Swedish meatballs are such a retro potluck throwback, they are simply rolling in ironic hipness. Meaty, tender, juicy, sweet and sour, they are addictively easy to spear with a toothpick and pop one after another at a party. That's why I love to serve them at my Oscar party.
But I do it with a difference. There are countless recipes for Swedish meatballs, but most aren't all that diet-friendly. Most varieties pack nearly 74 calories and more than 4 grams of fat per meatball. I knew I could do better. So I mixed and matched to come up with a lighter, healthier version of this popular appetizer.
I cut the fat by using extra-lean ground turkey breast, 96 percent lean ground beef sirloin, low-sodium (and fat-free) chicken broth, olive oil cooking spray and evaporated fat-free milk (traditional recipes call for heavy cream).
Then I stirred in just enough puffed brown rice, egg white and arrowroot (a cornstarch-like thickener) to hold everything together. The result is a delicious meatball with 37 calories and less than a gram of fat per meatball.
Swedish meatballs traditionally are accompanied by lingonberry preserve, which is both hard to find and loaded with sugar. Instead, I used no-sugar spiced cranberry sauce, and I was good to go.
Tip: If you can't find Steel's Gourmet Cranberry Sauce (my preferred brand) you can make your own. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/2 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened whole cranberries, 1/4 cup water, 3 packets of stevia sweetener, 1 tablespoon agave nectar and a pinch of salt. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then microwave on high until the cranberries pop and the mixture boils, about 2 minutes. Carefully remove the plastic wrap and mash the mixture with a fork or potato masher to make a chunky cranberry sauce.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
Makes 20 meatballs
8 ounces extra-lean ground turkey breast
6 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef
2/3 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 egg white
2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
Red pepper flakes
1/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
Olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup no-sugar spiced cranberry sauce (such as Steel's Gourmet)
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the turkey breast and ground beef and mix gently.
3. In a blender, combine 1/3 cup of the chicken broth, the onion and egg white. Blend until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add the puffed rice and blend to make a thick paste.
4. Add the egg mixture to the meats, then season with salt and red pepper flakes as desired. Divide the mixture into 20 even mounds, using about 1 tablespoon each. Shape each into a ball using slightly wet hands to help prevent sticking.
5. Coat a large nonstick saute pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Working in batches if necessary, once the pan is hot add the meatballs, leaving about 1/2-inch space between them. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned on the bottoms. Roll the meatballs onto the other side and brown evenly, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan.
6. Add the remaining chicken broth to the pan and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix the evaporated milk with the arrowroot, then stir into the chicken broth. Cook and stir for about 10 seconds, then return the meatballs to the pan, then place pan in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
7. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter. Insert short skewers into each meatball. Set the saute pan over medium heat and cook the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs and serve with the cranberry sauce.
Nutrition information per meatball (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 37 calories; 1 g fat (12 percent of calories from fat) (0 g saturated); 10 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 0 g fiber; 68 mg sodium.