I’ve mentioned that one of my fears about army life is less about army life and more about blending my vegetarian past with my carnivore future army husband. Jonathan’s dietary needs (not to mention his overwhelming likes) are much different than mine. He’s big, extremely active, and physically incapable of saying no to a cheeseburger; I’m small, try to keep healthy despite a dairy addiction, and am still new to the poultry world so it’s going to be a while before I’m ready for real meat (insert penis joke here).
To avoid cooking two separate meals every time we eat, I’m going the science experiment route in my kitchen and creating, testing, adjusting, and re-testing recipes to build a food arsenal that works for both of us. Success has been varied, but so far I’ve tricked Jonathan into eating quinoa at least three different ways, so I’m gonna go ahead and say I’m coming out on top.
A recipe that’s quickly becoming a staple for us is one I started experimenting with a year or so ago when I began to eat poultry: baked turkey meatballs. When I made these for myself, I used 99% lean turkey, only egg whites, loaded up with veggies, and no cheese. If you are dedicated to eating healthy and also hate yourself, feel free to adjust the below recipe likewise. But even with the cheese, my favorite turkey meatball recipe (jalapeño-cheddar) is still much lighter and healthier than a traditional meatball smothered in a ketchup-based sauce. And I’d like to think it’s equally delicious.
Would you like some step-by-step photos to show you how they’re made? TOO BAD; I ALREADY TOOK THEM.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and spray a foil-covered baking pan with non-stick spray. It’s balls time!
Gather all your ingredients on the largest section of your kitchen counter. Try not to cry about this being the largest section of your lousy-excuse-for-a-kitchen counter. How do you even manage in a kitchen this small? Because you are really great at cooking; that’s how. Autograph a few napkins so you can sell them on Ebay when you’re famous in a few years.
I like to dice the jalapeños as my first step, basically to get it out of the way. When you’re done, WASH YOUR HANDS. A few places on your body that don’t feel good with jalapeño juice lingering in them include: underneath your fingernails, just outside your nostril where you will immediately have an itch, and anywhere in or around your eyeball that might come into contact with your hand when brushing hair out of your face. Learn from my mistakes.
In case you don’t work with jalapeños often, more seeds = more spiciness. I cut mine lengthwise; this keeps the bulk of the seeds bundled to the stem, and makes them easier to throw out. I’ll toss any of the lingering seeds into my recipe for mild hotness.
AFTER YOU’VE WASHED YOUR HANDS, dump the ground turkey and diced jalapeños into a medium bowl. If you’re me, wash your hands again, because there might be some turkey juice on them and…gross. Crack an egg into the side of the bowl and beat it lightly with a fork. If you’re me, wash your hands again, because you probably got some raw egg on them and…gross. Gently mix the egg into the turkey mixture and wonder why you still don’t keep hand lotion in the kitchen.
CHEESE IT UP. Cheddar is my favorite in this recipe, but I happened to have a Mexican cheddar-jack blend in the fridge already. We eat a lot of taco salads, and I’m not apologizing for it. I’ve also done spinach-artichoke turkey balls with mozzarella cheese, and I wouldn’t kick them off my plate either. Scientific lesson here: Be equal-opportunity about your cheese.
I prefer to use broccoli in this recipe, but when I don’t have any I’ll use spinach instead, just to sneak some extra vegetables into the meal. Either way, I usually tear the vegetables into small pieces by hand because I love my vegetables, and I want to be close to them. Or because I’m lazy. Your choice.
Ever since panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) became a permanent addition to most supermarket shelves, I have not touched a box of regular breadcrumbs. They’re a bit lighter and healthier than traditional breadcrumbs, and I’ve really come to prefer them. I add a little bit of salt when working with panko, but the cheese in this recipe might have enough sodium for you already, so feel free to leave it out. I won’t get mad. At least not verbally.
Depending on the size of your egg and weight of your ground turkey, the mixture can sometimes turn out a little bit dry. When this happens, I add a dash of olive oil to make the balls easier to roll. I prefer balls when they’re easier to roll, and I’m sure you do too.
The balls bake for about a half hour, or until you start to smell burning. I like to think of the burning smell as nature’s cooking timer. And a test of my smoke detector’s effectiveness (it’s working great; thanks for asking).
I served the balls this time with half a baked potato and roasted asparagus. It is not necessary for you to burn the shit out of the asparagus. I just like to keep my smoke detector on its toes.
And here’s everything typed out in list form since, if you’re like me, you just scrolled down here in the first place. You don’t like to waste time. There are too many BuzzFeed articles about cute animals you need to look at today. I understand.
Jalapeño-cheddar turkey balls recipe
Yields ~24 turkey meatballs
- 1 package ground turkey (I use 93% lean)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 jalapeños
- 1 heaping handful of spinach or broccoli
- 1/2 – 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tbs garlic powder
- 1/2 tbs onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Dice two jalapeños. For less spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey and diced jalapeños.
- Crack an egg into the side of the bowl. Beat lightly. Combine with turkey mixture.
- Add the cheese; mix gently.
- By hand or with a knife, tear or cut the spinach or broccoli into small pieces. Combine with turkey mixture.
- Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Add the panko and combine. Do not over-stir.
- Add the olive oil and combine.
- By hand, roll turkey mixture into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet. Should make about two dozen.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove by hand or with a spatula.
Store extras in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.