Meatballs! And A Marinara Bake

It's been way too long since I posted a recipe, so here I am!

The good news: this was delicious and healthy and chock full of veggies and protein and good fat and it's RNY gastric bypass surgery friendly, even for the pureed stage if you chew a lot!

The bad news: I sure only took one picture of raw meatballs. Sorry, kids. You just have to trust me on this one!

I was inspired to make yummy healthy meatballs when I heard Michael on The Biggest Loser talking about them. I was going to look up a recipe... but then I just decided to make it up based on what he said about ground turkey and garbanzo beans :) 

So, voila! Tasty healthy meatballs, Tami Style! Then, I baked them into a marinara dish that is easily adaptable for GF families and/or those who are carb-conscious. 

Note: As usual, this was a TON of food- fed both of us for a full week. So reduce as you desire, or freeze extras for later!

Life's always better with meatballs.
Tami's Healthily Delicious BL inspired Meatballs

1 20 oz package ground turkey
1 can organic garbanzo beans
1 bunch organic parsley, chopped (regular or Italian flat leaf- either is great!)
1/2 bunch scallions/green onions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil (we use the organic good stuff from Costco)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (ground or shredded- use what ya got!)
2 eggs
pinch of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

[optional: oregano, rosemary, thyme, or other Italian seasonings; we have a grinder with said herbs in coarse form, and then they are ground finely when you twist it- the flavors are way closer to fresh this way! It's up to you, though!]

1. Preheat oven to 375

2. Put all ingredients except garbanzo beans in a large bowl- no need to mix yet

3. Drain garbanzo beans, then dump half the can on a large dinner plate and smash with a fork. Dump into bowl with rest of ingredients, then smash the remaining half of the can. You could use your Cuisinart for this, but it's a pain to clean for something that takes literally 1 minute with a fork :)

4. Get yer hands dirty! Mix everything in bowl until fully combined

5. Roll into small balls- I made mine into 30 and they were perfectly sized. 

6. Bake in oven for 15 minutes on cookie sheet; flip over and cook additional 20 minutes or until fully cooked.

Here are the health stats from the ones I made: 78 calories, 4.5 grams fat (entirely from olive oil!), 7 grams protein per meatball. Yum!

Tami's Veggieful Marinara Protein Bake

Veggieful Marinara
2 jars favorite marinara / spaghetti sauce (or make your own- I used Prego Heart Smart from Costco, not gonna lie!)
1 large organic white onion, chopped
2 cups organic broccoli, cut into toddler bite sized pieces 
1 cup organic celery, diced
1 cup organic carrots, diced
Loads of fresh garlic

This is easy- just put everything except the garlic in a crockpot and let 'er go all day on low. Feel free to add extra herbs- I always do. Oregano and thyme and the teensiest pinch of cinnamon (no kidding. It adds this magical "why is this so delicious?" flavor) are my faves.

Then, when you're getting ready to make the rest of the stuff (so about a half hour before you are ready to assemble the "bake"), add in fresh minced garlic. This way it doesn't lose it's garlicky goodness and just turn sweet. If you like the sweet, then add it at the beginning with everything else.

The veggies might sound weird (sometimes I even add fresh organic baby spinach) but they cook down so that it's just yummy chunky goodness that takes on the flavor of the marinara. A particularly good method for getting kids (or adults!) to eat more veggies :)

8 cups cottage cheese (Costco is your friend! You could use ricotta, but in this amount the price would be ludicrous)
8 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (told ya! Heart the Costco!)

Optional Grains
1 box pasta OR Italian rice, cooked

Here's what I mean by Italian rice: I use 2 cups rice, follow the directions on water, and then add garlic powder, onion powder, a pinch of kosher salt, some dehydrated chopped onions (another Costco buy), and dried oregano. When the rice is boiling, before reducing the heat, make sure the herbs are mixed in really well, then cover and let the rice absorb the flavors. Jason prefers this rice in place of most traditional Italian pasta type dishes, and it's way cheaper than any gluten free pasta option.

1. Preheat oven to 350 (or reduce to 350 if you just finished the meatballs, since they were 375)

2. Ladle thin layer of marinara on the bottom of two medium casserole dishes (this recipe is way too much for one large dish!). If using pasta/rice, split your cooked portion between the two dishes and spread on top of the marinara, then add another thin layer of marinara on top of the grains; if not, skip to step 3.

Tip: I make one dish with the rice for Jason in my biggest casserole dish (13x9) and a separate dish in a medium casserole dish (erm... I'm guessing 11x7?) for me without rice. I use extra cottage cheese in mine to crank up the protein :)

3. Add layer of 2 cups of cottage cheese each dish, then 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then layer of marinara.

4. Repeat step 3, except place the meatballs on top of the cheese before adding marinara.

Optional: You can add a layer of parmesan cheese to the top; I did and it was delish :)

5. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly. If your dishes are full (mine sure were!) then place them on cookie sheets lined with aluminum foil. Saves on cleaning the cookie sheets AND cleaning the bottom of your oven in case of overflow!

I split my dish into 12 servings (about 6 oz of food per serving; I normally eat closer to 4 oz, but since the food is so slippery- ergo the pureed diet friendliness- and I had 12 meatballs I just went with 6 oz) and, again without the rice, here are the stats (I rounded up to either the nearest 10 on calories or nearest 1 on the rest):

250 calories, 13 g fat (again, over 1/3 from olive oil, so good fat; the rest from dairy which is fine in moderation), 32 g protein. Yeah, THIRTY-TWO grams of protein! So good on so many levels! I forgot to calculate, but it's around 5 g net carbs, mostly from the natural sugars in the veggies, which is fine by me.

So, make this and let me know whatcha think! I like things like cassroles and bakes, and they're great for serving at community group and other potluck style events, plus it helps us save energy (mine and electricity) to not freshly prepare new food every night of the week. Praise God for a husband who likes leftovers :)

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