The Birth of Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy

 Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy came to be out of two separate events in my life. My youngest son loved to cook with me. At an early age he declared he wanted to open a restaurant when he was older, called "Tyler's Yummy in Your Tummy" He never did open that restaurant but I loved the name and decided to use it for my Blog on Cooking and Recipes.



 "Ollie" replaced the name "Tyler" in the title simply because that same son suggested the nickname Ollie when my first grandchild was born. My middle name is Olive after my Grandmother, and I became Grandma Ollie to my grandchildren. And thus Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy was born!



 This blog will be a collection of recipes - family, my own, and any others I can find in my collection. I've been cooking for almost 50 years - having started as a pre-teen. In Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy I'll share my favourite recipes, tips and techniques with you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Healthy Kid Friendly Spaghetti Squash with Vegetable-Meat Meatballs over Spaghetti Noodles

A few days ago I made this amazing dinner of spaghetti squash plus vegatable-meat meatballs on top of spaghetti. It sounds odd but it was really good. 

The best part? It is super healthy and you are hiding the fact that there are vegetables in the meatballs if you have fussy eaters.
 

Hubs and I like our vegetables so when I made this I left the vegetables that are in the meatballs chunky rather than pureed completely. But you can puree them with no difference in flavour in the final dish.

Let me walk you through this yummy healthy meal! For busy moms this is perfect because I"m going to show you how to cook much of it ahead of time, freeze the layers separately and then defrost, assemble and heat for 30 minutes.

Ready for oven
Step 1: Take a spaghetti squash, cut it in half, remove seeds, brush with olive oil and sea salt, put it on a tin foil covered baking sheet and roast it in a 375' oven for about 45 minutes. 

Squash done
When it is cool use a fork to remove the strands of squash. If they don't come out looking like spaghetti don't worry about it! Mine came out in clumps but that is okay. 

Set the squash aside. You will either freeze this in an airtight container for later use or start assembling the layers if you are making the dish for today's dinner. 

Marinara Sauce + Cooked Squash
First Layer: Put a thin layer of Marinara Sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish then add the squash innards that you removed with a fork. 

I make my own Marinara sauce but you can buy decent ready-made Marinara in most grocery stores. 

 





Step 2: Now you are ready to make the meatballs. 





You need the following ingredients for the meatballs:




1 package of ground beef (about 1 lb)
1 package of ground pork (about 1 lb)
1 medium size carrot, peeled
1 medium size onion, peeled
2 medium stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley (optional)
2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano 
1 tsp. fine herbes 
2 tsp. ground flax seed (this is the super healthy hidden part!)

Using either your blender or food processor, pulse the carrot, onion, celery, basil, oregano and garlic until you have a paste-like substance. I left mine chunkier and we liked it but it is your choice.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the vegetable paste, beef, pork, eggs, parsley, basil, fine herbes, oregano, cheese and breadcrumbs. Use your hands and dig in! 




Meatballs ready for the oven
Using an ice cream scoop, form the meat mixture into balls. It makes about 30 2-inch balls. Place the meatballs on a parchment covered baking tray and bake in a 375' oven for about 10 minutes. 

You are not cooking them until done, you are just cooking them enough that they don't fall apart when you go to the next step. 

Step 3:

Next I put the meatballs and my Marinara sauce (about 2 - 3 cups) in my slow cooker. I set it to LOW and let it cook for about 2 hours. Use your meat thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 160'F. 

You can also simmer on low heat on top of your stove but I prefer the slow cooker method for slow easy heat. 


Meatballs out of oven

Meatballs in Marinara Sauce in slow cooker done
Now comes the fun part. You create your layers in a casserole dish and bake it in a 350' oven for 30 minutes. 

You already made your first layer of Marinara Sauce then the cooked Spaghetti Squash. 

Next layer:  put in about 1/4 to 1/3 of your Meatballs (depending on the size of your family) I used 6 of my 30 meatballs for my husband and I, plus about 1/4 of my slow cooker juices. Then I sprinkled about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese on top.

I froze the rest of the meatballs and sauce in 4 portions of 6 meatballs each. That will give us 4 more suppers. 

While your casserole dish is in the oven, make your spaghetti noodles the usual way. 

When my casserole dish of the squash and meatballs was heated through and the cheese melted, I placed the spaghetti noodles on our plates and topped them with the meatball-squash casserole dish. 

 
Make a small salad with this and you've got one heck of a healthy meal that kids will love!

It was incredibly tasty and the best part for anyone with fussy husbands or fussy kids who turn up their noses at vegetables or healthy foods -- you hid celery, carrots, squash and flax seed in an all-time favourite of spaghetti and meatballs! They won't notice the taste of the squash although they will probably wonder what it is. Don't tell them.

If you decide you want to cook the ingredients and freeze for future meals, I would freeze the squash separately from the Meatball Marinara mixture. Then defrost and assemble them as a casserole and bake for 30 minutes as directed above. 

Tip: You can also make your spaghetti noodles ahead of time and freeze them. I do that all the time for my Minestrone soup pasta. When I pull out a cup size portion of my soup from the freezer I don't want to make 8 pieces of pasta so I also have my portion sizes of pasta pre-cooked and frozen in small ziplock bags.

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