Turkey Basil Pesto Meatballs

Those watching their waistlines will enjoy this light and flavorful twist on traditional heavy, red-meat meatballs. I got this recipe off of the Weight Watchers site, and loved the idea of a punch of pesto for seasoning. They went together pretty easy, and baked up quick too. I sautéed some mushrooms and heated up a jar of Trader Joe’s marinara sauce, and put the baked meatballs on a plate of zoodles (zucchini noodles), then topped with sauce. A sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese sealed it. It was quite good!

(Disclaimer: my husband got a plate of pasta for his serving. Can’t make the guy eat as many veggies as I do… And sometimes I’m just not in the mood for the “what are these?” questions, like I’m forcing him to eat live eels.)

I’d used my own homemade basil pesto which didn’t have as much salt as store-bought probably would, so the whole recipe needed an extra dash of salt after serving. Since my package of ground turkey was larger than what was called for, I also upped the amount of pesto. And I didn’t have whole wheat bread crumbs on hand, so I used regular Panko crumbs. My adjustments to the recipe are reflected below.

Makes 24 meatballs

1.5 pounds lean ground turkey, uncooked
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, or whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, low-fat, if possible
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, gently combine all ingredients—do not overmix or meatballs will be tough. Roll into 24 meatballs (1 1/4-in each); place on prepared pan. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 20 minutes.

Serving size: 4 meatballs
Weight Watchers points: 6

Serving Suggestion for 4

8-ounces baby bella mushrooms
1 jar Trader Joe’s marinara sauce
Prepared zoodles or pasta
Parmesan cheese for topping (1 tablespoon each)

Weight Watchers Note: With these serving suggestions, this was a 9 point meal. 1/2 cup of marinara sauce was 2 points, and the Parmesan cheese was 1 point. And it was super filling!

Mexicali Pie

This nummy Mexican-inspired casserole is one of my quick dinner go-to recipes for busy weeknights. We love the spice mix, and that it’s meat, a few veggies, and corn bread all in one meal. But we especially love that it’s great left over, and it travels well in a container, even when in Mitchell’s back pack, jostling around as he rides his bike miles and miles to work. Not every dish can pass THAT test. (Incidentally, my crazy son is riding his bike year-round—even in the January snow and ice of MinneSNOWtah.)

This recipe was published some time in 2003 in Family Fun, by Ken Haedrich, a contributing editor to that magazine at the time. He gave a list of spices to mix in, but I use Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix to make it easy on myself. I’ll give you the author’s spice mix below, in case you don’t do Penzey’s. (Which is easy to order online, so you totally can…) Note that the recipe called for ground beef, but I make it with either ground beef or ground turkey—both taste great.

I used to make a hot cheddar cheese sauce to ladle on top, but lately I’ve liked the fresher taste of an avocado, Greek yogurt, and some cilantro instead. The cheese sauce is great for comfort food in the winter time, but leads to that dreaded need for an afternoon nap. You know, the food coma. Since work-naps are frowned upon at my place of employment, it’s best to keep with the lighter toppings when bringing this for lunch.

Serves 8-10

Casserole
1½ pound ground beef or turkey
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix *
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can of corn, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Mexican or chili-style diced tomatoes, or regular diced tomatoes

Corn Bread Topping
1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Toppings
Diced avocado
Greek yogurt, or sour cream
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Brown ground beef or turkey in a large non-stick skillet, breaking up as it browns. Use a slotted spoon to transfer all the meat to a mixing bowl. Drain all but about 3 tablespoons fat from pan. Put pan on medium-high heat and sauté onions until translucent. Add green pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the taco seasoning, and stir and toast spices until fragrant. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, cover pan, and reduce heat to low. Return meat to the pan and stir to combine.

Ladle meat mixture into a 9″x12″, 3-quart casserole dish, then make cornbread topping. In mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk egg, milk, and oil in separate bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix on low until blended. Pour batter over the meat mixture and even out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 22 minutes or until topping is golden brown, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with suggested cold toppings.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can make the meat mixture, put it in the casserole dish, and cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then pull it out and just mix up the corn bread topping, pour it on, and bake.

*If not using Penzey’s taco seasoning, use:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon flour