbons, similar in shape to a wide pasta noodle such, as pappardelle.

From there, simply sauté them with a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes, or until try are done to your liking. Season with salt and pepper.

Top with meatballs and your favorite marinara sauce (click here for an easy recipe), and enjoy your healthy, low carb dinner!

Gluten Free Turkey Meatballs with Broccoli "Pasta"

by Jaymee Sire
Keywords: bake fry entree gluten-free low-carb low-fat turkey broccoli

    For the meatballs
    • 1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
    • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, ground finely
    • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in quarters
    • 1 medium carrot, cut in large pieces
    • 4-5 cloves of garlic
    • 1/4 cup of fresh herbs (such as Italian parsley or basil), finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup marinara sauce (or ketchup would work too)
    • 2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
    • 1 egg
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • salt & pepper, to taste
    For the broccoli "pasta"
    • Broccoli stems (1-2 per serving)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • salt & pepper, to taste
    For the meatballs
    1. Place onioin, carrot, and garlic in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Squeeze out excess moisture.
    2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix with your hands, taking care not to overmix. Form into small balls (this should make 15-18 meatballs, depending on size).
    3. To cook, either bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, turning once. OR....heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry meatballs in batches, turning to sear all sides.

    For the broccoli "pasta"
    1. Using a vegetable peeler, shred the broccoli stems into ribbons.
    2. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the broccoli ribbons for 2-3 minutes, or until done to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with meatballs and your favorite pasta sauce!
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    1. I found myself nodding my head in sympathy and agreement as I read this because my pants are also too tight...however I was simultaneously enjoying a glass of red and a susiecakes cupcake in my too-tight pantalones. :/

    2. What could be said here except of: 'Mmm, I love I'.=) Looks really delicious.
      Recently, I've found a great article about how to save money on eating:
      Efficient eating
      By the way, I followed you up with GFC, it'd be great if you follow me back.

    3. What were the broccoli noodles like? I'm trying to picture the consistency - maybe like thicker cabbage leaves?

      1. Kind of...yeah! I thought they were good. They obviously aren't totally like pasta, but they worked!

    4. Looks good, great food blog! I'm always looking for better ways to make ground turkey taste better, great idea on the broccoli noodles! I always use the stems chopped up finely in my son's mac and cheese. He's ok with it :)

      Maybe sautéing the veg prior to mix and adding some finely grated parmesan in lieu of breadcrumbs may slow the leakage a touch.

      1. I think you're right Steve....I'll try that next time as well.


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