Thursday, August 2, 2012

Italian Meatballs with Quinoa

Have you discovered the health benefits and wonderful properties of quinoa yet? Well if you haven't, here's a few posts on red quinoa and white quinoa to help you get caught up. If you have, then maybe you're just trying to find more ways to incorporate these wonderful grains into the eating habits of your family like I am. Well here's a great recipe that is going down in my favorite-ways-to-use-quinoa-in-a-recipe book, if such a book existed. But since it doesn't, I'll just put it down in my tried-and-true favorite recipes of all time. 

These meatballs have wonderful taste and flavor and adding quinoa doesn't change the texture at all. This recipe adaptation is a great example of how to sneak in some fiber, protein and nutrition into food that your family probably already enjoys. 
Italian Meatballs with Quinoa

*Note: This recipe works great for making ahead of time. You can either refrigerate the formed meatballs before baking them or after. You can also freeze meatballs before or after they have been baked.

*Makes about 30-35 one-inch meatballs

1 Cup unseasoned bread crumbs (I used homemade whole wheat bread crumbs)
¾ Cup shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese
½ Cup milk
½ Cup low-sodium beef broth
½ Cup chopped fresh parsley
3 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ Cup fresh oregano, chopped or 1-1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or 2 tsp. dried basil
1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
½ Cup uncooked quinoa (any color - red works best if you're trying to be "sneaky")
1-1/2 Cups whole grain flour (I used wonder flour)

First cook the quinoa following the instructions for cooking on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker here. While the quinoa is cooking, mix up the meatball filling. In a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs, cheese, milk, beef broth, parsley, eggs, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and basil. Mix together and let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs soak up some of the liquid. When the quinoa is cooked, let it cool slightly and then add it and the meat to the bowl with filling ingredients. You may want to get in there with your hands and make a big mess. It’s good therapy!

At this point the meatball mixture can be refrigerated for 2-3 hours or up to 24 hours, until you are ready to bake them. Refrigerating does have the added benefit of the mixture soaking up more of the liquid and making the texture of the meatballs a little better, but I’ve made them both ways and they are great either way.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease foil. Place the whole-grain flour in a shallow dish. Form mixture into one-inch diameter meatballs with your hands or using a cookie scoop. Dredge the meatballs in the flour until lightly coated. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet about one inch apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the meatballs are completely cooked through.

Serve with your favorite tomato sauce over pasta or as a meatball sandwich.

Recipe Source: adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe

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