High Protein Low Fat Meatball Sandwiches

For most of us time can be an issue when it comes to dinner. We either don’t plan ahead, or  if you’re like me in most cases when I plan ahead things change and so does my ability to prepare dinner. In an effort to thwart off any urge to “grab something quick and easy” I try to remain flexible and look at the main ingredients in my planned meal to see if they can be changed into something quicker and easier to prepare.
So these tasty meatball sandwiches were originally going to be a hearty meatloaf! But as I said things change… I had a plan, and it included dropping the kids off at school, hitting the gym, coming home to do some work around the house and get our meatloaf ready to go for dinner. But instead my day went something like this: got the kids up, made breakfast for everyone, did a load of laundry, got the kids dressed and took care of the dog. We managed to get out the door on time, which on most days is a miracle; I dropped my daughter off at school at 7:50. I then doubled back to drop my son off at preschool, because of course, even though preschool is conveniently on the way to my daughters elementary school the preschool  program doesn’t begin until 8:30am UGG… Ok dropped my son at preschool and drove to the gym. Did I mention the gym is exactly halfway between the two schools I just drove to, so yes I turned around and drove back down the same road again to the gym! So at this point I have driven 6 miles, on only 2 main roads in 45 min. OK at the gym, happily putting in my ear buds and getting my run on to a cool mix of Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Eve (don’t judge me!). I am 3 miles into a 6 mile run and then I hear the all too familiar ding-ding tone on my phone that lets me know when I have an upcoming appointment. Panic-SO what did I forget…my son’s follow up doctor appointment in 45 min, 36 miles across town! My fault, I forgot and now I’m a sweaty mess who is going to be LATE!
We made it to the doctor, on time, and all was well. But now my day was changed. I was now driving the 36 miles back home, to pick up my daughter who has early-out teacher work days once per week, gotta love that, and there would be no time for making and cooking the meatloaf that was planned for the pound of lean ground beef in my frig… I should also mention that this day was “gymnastics day”, the day where both of my children attend gymnastics classes 20 miles away in the next town for 4 hours! So typically on this day I have a make ahead meal ready for my husband to pop in the oven, or I have something prepped and ready for him to cook for us. This day of course we were supposed to have an already cooked meatloaf ready to reheat in the oven. So now the race is on we have exactly 30 min from the time we enter the door to get everything ready to hit the gym, change clothes, snacks, water bottles etc… and of course what about dinner? I love my husband to death, but I have learned in almost 11 years of marriage he has his limits and coming up with an idea for dinner from scratch is not his forte. So dinner prep went something like this: My daughter was getting dressed in her leotard, in the great room, while I was spouting off spelling words to her from the kitchen so she could practice for her upcoming spelling test, my 4 year old son was busy making the snack bag for the gym (not my best delegation idea as we ended up with some unconventional snacks in the bag, like a pack of gum and a baggie full of dry black beans…he tried!) and I was turning my meatloaf into little bite-sized meatballs to make sandwiches with. I thought well I can use all of the same ingredients and make them small enough to cook quickly! I mixed the meat, rolled the meatballs and covered and refrigerated them for my hubby to pop in the oven when he got home. I sliced up some onions and peppers, tossed them with a little drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and tucked them away in the fridge before we headed out the door and down the hill. When we walked in the door that evening the house smelled as if something had been cooking for hours!
I opened a jar of my homemade tomato sauce and heated it up with some fresh herbs, sliced a whole wheat baguette and quickly sautéed my already prepped veggies. We assembled the sandwiches and dinner was on the table within 15 min of our walking in the door! We didn’t have any mozzarella to top off the sandwiches so I used two low fat part skim milk cheese sticks my kids eat as snacks. I just grated them with the box grater and voila- a tasty, quick, healthy meal for dinner, no takeout required!
My crazy schedule these days is typically due to my kiddos, but there was a day not so long ago that included 12-14 hours work days plus kids activities etc. And BK (before kids) I was known to work even longer hours at the office! I have always worked hard and made it a priority to eat healthy homemade food, and now it’s more of a priority than ever to ensure my children are eating this way. I like to use whole oats in my meatballs, meatloaf and even burgers vs. breadcrumbs. You get more texture and higher fiber and protein when you use a whole grain. I have also successfully used leftover brown rice, quinoa or cous cous as a substitute for breadcrumbs. I make my own tomato sauce during the summer and can or freeze it, but feel free to use canned or jarred sauce. If you do, just check the label and chose something free of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and added vitamins and antioxidants, tomatoes are full of nutrients without adding anything extra. You can also make a quick tomato sauce from a can of crushed tomatoes; I’ll include a recipe below. If whipping up the tomato sauce proves to be one step to many on a hectic day forget it and take the meatball recipe, turn them into burgers top with the sautéed veggies and serve with a quick salad. You can even make the meat mixture the night before and refrigerate it to save time!
The Meatballs:
1 lb 95% lean ground beef (sometimes I use 93% if it’s on sale, but never anything higher in fat than that)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 large egg white
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh minced herbs (I like rosemary and thyme)
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil spray (a drizzle of olive oil spread to coat with a basting brush will work if you don’t have a misto)
2-3cups tomato sauce
1/2 medium sweet bell pepper (red, yellow or orange), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
 1 whole-wheat baguette or whole wheat rolls
1)      Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine beef, oats, egg white, tomato paste, fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray or brush lightly with olive oil. Form meatball mixture into 1.5-inch balls, this will yield approximately 30 meatballs. Place meatballs on baking sheet, with a space between each meatball. Bake in the oven until done, approximatly15-20 min.
2)      While meatballs are cooking make or warm tomato sauce and sauté veggies.
3)      Remove meatballs from oven and add to sauce pan with tomato sauce. Coat meatballs with sauce.
The Quick Tomato Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh minced herbs (thyme, oregano and rosemary) OR
½ tablespoon dried herbs (thyme and oregano)
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
dash of balsamic vinegar
1)      Warm oil in a med sauce pan, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 min until fragrant-do not brown garlic
2)      Add herbs to garlic sauté for 30 seconds
3)      Add the can of crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5 min
4)      Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Sautéed Onions and Sweet Peppers:
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 medium sweet bell pepper (red, yellow or orange), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1)      Warm oil on med-high heat in a med sauté pan
2)      Add onions and sweet peppers sauté until translucent, about 5 min sprinkle lightly with kosher salt
3)      Add sliced garlic and sauté another 5 min until all veggies are soft and translucent
4)      Transfer to a warm bowl
To Assemble:
1)      Slice baguette into 4 sections, and then slice each section in half horizontally. Tear out a bit of bread from the middle of each section to make room for the meatballs, this also cuts back on unwanted calories. If desired toast bread under a hot broiler for 1 minute until crisp.
2)      Open up each piece of toasted bread, place 3-5 meatballs per sandwich. Top with sautéed veggies and a light sprinkling of grated low fat part skim milk mozzarella. Top sandwich with the other half of the bread and serve with a nice green salad. Enjoy!

The definition of blissful according to the Websters Dictionary is: full of, marked by, or causing bliss. Now, to me homemade crepes are always blissful! However, my morning making them may only meet MY definition of blissful. I mean most wouldn't consider it blissful to wake up to two little munchkins jumping into bed with you at 6am! But that is typically how Saturdays start for us at the Craines. I really don’t mind it; I mean I love snuggling with my kids even at 6am on a Saturday. It is funny how things change. When Rick and I were first married we lived in the mountains just outside the El Dorado National forest in a tiny, super tiny, cabin. On a typical Saturday morning we would roll out of bed at 8am, let our two pooches out the door and then roll right back into bed until brunch hour, about 10am. I would then get up, make espresso and create a delicious, time consuming, breakfast for the two of us. We loved sitting out on our deck that overlooked the hundreds of huge pines and listening to nature. It was quite, serene and beautiful and I believe most people would have found it truly blissful.
I have always loved Saturdays. Maybe because when I was a child my brother and I would look forward to Saturdays most of all! For years I thought that we must be the best kids ever, because my parents would allow us to watch our favorite TV shows every Saturday morning. I now know that this was just a way for my parents to get just a little more sleep... Genius! We thought we were amazingly lucky and they got to sleep, good for everybody! So now when our children hop into bed with us at 6am, we snuggle with them for a few minutes and then inevitably one of them will ask “can we watch a show”? And our answer is always… “I don’t know, well maybe just one”, off they rush to the living room to curl up on the big leather sofa and indulge in 30 minutes of Handy Manny or My Little Pony. This system creates blissfulness all around!
So, this morning after the kids rushed out Rick fell effortlessly back to sleep, while I just laid and enjoyed the silence. I started to think about breakfast and what indulgent dish I could make but without sinful calories. Crepes immediately popped into my mind! Now being both a French trained chef and a self-proclaimed lover of all things French I LOVE traditional buttery crepes just simply folded and topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but that is not something I typically eat for breakfast. So my mind began to pull together a quick crepe recipe that would both satisfy my craving for indulgence and fit my love of healthy eating. These turned out delicious, we all loved them! While we weren't eating our breakfast at noon staring off into the beautiful forest, watching my kiddos dive into the delicious, healthy breakfast concoction I created was truly blissful! So whether you are half of an adventurous fun loving couple, a single foodie or a member of a wonderful family full of kids I hope this crepe breakfast is blissful for you!
I used whole wheat flour instead of the traditional AP flour and I used ground flax instead of butter. Ground flax can be used in most baked or bread type recipes to replace butter or oil. Flax is high in omega 3s and fiber and adds somewhat of a nutty flavor. I put flax in my oatmeal, my kid’s pancakes and my homemade pre/post workout protein bars. Enjoy!

The Crepes: This made 14-8” paper thin crepes, 41 calories per crepe
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp ground flax
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1) Put it all in the blender or food processer and blend on high until smooth.
2) Place crepe batter in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3) I use an 8” non stick skillet to make my crepes. Get it hot on med-high heat.
4) You will need to use something to keep the crepes from sticking. I melt 1 tbsp of butter in a small bowl and used a basting brush to lightly coat the pan about every 4-5 crepes. A little goes a long way. You could use a misto with a neutral oil (grape seed or coconut oil). You could also use nonstick spray, but the rule for my kitchen is I never cook with or eat anything that comes from a spray can…
5) Add a 1/4 cup of batter to a hot skillet and swirl around the pan to cover as much of the bottom of the skillet as possible. As the edges cook, use a spatula to lift the edges of the crepe. After about 1 minute, flip the crepe over and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to a warm plate and start over until the batter is done. I keep mine on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until I am ready to assemble them.
The Cheese Filling:
This made enough to fill each of the 14 crepes with about 2 tablespoons of filling, 29 calories per table spoon
½ cup low fat cream cheese (softened)
½ cup low fat cottage cheese
½ teaspoon cinnamon + more to taste
½ tbsp honey + more to taste
Zest of 1 small lemon
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1) Place softened cream cheese in mixer or use hand mixer, mix on med for about 1 min until creamy.
2) Add cinnamon, honey, and lemon zest. Mix until fully incorporated and creamy.
3) Fold in cottage cheese until fully incorporated.
4) Add squeeze of lemon juice and adjust honey and cinnamon to desired taste.

The Berry Sauce: Approximately 9 calories per tablespoon
1 cup frozen berries (I like mixes berries strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Honey to taste (you can adjust to your desired sweetness)
1) Place frozen berries in a saucepan heat them in low- med heat until defrosted and warmed through. You may need to add a few table spoons of water if they seem to dry as they heat up.
2) Add honey and lemon juice to taste
The Assembly:
1) Take one crepe add 2 tablespoons of the filling to the center; fold the crepe in half, then in half again.
2) Dust with powdered sugar and top with 1 tablespoon of berry sauce. Add some fresh berries to the top if you have them on hand! Enjoy!

It’s time. Time for me to share! It seems that I am always texting and emailing some of my favorite recipes to family, friends and former colleagues so now I have one central place to share some delectable recipes from my repertoire and a place to share and receive feedback as I go through some new recipe development.
I will admit that this blog was born from a moment I had, a final straw moment, in Costco no less. I have learned in the last year and a half of my SAHM-hood that I seem to have moments of reflection in strange places…a lot. Like the gym where my children practice gymnastics four hours per week, the shower the only place I get quiet time and yes as I mentioned, Costco. So there I was on one of my monthly “stock up” trips to Costco, not my favorite place to shop, I had my eco friendly handbag, green tea in a commuter mug made from recycled materials and of course my reusable bags, and there I was standing and waiting in an unusually long line for a weekday morning. So naturally I began to look around me at the other patrons in the store. Most of us seemed to be SAHMs taking advantage of the opportunity to shop at the big box store on a Wednesday morning. The mother next to me caught my eye at first because I recognized and empathized with the “tired mom” expression and body language and second because she had four children with her. Lucky for me prior to hitting Costco, on this Wednesday I dropped my 4 year old son Jack off at preschool, so I was footloose and fancy free for 5 whole hours, so being the adventurer I am I decided to go to Costco. Ok back to the tired mom in the line next to me. She looked like all of us moms, dressed in comfortable clothes, hair pulled back and that unmistakable look on her face that said to each of her four little angels, if I have to ask/tell you one more time to stop swinging the rope attached to the check stand you’ll be sorry! So at first I kind of laughed to myself fully aware that I would have the same look if I had either one of my little angels with me. Then I NOTICED…the not one but TWO carts she had filled with frozen and processed foods, prepackaged sugar laden drinks that had the word “organic” stamped across them, ya maybe organic sugar and 4 double packs of Wonderbread! I was in shock.
Now I understand that most people may reserve their moments of shock for the state of our State, the crumbling housing market or the current divorce rate in the US, but not me. I am passionate about REAL food and healthy living, especially when it involves children. So when I saw this mother of four with TWO carts full of pretty much everything you can find in the frozen section of Costco, pizzas, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, hot pockets, the list is endless AND boxes of the colossal bakery croissants and muffins, most weighing in at over 600 calories and 40 grams of sugar per baked item, I was not only shocked but saddened. Now I wasn’t coming from a place of judgment, but more a place of wonder. So then the reflection set in, and I started to think does she know better? Does she understand how you feed your children, especially when they’re young has a tremendous impact on their bodies and minds for life? I thought of all of the nice ways I could approach her and ask her if she would like some shopping and cooking support, but alas I checked out and left Costco that Wednesday with the inspiration to provide a resource for those who want it. So here is my first public blog posted recipe I hope you enjoy!
I thought I would start with a basic staple in my home and probably one of my very favorite meals, classic roast chicken. Nothing says Sunday like the most perfect roasted chicken! It is one thing my family has counted on for years. Every Sunday that it is at all feasible you will find a whole chicken either snuggly roasting in my good ole le creuset baker filling the house with its amazing succulent aroma, or you will find one outside turning slowly for the most perfect golden finish on the rotisserie. This is Sunday at the Craines!
The Craines Sunday Roast Chicken
1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh herbs (I like a mix of thyme and rosemary)
1 lemon
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence
Butchers twine
1 tablespoon olive oil

1)   Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2)  Remove the chicken giblets. You can save the neck if you want to make stock. I keep a freezer bag of necks in my freezer then I throw them all in the pot on stock making day.

3)  Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat flaps and pat the outside dry.

4)  Sprinkle ½ of the herbs de Provence and liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Lift the skin covering the breast and rub salt, pepper and the other ½ of the herbs de Provence on the breasts. Stuff the cavity with a bunch of fresh herbs, the lemon, and the garlic whole garlic.  

5)  Truss the legs together with butchers twine and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. 

6)  Brush the outside of the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.

7)  Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh avoiding the bone.

8)  Do not touch the chicken, let it roast, you do not need to baste it at all. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve.