Pesto Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Paleo Friendly)

I eat a fair amount of chicken, in fact, it is a go-to in my diet. When eating chicken, I really only eat the breast because it is lower in calories and fat, but very high in protein. However, I do go through phases where chicken does not sound appealing because I have eaten too much of it. So, I decided I needed a change.

My second go-to meat is always lean ground turkey. I love it’s versatility and protein content. I personally buy 99% lean, because I tend to add healthy fats (like olive oil and coconut oil) to my cooking and do not need the extra fat from meat. However, for some, 99% lean is way too dry. If this is you, I suggest trying 90% lean! With that being said, I couldn’t decide how I wanted to cook it up. I wasn’t in the mood for tacos or burgers…then I realized something I haven’t had in awhile…MEATBALLS!

Now, this brings up a fun fact. For my friends that know me, you know I love Jersey Shore. So, I thought why not make some versatile, Italian flavored meatbawls, in honor of Jersey Shore Family Vacation finally airing and being so successful! I am a huge fan of a few shows on MTV, but Jersey Shore is literally the reason I pay for a Hulu account. I just love a good reality tv show!

My first step was to think about the flavors that I like most in Italian cooking. My number one is always basil! I love how it can make a meal taste fresh and so flavorful while also being a leafy green (that counts right?) But what’s better than just basil? Pesto. I had a jar of pesto from Trader Joe’s that I have been using in various ways, but this seemed like a great way to add flavor to my meatballs. I also love dried oregano, minced garlic, and to my father’s disapproval, dried parsley. These flavors can easily be used in many ways and with many sauces, pastas, and salads.

Now, normally meatballs call for breadcrumbs. However, I am gluten-free (if you haven’t noticed). I decided to try to make them with almond flour instead of any type of bread crumb. This also eliminated any high carbs or extra/unneeded starches. If you have a nut allergy, I am sure rice flour would work as well, but like I said, I didn’t want the extra carbs. The use of almond flour also made my meatballs paleo friendly, so enjoy babes!

Pesto Turkey Meatballs Recipe

I was able to make 13 large meatballs, but if you wanted to make more, you could just use less meat in each ball. PS: these are better enjoyed while watching Snooki and Deena day drink and dance their hearts out (;

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line a baking sheet with foil. This creates easier clean up for you! IMG_7045
  2. In a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, parsley, oregano, pesto, salt, and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. You can enjoy them on pasta, add them to my Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto or how I decided to enjoy them tonight, with some veggies and homemade tzatziki! Just because they are Italian meatballs, it doesn’t mean they can’t go well with Greek (;
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Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

IMG_6032That’s right folks, this meal is not only just gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and full of greens…but it is completely vegan! I like to have one day a week where I am fully vegetarian, and today I had a craving for a creamy pesto pasta. So, as usual, I brainstormed how to stuff as much whole, natural goodness as I could in one dish! Thus, my avocado pesto sauce was born and tossed with perfectly cooked spaghetti squash.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I love spaghetti squash. I have a recipe for spaghetti squash with a meaty sauce (for days I am craving more protein than usual), but I am determined to create even more ways to enjoy this pasta substitute! Cooking spaghetti squash is simple and can easily be done while doing other things. For example, I popped my squash in the oven and did some chores…okay I put my dirty clothes from this weekend in the hamper…and I did a hair mask! It’s great because unlike regular pasta, you do not have to babysit it! I personally cook mine in the oven, but I used to cook it in my crock pot, and I’ve heard it’s even easier in an instant pot!

Now, if you aren’t a squash fan, you can always use this pesto in another way! Try it on chicken, regular pasta, as a veggie dip, or even in a salad! The possibilities are endless! What I love the most about it is how creamy the avocado makes the sauce. I used to think you had to use pine nuts or cream of some sort…but I proved that theory wrong. Plus, avocados are extremely good for you, and don’t worry, you don’t taste it with all the basil, garlic, and parsley inside!

Like I’ve stated before on my blog, spaghetti squash is high in fiber, vitamin B, potassium, and omega-3 fats. It also contains the essential minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. All of these benefits can help aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, and help regulate your blood sugar. Bring in my pesto sauce, and you’re getting healthy fats, immune fighting herbs, and plenty of fiber! It’s all around a win-win!

Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto (Vegan and Gluten-Free) Recipe

This recipe includes how to prepare a whole spaghetti squash, so there will be enough for leftovers. As for the pesto, I made enough for one meal, so please feel free to double or triple to fulfill your needs!

Ingredients

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (optional; this time I did not add extra!)

Pesto Sauce

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • Optional add ins: 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper and/or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Directions

  1. Start by cooking the spaghetti squash. To do this, preheat your oven to 450 ℉. IMG_6030Pierce your squash with a fork so it can steam. Put your squash on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. This allows the squash to soften making it easier to cut. Cut the squash in half (I cut mine long ways, but the choice is yours) and remove all seeds. Evenly distribute olive oil and seasoning on the squash. Place the halves back on the baking sheet with the inside facing down. This helps the squash steam and not burn. Cook for about 15-20 more minutes. Take out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before trying to touch. With a fork, carefully scrape your squash and create long strings.
  2. For the pesto sauce, start by softening your kale and parsley. This will help make IMG_6031them blend a little easier! I chop them, add them to boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then shock them. “Shocking” vegetables is a trick my father taught me. It keeps them looking bright and colorful because it stops the cooking. To shock vegetables after cooking, pour them straight into a bowl with cold water and ice. This is an extra step, but I am an extra person and like my pesto to be GREEN! Note that I do not do this to the basil. I want the basil to be the prominent flavor, so I don’t cook out any flavor.
  3. Next, combine all your herbs, kale, avocado, garlic, water, olive oil, and spices/flavors in a blender. Sometimes my blender acts like there is not enough liquid, so I add a couple more tablespoons of water until the pesto comes out smooth!
  4. In a bowl, or in the squash rind (save a dish!), portion yourself a serving of spaghetti squash (I eat about 1 1/2 cups at a time) and mix in your pesto sauce.
  5. Indulge in this healthy, vegan dish!