Bolster the vitamins and flavor in a classic turkey meatball recipe with some butternut squash puree. The kids will never know! Thanks to General Mills for helping me share this recipe with you.
Here's the deal. My kids are pretty good eaters. When it comes to fruits and veggies, there is a pretty wide array that they will dig into and they will always try something at least once. Whether my husband, Steve, and I had something to do with this or they were just born that way, we thank our lucky stars that they have a pretty balanced diet. But when it comes to butternut squash or sweet potatoes, they stick up their noses.
Every day Steve and I witness the difficulties that parents face when their kids have a very restrictive diet. Yes, there are a couple of our friends who struggle with this with their kids, but it is something that we see regularly at work. You see, Steve and I work with kids diagnosed with autism, and many of the kids have food refusal issues that frustrate their parents to the point of tears. They wonder how their children will get the proper nutrients to grow and thrive.
Of course, this is not a problem specific to autism. Many children eat a limited selection of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
There are different schools of thought on slipping vegetables into kids' foods. Some ask, "Shouldn't we be teaching them to eat and appreciate the fresh form of the vegetable rather than sneaking it into food?"
The rebuttal is often, "If I can't get my kids to eat the vegetables, or it's going to take a long time to reach that place, what's the harm in bolstering some of our regular recipes with a dose of pureed vegetables?"
I understand both sides of the arguments. But for some of the kids we work with, it sometimes takes weeks or months for them to accept a new food. In the meantime, parents do their best to work pureed vegetables or fruits into smoothies or other recipes.
For our own boys, I would love for them to benefit from the vitamins in butternut squash, whether or not they are ready to eat our favorite Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Quinoa.
We are true-blue meatballs lovers in our house, so I decided to switch up one of our favorite meatball recipes by adding some butternut squash puree in the form of Veggie Blend-Ins, which is made from 100% pure butternut squash.
Could you simply make your own butternut squash puree and store it in the freezer? Of course you could. But I know that we all get bogged down in the day-to-day rush of work, school, activities...I get it. Sometimes a little convenience goes a long way in maintaining one's sanity.
I tossed all of our regular turkey meatball ingredients in a bowl and added one package of the butternut squash puree. Cut and squeeze. That's it! To compensate for the extra moisture, I increased the amount of breadcrumbs.
So, what did my kids think? To be honest, they didn't notice a difference. I could taste a slight sweetness from the butternut squash, but it was only discernible because I knew it was there.
I asked, "So, how was dinner guys?"
"Awesome as always, Mum. Can we have meatballs every night?" Success!
Other meatball recipes:
Cookin' Canuck's Cannellini Bean Vegetarian "Meatballs" with Tomato Sauce
Cookin' Canuck's Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
The Perfect Pantry's Curried Turkey Meatballs
Yummy Addiction's Pork & Beef Meatballs Stuffed with Avocado
Baked Butternut Squash & Turkey Meatballs Recipe
- 1 ¼ poound ground turkey
- ½ onion grated
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cups breadcrumbs preferably whole wheat
- ½ cup Veggie Blend-Ins butternut squash
- ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoons ground pepper
- your favorite tomato sauce
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ground turkey, onion, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, pureed butternut squash, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper until combined.
- Using a rounded 2-tablespoon portion of the meat mixture, form meatballs by rolling between the palms of your hands. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.
- Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Heat your favorite tomato sauce in a large saucepan. Add the meatballs and simmer for a few minutes. Serve the meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta or rice.
I was looking for a recipe that included butternut squash in a meatball recipe and came across your website for the first time. Your photos are wonderful.
Since you and your husband both work with autistic children, with picky eating habits, I thought I would pass along some info to you. Have you every heard of the gut-brain connection? There is a great book called 'Gut and Psychology Syndrome' and I HIGHLY recommend it to you and the parents of those children.
Hope this is of interest to you.
What is "Veggie Blend-Ins" butternut squash? Is it a mix or a seasoning? Would a cooked veggie do the same thing?
Dara (Cookin' Canuck)
Hi Margaret, Veggie blend-ins are pouches of butternut squash puree (i.e., time savers). Yes, you can absolutely substitute a homemade butternut squash puree!
Laura @ My Friend's Bakery
Those look delish! I have one son who won't eat any fruits or veggies. I'm hoping that as he ages, his palate will change and he will learn to love all types of food, but until then I have learned to be a sneaker. 😉
Dara (Cookin' Canuck)
I'll bet that he learns to love those fruits and veggies over time. It definitely takes persistence on the parent's part though, doesn't it? I always want to say..."You don't know what you're missing out on!"
It is interesting, at the farmers market I see kids with veggies in hand. Where we spend our summers we see kids have snacks of carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. I'm not sure what drives what, but I believe part of it mite be what you know.
Dara (Cookin' Canuck)
Cheri, I completely agree that kids will start to munch on whatever foods they are surrounded with on a regular basis. I'm always a proponent for getting kids involved in growing their own veggies and helping with cooking the meals. When they take ownership, it seems that they're far more likely to try a new veggie or fruit.
Danae @ reciperunner
Love this recipe! My nephew is autistic so I know exactly what you are talking about with the restrictive diet, he very often flat out refuses to try new things. I don't have kids myself, but if they are in need of extra nutrition then I don't see the harm in adding pureed vegetables in to their favorite foods. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Liz @ The Lemon Bowl
I love and share your philosophy and also see both sides to the "sneaking in the veggies" story. The fact is, sometimes I just like using veggies in place of cream or other fillers - whether I'm trying to be sneaky or not! These look amazing!