LIVING
02/13/2012 03:05 EST | Updated 04/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Low-Fat Meatballs For Oscars: Rocco DiSpirito's Lighter Recipe A Party Favourite

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Swedish meatballs are such a retro potluck throwback, they are simply rolling in ironic hipness.

Meaty, tender, juicy, sweet and sour, they are addictively easy to spear with a toothpick and pop one after another at a party. That's why I love to serve them at my Oscar party.

But I do it with a difference. There are countless recipes for Swedish meatballs, but most aren't all that diet-friendly. Most varieties pack nearly 74 calories and more than four grams of fat per meatball. I knew I could do better. So I mixed and matched to come up with a lighter, healthier version of this popular appetizer.

I cut the fat by using extra-lean ground turkey breast, 96 per cent lean ground beef sirloin, low-sodium (and fat-free) chicken broth, olive oil cooking spray and evaporated fat-free milk (traditional recipes call for heavy cream).

Then I stirred in just enough puffed brown rice, egg white and arrowroot (a cornstarch-like thickener) to hold everything together. The result is a delicious meatball with 37 calories and less than a gram of fat per meatball.

Swedish meatballs traditionally are accompanied by lingonberry preserve, which is both hard to find and loaded with sugar. Instead, I used no-sugar spiced cranberry sauce, and I was good to go. Try them and you'll be a star on Oscar night, too.

TIPS:

— If you can't find Steel's Gourmet Cranberry Sauce (my preferred brand of no-sugar cranberry sauce) you can make your own. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine 125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh or frozen unsweetened whole cranberries, 50 ml (1/4 cup) water, 3 packets of stevia sweetener, 15 ml (1 tbsp) agave nectar and a pinch of salt. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then microwave on high until the cranberries pop and the mixture boils, about 2 minutes. Carefully remove the plastic wrap and mash the mixture with a fork or potato masher to make a chunky cranberry sauce.

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Swedish Meatballs

Start to finish: 40 minutes

250 g (8 oz) extra-lean ground turkey breast

175 g (6 oz) lean ground beef

150 ml (2/3 cup) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided

125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped yellow onion

1 egg white

500 ml (2 cups) puffed brown rice cereal

Salt, to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

50 ml (1/4 cup) evaporated fat-free milk

5 ml (1 tsp) arrowroot powder

Olive oil cooking spray

50 ml (1/4 cup) no-sugar spiced cranberry sauce

Heat oven to 190 C (375 F).

In a large bowl, combine turkey breast and ground beef and mix gently.

In a blender, combine 75 ml (1/3 cup) of the chicken broth, onion and egg white. Blend until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add puffed rice and blend to make a thick paste.

Add egg mixture to meats, then season with salt and red pepper flakes. Divide mixture into 20 even mounds, using about 15 ml (1 tbsp) each. Shape each into a ball using slightly wet hands to help prevent sticking.

Coat a large non-stick saute pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Working in batches if necessary, once pan is hot add meatballs, leaving about 1-cm (1/2-inch) space between them. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until browned on the bottoms. Roll meatballs onto other side and brown evenly, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove meatballs from pan.

Add remaining chicken broth to pan and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix evaporated milk with arrowroot, then stir into chicken broth. Cook and stir for about 10 seconds, then return meatballs to pan, then place pan in oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

Transfer meatballs to a serving platter. Insert short skewers into each meatball. Set saute pan over medium heat and cook sauce for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon sauce over meatballs and serve with cranberry sauce.

Makes 20 meatballs

Nutrition information per meatball (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 37 calories; 1 g fat (12 per cent of calories from fat) (0 g saturated); 10 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 0 g fibre; 68 mg sodium.

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Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.