Mediterranean Meatballs with Brown Rice & Tahini Sauce

In the midst of the season’s hustle and bustle, it’s important for me to pause for moments of rest and refreshment. To soak in the treasure of this time of year, to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend or to sit by the fire with a good book gives me perspective and room to breath. That’s why I loved the article over at Lark and Bloom on Breathing. Take a minute in your day to read and be refreshed.

This meal is a pause and a break for me. A tangy, flavor mix up from normal holiday foods. Don’t get me wrong, I love garlicky spiced crackers and hot chocolate and sugar cookies, but mid week between Christmas parties and dinners, I’m craving something fresh, healthy and bright. Plus I find that I feel a lot better about eating an extra dark chocolate truffle at a party if I’ve been eating healthy during the week.

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My favorite flavor profile is definitely Mediterranean. How can you go wrong with lemons and garlic and olive oil? After college and before marriage, I lived with some dear family friends. Every Thursday I cooked dinner for them and upon entering the kitchen their oldest, Hudson, would always ask: “Jill, is there garlic in this?” The answer was always yes. Hey, it’s heart healthy!

I used toasted pumpkin seeds in the meatballs instead of pine nuts as the original recipe called for. I love pumpkin seeds because they are inexpensive but pack the same deep, nutty flavor. The leftovers are great stuffed into pita bread or covered in hummus. I hope you try this and enjoy it; afterwards make a cup of Nutella Hot Chocolate to keep you in the Christmas spirit.

Mediterranean Meatballs with Brown Rice & Tahini Sauce

Serves 4

Adapted from the recipe for Kofta b’siniyah from “Jerusalem: a Cookbook”

Ingredients:

2 cups brown Basmati rice or regular brown rice, cooked according to package directions

2/3 cup tahini paste (found in most grocery stores, just ask!)

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup of room temp water

1 medium clove of garlic, minced

2 Tbsp olive oil

finely chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

1lb ground beef or lamb

1 small onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced

7 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds, finely chopped

2 teaspoons all-spice

1 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup feta cheese

3 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp chopped green onion

To Make:

Cook brown rice according to package directions. This takes about 40 minutes, so make sure to plan ahead!

Using your hands mix together ground beef, chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, pumpkin seeds, all spice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Shape meat into round balls, pressing together so it is compact and keeps its shape. Place on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook them.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; if needed, add one to two tablespoons of water.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat, sear the meatballs on each side to get a nice golden brown color, about 5 minutes. Do this in batches so the meatballs are cramped together. Place them on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 4 minutes.

Remove meatballs from oven. Serve over brown rice, drizzling tahini sauce over top and sprinkle with capers, feta cheese, chopped parsley and green onion. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Eating with the Armstrongs

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Summer has provided some good eats for us with out-of-town guests, birthday celebrations, and the use of my favorite cooking method: the grill. We have greatly enjoyed all of the following recipes and will be making them again!

Key Lime Meringue Pie

Summer in a dessert. The airy meringue topping made this pie an over-the-top treat! My only change is that I made a graham cracker crust rather than the shortbread crust the recipe calls for. I just can’t get away from the fact that graham cracker crumbs + sugar + butter is the best thing on earth. Find the recipe for it on the back of any graham cracker box.

Dark Chocolate Pie with Almond Crust and Raspberry Compote (Vegan & Gluten Free)

In all honesty, when I hear “vegan and gluten free” for a dessert, the I think: “dry and tasteless” because it’s just hard to believe that the omission of flour, butter, and cream can be a good thing. But much to my delight (and health to my body) that’s actually not true and I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed several gluten free desserts lately. This pie is absolutely incredibly rich, smooth, and perfect. I made it for a birthday party and everyone raved. The recipe calls for strawberries, but I used raspberries because they are my favorite thing to pair with dark chocolate. Also, I didn’t have any vanilla, and really didn’t miss it, however, I will include it next time as I know it would only add another layer of flavor. The dark chocolate chips are melted with coconut milk and maple syrup for a creamy pie filling and the toasted almond pie crust is divine. My one other note is that I used the whole can of coconut milk rather than just the cream as the recipe calls for because I didn’t have time to chill it overnight, but the consistency was perfectly creamy. Please make this!

Zesty Lime, Shrimp & Avocado Salad

We made this for the Fourth of July and it is truly all things summery, flavor packed, and tasty. How can you go wrong with lime and avocado? I grilled my shrimp to add an extra note and also added black beans which made the salad less pretty but more filling.

Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice

Definitely a different flavor profile from the typical fried rice and one I gladly welcomed. Cooking the rice in pineapple juice and coconut milk provided a scrumptious sweetness that paired wonderfully with salty soy sauce sprinkled on top.

Greek Meatballs

We really enjoyed this version of meatballs. Rather than using lamb like the recipe calls for, I substituted ground beef. The inclusion of Bulgar wheat adds a nice crunch. I served this with my homemade hummus and a little salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil & feta topped with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Yum!

Yukon Gold & Sweet Mashed Potatoes

My friend Abigail introduced us to these a few months ago, and I’ve made them a couple times since as they are absolutely incredible! The sweet potatoes add a whole new element to the traditional mashed potatoes. They are great as the original recipe goes but I have also substituted sour cream instead of cream cheese with great success as well.

Happy July and Happy Eating!