My boys love to help in the kitchen. They love stirring and using the stand mixer. They love scooping and dumping. They love the little “goodies” they get to snack on while helping. And they especially love to say “I made <insert food>!” So on this particular day when my boys were
nagging begging to help in the kitchen, I obliged them with a big sensory surprise.
Little did they know what it meant when mommy was making meatballs. All they could picture was mommy using her hands to smash and scoop and ball up the hamburger to make one of their favorite dinners. What they found instead was the burger was cold and numbed their hands as they squished it between their little fingers. The oatmeal was dry and coarse. The egg added an element of slime, the spices felt sandy, and the firm chunks of chopped onions stood out in comparison to this bowl full of “squish”.
At first, I think they were a little appalled. Hey, its raw meat… I’m usually appalled too! Once they got past the cold and the slimy meat texture, they went to town squeezing, squishing, and smashing. Conversation went something like this, “Watch me squeeze this!” and from a toddler hand, held in a fist above the bowl, oozed out a glop of meat mixture. That was all it took to make them erupt in laughter. It was great fun, a great help to me, and a great treat at the dinner table.
Sure, the mixing of the meat took longer than normal because of all the playtime. However, it was a productive dinner and play activity, plus it kept peace during that “witching hour” (you know, that time in the early evening when kids and parents are vulnerable to meltdowns and overwhelmed by the stress of dinner, homework, and transitions from work or school to home).
As far as the recipe, it’s one my own mother has made for years and is a family favorite. The original meatball recipe was loaded with fat and extra calories. While my healthier version isn’t exactly low cal, it is loaded with lean protein and is low in carbs. The sauce, however, is one my mom found in a cooking recipe years ago. It is oh-so-delicious, but loaded with sugar. For a healthier BBQ sauce, try one of these 16 Homemade Paleo BBQ Sauces.
So let’s get you cooking… and the kid’s playing!
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 lbs. ground turkey
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- Mix meatball ingredients together, shape into meatballs.
- Place in baking pan in single layer.
- Pour BBQ sauce over meatballs.
- Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
- 3 cups ketchup
- 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
- 1 Tbsp garlic salt
- Stir together.
- Pour over meatballs.
- BBQ sauce will thicken as it cools. This sauce is also great to freeze!
Happy eating… and smooshing, smashing, squeezing, and sensory play!