Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Weeknight Meatballs

The large size of these meatballs prevents them from becoming overcooked in the oven- genius. I also loved the store-bought marinara shortcut. We ate them with an entire loaf of sourdough baguette garlic bread which was essential. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used ground turkey and modified the proportions. Easy and delicious comfort food. Everyone absolutely loved it!

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings, about 12 to 14 meatballs
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups panko
  • 3/4 cup milk or water
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs ground turkey or ground beef (20% fat) (or other ground meat)(I used 1 2/3 pounds ground turkey)
  • warm homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (I used 28 oz jar of Rao’s marinara)
  • basil leaves, chiffonade or torn, for serving
  1. Place rack in top third of oven; preheat to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly brush a large rimmed baking sheet with oil.
  3. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, vigorously stir eggs, panko, milk, salt, garlic powder, several cranks of pepper, Parmesan, and remaining 3 T oil in a medium bowl until nearly a smooth paste.
  4. Mix in one quarter of meat (combining just a small amount of meat in the beginning makes it easier to incorporate the rest without overmixing).
  5. Add remaining meat and mix well to thoroughly combine, but don’t overwork it.
  6. Using oiled hands or a large cookie scoop, form into 12 to 14 large meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers 160°, 4–7 minutes.
  8. Divide meatballs among plates and spoon some sauce over. Alternatively, warm the sauce in a large, shallow pan and place the meatballs into the sauce.
  9. Top with basil and more Parmesan.

Chile Chicken Nachos

One of my friends has been trying to convince me to make nachos for dinner for quite some time. My kids (who were well aware of this suggestion) were so deprived, they have ordered nachos on several occasions as an entrée when we’ve indulged at a Mexican restaurant. 😉

When I saw this recipe for “party nachos,” I thought that I could (and should) serve them for dinner! Crazy? Nope. My kids were thrilled. After all, nachos are a sheet-pan dinner. This version uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut too.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Rick Martinez. I scaled down the proportions. However, I did prepare the full recipe for the rotisserie chicken and sauce, keeping half to use for tacos, etc., on another occasion.

The bottom layer was reminiscent of a enchilada pie, or taco or enchilada skillet meal- other weeknight favorites over here. The rotisserie chicken meat is coated with a fabulous, full-flavored sauce. This sauce brings these nachos to the next level. I loved all of the toppings too. Very cheesy.

When not being served for dinner, these nachos would also be a great appetizer or snack, of course.

Yield: Serves about 6

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 T achiote paste or tomato paste
  • 8 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded (I substituted 2 ancho chilies plus 4 guajillo chiles)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (or 1 T adobo sauce to keep things mild)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bones and shredded
  • 1 10-oz bag frozen corn, thawed, drained
  • 1/2 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, chopped
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1/2 cup) or finely grated Cotija cheese (about 1 cup)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 8 to 10-oz tortilla chips
  • 1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • thinly sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, avocado cubes, and pickled jalapeños, for serving, as desired
  • sour cream, for serving, as desired
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high until shimmering.
  2. Cook garlic and half of onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Stir in achiote paste/tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until brick red, about 1 minute.
  4. Add dried chiles, chipotle chile, stock, cumin, and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until chiles are very soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Place a rack in the center of oven; preheat to 350°, preferably on convection.
  6. Transfer chile mixture to a blender and purée until smooth.
  7. Return to saucepan, stir in chicken, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; season with salt. Remove from heat; set chicken aside until ready to assemble. (Reserve half of this saucy chicken for another use; only half is needed for the nachos.)
  8. Meanwhile, toss corn, chopped poblano chile, half of the feta/Cotija cheese, and remaining onion in a medium bowl until combined; season with salt.
  9. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  10. Arrange half of the chips in an even layer on the bottom of the baking sheet.
  11. Top with half of the reserved chicken mixture, half of the corn mixture, and half of the cheddar.
  12. Repeat layers with remaining chips, chicken mixture, corn mixture, and cheddar.
  13. Bake nachos, rotating pan halfway through, until cheese is melted and edges of chips are beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes.
  14. Serve topped with radishes, cilantro, avocado, pickled jalapeños, remaining feta/Cotija cheese, sour cream, and other desired toppings alongside.

Do Ahead: Nachos can be assembled 1 hour before baking. Cover with plastic and store at room temperature.

Double Mustard Sheet-Pan Chicken with Potatoes and Greens

I have a couple sheet-pan dinners to share. Cooking an entire meal on one sheet pan may be the ultimate method for easy back to school dinners. Love it.

This dish uses Dijon mustard in the marinade and whole grain mustard in the dressing. Perfect for all of the mustard chicken fans in my house.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, reduced the oil, and substituted my beautiful CSA arugula for the frisée. We ate it with Ritzy Summer-Squash Casserole. Great.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Chicken Marinade & Potatoes:

  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2 lbs total), patted dry (I used 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 rosemary sprigs

For the Dressing & To Serve:

  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 to 8 cups arugula, 1 small head of frisée, or 1/2 small head of escarole, trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  1. Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Whisk Dijon mustard, 2 T honey, and 1 T olive oil in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Season chicken on all sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Transfer to bowl with honey mustard and toss to coat. (I marinated the chicken for 4 hours in the refrigerator.)
  4. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with remaining 2 T olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and remaining 1/2 tsp pepper.
  5. Arrange chicken, “skin side” down, in the center of the sheet pan; discard excess marinade.
  6. Arrange potatoes around outside of pan in an even layer, then turn cut side down (this will help them brown better). Arrange rosemary over potatoes.
  7. Roast until chicken, flipping over to “skin side” up after 15 minutes, and potatoes are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes for boneless, skinless thighs or up to 30–40 minutes for bone-in meat.
  8. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk garlic, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, olive oil, honey, and salt in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning, to taste.
  9. Divide greens and parsley among plates, drizzle with dressing, then top with chicken and potatoes. Drizzle additional dressing over chicken and potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley, as desired.

Do Ahead: Chicken can be marinated 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Sourdough Mozzarella Grandma Pizza Pie

This is a sourdough version of one our favorite pizzas. When we order a pizzeria pizza, it is almost always a Grandma pie. The sauce makes it extra delicious.

This pillowy crust is absolutely perfect for a Grandma pie. I have made it several times now, and have used the crust for classic homemade pies as well. I was able to shape the dough into either form extremely easily just using my fingertips.

The crust recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I incorporated white whole wheat flour and modified the technique and baking temperature. The sauce is from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alfia Muzio, and is included in my Classic Grandma Pie post. According to the original recipe, this crust is also delicious with bold toppings and well-aged cheeses.

I included some active dry yeast in the crust, but plan to try it without, using fed sourdough starter instead of unfed, now that my sourdough starter is really active. The crust can also be made with sourdough discard.

I have made the dough two hours prior to baking the pizza, but the dough can be made a day in advance and put in the refrigerator to rise overnight. I also doubled the recipe on a few occasions to try various toppings (and to have leftovers!).

Yield: One Grandma Pie (half sheet pan) or Two 12-inch round Thin-Crust Pies

(Double the recipe to make Two Grandma Pies or Three 14-inch round Classic Pies)

For the Pizza Crust & Toppings:

  1. Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
  2. Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500°F. (I heat a baking stone in the bottom of the oven.)
  5. For a thicker, large pizza- a Grandma Pie, oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan. Place the dough in the selected pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back. (For two thin-crust pizzas, divide the dough in half, and shape each into a flattened disk. Drizzle two 12″ round pizza pans with olive oil, and brush to coat the bottom. (I used a pizza peel and pizza stone to make classic pizzas instead.) Place the dough in the pans, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
  6. Cover the pan(s) and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the toppings.)
  7. While the dough is rising, make the sauce. (see recipe below)
  8. Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Add any additional toppings, if desired.
  9. Bake the Grandma Pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 15–30 minutes. (Bake traditional pies for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.)

Note: Store leftover pizza covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For the Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce:

  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay).
  2. Season with salt and pepper.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes & Pancetta

Full-flavored sheet pan dinners are a dream. I loved that this one was seasoned with smoked paprika- it has such a fabulous depth of flavor. The “jammy” roasted tomatoes were sweet and delicious. I served the chicken and sauce over a bed of brown Basmati rice to soak up every last drop.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated broccoli florets and increased the amount of garlic. In addition to rice, I served this dish with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. Wonderful.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 10 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • 1 T sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (preferably different colors), halved
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, optional
  • 2 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh dill, parsley or other herbs, for serving (I used cilantro)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Season chicken all over with salt, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Smash all the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and peel them.
  4. Finely grate two of the garlic cloves into a small bowl. Stir in the 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, oregano, brown sugar, and cumin. Pour over chicken, tossing to coat.
  5. Add tomatoes, broccoli florets (if using) and remaining smashed, peeled garlic cloves to baking sheet, spreading them out around the chicken. Season tomatoes and broccoli lightly with salt and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  6. Scatter pancetta on top.
  7. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir the tomatoes and pancetta, but don’t disturb the chicken.
  8. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  9. Stir the tomatoes, broccoli, and pancetta around in the pan, scraping up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom and sides, and stir in the herbs and black pepper to taste.
  10. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you like.
  11. Place a bed of rice on a platter, if desired. Transfer the reserved chicken to the platter.
  12. Spoon tomatoes, broccoli, garlic and pancetta over the chicken to serve.

Sheet Pan Za’atar Chicken with Garlicky Yogurt

Yes! I have many more weeknight chicken dishes to share. This one uses the genius technique of incorporating pan juices to create an incredible sauce with za’atar, coriander, and citrus.

This wonderful dish was reminiscent of a deconstructed gyro. It would also be incredible served with tomatoes, cucumbers and naan or pita. I served it with green salad, roasted potatoes, and asparagus.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Aaron Crowder, Katie Jackson, and Nick Perkins. I used a sheet pan, substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in, and modified the proportions in the sauce. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2½ lbs total)
  • 1 or2 medium red onions, cut into 1″-thick wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lemons, quartered, seeds removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (2% Greek yogurt also okay)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 T za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest or 1/2 T lemon juice (can use the juice of a roasted lemon wedge, if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest or 1/2 T lime juice
  • sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, for serving, optional
  • warm naan or pita, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 325°, preferably on convection.
  2. Pat chicken meat dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon on a rimmed sheet pan or in a 13×9″ baking dish; season liberally with salt and pepper (remember to season both sides of chicken).
  3. Pour in oil and toss everything to coat.
  4. Turn garlic cut side down and nestle it in so it is in contact with the baking dish.
  5. Roast, “skin side down,” rotating pan halfway through, for 20 minutes if using boneless meat. Roast until meat is almost falling off the bone (if using bone-in meat), 50–60 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a big pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. water and mix well. Set aside yogurt sauce.
  7. Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. If using boneless, skinless meat, flip the chicken meat to roast on the opposite side.
  8. Increase oven temperature to 425° and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more.
  9. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.
  10. Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, lemon zest or juice, and lime zest or juice.
  11. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you’ve reached an oily consistency (about 3T). Mix in a pinch of salt.
  12. Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken on top. (Alternatively, if serving the chicken with flatbread, the yogurt can be served on the side.)
  13. Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon around the chicken; drizzle with za’atar oil.
  14. Serve with flatbread, cucumbers and tomatoes, if desired.

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