Meat-N-Veg Balls

Here’s a basic formula for making meat and vegetable balls (or patties) that lets you mix & match flavors to suit your taste.  For simplicity, each uses one pound of lean ground meat, and one bag of frozen vegetables (or a similar quantity fresh). This can go wrong when there’s too much water in the vegetables, so we’ll and drain veggies and add just a little coconut flour to absorb excess moisture. One batch will make 16-20 meatballs for a quick, complete, snack,  for lunch with cut veggies and dipping sauce, or simmered in sauce for dinner.

Basic outline

  • 1 lb. lean ground meat
  • seasoning of your choice (try italian sausage, chorizo, thai, or greek)
  • 4 servings of a vegetable (1 bag frozen or 1 bunch fresh: spinach, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 egg

What to do

  1. Prepare your herbs and spices, mix with ground meat, and let rest in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Thaw veggies and break down in a food processor or blender. Process until shredded. Stop well before they turn into a smooth puree.
  4. Toss veggies with a sprinkling of salt and place in colander. Cover with a paper towel and place a bowl full of water on top to press the moisture out. Let drain at least 30 minutes.
  5. After draining, wrap in the paper towel and squeeze out all excess moisture.
  6. In a medium bowl, mix vegetable,  coconut flour, and egg use a fork to thoroughly blend.
  7. Add seasoned ground meat. Mix well.
  8. Make golfball-sized meatballs. I keep a small bowl of olive oil on hand so I can grease my hands occasionally.
  9. Heat a well-oiled, oven-safe pan to medium high and brown meatballs. Since these do not contain breadcrumbs, they may not hold their shape as well as regular meatballs. Be gentle and make sure the pan is well oiled.
  10. Transfer pan to oven, bake for 10 minutes, turning once.

Illustrated notes

Spinach, zucchini, and cauliflower shredded and salted.

Spinach, zucchini, and cauliflower shredded and salted.

A bowl full of water weighs down the vegetables, pressing out the water.

A bowl full of water weighs down the vegetables, pressing out the water.

Really squeeze the water out of your veggies.

Really squeeze the water out of your veggies.

Coconut flower absorbs excess moisture, egg helps to bind the indredients together.

Coconut flower absorbs excess moisture, egg helps to bind the indredients together.

Mix the vegetable, eggs and coconut flower first, then add the seasoned meat.

Mix the vegetable, eggs and coconut flower first, then add the seasoned meat.

I keep a little bowl of olive oil handy so the mixture does not skick to my hands.

I keep a little bowl of olive oil handy so the mixture does not skick to my hands.

Give the meatballs plenty of space while browning. Crowding them will make them slow to crisp up on the outside.

Give the meatballs plenty of space while browning. Crowding them will make them slow to crisp up on the outside.

Let cool completely with some space before packing and refrigerating.

Let cool completely with some space before packing and refrigerating.

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Spicy green tomatoes

The local produce scene in Jackson, MS right now reminds me a little of the winters in Indiana, except that it is too hot, not too cold, for many summer veggies to bear fruit. My fall favorites, like onions and green tomatoes feel really seasonal right now.  As much as I love fried green tomatoes, there are lots of other ways to eat them.  Here’s one that makes a great, spicy, tangy, breakfast veggie. I mixed mine with some browned, seasoned ground turkey and topped it with a couple of over-light eggs.

In a large skillet, saute in coconut oil:
1/4 – 1/2 large red onion, quartered and sliced
until it begins to soften.  Add:
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 hot banana pepper, sliced, without seeds (I used a red one for color, use more or less to taste) saute until onions and garlic are lightly browned. Push this stuff to the edge of your pan and add:
1 very large or 2 smaller green tomatoes, quartered and sliced
Arrange in a single layer, brown and then flip to brown the other side.  Drizzle with:
3 Tablespoons cider or rice vinegar, not balsamic (I used sugar-free rice vinegar).
mix everything together and cook for another few minutes until the vinegar evaporates and everything is softened.  Season with salt to taste.

10 Minute Turkey Tomato Spinach Meal

A better version of this would start with some sauteed onion and garlic, finish with better seasoning and so on and so forth.  This, however is perfect just the way it is when I’m hungry and tired and want to eat, like, right now:

In a skillet on high, heat:
Olive oil
and brown
1 lb Ground Turkey with
1 Tablespoon Sage
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
until cooked through, and remove from pan.

Without cleaning pan, add
1 14 oz can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 big spoonful (about 1/3 cup) tomato paste
cook, stirring occasionally until thickened just slightly

Meanwhile, fill your dinner bowl with
Fresh Spinach
Pile it as high as you can, since it will cook way down and microwave: 30 seconds for baby spinach, 45 seconds for regular spinach

Once tomato sauce is cooked, stir turkey back in and heat through.  Remove from head and add
1/3 can coconut milk

Pour a portion of the meat sauce over your spinach and chow down.  Try the leftovers over roasted spaghetti squash.

How I make lunch

This is not really a recipe, but I find myself telling a lot of folks about my lunch-building process lately, so I thought it might be useful.  This is how I make my work lunches. They’re no masterpiece, and I know some people are not entirely cool with eating 5-day-old chicken, but it works for me.

Every Sunday I get home from grocery shopping, and prepare…


(1) Enough chicken breast of a week of lunch, seasoned with whatever I’m in the mood for. (Italian, greek, tex-mex…)

(2) Week’s worth of salad.  I avoid delicate greens and veggies that get mushy, so usually use: parsley, napa cabbage, spinach, parsley, watercress, bell peppers, carrots, celery, seedless cucumber and avoid: tomatoes, regular cukes, run-of the mill lettuce, baby spinach.

(3) A bottle of home made salad dressing, again, the recipe varies at whim.

Then, in 5 1-gallon zip-lock bags, I layer up…

(1) The chicken, cooled and chopped up.  This goes at the bottom so it doesn’t mess up your veggies.

(2) The salad stuff.

(3) A handful of nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, whatever.  Sure, these are a *little* soggy by friday, but I’m lazy enough not to care.  Sometimes I’ll do half an avocado sliced in Monday and Tuesday’s lunch instead of nuts, but they won’t make it till Friday.

I leave my salad dressing and a big bowl at work, and grab a bag every morning on the way out the door.  At lunch time, I dress my salad in the bag, shake it up, dump it in my bowl, and make my co-workers jealous.

Snacks!

No, not rose petals:  beet chips and nori chips

While I try not to give myself too many attractive options for mindless eating, I’m working on a few reasonable “emergency” munchies that keep me out of my roommate’s leftover pizza.

There are some good ideas here, but my quest continues to find a few good options that will work on the fly. For now I am figuring out how many different vegetables I can turn into “chips” in the oven. The beets and sweet potatoes would also be good PWO with a protein. Here’s what I know so far…

For all veggies:
Set the oven to 250, and turn on the convection or “speed bake” if you have it.  Slice veggies to a very thin 1/8 inch as evenly as possible.  I get better results if I slice most veggies in half lengthwise first so they don’t roll around while I’m trying to precision-cut. Grease your baking sheets with coconut oil, and spread one layer think.  Keep and eye on them while cooking, turning once they start curling up, and moving them to towels or plates to cool once they curl up and just start to brown.

Beets:
Peel, sprinkle with a little red wine vinegar.  Up to 2 hours in the oven depending on thickness.  Red beets seem to fare better than golden beets.

Sweet Potatoes:
Leave skins on. Try seasoning with cinnamon and chipotle powder.  Up to 2 hours depending on thickness.

Kale:
(Don’t slice!) Tear out thick center stem, toss with good oil to just barely coat (I used almond oil), scatter on a try and sprinkle with a little good salt (I like smoked salt or truffle salt). About 15 minutes or when they turn dark green.  These are really brittle, and while tasty, do not travel well.

Radishes:
People make them, but I tried was not impressed.  Don’t bother.

Nori:
You have to like seaweed to enjoy these.  See instructions here.

I tend to micro-manage this process, picking chips off one at a time as they get done, but they should finish up evenly if you slice them very evenly to begin with.  They crisp up a little once they’re cool, so its ok if they’re a little bendy so long as they’ve curled up and toasted a little.

Turkey-root Patties

I got some ground white meat turkey at the market this weekend to try out, when I added an egg to it to make burgers, it got a little too slimy, so I tossed a big handful of root slaw to balance it out.  It was a very happy accident:

1# Ground white turkey
Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Black Pepper, White Pepper
1 egg
1 C (maybe more) Raw Root Slaw

Mash everything together well.  Divide into 8 equal portions and form patties.  Cook in oiled skillet on medium heat a scant 4 minutes a side or until cooked through.