Tuesday, October 27, 2009

She sneaks, she scores!

I would like to preface this post with a disclaimer.

I am intrinsically opposed to the Deceptively Delicious/Sneaky Chef philosophy. I don't believe that tricking people into eating things they can't necessarily identify is appropriate. I mean, if you have a kid who hates spinach, and you hide spinach in brownies, you aren't offering him a chance to change his mind. You're essentially pulling a less oogy Soylent Green on him. And you're teaching him he can't trust you.

Do I put things in a pizza that might be less recognizable? Yes. But they are never obscured to the point of "Hey, this is great! What do you mean there's tomato in this?" The whole point is to get kids to like new things, not encapsulate them so they don't realize they are even being exposed.

Well...usually. This may be the exception. And I don't feel good about it. I assuage my conscience with the fact that trickery wasn't the goal. I was just short an egg.

The last time I made meatballs, I was about to go grocery shopping the next day. I was cleaning out the fridge. I was mixing up my famous (rightly so...they're delicious) meatballs for a good old-fashioned spaghetti with my husband's 2-day sauce.

I had the meat in one bowl. I broke one egg into another bowl. I reached for the second, and last, egg. And dropped it on the floor.

So now, I've got a dilemma. My meatballs need two eggs. I don't have two eggs. My husband has taken the car to go buy weird plumbing widgets. So I'm left with ingenuity instead. Ingenuity, and some leftover pumpkin.

I'm here to tell you, an egg-sized dollop of pumpkin in your meatballs is a perfect sub for an egg. And it's moist and delicious. And you never taste the pumpkin. (I was kind of disappointed about that.) And where an egg would have added fat and cholesterol, the fat-free pumpkin added beta carotene, vitamin A and potassium.

DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO REPLACE BOTH EGGS. You need the egg for binding or it all falls apart (but does still taste good). In fact, in re-tooling the recipe, I have kept both eggs, but used pumpkin in place of part of the milk, again giving a more nutritious punch. And yes, I'm not oblivious to the fact that with a little cinnamon, I'd be adding pie filling to my meatballs.

So don't lie to your kids. But feed them these meatballs. Call them Jack O Lantern meatballs. Kids will eat anything at Halloween.

Delectable Meatballs

(This recipe makes about 30 good sized meatballs. You can cut it down, but I recommend making the bigger batch and freezing what you don't need if that's too many.)

2 lbs. ground beef or meatloaf mix (I often do 1 lb. hamburger and 1 lb. Italian sausage)
2 eggs
1/4 c. pumpkin
2 T. milk
2 t. mustard
1 T. ketchup (or tomato sauce)
Salt and pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 slices fresh bread, torn, or 2/3 c. dry breadcrumbs
Optional: 30 tiny mozzarella balls (ciliegine, not bocconcini), or 1 pound mozzarella cut in 30 small pieces

Break up your meat in one large bowl, much larger than you think you'll need.

In a small bowl, beat your eggs. Whisk in the pumpkin and milk. Add the mustard, ketchup, seasoning and onion. Then gently stir in the bread or breadcrumbs. Then sit it aside for a few minutes. You want the bread to naturally soak up the liquid.

Add the egg mixture to the meat. Gently incorporate them together. Don't overwork the meat or you'll get tough meatballs. Form into about 30 balls. (This is where you can stuff them with the cheese as you shape them. If you like. I do. They are sooooo good with the cheese.)

Now...when I'm making pasta, I cook the raw meatballs in the sauce. This makes the sauce better, and flavors the meatballs at the same time. Delicious. Just simmer, covered, in the sauce for 30 minutes or so. Longer's okay. Just don't let the sauce burn, but don't stir it too much or you'll break up the meatballs. A low flame is really important.

But if I'm freezing any, or making them for pizza, I bake them. A jelly roll pan, a 350 degree oven, and about 20 minutes or so.



  1. Nom nom nom!! Thank you for posting this, Lori!

  2. YUM. I only have ground turkey, but I'll be trying this recipe with it tonight.

  3. i am sooooo making these the next time MIL sends over a pot of sauce...thanks!