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High Protein Low Fat Meatball Sandwiches

Posted Jan 26 2012 11:12pm
For most of us time can be an issuewhen it comes to dinner. We either don’t plan ahead, or  if you’re like me in most cases when I planahead things change and so does my ability to prepare dinner. In an effort tothwart off any urge to “grab something quick and easy” I try to remain flexibleand look at the main ingredients in my planned meal to see if they can bechanged into something quicker and easier to prepare.
So these tasty meatball sandwicheswere originally going to be a hearty meatloaf! But as I said things change… Ihad a plan, and it included dropping the kids off at school, hitting the gym, cominghome to do some work around the house and get our meatloaf ready to go fordinner. But instead my day went something like this: got the kids up, madebreakfast for everyone, did a load of laundry, got the kids dressed and tookcare of the dog. We managed to get out the door on time, which on most days isa miracle; I dropped my daughter off at school at 7:50. I then doubled back todrop my son off at preschool, because of course, even though preschool is convenientlyon the way to my daughters elementary school the preschool  program doesn’t begin until 8:30am UGG… Okdropped my son at preschool and drove to the gym. Did I mention the gym isexactly halfway between the two schools I just drove to, so yes I turned aroundand drove back down the same road again to the gym! So at this point I havedriven 6 miles, on only 2 main roads in 45 min. OK at the gym, happily puttingin my ear buds and getting my run on to a cool mix of Beyonce, ChristinaAguilera and Eve (don’t judge me!). I am 3 miles into a 6 mile run and then Ihear the all too familiar ding-ding tone on my phone that lets me know when Ihave an upcoming appointment. Panic-SO what did I forget…my son’s follow updoctor appointment in 45 min, 36 miles across town! My fault, I forgot and nowI’m a sweaty mess who is going to be LATE!
We made it to the doctor, on time,and all was well. But now my day was changed. I was now driving the 36 milesback home, to pick up my daughter who has early-out teacher work days once perweek, gotta love that, and there would be no time for making and cooking themeatloaf that was planned for the pound of lean ground beef in my frig… Ishould also mention that this day was “gymnastics day”, the day where both ofmy children attend gymnastics classes 20 miles away in the next town for 4hours! So typically on this day I have a make ahead meal ready for my husbandto pop in the oven, or I have something prepped and ready for him to cook forus. This day of course we were supposed to have an already cooked meatloafready to reheat in the oven. So now the race is on we have exactly 30 min fromthe time we enter the door to get everything ready to hit the gym, changeclothes, snacks, water bottles etc… and of course what about dinner? I love myhusband to death, but I have learned in almost 11 years of marriage he has hislimits and coming up with an idea for dinner from scratch is not his forte. Sodinner prep went something like this: My daughter was getting dressed in herleotard, in the great room, while I was spouting off spelling words to her fromthe kitchen so she could practice for her upcoming spelling test, my 4 year oldson was busy making the snack bag for the gym (not my best delegation idea aswe ended up with some unconventional snacks in the bag, like a pack of gum anda baggie full of dry black beans…he tried!) and I was turning my meatloaf intolittle bite-sized meatballs to make sandwiches with. I thought well I can useall of the same ingredients and make them small enough to cook quickly! I mixedthe meat, rolled the meatballs and covered and refrigerated them for my hubbyto pop in the oven when he got home. I sliced up some onions and peppers,tossed them with a little drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and tucked themaway in the fridge before we headed out the door and down the hill. When wewalked in the door that evening the house smelled as if something had beencooking for hours! I opened a jar of my homemade tomatosauce and heated it up with some fresh herbs, sliced a whole wheat baguette andquickly sautéed my already prepped veggies. We assembled the sandwiches anddinner was on the table within 15 min of our walking in the door! We didn’thave any mozzarella to top off the sandwiches so I used two low fat part skimmilk cheese sticks my kids eat as snacks. I just grated them with the boxgrater and voila- a tasty, quick, healthy meal for dinner, no takeout required!My crazy schedule these days istypically due to my kiddos, but there was a day not so long ago that included12-14 hours work days plus kids activities etc. And BK (before kids) I wasknown to work even longer hours at the office! I have always worked hard andmade it a priority to eat healthy homemade food, and now it’s more of apriority than ever to ensure my children are eating this way. I like to usewhole oats in my meatballs, meatloaf and even burgers vs. breadcrumbs. You getmore texture and higher fiber and protein when you use a whole grain. I havealso successfully used leftover brown rice, quinoa or cous cous as a substitutefor breadcrumbs. I make my own tomato sauce during the summer and can or freezeit, but feel free to use canned or jarred sauce. If you do, just check thelabel and chose something free of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup andadded vitamins and antioxidants, tomatoes are full of nutrients without addinganything extra. You can also make a quick tomato sauce from a can of crushedtomatoes; I’ll include a recipe below. If whipping up the tomato sauce provesto be one step to many on a hectic day forget it and take the meatball recipe,turn them into burgers top with the sautéed veggies and serve with a quicksalad. You can even make the meat mixture the night before and refrigerate it tosave time!The Meatballs:1 lb 95% lean ground beef (sometimes I use 93% ifit’s on sale, but never anything higher in fat than that)1/4 cup rolled oats1 large egg white1 tbsp tomato paste1 tbsp fresh minced herbs (I like rosemary andthyme)1 ½ tsp kosher salt1/2 tsp ground black pepper1-2 cloves garlic, mincedOlive oil spray (a drizzle of olive oil spread tocoat with a basting brush will work if you don’t have a misto)2-3cups tomato sauce 1/2 medium sweet bell pepper (red, yellow or orange),cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-widestrips  1 whole-wheatbaguette or whole wheat rolls1)      Preheatoven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine beef, oats, egg white, tomato paste,fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic. Line a baking sheet with foil andspray or brush lightly with olive oil. Form meatball mixture into 1.5-inchballs, this will yield approximately 30 meatballs. Place meatballs on bakingsheet, with a space between each meatball. Bake in the oven until done, approximatly15-20min.2)      Whilemeatballs are cooking make or warm tomato sauce and sauté veggies.3)      Removemeatballs from oven and add to sauce pan with tomato sauce. Coat meatballs withsauce.The Quick Tomato Sauce:1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh minced herbs (thyme, oregano and rosemary) OR
½ tablespoon dried herbs (thyme and oregano)
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
dash of balsamic vinegar1)     Warm oil in a med sauce pan, add garlicand sauté for 1-2 min until fragrant-do not brown garlic2)     Add herbs to garlic sauté for 30 seconds3)     Add the can of crushed tomatoes andsimmer for 5 min4)     Add a dash of balsamic vinegar andadjust salt and pepper to taste. Sautéed Onions andSweet Peppers:2 tbsp olive oil1-2 cloves garlic,thinly sliced1/2 mediumsweet bell pepper (red, yellow or orange), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-widestrips 1)      Warmoil on med-high heat in a med sauté pan2)      Addonions and sweet peppers sauté until translucent, about 5 min sprinkle lightlywith kosher salt3)      Addsliced garlic and sauté another 5 min until all veggies are soft andtranslucent4)      Transferto a warm bowl To Assemble:1)     Slice baguette into 4 sections, and thenslice each section in half horizontally. Tear out a bit of bread from themiddle of each section to make room for the meatballs, this also cuts back onunwanted calories. If desired toast bread under a hot broiler for 1 minuteuntil crisp.2)     Open up each piece of toasted bread,place 3-5 meatballs per sandwich. Top with sautéed veggies and a lightsprinkling of grated low fat part skim milk mozzarella. Top sandwich with theother half of the bread and serve with a nice green salad. Enjoy!
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