September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I’d like to rename it: National Childhood Obesity Solutions Month. Why? There are sound scientific findings that show how calorie intake can be reduced in an easy, delicious way. Which just happens to be The Sneaky Chef way!
In a Penn State University study, research shows that preschoolers ate twice as many vegetables & 11% fewer calories just by eating their favorite foods - creatively enhanced with pureed fruits and veggies!! The study underscores what I have believed in and promoted for years now: slip the good stuff into the food your kids love, and they’ll have their veggies tonight, without a fight! It adds up to great health benefits and fewer calories. Did I say “adds up”? OK, well, here’s another addition equation for parents to solve by tonight:
Broccoli + Peas + Spinach = ?
(Correct Answer: Green puree, which you can add invisibly to this meatball recipe your kid will happily eat tonight!)
Nutrition Highlights: Whole grains, protein, and vegetables. Rich in vitamins A, K, B12, C and E, tryptophan, manganese, folate, zinc, protein, iron, and fiber
There’s no mystery about the health benefits of these perfectly “ normal” looking and tasting meatballs. Yet unlike those at the Italian restaurant, our meatballs are loaded with whole grains and greens. Thanks to a little help from a preschool color wheel, I found that the green disappears into the color of meaty brown when mixed well with the tomato paste. My kids love to eat these off toothpicks or smothered in red sauce on top of their favorite spaghetti. The extras save well for months in the freezer packed in a sealed plastic bag. You can gradually work up to larger amounts of sneaky puree.
Makes about 42 small meatballs
6 to 8 tablespoons Green Puree (See Make-Ahead Recipe #3)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup wheat germ, unsweetened
1 large egg, beaten
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, for browning meatballs
In a large bowl, combine the Green Puree and tomato paste, mixing well (with the back of a fork) until the green color turns brownish. Mix in salt, wheat germ, and egg, and finally add the ground meat and mix with hands until well combined. Using damp hands, pinch off about 2 teaspoons of meat and gently shape mixture into mini meatballs.
Sneaky tip: Mini one- bite meatballs work better than larger ones for hiding purees.
(Below are 2 ways to cook the meatballs, depending on how much time you have. You will definitely get out of the kitchen quicker with the oven-baked method, and the result is nearly as good as the pan frying.)
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large (10 inch or 12 inch) nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, until hot but not smoking. Add meatballs in four batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Allow to brown on all sides for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally with the help of 2 teaspoons. Reduce heat to low and cook through for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and add more oil as needed for the next batch. Serve with toothpicks as “ cocktail” meatballs, dropped in almost any soup, or smothered in Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce, (see Book 1) over spaghetti.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a large cookie sheet with 2 tablespoons of oil, gently place meatballs on sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Using a spatula to loosen, turn the meatballs over to brown on the other side, then return to oven for another 10 minutes. Serve with toothpicks as “ cocktail” meatballs, dropped in almost any soup, or smothered in Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce over spaghetti.
Enjoy in good health,