Hidden-veggie Meatballs & Courgetti
Eat your greens!
We all know that it's important to eat lots of veggies, but more often than not just don't manage to get enough in our diet each day. Vegetables provide us with many essential vitamins and minerals and contain phytochemicals and inflammation-fighting antioxidants that help put out 'fires' in our bodies. They also contain significant amounts of dietary fibre, which is essential to gut health and promoting good digestion. We are encouraged to include at least five servings of vegetables a day in order to maximise the health benefits associated with veggies. One serving includes:
1 cup of raw vegetables
1/2 cup of cooked vegetables
Or approximately 80 g of vegetables by weight
This is great, but what about children and family members that just DO NOT like eating vegetables? Well, a trick my mom used back when I was a fussy eater was to hide vegetables in meals so that I didn't even know that they were there. Spaghetti bolognese with 'herbs', which I later found out was actually finely chopped spinach and grated carrots, was a much-loved family dinner that we enjoyed whilst I was growing up. This hidden-meatball dish is the perfect way of sneaking vegetables into delicious meatballs that everyone can enjoy. They can be served with courgetti (for the veggie lovers), with wholewheat spaghetti (for the non-veggie lovers), or even on their own as a snack.
The Spiraliser - a much-loved kitchen tool
I discovered courgetti (otherwise known as zoodles) about two years ago, and absolutely fell in love with it. My digestive system doesn't enjoy pasta at all, so it was great to find a filling, easy to prepare, nutritious alternative to noodles after a few years of not eating pasta-type dishes. I purchased this Gefu Spirelli spiraliser from Yuppiechef and it has served me quite well thus far. It is such a handy tool to have in your kitchen that allows you to easily create spiralised zucchini or carrot that can be used as a substitute for spaghetti, in stir-fry dishes or even in salads. The spiraliser works a bit like a pencil sharpener, where the zucchini acts as a pencil and the Spirelli as the sharpener, so it's really simple to use and easy to clean (dishwasher safe, yay!).
Other types of spiralisers that I managed to find on the internet that you can purchase here in South Africa include:
Total time: 45min
For the meatballs:
500 g chicken mince (try get hold of good-quality mince from your local butcher)
2 medium zucchinis
1 cup broccoli/spinach/kale
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup fresh herbs (rosemary/parsley/basil)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
For the rest of the dish:
1 tin tomato & onion mix
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt & pepper (to taste)
8 medium zucchinis
Goat's cheese (optional, to serve)
Fresh basil (optional, to serve)
Rinse and dry the veggies for the meatballs. Roughly chop them before placing them in a food processor along with the garlic and fresh herbs. Pulse until they have a rice-like consistency.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken mince with the veggie mixture. Season with salt & pepper.
Roll out evenly-sized meatballs and place on a baking-paper lined tray until you're ready to cook them (this is to prevent them from sticking).
Place the coconut oil in a large non-stick pan (this is important) and cook the meatballs on a medium heat. Pan-fry the meatballs in batches rather than overcrowding the pan and having them stick together. You want them to get nice and golden brown on the outside before removing them from the heat.
Whilst the meatballs are cooking prepare your courgetti using a spiraliser. If you don't have a spiraliser you can buy courgetti already prepared, or make noodles by grating the zucchinis long-ways. Place the spiralled zucchini in a colander to drain whilst the meatballs are finishing off.
When the meatballs are done place them all back in the pan, add the tomato & onion mix and fresh basil, and simmer over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the meatballs over courgetti, topped with goat's cheese and fresh basil.
You can use other vegetables like grated carrots and cauliflower to make these meatballs. It's actually the perfect way to use up leftover veggies at the end of the week that you don't want to go to waste :)
You can also prepare a baked version of this dish by placing the pre-cooked meatballs in a baking dish along with the courgetti and tinned tomato & onion mix, topping it with goat's cheese, and baking it at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes.