Mystery Dish: Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa + Cookbook Giveaway

These Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa are tied together with a creamy mint-almond pesto. An easy, healthy dinner that comes together quickly!

Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa | thepajamachef #mysterydish

I had a really tough time with this month’s Mystery Dish. I’m not sure why–pretty much ALL the ingredients on the list are things I love. I was just uninspired I guess. But I don’t think my recipe reflects that… this meal was pretty darn delicious. Andi from Weary Chef was our host and she asked us to use three ingredients from this list: pistachios, wine, mint, gluten-free flour, red pepper flakes, fish, agave nectar, applesauce, blueberries, parmesan cheese, milk, and corn.

A couple weekends ago, we were going to grill turkey burgers [Ben makes a to die for turkey burger with Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper] but we were rained out and I had some ground turkey thawed in the fridge. We could have grilled indoors, but instead I decided to make some Mystery Dish magic with these Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa. And you guys… they are so good! I love a good turkey meatball anyway, but add some fresh mint to your typical garlic and onion mixture and they’re definitely amped up a notch. To fulfill the ingredient requirement, I used gluten free flour to help hold the meatballs together and red pepper flakes instead of normal black pepper. In hindsight, I wish I would have used more flour because the meatballs didn’t hold together super well. Though that was three ingredients, I decided to make the flavors even more apparent by making a mint pesto to serve over the meatballs and to toss with the quinoa I decided to serve on the side. If quinoa isn’t your thing, try rice, pasta, or some other grain/starch. Though my pesto wasn’t a true pesto it was still pretty addictive and a great sauce that was nutty, minty, and creamy all at once.

Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa | thepajamachef #mysterydish

The mint in this dish balances perfectly with the crushed red pepper. I was somewhat generous with the red pepper flakes, but it was definitely an approachable level of spiciness so if you aren’t a spicy person you’ll be okay here. I was supposed to tell you that that description was Ben’s idea, and I was threatened with a lawsuit if I didn’t. :) Ha ha, a lawsuit from my husband. Moving on… I loved how minty this dish is… enough flavor to make things interesting but not so much you think you’re eating toothpaste. I love having a great repertoire of healthy, easy dinners and I know this dish will go into my usual rotation. Hope you give it a try!

And, as a special treat since we’ve been Mystery Dishin’ it up for a YEAR now [whoa], we have a special giveaway for our lovely readers… copies of cookbooks from MasterChef Season 3 Winner Christine Ha and Season 4 Winner Luca Manfe! I wish I could win! Go HERE to enter.


one year ago: Roasted Peach Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel 
two years ago: Brown Rice, Feta, and Tomato Salad
three years ago: Healthy “Fried” Rice –> I make this ALL the time with different veggies, meat, and/or tofu. A must try!
four years ago: Cornmeal Pizza Dough in the Breadmaker

Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
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for meatballs

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour [or other flour, gluten free or otherwise + more if you need it]
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • crushed red pepper flakes, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste

for quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water [or stock if preferred]
  • 1 cup prepared pesto [above]

for pesto

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint
  • 1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons half and half
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan
  • crushed red pepper flakes, about 1/4 teaspoon or to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs–garlic, green onion, mint, flour, egg, turkey, and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste. Mix well with your hands, then shape into 16 meatballs. Place half the meatballs in the preheated skillet and cook on each side for about 2 minutes per side until browned all over. Remove meatballs from skillet and place in a large oven safe dish, misted with cooking spray if not nonstick. Repeat with remaining meatballs then bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

While meatballs are cooking, prepare quinoa according to package directions. Bring rinsed quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes until all water is absorbed.

Prepare pesto by combining mint, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons half and half, and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until combined, adding more oil and/or half and half if desired. Stir in parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste. Pesto yields about 1 cup.

When quinoa is ready, pour about 3/4 cup pesto in the quinoa and stir to combine. Serve meatballs with quinoa and reserved mint pesto, along with sides like green beans or crusty bread.

Be sure to check out what my Mystery Dish pals whipped up this month:

Mystery Dish |

  1. Tuna Tacos with Avocado Corn Salsa by The Weary Chef
  2. Blueberry Scones by Yummy Healthy Easy
  3. Parmesan Crusted Tilapia by Culinary Couture
  4. Minty Berry Fruit Roll Ups by I Want Crazy
  5. Baked Blueberry Donuts by Chez CateyLou
  6. Hearty Minestrone Soup by Joyful Healthy Eats
  7. Blueberry Lemon Pannacotta with Pistachio Tuilles by Flavor the Moments
  8. Minty Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa by The Pajama Chef
  9. Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake by I Dig Pinterest
  10. Pistachio Drop Scones with Blueberry Compote by The Well Floured Kitchen
  11. Grilled Corn & Blueberry Flatbread with Whipped Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and Basil Vinaigrette by Baking a Moment
  12. Pistachio Crusted Tilapia and Peach Salad by Blahnik Baker

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

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BBQ Baked Spaghetti

This baked spaghetti is jazzed up with BBQ sauce, ground beef or turkey, and vegetables. It’s as cheesy and delicious as it sounds!

BBQ Baked Spaghetti |

Ben and I are HUGE baked pasta people. If we ate baked pasta as much as we wanted to, we would probably be huge. Haha! :) Anyways… this BBQ Baked Spaghetti is awesome and I wish I had some to enjoy right now!

BBQ Baked Spaghetti |

I got the recipe from one of the first food blogs I ever started reading–Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. Everything I make from her blog is just delicious, family friendly, and wonderful. This baked pasta dish is no exception. It’s cheesy pasta goodness that no one can resist, even though BBQ and spaghetti may not be the first food combination that you would think of when brainstorming for dinner. It’s a unique dinner that you’ll want to make again and again.

BBQ Baked Spaghetti |

Like I do with a lot of baked pasta dishes, I made this dinner a day or so before I wanted to eat it. If you cover it and stick it in the fridge, it’s an easy homemade convenience dinner for later in the week! This pasta dish kind of reminded me of the ubiquitous BBQ burgers I see all over Nashville–except a more carblicious rendering of that.

BBQ Baked Spaghetti |

If you like baked spaghetti and you like BBQ, you’ll love this dinner! Enjoy!

one year ago: Honey Lemon Thyme Iced Tea
two years ago: Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes
three years ago: Spiced Waffles

BBQ Baked Spaghetti

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 60mins
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from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
BBQ Baked Spaghetti |

  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups bbq sauce [I like Sweet Baby Ray's]
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and then cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Meanwhile, brown ground beef or turkey in a large skillet set over medium heat. While meat is browning, add green pepper and onion. Cook until tender, then drain grease if necessary. Return pan to heat and add garlic powder, bbq sauce, and tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat until hot.

Combine spaghetti with sauce mixture. Stir in half the cheese, then spread into prepared pan. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes until hot and cheese is bubbly.


Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

For our early Thanksgiving dinner, Ben really wanted turkey. Problem was… we didn’t plan ahead enough to defrost a turkey AND my meat thermometer is busted so I would have had to buy another one of those to cook the big bird. Fortunately, I saw a recipe earlier this month for turkey breast. Who knew you could just buy part of a turkey? Certainly not I! But I am so glad to know now that I can… because this was absolutely delicious, fabulously easy, and all in all… amazing.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast |

This turkey breast was so flavorful and so tender. It was just as easy as making a roast chicken in the oven, and while there was no dark meat for Ben to enjoy, we’ve been eating turkey leftovers all week. Can’t be disappointed with that! There were even a few bones so I could make some turkey stock in the crockpot. Yum yum! I hope you’ve been enjoying my Thanksgiving recipes this week… I can’t wait to share one last dessert recipe tomorrow! :)

Thanksgiving Meal |

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast [from Good Cheap Eats]
click to print


  • 3-5 pound turkey breast half
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • sprigs of thyme and rosemary, optional


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the turkey breast in a roaster or baking dish.

In a bowl, stir together butter, thyme, tarragon, and sage. Cut slits in the turkey breast skin, then brush butter mixture evenly over the turkey. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the herbs around the turkey breast.

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 45-90 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°.  Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Time: 2 hours.

YIeld: 10 servings.

Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

I’ve said before that I don’t really repeat recipes… but it seems like I have so so many one and done meals or desserts or whatever. The exception, of course, is tried and true family recipes that I grew up on or that Ben adores. Repeating recipes is boring. Usually I’m just game to try a new variety of soup, chili, pasta, chicken, brownie, cake, or pie. You get the idea. It’s not like I intend to have so many one and done recipes, because everything I blog about is something I’ve made and loved–otherwise, why would I share it? But these Teriyaki Meatballs Bowls? They are most certainly not a one and done recipe.

Teriyaki Meatballs | The Pajama Chef

Beth posted the recipe at the end of January, and I can think of no less than three, maybe four, occasions over the past months that I’ve made this awesome dish for dinner. Sometimes it’s been just for us to enjoy; other times, I’ve made them for new baby meals for friends. This meal is great for entertaining or for new baby/sympathy/etc. meals [so I've heard] because it’s hearty and filling, but still sort of light… a good alternative to the typically heavy, cheesy meals people love to serve and give away. Those are good too, of course, and I love them, but sometimes you just need something different. Something more complex.

And complex this teriyaki sauce is! It’s sweet and salty, with rich overtones of ginger and garlic. You can practically eat it with a spoon! Don’t be scared of making what’s normally a bottled sauce–it comes together in a flash, while the meatballs are cooking, so no panicking about making a sauce and cooking meatballs and making rice. We’re all about using multiple appliances for less stress here. :)

Teriyaki Meatballs | The Pajama Chef

Though I love how the homemade teriyaki sauce coats the meatball [that is the emphasis of this dish, after all], my absolute favorite bites of this meal are the last ones at the bottom of the bowl. Here, if you’ve added enough sauce, the rice is absolutely saturated with rich teriyaki goodness! Nothing could be better. Homemade teriyaki is where it’s at! If you don’t agree, well… haters gonna hate. That’s all there is to it. Though I do always want for you to try the recipes I post, this is one you really should try because it’s absolutely incredible. One tip though: use low sodium soy sauce. That will be salty enough–I promise. :) Enjoy!

Teriyaki Meatball Bowls [from Budget Bytes]

click to print


for meatballs

  • 1 pound ground meat [I've used ground turkey most often, but also ground beef, and the original recipe calls for ground pork.]
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled & grated [I've also subbed 2 teaspoons ground ginger.]
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 green onions, minced [green and white parts]
  • freshly ground black pepper

for teriyaki glaze

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled & grated [I've also subbed 2 teaspoons ground ginger.]
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

for serving

  • hot cooked rice
  • minced green onions


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet or glass baking dish with foil.

In a large bowl, add ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs, ginger, soy sauce, onions, and some freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to massage ingredients together, then roll into tablespoon-sized balls, placing on prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, begin making teriyaki glaze. In a saucepan set over low heat, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water, oil, and ginger. Stir until brown sugar dissolves. At this point, you can also start preparing the rice, if you haven’t already.

Next, dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of water–just enough to be pourable. Add to the saucepan, then turn heat to medium-high. Cook unti thick, stirring occasionally. When glaze has thickened, add sesame seeds.

By this point, meatballs should be about done. Remove from baking sheet and degrease if needed, then add to the glaze, tossing gently to coat. Serve meatballs over rice with extra sauce and green onions. Enjoy!

Time: 45 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Turkey, Spinach, and Kale Stuffed Shells

So, once upon a time almost three years ago, I made spinach-filled manicotti. Ben loved it, I hated it. It tasted like spinach cottage cheese to me. That’s because my mom’s lasagna [which I oddly enough, haven't ever blogged about even though it's amazing] uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and I thought that substitution would work in other dishes. Turns out I was wrong. Blech! Ever since that day, I’ve been wary of spinach in baked pasta dishes. I know it’s not the spinach’s fault, and I love it in other things, but in pasta now? No thanks.

When I heard through the Secret Recipe Club that Jey at The Jey of Cooking was raising money for the American Heart Association in honor of her mom’s heart transplant by asking bloggers to make a heart-healthy dish, I realized this was the perfect opportunity to get back into the spinach pasta game.

And get back into it, I did.

See that? I call it Turkey, Spinach, and Kale Stuffed Shells. From the outside, it looks like your typical cheesy, saucy stuffed shells. Delicious, right? Needs no explanation, you assume. Wrong! On the inside, you’ll find a creamy sauce made with lots of greens like spinach and kale, a bit of hearty meat, your typical Italian seasonings, and enough to ricotta and parmesan cheese to enjoy but not be weighted down by. Extra creaminess comes from fat free Greek yogurt. Perfecto!

So why is this recipe heart healthy? Well, for one, it uses ground turkey instead of ground beef [lower in fat and calories]–and the amount of meat is reduced to be more of a “condiment” or flavoring than the focus. The focus of these shells is the greens. Kale is one of the healthiest greens around, thanks to its vitamins and minerals, as well as its ability to lower cholesterol when eaten cooked. Pretty neat. Spinach isn’t bad for you either, and this recipe does not taste bad… unlike my previous attempt… so I’m in, and hope you’ll be too! I know you’ll love this cheesy, veggie filled, hearty take on traditional stuffed shells. Please head over to Jey’s blog to read more about what she’s doing to honor her mom and check out the recipe roundup on March 30th!

Turkey, Spinach, and Kale Stuffed Shells
click to print


  • 12 ounce package jumbo pasta shells [approximately 36 shells]
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, packed tightly
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, packed tightly
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 25 ounce jar marinara sauce [I used Muir Glen Cabernet Marinara]
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese [I used a pizza blend cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, romano) because I had it, but mozzarella or any Italian blend would work fine.]
  • freshly ground lemon pepper


Begin by boiling a large pot of salted water for the shells. Once boiling, add shells and cook to al dente. Then drain, rinse with cold water, and spread out on a baking sheet to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Then, brown ground turkey in a skillet. Add garlic to pan to saute when turkey is almost done cooking. Drain any excess fat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine kale, spinach, ricotta, and greek yogurt and process until greens are chopped very finely. You may have to do this in two batches, or add more greens as you go depending on the size of your food processor.

Remove greens mixture to a mixing bowl, then add cooked turkey, parmesan cheese, black pepper, basil, oregano, and red pepper. Stir together until incorporated.

Spoon a small amount of marinara sauce [~ 1/2 cup] on bottom of a large baking dish*. Then fill each shell with about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of kale/turkey mixture and place in baking dish. Repeat until all shells are filled, then cover with remaining marinara sauce. You want the shells to be covered, but not drowning in sauce. Top with shredded cheese and lemon pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Time: 45 minutes [15 minutes active]
Yield: 8 servings.
Notes: *Regarding the baking dishes: I used a 9×13 pan and two individual size serving dishes, but you could use two square baking dishes [eat one and freeze/give away the other] or just use a larger dish [11x15]. Or just halve the recipe to begin with!