Greek Turkey Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce & Grilled Vegetables
We’ve started Family Dinner around here, meaning my days of short order cooking aren’t over but are reduced, even if just a little. Dinner will no longer begin at 5pm, with me asking “What do you want?” followed by me offering five great options, none of which seem to please my kids. Gone are the days of putting kids to bed then making a beautiful dinner for Stu and I…historically one of our favorite things. We love our evenings together, eating lots of green things our kids wouldn’t touch or experimenting with a new recipe. I shed a tear thinking of our childless meals on the couch, plates perched on arm rests and pillows…we’ll be sure to pick at least one night a week to make them happen.
But with Ethan going to be a little later (7:30-8pm as opposed to 7pm), and Finn refusing to ever sit in his high chair again, I’ve been battling at dinner time. Both boys are really good eaters, but the power is in their hands at dinner. Sitting at our tiny kids table in the kitchen, yelling at me for things, standing in front of the fridge staring at its contents (or climbing into it, as Ethan has learned to do), fighting over the placement of said table by pulling it back and forth, and taking laps around the room between bites.
It’s not a fun way to end our days.
So now I hold them off till 6pm and give them one option for dinner. The power is MINE! They’ve stayed seated, they’ve eaten more veggies. They’ve eaten more in general. Stu won’t always be able to make it, and I don’t love prepping meals while the kids are awake and running around, but as long as I plan ahead, things are better this way. Everyone is happier.
So get ready for some new recipe posts for family friendly meals…like my Greek Turkey Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce and Grilled Vegetables. It is a HUGE hit with all four of us!
I’m not always a ground turkey fan, it’s so bland and just mush to work with. But when filled with flavors like mushrooms, kalamata olives, garlic, green onions, and feta cheese, it makes a perfect healthy meal that packs a flavor punch. We love Greek food and can pretty much dip anything in tzatziki sauce, so I’ve been working on this meatball recipe to make it a week night staple.
We do ours on the grill for extra flavor and less cleanup, but I’m sure they’d turn out well in the oven too. You can skewer the the meatballs, I did the first time we made these and it wasn’t a tragic experience, but it was a goopy mess so I now just throw them on the grill without skewering. Call me a daredevil.
Just PLEASE oil your grill!!! I pop the meatballs on the grate by hand and turn them after eight or so minutes, when they are really holding their shape. I get the veggies nestled in the mix for a few minutes at the end, just till they have nice grill marks and are softened.
Each time we’ve had this meal, Ethan (5.5) has asked for seconds on everything and Finn (1.5) cleans his plate. Both boys gobble their grilled peppers and sliced cucumber. Stu and I like to have a Greek side salad with our grilled veggies, with more olives and feta and cucumber slices, which tastes great under or next to the meatballs. The tzatziki sauce garlic and lemon mixed with cool cucumber and Greek yogurt offers a fresh kick.
These meatballs are amazing as a main course with salad or sliced veggies and fruit, OR I’ve made them for appetizers to dip in the tzatziki sauce—just tested them out picnic-style with girlfriends at the Muny on Sunday night! Even though it was 150 degrees out, this dish held up great and got rave reviews.
We love this meal and I hope your family does too!
Greek Turkey Meatballs with Grilled Vegetables
Makes 29 medium size meatballs
1 pound ground turkey (93% – 95% lean, not 99%)
3-4 medium (2 large) cremini mushrooms, minced
2 green onions, sliced small, green and white parts
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped small
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Mix of vegetables to grill – use any or all of the following:
1/2 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 yellow pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
6-8 small potatoes (microwave to soften, 2 minutes), halved or quartered
1 medium zucchini, sliced in half
1/3 red onion, thick slices that won’t fall through grill slats
handful of cherry tomatoes
optional salad stuff
extra feta cheese
extra kalamata olives
Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl, using a fork to incorporate gently, don’t over mix. Roll into slightly-larger-than-bite size meatballs, or whatever size won’t fall through the grates on your grill, I made 29 meatballs. At this point I put the meatballs in the fridge till I’m ready to grill, that way I can make them earlier in the day or even the day before, plus it helps them stick together—ground turkey is mush at room temp. If you want to skewer the meatballs, do so quickly and don’t let the meatball “hang” on the skewer, kind of line them up and poke the skewer through without lifting…the weight of the meatball will pull it right off the skewer.
Skewer up your peppers, red onions, zucchini, potatoes, or whatever veggies you’re using. Spray or drizzle them with some olive oil. I like to do each type of vegetable on it’s own skewer so I can control cooking time easily. Except the halved zucchini, that can just go on the grill as is and be sliced later.
OIL YOUR GRILL. If you don’t, you’ll be making ground turkey mash. Grill meatballs on medium high heat for 7-8 minutes, turn and cook another 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. If you skewered your meatballs, REALLY wait until they are cooked before turning or they will fall right off the skewer. It’s poultry so while I know the handy touch tricks, I just cut through one to make sure. This way I can take them off when they are JUST done, not overdone. Throw veggie skewers on in that last few minutes of cooking the meatballs.
I like to serve a side salad with this meal, for Stu and I as the kids aren’t lettuce fans, just some romaine and/or spinach with a little feta, leftover kalamata olives, and some light vinaigrette dressing. We put some of the grilled vegetables on top. Perfect Greek salad. Serve with tzatziki sauce drizzled on top or on the side.
If I’m serving these as appetizers, I put four meatballs on each skewer for cooking, then just leave them like to serve. Instead of meatballs rolling around a cocktail plate, guests can dip and eat them right off the skewer.
Creamy Tzatziki Sauce
Makes about 8 ounces
1/2 cucumber large cucumber (or 2 mini), seeded and grated
6 oz good plain greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon (1 medium lemon) lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry dill (or fresh, just use more)
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 grinds fresh ground pepper
Squeeze all the water you can out of the grated cucumber before mixing everything together. I put the shreds in a couple layers of paper towels and squeeze hard over the sink. This sauce is good right away but better if you stick it in the fridge for a while. Serve alongside everything, it makes my kids eat twice as much when they have this to dip. I put a little on my salad as a dressing too, yum!
Greek food is always flavorful and delicious! Whether entertaining friends or making Wednesday night dinner, this meal is quick, easy, and will send everyone back for seconds. Bonus: it’s all delicious as leftovers.
What’s your favorite Greek dish to make at home?