Meat. Balls. How To Make Boys Eat Veggies.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll likely say it again, but I grew up on meatloaf.  One of my favorite meals as a kid was meatloaf–topped with sweet tomato paste–served with mashed potatoes.  Followed for a few days by cold meatloaf sandwiches.

It has always baffled me….no…..astonished me, that neither my children–the fruit of my loins–nor my husband, a proper southern man, will not admit to liking meatloaf.  Funnier still because they love meatballs.  I almost don’t have the heart to tell them that meatballs are little more than meatloaf shaped in smaller portions.

I think it’s the term “loaf” that throws people off.   During the 1950’s, thrifty housewives looking to stretch their grocery dollars created scads of loaf-style recipes.  This usually involved mixing meat with filler ingredients such as oats, cracker crumbs, bread cubes, potatoes and other vegetables, and using a binder such as egg to hold it all together. There was meatloaf, salmon loaf, ham loaf, olive loaf and veal loaf.   When was the last time you thought to yourself  “mmmmm, olive loaf…?”  Yeah, me neither.  And don’t even get me started on SPAM (secretly, I like it, but the concept is pretty gross).

This Donna Reed generation was quite fond of gelatin dishes, and gave us jello molds, jello salads, and the savory gelatin dishes such as aspic and confit.  Just the thought of meat and vegetables hanging around in a savory gelatin suspension is, quite frankly, cringe worthy.   It seems this era really liked foods made into shapes and loaves.  Have I mentioned my disdain for gelatin based foods?  I don’t like to eat anything that wiggles, jiggles, or makes bizarre chortling sounds when being moved from the preparation dish to the serving platter. I think that the term “loaf ” does for many people what the term “gelatin  mold” does for me—induces an involuntary response to un-eat. I am not sure how much credibility the 1950’s housewives really earned in the annals of culinary history.

Keep in mind that this is also the same generation that expected women to be wearing a nice dress, heels,  and pearls, ready to serve their men dinner when they walked in the door. I am not saying it isn’t okay for a woman, especially one who doesn’t work outside the home, to take the more traditional role in the household.  I am definitely the chief cook and bottle washer in my home, and I prefer it that way.  I am saying that whoever thought I should do it while wearing heels and pearls was watching way too much Leave It To Beaver.

So, to provide my kids with the same yummy “loaves” I had as a kid, I have only to shape them into balls and call them as such.  On a side note, meatballs are a great way to hide vegetables from your kids, if you have finicky eaters.  You can replace half the meat in your chicken or meat ball recipe with finely chopped vegetables, and your kids will never know.

Asian Chicken Meatballs, With Honey Sesame Teriyaki

Chicken Meatballs With Squash Ribbons, in Lemon Sauce

Chicken Meatballs (With Stealth Vegetables)

  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • juice of one lemon

Place chicken in a mixing bowl with onion.  Set aside.  In a food processor, place spinach, carrots, zucchini, garlic and pulse until finely chopped.  Add to mixing bowl, along with salt, pepper, egg, and bread crumbs.  Use your hands to mix thoroughly, and shape into 2 inch balls.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cook  meatballs on all sides until nicely browned.  Add broth, wine and lemon, and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove lid, raise heat to medium high, and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Serving options:

–with squash ribbons (as pictured above):  using a vegetable peeler, cut yellow summer squash into long ribbons.  Stop peeling when you reach the seeds, and turn the squash to another side and repeat.  Saute the ribbons in a few teaspoons of butter for three minutes, just until they are heated, and act like noodles.  Serve with the chicken meatballs, a little of the pan sauce, and top with grated parmesan.

–add 1 cup of bottled Teriyaki sauce at the very end, and heat through.  Serve over rice.

–place in a pot of chicken stock, with your favorite vegetables for an easy soup

Meatballs Marinara

Meatballs Marinara

These homemade meatballs in marinara sauce take a little effort, but are incredible. I make this large batch, and freeze leftovers for future use, but the recipe halves easily if you want to make less.

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground veal (use 1 /12 pounds each of beef and pork if veal isn’t available)
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 3 large cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped (only use fresh)
  • 3 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green can)
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs, unseasoned
  • 1/2 C fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 C olive oil

Sauce ingredients:

  • 4 32 oz cans of premium canned tomatoes (look for a brand with no salt or citric acid)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c thinly sliced fresh basil
  •  6 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 3 t salt (or more, to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for olive oil. Mix until just incorporated–do not over mix the meat mixture or the meatballs will be tough. Form meat mixture into balls that are 2″ in diameter, or slightly large if you wish. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or electric fryer to a medium high heat. Brown the meatballs in batches, on all sides. Place them in a large dutch oven as they are browned (they will not be cooked through yet). If using a large electric skillet, you can leave them in there. When all of the meatballs are browned and in the dutch oven, mix together all of the sauce ingredients and pour over the meatballs. Cook over medium low heat or in a 250* oven for 3 hours (stir periodically if cooking on the stove top).

The long, slow cooking is integral to this recipe. It allows the juices from the meat to cook into the sauce, and for the sugars in the tomatoes to caramelize a bit, increasing the sweetness of the sauce. If you cook them hotter and faster, then results will NOT be the same. Serve over cooked spaghetti, or your favorite pasta.  Slice and use on homemade pizza, in lasagna (see below), or on sandwiches.

Serves an army, or a hungry family of twelve.

Meatball Lasagna

Meatball Lasagna

  • 1/2 recipe meatballs and sauce, see above
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, sliced thin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 pound grated mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz grated Parmesan cheese

In a bowl, mix ricotta, egg, basil, salt until well blended.  Set aside.

Place a small amount of sauce and spread in the bottom of a 9×13 cake pan or lasagna pan.  Place one layer of noodles (3 noodles) across the bottom of pan, spaced evenly apart.  Slice meatballs in a single layer across noodles.  Place a few dollops (1/3) of the cheese mixture on top of the meatballs, and spread gently with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the ricotta.  Ladle a generous portion of sauce over the cheese.  Repeat layers of noodles, meatballs, ricotta and mozzarella until gone.  Top with final layer of sauce, and shredded Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 375* in the lower portion of your oven for 1 hour, until cheese is melted, bubbly, and starting to toast.

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65 Comments on “Meat. Balls. How To Make Boys Eat Veggies.”

  1. Nona
    2012/04/20 at 12:36 am #

    I would love the recipe for the Asian Chicken Meatballs AKA mini meatloafs! LOL

  2. lovefoodcookfood
    2012/04/20 at 5:11 am #

    They all look delicious. I too love meatloaf. I discovered when I lived in America. 🙂

    • 2012/04/20 at 10:13 am #

      Ahhh. Meatloaf IS the quintessentially American meal….Bad ones are bad, but a really good meatloaf—I could eat everyday…

  3. Heidi
    2012/04/20 at 10:41 am #

    Perfect! I am cooking for Fischer and her friends tonight (plus a few adults)
    and the meatball marinara sounds like a crowd pleaser. We have lots of Nelgi and Elk, so I think I will cut the mixture with a little pork to add moisture.

  4. 2012/04/20 at 10:56 am #

    I’ve never been a big meat loaft fan. But I had one awhile back (just a bite anyway) and it had potatoes in it, and it was really good! That, and the recipe had no ketchup (which I hate), just tomato paste.

  5. Heidi
    2012/04/20 at 12:53 pm #

    Just left Moody’s. Mr. Terry said 82% ground beef would do better than pork to cut with.

  6. Chris Bonney
    2012/04/21 at 9:15 pm #

    Made the meatballs in marinara sauce today and loved it! I’d like to create a link to your site in my blog tomorrow tomorrow, with your approval of course! What a great, stress free recipe for a busy day when you want to put something in the oven and come home to a delicious dinner. Truly impressed by this dish:)

    • 2012/04/21 at 9:43 pm #

      Oh, I’m so glad you liked them. They are a favorite at my family gatherings. After browning, you can also finish them off in a crockpot on low, all day, which is nice. And yes, you can link to it on your blog….its all about sharing good food!

  7. 2012/04/29 at 12:40 pm #

    Thanks for following my blog! I had to laugh at this post because I just did this the other day – I made “meatloaf” but rolled it into meatballs. I left out the tomato sauce, so they weren’t as wet. But they were sure good – Italian flavored (oregano, basil, thyme…), and served over cheesy polenta. More fun than meatloaf.

  8. 2012/04/29 at 5:47 pm #

    Sounds Yummy! Thanks.

  9. 2012/04/29 at 6:02 pm #

    Wait…. we don’t have to wear peals? Shouldn’t this be on a sign somewhere?

    When my husband and I were courting, the first meal my mama made (we were required to eat at home at first so that my family could observe us…) was meatloaf – and the future love of my life didn’t eat it… let’s just say that started a whole round of whoopie that ended in an elopement four months later.
    Meatloaf – powerful stuff. Meatballs are a much better idea…

    • 2012/04/29 at 6:09 pm #

      Hmmmmmm. I wonder if serving meatloaf might discourage 14 year old girls from wearing out their welcome visiting my son. Devilish, really!

      • 2012/04/29 at 6:10 pm #

        It just might… clever – clever!

  10. 2012/04/30 at 7:52 am #

    Lol, I reckon the family might be onto your secret recipe after this post 🙂

    • 2012/04/30 at 9:18 am #

      Very true. I’ll have to come up with another way to hide the vegg….

  11. 2012/05/02 at 7:32 am #

    I LOVE cold meatloaf sandwiches and your making me think of making meatloaf just so I can have some! I only use chicken and turkey now so I’ll have to give it a whirl and see how it comes out. Thanks! I love your writing style too!

    • 2012/05/02 at 8:06 am #

      Try my recipe for meatloaf made with grapenuts…sub turkey for the beef part.

  12. 2012/05/02 at 10:35 pm #

    Great idea, hide those veggies in the meatloaf. How sneaky!

  13. Chris Bonney
    2012/05/03 at 5:52 pm #

    It’s Thursday night, the finish line is in sight but nothing planned for dinner. But wait! I have a luscious freezer bag of Christine’s awesome meatballs tucked away and some French rolls in there as well that will toast up just fine with what’s hanging around in my cheese drawer. I predict yet another fabulous meal from this recipe – I’ll take a photo for my blog tomorrow and show them off for you:)

    • 2012/05/03 at 6:03 pm #

      Awesome! Wish I had some. I just picked up cruddy burger king.

  14. 2012/05/04 at 4:08 am #

    I had some amazing meatloaf in a truck stop on the i75 about 20 years ago that was to die for 😉

    • 2012/05/04 at 8:31 am #

      Truck stops . Either the best or the worst food around….

    • 2012/05/04 at 8:40 am #

      I even had a good vegetarian meatloaf once, though I’m still puzzled by the fact it was meatloaf with no meat 😉

  15. 2012/05/04 at 10:05 pm #

    What nice recipes for meatballs and I love the idea of squash ribbon sauted in butter! Thanks for sharing and for following my posts at:

  16. 2012/05/06 at 8:55 pm #

    Meatloaf sandwiches are awesome. Your chicken recipe sounds good!

  17. 2012/05/08 at 6:31 am #

    this looks fantastic!!

  18. 2012/05/08 at 12:15 pm #

    Great idea! Now I am hungry!

  19. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)
    2012/05/11 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I’ve always liked meatloaf, but I’ve always LOVED meatballs. I think it has to do with some male impulse – to play with our food, perhaps. 😀

  20. whatlooksin
    2012/05/12 at 2:58 pm #

    “Stealth meatballs.” Going to remember that one!

  21. 2012/05/12 at 7:11 pm #

    Funny post! I also loved the idea of your squash noodles.

  22. 2012/05/13 at 6:29 am #

    Oh, this is a wonderful idea! I’ve always tried to sneak vegetables into marinara, but never into meatballs (which looks delicious, by the way). I have to try this!

  23. 2012/05/13 at 7:57 am #

    I have never once made homemade meatballs! The chicken version looks really great though, and I like how you added veggies to the mix. Even though I don’t have picky kids, I bet the taste is awesome! I’m going to put this on my “To Make in the Future” list. 🙂

    • 2012/05/13 at 7:58 am #

      I’d like to clarify, I don’t have kids AT ALL. So I’d just like to have some delicious chicken ‘n veggie meatballs!

      • 2012/05/13 at 9:41 am #

        They work for picky grow ups too. My husband claims to hate mushrooms, but he sure eats a lot of them when he doesn’t know they’re there.

  24. 2012/05/13 at 7:22 pm #

    I love the squash noodles idea. I have done asparagus noodles but never squash. Looks good!

  25. 2012/05/13 at 7:29 pm #

    I had meatloaf today — I absolutely love it! I order it in restaurants. I like your recipes.

    • 2012/05/13 at 10:13 pm #

      Thanks! I made meatloaf yesterday, and have enough left to have meatloaf sandwiches for a week…..mmmmm.

  26. thyra08
    2012/05/14 at 1:19 pm #

    Great ideas! I got my son to eat everything by using his superheroes fantasies.
    Each veggie gives him a especial power:
    Brocoli – Speed
    Carrots – X-ray vision, and so forth.Really works…:)

    • John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)
      2012/05/14 at 10:15 pm #

      I’ll just bet it does, although no superpower would be worth eating asparagus to me. 😀 Even today, sea salt makes me think of my own fictional protagonist on some wicked desert planet in the middle of a salt flat, and so does eating tortilla chips and salsa. Superhero food fantasies – they’re not just for kids anymore… 😉

      Not wishing to give a shameless plug as I have nothing to gain financially, but if you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about you can look up the WordPress blog on my character, Alain Harper the Undying Singer:

      • 2012/05/14 at 10:23 pm #

        Glad to share your link…love your cerebral sense of humor!

  27. 2012/05/16 at 2:54 am #

    the vegie meatballs sound good. I’lll have to nix the parmesan not kosher. You’re absolutely right about browning before. That is the secret but I’m often too lazy to do it.

  28. 2012/05/20 at 1:17 pm #

    Hmmm – I just read your jalapeno cheese bread post, and I bet cold meatloaf sandwiches on cheese bread would be fabulous! Now I know what we’re having for dinner tomorrow…

  29. 2012/05/21 at 7:28 am #

    I’m one of those boys that struggles with liking their veggies, so thanks for sharing the stealth meatballs! I think I could do that! Good comments. I also love good meatloaf and SPAM (reminds me of camping). My sister almost had a fit one night when she stopped by and saw me making spam and eggs for dinner. Will have to come back and see what other good ideas you have.

  30. 2012/05/21 at 8:07 pm #

    I love how many veggies you got into the meatballs. That is awesome!!

  31. 2012/05/23 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for the follow! I can’t wait to try my hand at these chicken meatballs. 😀

  32. 2012/05/25 at 11:50 am #

    Now i am not a fan of meatloaf, I totally agree with you about the jello thing. It’s just plain weird to me. And I am all for hiding the veggies on my kids. Just don’t tell them that!

    • 2012/05/25 at 11:53 am #

      Yeah…I sort of “outed” my veggie hiding technique, by telling the world about it on here….Hope they didn’t read it!

  33. 2012/05/26 at 5:35 am #

    I read this blog entry before breakfast…and now I’m starving!!! Thanks for sharing & thanks for following my blog!

  34. 2012/05/26 at 5:22 pm #

    that lasagna looks delicious!

  35. 2012/05/27 at 5:54 am #

    Gotta love a meatball! Thanks so much for following my blog.

  36. 2012/05/27 at 9:31 pm #

    Nice post and blog. My kids are grown now, and unfortunately for them, I got into cooking once they left. Maybe it was because now I have the time! In spite of my pitiful meals, they prospered and even became good cooks. Go figure!

  37. pattyabr
    2012/05/28 at 3:51 pm #

    I tried with my son too. He is 23 yr old now and hates everything to do with veggies. I hope that changes. meatballs are awesome any time of year and great to hide things in.

  38. 2012/05/29 at 4:38 am #

    I too was raised on meatloaf, but yeah, I think the name is pretty off-putting these days. And as for gelatin based ‘foods’ – bleurgh! Luckily we all love our veg here so I don’t have to resort to subterfuge, but great recipes nonetheless. Funny post. I’m a crocs and jeans cook myself. I think if I had to cook a meal in heels and pearls I would just walk out.

  39. elmediat
    2012/05/29 at 9:51 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog. it is much appreciated. I have passed this post on to my son and some food loving friends. As to jellied food – my ethic background includes some jellied meats. However my mother and Baba would not do fancy molds – this was hearty peasant farm food. 😀

  40. 2012/05/30 at 8:21 am #

    Thanks for visiting my blog! Love your style and ode to humble meatballs and meatloaf; I have only added mushrooms to my turkey meatloaf recipe in my attempt to keep the hubbies’ arteries flowing. Thanks to you, I am now inspired to think all things Asian

  41. 2012/05/30 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog. These meatballs sound delicious. Too bad my girls sre grown. None of them like meatloaf either! Still I will feed them to my husband. The chicken is such a healthy choice. I plan to try them soon.

  42. 2012/05/31 at 8:00 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂
    This looks really good. I’ve never made meatballs with veggies before. I will keep this in mind to make.

  43. 2012/06/03 at 11:25 am #

    I love meatloaf but never seem to have time to cook it. I may make the time today! Thanks for the reminder of a dish that I enjoy but rarely cook.

  44. 2012/06/14 at 9:06 pm #

    I just love your blog and writing! Thank you so much for visiting my page and more importantly, so glad I found yours! Jessica

  45. 2012/06/20 at 2:09 pm #

    Very cool! I just printed this out… Guess what we will be having for dinner tomorow night!

  46. kotha12
    2012/06/22 at 11:52 pm #

    This will be great for my 2 year old brother…he does not eat any veggie…btw..thanx for visiting my page..and you have a great page..

  47. karenhalgren
    2012/08/11 at 10:11 am #

    This sounds yummy…my mom used to make THE best meatballs and spaghetti as well as meatloaf. I sure didn’t inherit her cooking skills but this one I might be able to pull together! Thank you! Another good way to hide veggies- add them to sloppy joes! I add carrots to mine and the kids LOVE it! Cauliflower in mashed potatoes work well too.

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