Meat and Beet

20 Feb

I had meatballs on the brain yesterday. There are a number of possible reasons….maybe it was because we were thinking of having meatballs at our canceled Super Bowl party. Maybe it was because I made those utterly amazing meatballs last weekend for my mom’s little get together, which were part of a featured article in Food Network Magazine. Maybe it was the previous month’s cover, featuring spaghetti and meatballs. Maybe it was this tantalizing post I read on Smitten Kitchen. Are you beginning to crave meatballs? Good. Now you understand where I’m coming from. It got to the point where I was literally dreaming about meatballs during my Military Tone class at the gym yesterday (no joke)!

I had to put this craving to an end….so I brainstormed. Even though the FN Mag recipe was “light,” it was still a pretty calorie-dense dish. Then I thought, “what if I keep the meatballs and lose the mounds of pasta?” But I needed something to go with those meatballs….so I thought back to the subs. You know, until yesterday, I don’t think I’d ever actually had a meatball sub in my life….so I set about to change that.

Here’s how I made the meatballs and sauce. I started by heating 1/2 tsp of olive oil in a small sauce pan. Once hot, I added a couple of tbsp finely minced onion, one clove minced garlic and a pinch of chili flakes (note – for the small quantity of sauce I made, I think I overdid it a bit with seasoning – I’d cut back a bit next time). I stirred this around for a few minutes, then added 4 canned San Marzano tomatoes with their puree, and a few leaves chopped fresh basil and salt to taste. I reduced the heat and let it simmer, then set to work on my meatballs. I mixed 1/2 cup lean ground chicken (I had fully intended to use extra lean ground beef, but my grocery store was out) with about 1 egg white, one tbsp of panko breadcrumbs, a little minced fresh basil and parsley, minced onion, one minced garlic clove, and garlic salt and pepper. I shaped this into 4 balls, then dropped them in the sauce and cooked for 10 or 15 minutes (this part was a little scary, as I was unsure how long to cook them, and no one likes rare chicken :P…but they turned out ok). For my sub bread, I used a light pita. I filled it with the cooked meatballs and a bit of sauce, topped with a few tbsp light cheese, and broiled until melted and bubbly. I actually propped up the “sub” with a metal measuring cup and the metal container from our espresso machine (hey, it’s what I grabbed in a hurry) so the halves wouldn’t fall over and spill out their deliciousness.

On the side, you’ll notice that beet chips are back…and they’re not burnt! I made sure to watch them like a hawk this time…only cooked for 24 minutes, rotating the pans once. This time, the colour was much nicer….I actually think I slightly underbaked them…as the centres weren’t crisp on many of the chips. Oh well….I guess practice makes perfect? But the flavour was much better this time.

To round out the meal, I steamed some broccoli, kale and broccoli rabe in the microwave for 4 minutes, then added some spinach and arugula and cooked for another minute. I tossed the greens with the remaining sauce from the meatballs and a bit of balsamic vinegar (eating all those dark green veggies made me feel super-healthy)!

My overall thoughts on the meatballs (and their fulfillment of my cravings): good, but could have been better. I liked all the flavours I had in there, but I don’t think the balance was quite right. Next time I would cut back on the garlic, onion and seasonings and let the simple tomato flavour come through, I think…and maybe even sweeten it a touch to counteract the acidity? But for an off-the-cuff meatball supper, I was still pretty happy with this one.

For dessert, I made some light hot chocolate (in the adorable mug from Starbucks I bought my mom for Valentine’s Day) and had one of the double chocolate cookies I made (post to come)…this is an old recipe that I haven’t made in years…once I had one, I asked myself why it has been so long….I also had a Skinny Cow cookie dough sundae, another treat I love!

This is why I love the weekends…the chance to bake up yummy (and healthy too, I promise…at least for the cookies) treats, and spend extra time experimenting with supper.  There’s nothing like a good Saturday night Meat and Beet :). Craving meat balls now? Then do what I did….MAKE SOME!

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