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Turkey meatballs make dinner easy

Sometimes ground turkey gets a bad rap. Years ago, turkey was significantly less expensive than hamburger, so frugal-minded folks started swapping it in recipes calling for ground beef with mixed results.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when cooking with ground turkey is expecting it to taste like ground beef. Of course, there’s going to be a difference. If I gave you a piece of steak and a slice of turkey breast, you could tell the difference, right? It’s literally a different animal. So, don’t fight it, go with it.

Turkey is leaner and milder tasting than beef, which makes it so versatile. Like a chameleon, the delicate flavor takes on the surrounding ingredients and allows other subtle flavors to shine.

What could you to do with all these meatballs? Serve them as an after-school snack or appetizer with dip (like Greek yogurt, barbecue sauce, salsa or sweet chili sauce). Add them to soup, salad or pizza. Serve them over pasta or zoodles with marinara or Alfredo sauce. Make meatball sub sandwiches with marinara and melted mozzarella. Stuff a pita with meatballs and hummus.

I have two recipes for turkey meatballs I’m excited to share with you. One is very simple, the other Italian-inspired, both delectable.

TURKEY MEATBALLS

What you’ll need:

2 large eggs

½ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

2 pounds ground turkey

½ cup onion, finely minced

½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely minced

½ teaspoon each garlic powder, salt and pepper

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine eggs, Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add turkey, onion, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix gently with your hands to combine. Don’t over mix, just until you don’t see any dry patches of Parmesan and everything is evenly distributed.

Use a spoon or small scoop to measure heaping tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes or until heated through.

Optional: add 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning for that “Thanksgiving turkey” flavor that is perfect for serving with cream-based sauce or cranberry sauce.

ITALIAN TURKEY MEATBALLS

What you’ll need:

2 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan, or half cheese, half breadcrumbs

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound Italian-style turkey sausage (if linked, removed from casings)

½ cup onion finely minced, about half a medium onion

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon each salt and pepper

1 10-ounce box chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment.

In a large bowl combine eggs, Parmesan and breadcrumbs, if using. Add turkey, turkey sausage, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Break the squeezed spinach into small pieces and sprinkle over meat mixture.

Mix gently with your hands to combine. Don’t over mix, just until you don’t see any dry patches of Parmesan. Use a spoon or small scoop to measure heaping tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls.

Place on prepared baking pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or until heated through.

You can adjust these recipes to your diet preferences. If you’re gluten-free, omit the breadcrumbs and replace with Parmesan cheese or almond meal. Dairy-free? Omit the Parmesan and use breadcrumbs or almond meal. Low-carb? No breadcrumbs and more cheese.

These recipes are perfect for making a double batch and freezing half. Bake them only until half cooked, about 10 minutes so they don’t dry out when reheated. It’s a wonderful feeling when you want a zero-effort meal in a hurry and remember you have a bag o’ meatballs in the freezer. Hallelujah.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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