Sunday, August 9, 2015

Garden Meatballs reincarnated

I recently made a big batch of the FMD Garden Meatballs (recipe here). We had them for dinner one night with the tomato sauce and zucchini noodles I posted in that recipe, but by the next day I wanted something a little different. I decided to repurpose the items and mix it up a little bit. For lunch, we had stuffed zucchini boats, and for dinner, stuffed chicken roulade.

Meatballs = gone. Done and done. I find it much easier to follow a healthy diet when I don't let myself get bored. These two alternative uses for the meatballs are healthy, tasty, and definitely not boring!

Garden Meatball- Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Let's start with lunch: Cut two zucchinis in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds as well as a bit of the flesh- just enough to create a nice little zucchini boat. Lightly spray a baking pan with olive oil cooking spray*, lay the boats cut-side down on the sheet, and bake at 375 deg F for approximately 15 minutes. I was looking for both some caramelization on the cut side and for the squash to become tender. When I was able to press a fork through the back of the zucchini as they lay face-down, I decided they were ready to go.

While the boats are a-bakin',  cook about 1/2 a cup of diced onion in a sautee pan with a little bit of olive oil ** (or broth if you're trying to stay low-fat) until they are slightly browned. Add four of those leftover meatballs, chopped up. Cook the mixture until warmed through, adding a bit more salt and pepper.

Now, if you haven't made those yummy meatballs,you can still make this happen***. Instead of just cooking down onion, add in whatever vegetables you have on hand. You can add diced carrots, celery, chopped spinach or kale... hell, maybe even some more zucchini (zucchini inside of zucchini...whoa...). If you decide to add anything more dense, like sweet potato, just make sure you start that thicker veggie first and then add the lighter items so they all end up cooked properly. Add salt and pepper, as well as whatever spice mix you're in the mood for. If you want to go italian, you can add garlic, basil, and oregano. If you're in more of a mexican mood, keep the garlic and then toss in some cumin and coriander. Cook until the veggies are tender and starting to get a bit of caramelization. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you see fit.

Once those veggies are all cooked and happy, add in your ground beef (or turkey, pork, tofu...whatever makes you have on hand). For just the 4 boats, you probably only need about 1/2 pound of meat. But if you're planning on making the roulades, I'm sure you will find a good use for any extra stuffing.

Spoon the filling into the boats and sit them on your baking sheet. Bake them at 375 deg F for about 10-15 minutes. You just want to get everything cooked through and to give the filling a chance to hang out with the zucchini and get all friendly-like.
Once you remove them from the oven, you can customize them. I chose to top mine with some of the leftover tomato sauce from the night before. You could also add some salsa or a nice drizzle of balsamic vinegar or glaze***. Enjoy!!

And behind Door #2: Meatball-stuffed Chicken Roulade

Moving on to dinner....A couple of months back, we had bought a pack of thin-sliced chicken breasts. We ate two and froze the rest. I decided this would be the perfect time to pull them from their icy home. For roulades, these thin breasts are incredibly handy. Pretty much the trickiest part of any stuffed meat dish is getting the inside of that meat cooked. I'm not gonna lie, the first one I made and cut into (my test breast, if you will), was still a little pink where the meat met the stuffing. But I fixed it. And no one got salmonella. Win.

First, preheat your oven to 350 deg F. That done, let's move on to the stuffing- I actually did the exact same thing as I did for the stuffing in the boats, so no additional work is needed here. Just use your leftovers from the boats or follow the instructions above.

Then it's time to prep your chicken. If you dont have the skinny ones lying around, you can easily thin out what you do have. Using a good sharp knife, slice through the middle of the breast length-wise. As you cut through, pull the top half up, slicing until you cut all of the way through and have two approximately equal-sized pieces. Then grab a meat mallet, heavy pan, or whatever heavy non-breakable item is in sight, and pound out the breasts until they are about 1/2 " thick all the way through. Try to make sure one end isn't thicker than the other so you get an even cook. Season both sides with S&P, as well as anything else that might please your taste buds. 

Now, the amount of filling you place inside the chicken will depend on the size of your pieces. You want to be able to roll the sides of the chicken as well as the ends over the stuffing- much like a well-rolled burrito or egg roll. Spoon in the filling, roll up your chicken and close with a toothpick. I ended up making 4 breasts with the same amount of 4-meatball mix I made above, with a little filling left over. 

In a sautee pan (ideally one that can go straight from the stovetop to the oven), heat 2 tbsp of olive oil**. Once the pan has reached medium-high heat, set the rolls in the pan, lightly running the chicken along the pan bottom to ensure that there is a bit of oil down before you place each piece. Once you set them down, don't touch them. Let them do their thing and get brown for a couple of minutes. Then rotate the rolls, repeating the browning for all sides. Once the rolls are completely brown, they may look like they are done and ready to be eaten... 

...But this is a lie. 

There is still a layer of pink lurking inside, threatening to ruin your lovely meal. 

So- if your pan can go straight to the oven, do it- pop that whole thing straight in to your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. If it can not, take the rolls and place them on a baking sheet. Then pop those babies in the oven, also for 8-10 minutes. When done, remove them and look at them adoringly- then invite anyone else in the house to come look at what you have created. This may just be the dog, but I'm sure he will be suitably impressed.

To serve: I have a balsamic glaze that I LOVE. It goes with so many things and is just so darn yummy. I believe it should be a household staple. So as you can see below, I simply plated the rolls whole with a drizzle of glaze and a vinegary side salad. You could also go spicy with some sriracha, maybe whip up one of the aiolis I posted here, or any other favorite condiments you might have on hand  ***

Important note: If serving whole, either remove the toothpicks ahead of time or be sure to let your guests know that the rolls hold a woody surprise!

So those are two ways that you can repurpose leftover meatballs, extra veggies, ground meat, or any combination thereof. Any other ways you like to use up these types of leftovers? I'd love to hear them!!

FMD Footnotes:

*Cooking spray = a no-no. With these, you could put a bit of broth on the bottom of the pan. Alternately, just lying down a layer of foil should still allow for caramelization without any annoying sticking.

**For FMD, use a bit of your favorite FMD-approved broth. I have mentioned it before, but I'll say it again. Bialetti Aeternum pans are awesome for getting browning without any additional fats... and without just boiling your veggies!

***Just keep your choices limited to phase-appropriate items!

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