Sneaking veggies in

28 Sep

Unlike a lot of people, my husband loves vegetables. His bona fide favorite food is asparagus. He likes vegetables so much that when we go to Panda Express and, in an effort to not eat a 1500 calorie meal, order a side of steamed vegetables instead of rice or chow mein, he doesn’t even mix the veggies with the sauce from his entree. He says he likes the way they taste (with no seasoning or anything!), but that’s just too much for me to handle.

I can eat a side of vegetables if they have a flavor besides a vegetable flavor, or a salad with a strong dressing. Plain old steamed veggies, though? Bleh.

So I usually add vegetables to an already made dish, like grape tomatoes into pasta. Sometimes, though, it has to be more creative than that and more sneaky, like this recipe for meatballs that are half zucchini:

Source: Iowa Girl Eats

Here is Iowa Girl’s recipe:

Sneaky Meatball Subs

Serves 5 – I made enough to serve 2


1 small zucchini – I still used 1 whole zucchini because I wanted my meatballs to be half zucchini and half meat

1/4 small onion (red or white) – I used the same amount for 2 people because I like a lot of onion in everything

4 garlic cloves – And garlic. Love love garlic. 

1lb ground turkey – I used only half a pound (half of one freezer pack). We buy ground turkey in bulk and separate it into 1/4 pound packages which is the perfect amount to add into spaghetti or taco soup for 2 people. 

1 egg white – This is important to help the meatball stick together. If you don’t have an egg white separator, you can do it with the shell.

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt – I almost always add in more salt and pepper than a recipe calls for. I don’t think people understand how little 1/2 teaspoon is! That’s hardly even a pinch. 

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs – Gives the meatballs volume and helps them stick together

5 hot dog buns – We only used two but of course you can’t buy just two. We got Sara Lee’s multigrain buns. 

1 cup marinara sauce – I just eyeballed it.

5oz mozzarella – This was way too much. I tried slicing the cheese thinner (she does 1 oz. slices – holy cow!) I think a small handful of grated mozzarella cheese would be better, and less calories, and less gooey (this is coming from someone who doesn’t like gooey, though). 


1. Grate the zucchini, onion and garlic in a food processor with the grating blade attached, then remove the contents to a separate bowl. Alternatively you could use a box cheese grater for the zucchini and onion, and finely mince the garlic. (I just chopped everything up as tiny as I could and put it in my food processer). Attach a non-sharp S-blade to the food processor then return the zucchini mixture to the processing bowl.

2. Add the ground turkey, egg white, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs to the food processor then pulse to combine. Alternatively, use your hands to mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees then place a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet, and spray generously with non-stick spray. Shape turkey mixture into 15 meatballs, using ~2 Tablespoons of the mixture per meatball (I used an ice cream scoop to get the sizes right). Place onto the wire rack (I put them on a pan lined with tin foil and they did stick a tiny bit on the bottom but I don’t have a wire rack) and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until no longer pink the center.

4. Turn the oven to broil, then open up the hotdog buns and place three cooked meatballs in the center. Spoon marinara sauce on top of the meatballs, then top with 1oz mozzarella cheese per sub (or a small amount of grated cheese if you don’t like gooey). Broil until the sauce is warm, and cheese is golden brown.

5. To freeze & reheat leftover meatballs: Cool cooked meatballs completely then place the baking sheet into the freezer until meatballs are frozen solid, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Place into a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. To reheat, microwave for 4-5 minutes, or place onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.


I wish we would have made more and frozen them to eat later because these turned out so good! The buns got mushy on the inside and kind of fell apart so I recommend toasting them a bit first. There are actually a lot of ways to sneak vegetables into meals (zucchini is the most common I’ve seen). It’s very moist and when combined with stronger flavors is virtually impossible to taste. I see them most often in baked goods, such as brownies and cakes, but the possibilities are endless.

What vegetables could you sneak into your meals?


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