You Can Do It: Spicy Quinoa Meatballs Simmered in White Wine

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I’ve been wanting to come up with a meatball recipe for some time… and last night I finally did it. No, I didn’t grow up with meatballs; meatballs are not a “Guamanian” sort of thing. They are, however, protein packed powerhouses – and that is why they appeal to me.

(There’s no better snack than one that’s packed with protein and fiber.)

Now, when you think ‘meatballs’, you probably get a visual of the typical: meatballs simmered in a heavy, sweet BBQ sauce, or meatballs served over a carb packed bed of pasta. But, hey, this is the Rebel Grain… and you can bet your bottom dollar that my meatballs are going to be against the grain of what is ‘supposed to be’.

The final result? Spicy Quinoa Meatballs Simmered in Herbed White Wine.

No heavy sugary BBQ sauce. No pasta to weigh you down. Just pure, clean deliciousness to power you up, satisfy your cravings, and keep your healthy habits on track.

NOTE 1: I made these with a large cast iron skillet. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet that can go from the stovetop to the oven, you can use a large fry pan for steps 1-4 and 6; and, for step 5 you’d just transfer everything into a glass baking dish.

NOTE 2: You’ll need about an hour to get these done. Make them when you’re feeling leisurly and inspired and can take your time to taste along the way and appreciate the beauty of what’s happening at your stove. Sip a glass of wine, play some music while you work. The process and delicious smells of every step are part of the fun.

You ready?

Ingredients:

For meatballs (steps 1-4)

  • 1/2 pound spicy italian sausage (if kids will eat these, I’d use regular italian sausage)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (yes, it’s the good stuff… and worth it)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh curly parsley
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp corse black pepper
  • 2 eggs

For herbed wine simmer sauce (steps 5-6):

  • olive oil to coat pan
  • 2 cups of white wine
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 1″ cubes of parmesean rind
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup water

To deglaze the pan and make the finishing sauce (step 7):

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here we go:

1) Preheat your oven to bake at 350 degrees.

2) Make the vegetable quinoa saute:

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium high heat.  When pan is hot, add onions and saute for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, grated carrots, peas and carrots. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for approximately 3-4 minutes. Add precooked quinoa, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for another few minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Make the meatball mix:

Add sausage, ground pork, and saute into a large bowl. Using a large spoon, incorporate the warm saute into the cold meat to temper the mixture. Once the mixture is tempered to a point you can work it with  your hands, use your hands to squeeze the ingredients together so there is no longer any separation of the ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. Add eggs to meat mixture and, with your hands, squeeze through the ingredients until eggs are well incorporated.

Gather a handful of mixture into your palm and, with both hands, form large balls so they look like this:

meatballs before they're cooked

meatballs before they’re cooked

4) Brown the meatballs on the stove.

Using the same pan you used for the saute, add enough olive oil to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Once oil is hot, carefully add the meatballs into the pan with kitchen tongs and brown the meatballs on medium high heat. Carfully turn the meatballs every couple minutes to brown each side of the form. (NOTE: the quinoa makes this a little more crumbly than a typical meatball, so turn them very carefully. If you try to roll them in then pan, they may break apart.) As they brown they should look like this:

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When all sides are brown, carefully remove the meatballs from the pan and onto a plate.

5) Make the wine sauce the meatballs will simmer in.

With the stove still on medium high, place the white wine, the fresh thyme sprigs, 1 tsp of lemon zest*, and the chunks of parmesean rind to the pan, like this:

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The wine will begin to immediately bubble, and you’ll want to use a spatula to deglaze the pan and stir these ingredients together.

*If you don’t yet have a Microplane zester, please go buy one!

6) Put meatballs into the oven to simmer and finish cooking.

While wine sauce is simmering, use your tongs and return the meatballs to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd them. Turn off heat, remove the pan from the stove, and put pan into the oven where the meatballs will simmer and continue to cook for 35 minutes. (NOTE: After 20 minutes in the oven, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan.)

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7) Make the finishing sauce.

When you remove the meatballs from the oven, they will be GORGEOUS like this:

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Transfer them to a plate with your tongs. Now, see all the goodies left behind in the pan? This is where the magic happens with what’s left behind. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Place the pan back on the stovetop and put your heat on medium high. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, the fresh squeeze juice of 1 lemon, and a little more sea salt and black pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to boil while you whisk with a fork, being sure to unstick any of the goodies that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a small dish.

And… you are done!

As far as how to eat them, there is no wrong way 🙂 You can drizzle a little spoonfull of your sauce over them and eat them plain, or you can make a meal of them the way I just did like this:

Baby arugula drizzled with white wine sauce and served with Spicy Quinoa Meatballs

Baby arugula drizzled with white wine sauce and served with Spicy Quinoa Meatballs

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Let me just tell you: they are AMAZING and so full of flavor! My man couldn’t keep his fingers off them last night… and, as I write this I’m drooling for another serving.

Anyway, YOU CAN DO IT… and I hope you try.

Have a great weekend – and GO SEAHAWKS!

Who Couldn’t Use Some Quinoa Love Soup…

There is something about soup that warms your bones – isn’t there? I think that’s why I’ve been on such a soup kick lately – because that’s what we all seem to need these days: warmth.

…and comfort.

…and coziness.

…and rest.

…and simplicity.

…and love.

Life gets so busy and so fast – and then a cold, or a heartache, or our spirit simply says, “Since you won’t choose to slow down, I’ll choose it for you…” and rest is graciously forced upon us.

Well, the other night my sweet Kenna was in her ‘resting’ period. A low grade fever and cough had taken away her basketball practice and her gymnastics class. She was on the couch with a good book and a kitten curled up at her neck… and I filled up her belly with this beautiful “Love Soup”.

Quinoa Love Soup

Why “Quinoa Love Soup”? Because it’s a spin on a traditional italian wedding soup – but without bread crumbs and pasta, and with the addition of quinoa. (I also don’t go through the step of pre-cooking the meatballs or adding egg to the soup. My recipe is quicker and simpler, but doesn’t compromise on flavor.) And, can I just tell you: it’s light, savory, and chalk full of nourishing and healing ingredients. Your bones will love you for it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 pound of ground hamburger (NOTE: I buy hamburger with 20% fat because it has better flavor than the lower fat options.)
  • 3/4 pound of seasoned italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced and smashed with a fork
  • 8 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 head of escarole, washed and chopped into 1″ strips (NOTE: You’ll have to find this at a local grocery store that offers a greater produce variety)
  • 3 large carrots, washed and peeled
  • 4 cups of pre-cooked quinoa
  • fresh grated parmesan (for garnish) (NOTE: The taste of fresh grated parmesan is totally different that parmesan out of a can. Do yourself a favor and ditch the canned parmesan… your taste buds will thank you)
  1. Make meatballs: Blend together the hamburger and the italian sausage and form into small 1″ balls. Place finished meatballs in a single layer on a plate. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large soup pot and add 1/4 cup EVOO to pan. Sauté your onions and garlic until onions are translucent, stirring constantly so that garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. With your stove on high, add broth to the pot and slowly drop uncooked meatballs in. Once broth comes to a rapid boil, reduce heat, cover pot, and cook for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Add in chopped escarole and, with a large spoon, push all greens down into the broth so they begin to wilt. Then, take your carrots and create carrot ribbons by peeling the carrots directly into the soup. Cover and cook another 3-5 minutes on medium high.
  5. Turn off heat. Add in your cooked quinoa.
  6. (NOTE: If you need more “soupiness”, you can add additional water one cup at a time.)
  7. Ladle finished soup into bowls and top with fresh grated parmesan and black pepper.

Warmth for your bones… and your spirit

It’s an easy winner. I promise…

Rebel on,
Elisha