January 10, 2013

Spinach-Spiked Chicken Breast Meatballs

I really love Costco. Like, in a "can't help but spend a couple hundred dollars every time I go there" loving way. There's something magical that happens when you walk through those doors. Suddenly, everything you didn't know you needed is immediately wanted, necessary, and is such a smart buy

I lose all sense of reason in that place.

So that's evidently why I bought bulk packages of boneless, skinless, chicken breast in a quantity that could feed an army. POUNDS and POUNDS of it, in giant packaging. 

Have I mentioned we are a household of two + tiny dog?

What to do with all that chicken breast? Have I also mentioned that I don't particularly like chicken breast? I much prefer fattier, richer cuts of dark meat chicken. My purchase was a problem.

Enter the idea to make meatballs from ground chicken breast! I love grinding chicken breast and sauteeing it in spices for tacos, it's delightful. So why couldn't I use the same method for meatballs? It seemed to be a great way to make this lean, relatively flavorless cut of meat perform like its more succulent counterparts. 

And sure enough, it did. 

And they're healthy! Low in fat and loaded with spinach and whole-wheat breadcrumbs, you'd never guess that these savory, comforting meatballs pack a serious nutritional punch. Plus, they're easy. If you have a slow cooker, simply fill the cooker with the sauce and plop them in to cook. If you don't, no worries. You can use the regular methods of pan browning then sauce simmering, or oven baking. 

We enjoyed these meatballs over penne pasta and over soft, cheesy polenta. If you're looking for new uses for chicken breast (thanks for the surplus, Costco!), you'll want to keep this one in your repertoire!

Ground Chicken Breast Meatballs: makes about 40 1" meatballs
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
2 T. spice rub for grilled meats
2 t. dried oregano, divided
2 t. dried basil, divided
1 t. dried garlic powder, divided
1/2 t. sea salt, plus 1 t. sea salt set aside
1 t. ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 - 28oz. can crushed tomatoes in basil
1 - 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
3 T. tomato paste

Place the chicken breast in a food processor and process until ground. Add 2 T. spice rub, 1 t. oregano, 1 t. basil, 1/2 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. sea salt, and 1/2 t. black pepper, the frozen spinach, egg, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs. Process until incorporated, then transfer into a bowl.
Pour the crushed and diced tomatoes, along with all the remaining spices, into the bowl of a slow cooker. Using wet hands, roll the chicken meatball mixture into 1" balls and drop into the sauce. Cook on low 6-7 hours or high 3-4 hours.
*Can be made ahead and frozen. 

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