Friday, March 18, 2011

Smoky Southwest Turkey Meatballs

Sometimes necessity really does breed invention.  Such was the case with these meatballs.  It started with a package of ground turkey a few days shy of its expiration date.  I needed to get this turkey out of the fridge and fast so the brainstorm began.  Turkey burgers?  Not tonight and besides, they are so much better when grilled outside on a perfect 70 degree evening, 2 puppies playing at our feet, and with my grill master away for the night, this was not that perfect 70 degree evening. A Greek twist?  Maybe another night.  Spaghetti and...?  Nope...not in the mood to make sauce.  Our old standby with soy sauce and lime (recipe will be forthcoming)? Nah...I needed something different.

Have you ever had one of those moments where, blinded by hunger, nothing sounds good?  I know it barely makes sense but it's precisely how I ended up staring into our pantry, bemused and befuddled by the litany of spices looking back at me and desperately seeking inspiration.  Nearly an hour later, after sorting through and reorganizing said spices I emerged with a brand new bottle of smoked paprika, some ancho chile powder and an idea for a smoky southwest inspired meatball.  So I was off to Fairway for some fresh produce and to spend an exorbitant amount of time perusing the cheese case.

The last time I got pulled into the vortex of a fresh cheese case, I discovered baked ricotta with chocolate chips.  I'm finding it hard to put into words just how delightful this cheese is, not because there isn't enough to say about it, but because words simply can't do it justice.  The texture is velvety and smooth like traditional ricotta, only firmer, yet not quite as firm as ricotta salata.  Slightly sweet, it dances over your tongue as it warms in your mouth and the chocolate chips begin to melt, perfuming the cheese with an almost tart butteriness. It's almost as if someone solidified the filling to the most perfect cannoli - I'm sorry, cannoli shells, but your crunchy services are no longer needed.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, on my way to Fairway, my intentions to gather a few quick items for my meatball experiment and then get lost in cheese (not too difficult for me, as I'm sure you've gathered).  What happened when I got there gave me pause.

I made my way through the produce section, filling my cart with organic citrus fruits (for zesting), fresh garlic (a gal can never have too much garlic), fresh herbs and a jalapeno and was on a clear path to the cheese when I found myself pushing my cart clear past the cheese, as if on auto-pilot, and heading for the spice aisle.  In case I didn't make it clear earlier, let me reiterate.  It took me just under an hour to sort and reorganize my spices.  Let's stop and reflect on that for a moment.  An hour!  I am fairly certain that most of you will tell me that I, undeniably, could not possibly need more spices and I would be inclined to agree with you.  Yet a half hour of examining Fairway's offerings yielded a star anise, fenugreek and Madagascan vanilla bean that I simply had to have! Side note: if you have a Fairway nearby, go!  Go and spend a half an hour in the spice aisle. You will be amazed.  This coming from a girl who indubitably needs a spice intervention.  I mean really, fenugreek?  Side side note: fenugreek is an ingredient in many curries.  We love curry so I figured why buy an already mixed curry powder when I have (almost) all the spices needed to make my own and besides, it's way more fun to play with the ratios and flavor profiles that subtle changes in spices can make.  But I digress...back to my meatballs.

Smoky Southwest Turkey Meatballs

1 1/4lb 93% lean ground turkey
1 egg
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup panko
1 seeded and deveined jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced onion
cooking oil spray

Cal: 177  Fat: 9g  Carb: 4g  Protein: 22g  Fiber: 1g  
Serves: 6

Preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all ingredients (except cooking oil spray) in a large bowl and mix well with your hands.

Form into 12 equally sized meatballs (each meatball should use approximately 1/4 cup of the mixture).  Line the toaster oven baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, spray with cooking oil spray and arrange your meatballs on the baking sheet in batches of 6.  Lightly spray the tops of each meatball with cooking oil spray and bake each batch for 15 min.

These can also be baked in mini loaf pans - super cute.  Just adjust your cooking time according to the size of your loaf pan (I used itty bitty loaf pans so I didn't need to adjust).

These meatballs pair really well with a cool, creamy dressing.  I made 2 versions of a buttermilk ranch dressing; one with and one without avocado.  Try them not only with the meatballs but also as a salad dressing or as a dip for fresh raw veggies or french fries.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Hellman's low fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1/4 tsp dill
1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp worchestershire sauce

Per tbsp: Cal: 9  Fat: 0.5g  Carb: 1g  Protein: 1g  Fiber: 0g 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.  Chill 30 min.

Avocado Ranch Dressing
Per tbsp: Cal: 18  Fat: 1g  Carb: 2g  Protein: 1g  Fiber: 0.5g 

Prepare ranch dressing as instructed above.  Before chilling, in a separate bowl, mash half of a small ripe avocado with a dash of lime juice.  Add to dressing and stir well. Chill 30 min.

I sliced 2 of my mini loaves and stuffed them into a multi-grain pita with romaine, thinly sliced tomatoes, a few slices of avocado and a couple tablespoons of the ranch dressing and made easy work of devouring it.  Yum!

Bon appetit!


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  3. This looks wonderful. I love the flavor you packed into your meatballs.

  4. @Briarrose - Thank you so very much!