a balanced plate with room for dessert

SNAP Challenge: Day 6 and Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Meatballs


Today’s Feeding America prompt: “In November 2013, the government will cut SNAP benefits for all recipients. These cuts will be $36 for a family of four – dropping the average benefit per person per meal to under $1.40.  How would this week have been different for you if you had even less money to spend on food?”

I’ve typed up a dozen really, really long responses to this prompt and I’ve deleted them all. Short version: you’re told to follow MyPlate guidelines for a “healthy diet”. Then you’re given a little over $4 a day to figure out how the hell you’re supposed to do that. How is a person supposed to fit low-fat dairy, lean meat, whole grains and tons of fruits and vegetables into their diet each day with $4? I haven’t quite figured that out. We had a lot less fresh fruits and vegetables around to snack on. My meal plan this week was also severely lacking in the dairy department. I couldn’t fit in milk into our budget for Mike, let alone lactose-free milk for myself!  What if a low-income family had special diets to accommodate for? I’m hoping to give this Challenge a try again in November when benefits are cut (and when I don’t have garden produce). But I can’t imagine it going any easier.

What we ate today:

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with egg (me) and whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana (Mike)
  • Snack: peanut butter toast with banana (me)
  • Lunch: macaroni and cheddar cheese (Mike) and pepper chicken with rice (me)
  • Dinner: spicy black bean soup with cumin lime sour cream and baked tortilla chips
  • Snack: raisins

I’ll be honest – it’s been hard keeping up with daily blog posts to document the SNAP Challenge. I’m already thinking about food a lot more than usual; having to not only cook, but photograph and write about it makes it even harder. To top it all off, I spend a lot of my free time reading food magazines and food blogs. Torturing myself, really. Writing about the turkey quinoa meatballs literally made my stomach growl. I’m so tired of eating chicken and bell peppers cooked different ways. I think I need a break from them after the Challenge is over. Sorry chicken, sorry peppers – it’s not you, it’s me. But, it’s not really me… in fact it’s 100% you.

That leads me nicely into today’s recipe from a blogger’s choice swap (not part of the SNAP Challenge). This time, I bring you a dish that I made a couple weeks ago (yup, no worries –  we didn’t cheat during the Challenge!). This dish is something new, something different, something that doesn’t contain chicken or green bell peppers! Drum roll please… turkey quinoa meatballs!

Turkey? With quinoa?  Yup. And they are awesome. I made a few minor changes to Ali’s recipe: I had a plethora of tomatoes to use so I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. I also left out the cheese from the meatballs, but Mike had a little shaved on top of his finished dish.

I served the meatballs over spaghetti squash, but you can use regular ol’ spaghetti noodles if you would like!

turkey quinoa meatballs with spaghetti squash |

Slow Cooker Turkey & Quinoa Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash
adapted from Sparks from the Kitchen

2 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 cup cooked quinoa
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for browning
2 teaspoons Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 large sweet onion, cut into rounds
2 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade)
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish, optional

1 large spaghetti squash*
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, garlic, egg, olive oil, Italian spices, onion powder, salt and white pepper. Mix by hand until combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  2. Roll meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls and set aside.
  3. Place sliced onions on the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour in 1 cup tomato sauce and 2 cups of the chopped tomatoes.
  4. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place meatballs into pan, being careful not to overcrowd. Brown meatballs on all sides. When browned, place them into the slow cooker on top of the tomatoes. Once you have half the meatballs in the slow cooker, top with another cup of chopped tomatoes. Continue to brown the meatballs and place them in the slow cooker.
  5. When all meatballs are browned, add the remaining tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes, making sure all the meatballs are covered.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.
  7. An hour before serving, prepare the spaghetti squash. Preheat oven to 450°F and lightly grease a baking pan.
  8. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scrape out seeds. Season with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place squash flesh-side down in prepared pan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove pan from oven and let squash cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scrape out the squash strands from the skin.
  9. Place spaghetti squash on a plate and top with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with freshly grate Pecorino Romano, if desired.

Thanks again to Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting! Click on the link to check out the other delicious swap recipes!


Author: Jenni

Dietitian by day and Midwest food blogger by night. Lover of whiskey, running, and all things food.

4 thoughts on “SNAP Challenge: Day 6 and Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

  1. I’ve used quinoa in meatloaf but hadn’t thought of meatballs. Might have to try these. Love spaghetti squash!

  2. Glad you loved them!! It was a fantastic idea to use fresh tomatoes-I’m sure it was fabulous. I think I made these in the winter and didn’t have that option.

  3. Sounds yummy! I love quinoa. Good for you for doing the SNAP challenge. I work with low income people and it is such an important program.

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