Italian Mini Meatloaves

or comfort food come healthy, meatloaves even your kids will love

Ground beef or turkey is such a versatile ingredient that I am constantly trying to find new recipes or new ways to put a twist on more traditional ones - I can't go rogue all the time or people will never venture to try the recipes on their own.  So, after several weeks of more riske ideas, today I bring to you a peace offering - a simple twist on a home style classic - meatloaf.  While I ran in fear of this dish as a child, I have since found that it can not only be made in many different and delicious variations but it can also be made to be fun.  My two favorite recipes are Italian and BBQ mini meatloaves.  Today we're going Italian.

First - the healthier side (eluded to in the subtitle above).  In place of red meat, I like to use a low fat ground turkey with reduced fat cheeses.  Another benefit is the preset size of each loaf, making it easier at mealtime to stick to the right portions/ratios.  Also, making a lighter version of this comfort classic can help prevent that heavy, weighed down feeling that often slides in stealthily post-dinner (and nobody want that).  Definitely a bonus.  Ok enough of that health food talk, on to my second point - meatloaf can be fun!  Crazy, I know, but it's true.  As I was a meatloaf phobic child myself I can relate to those that shy away from such nondescript dishes, so let's just toss that word out and replace it with "muffins."  Sound a bit more pleasant?  I thought so.  Now lets take a winding trip down memory lane, with a few creative touches added to the landscape.

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
2 tbsp low fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Reduced Fat Parmesan Romano cheese
House spice blend
1 tbsp Dried minced onion
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1/4 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Parsely
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

1. Dump all ingredients except a palmful of the Panko into a large bowl.  Roll up your sleeves and remove any jewelry on your hands and wrists, this is gonna get messy.  Now dig in!  Using your hands to mash together the ingredients, folding and pressing, squeezing and turning, punching if necessary, until it is blended throughout.  Take a deep breathe and relax as all that stress you didn't realize you had is released from your body. 

2. Use non-stick spray on two 6 muffin baking pans (silicone works best, it's much easier to remove). Shape balls of the turkey mixture into evenly sized "muffins" and place in pan. If they are resisting formation just add some extra breadcrumbs to the mixture, but don't force it dry - the moistness is one of the best parts!

Optional step: To make this a more decadent treat we'll add a bit of Brie.  Use your finger to make a small indent about halfway deep in each "muffin" and press in a 1/2" cube of brie, cover with ground turkey from sides to seal securely.  Now that the "treasure" is in place, we can continue..

3. Dust tops of the muffins with the remaining Panko Crumbs and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 min. or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  Let them cool for a couple minutes before releasing from the pans.  If using silicone they will just pop out, otherwise slide a small fork gently down the side (so as not to damage the delicate package) and lift from the bottom. 

And there they are - little savory muffin delights.  Whether you opted for the Brie or not tis is still a nice way to dress up a classic weekday meal.  For an easy throw together dinner you can prep these ahead of time and store them in the fridge under plastic wrap, then all you need to do is toss them in the oven when you get home!  This is an quick and simple dinner that makes both me and my hubby happy, while being healthy at the same time. The fun shape and hidden "treasure" makes this more fun for kids at any age.  Serves great with baked potatoes or salad, and of course a side of galic bread.  Personally I like to make extra, the moistness from the ricotta results in them reheating very well for lunches.  Well, I must run off now.  I hope you take this little twist on a home stye classic into your kitchen for a spin, it's always a hit in mine.  Enjoy!

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