Tomorrow wraps up Tiny G’s first summer session of preschool, and then he goes on a four-week hiatus before returning for fall. I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks about packing a balanced and waste-free lunch, and my greatest weapon is the meatball. Each week I make a batch with a some sort of ground lean protein: chicken, turkey, buffalo or lamb. I’ve experimented by mixing in different vegetables—some cooked/pureed, some steamed/chopped, and some uncooked. It’s a great way to use leftovers and to sneak in extra veggies. Here is my basic “master” recipe, but feel free to experiment and find new combinations.
Here are few combos that have worked for us: lamb + fresh chopped mint, chicken and puréed squash, buffalo + cooked/diced carrot, turkey + puréed sweet potato, buffalo + puréed green pepper and tomato
Tiny G’s Meatballs
The following recipe makes about 30 meatballs, but since I just have Tiny G to feed I usually make about 1/3 or 1/2 of what this recipe calls for.
1 lb ground buffalo/chicken/turkey/lamb
1/2 – 3/4 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
veggies (anywhere from a couple tablespoons to 1/4 cup)
* To make breadcrumbs, stick a slice or two of whole grain bread in a mini food processor and hit “chop” until you have fine breadcrumbs. In this photo, I used a homemade brown rice sandwich roll (extra breadcrumbs keep well in the freezer):
To make meatballs, in a bowl, mix together ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, egg and vegetable. I add breadcrumbs according to moisture—depending on what veggie you are using, you might need to add more breadcrumbs if mixture is too wet. (Below is ground lamb with mint and brown rice flour breadcrumbs)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a tray lined with parchment paper, form tablespoon-size meatballs.
Bake meatballs in upper third of oven for 8-10 minutes, until just cooked through.
A batch of these keeps well in the fridge for lunches or dinner throughout the week. Sometimes I just pack one, like this chicken/squash meatball alongside some whole wheat couscous with red pepper hummus shaped like a rooster (because I’m a huge nerd — I mean, what two year old wouldn’t get this joke?):
Or, for an added baby geek factor, you can cut out little rounds of whole-grain bread for a “slider” effect with buffalo/carrot meatballs. Have fun!