I’ve had many requests from busy moms for healthy, quick weeknight dinners and this has been one of my favorite recipes since Wyatt was born. I’m sure many of you can agree that the slow cooker becomes life after procreating. Some of the keys to getting dinner on the table after delivery are freezer meals, weekend (or naptime) prep sessions and planning ahead as much as life allows. It is so easy to fall into a take-out rut when you are sleep deprived, so having bags of ready-to-go healthy meals are key to shedding the baby weight and fueling your body with good stuff so you can take care of your offspring.
When time allows, I try to prep several different meals ahead of time, including these Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs. Since I have gestational diabetes, I try to go easy on the carbs at dinner since my blood sugar tends to spike at night if I am not careful. I’ve also paired this with pasta and a nice salad. Grab a whole wheat bun and you’ve got turkey meatball sliders. These meatballs even make a great game day app (just make them smaller, or not!)
The ingredients for the meatballs are pretty standard – egg, seasoned breadcrumbs, grated cheese and some pepper. I love the Trader Joe’s combo of Pecorino and parmesan cheeses since they melt so nicely in the meat. I forego salt in lieu of the cheese. To switch things up and add lots of flavor, the pesto is the perfect add-in to season the bland lean turkey. A small dollop of pesto in the tomato sauce adds a slow cooked homemade flavor without all the fuss. To be honest, I do not typically measure the mixture of ingredients, but I got the perfect proportion down for all of you to recreate. The oil content of your pesto and the size of your egg can definitely change the meatball consistency…you do not want the mixture sticking to your hands. There should be enough breadcrumbs so they roll easily without tons of residue leftover. Add a little more breadcrumbds if need be. If they are too soft they will break up in the crock pot. After a few times you’ll master what works for you. Just be sure to write it down when you do!
(for the meatballs)
- 1 lb lean ground turkey
- 1 large egg
- pinch of fresh ground pepper
- 1/3 Trader Joe’s parmesan & Pecorino cheese blend
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs (Italian or garlic work great)
- 1/4 cup favorite pesto
(for the sauce)
- 28 ounce can of Tuttorosso tomato puree or sauce
- 2 tablespoons of pesto
(for the spaghetti squash)
- 1 spaghetti squash
- olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- Line your slow cooker with a Reynold’s slow cooker liner. Best invention ever for easy clean up!
- Pour the can of tomatos in the bottom of the crock pot. Throw in a few tablespoons of your pesto.
- Combine all the meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl. Roll your desired size meatballs and lay in the sauce. Try to avoid having the meatballs touch the sides of the slow cooker to achieve even cooking.
- Do not stir yet because you will break the raw meatballs.
- Place lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. About halfway through you can gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to evenly coat all sides in the sauce.
**If you are prepping the meatballs ahead of time, roll them out and gently place them raw in a freezer bag. When you are ready, simply complete steps 1, 2, 4, and 5. I would not suggest storing the meatballs in the sauce in the freezer.
Directions for the spaghetti squash:
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Line a baking tray with tin foil.
- Cut the spaghetti squash length-wise in half.
- Scoop out the seeds and discard,
- Drizzle or brush on some olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Sometimes I use a little garlic powder too.
- Place cut (flesh) side down on the baking tray.
- Bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your squash.
- **Be super careful turning the squash over after it comes out the oven. Steam builds up inside and can burn you!
- Once slightly cooled, scoop out the spaghetti-like insides with a fork and serve as you would spaghetti. Top with the sauce and meatballs along with a dusting of cheese.
What are your favorite go-to healthy weeknight dinner recipes?