When it comes to holiday parties and game-watching get-togethers, you can’t go wrong with comfy classics. There are certain things people just come to expect! Heck, as much as I love showing up to a party with something “different”, I can’t tear myself away from the stand-by’s like wings, shrimp cocktail, and crab cakes. That’s why I was psyched to see this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Alta, author of Tasty Eats at Home. Alta always puts her healthful (and gluten-free, dairy-free) spin on family-pleasing favorites like “No-Oatmeal” Raisin Cookies (full of heart-healthy almond butter), Pad Thai, and even cheesecake – Strawberry Cheesecake, to be exact. I knew this would be no exception. Subtly spiced meatballs in a creamy mushroom-cashew gravy do double duty as an appetizer on cocktail picks or a served over noodles for a comforting entree.
When Cara announced she was hosting a Clean Eating Cocktail Party, I was all sorts of excited! I adore making party food, so I was definitely game. Of course, once I agreed, suddenly I was struck by a bit of “blogger’s block.” You know, like writer’s blog, only for bloggers…
Anyway, so I started requesting ideas from the husband, asking him for his favorite nibbly bites that could be found at Christmas parties and the like. He’s a simple guy, with simple tastes, and I love that about him. Where I tend to get all fancy schmancy with my food sometimes, he keeps it real. His opinion keeps me grounded on what will actually be widely accepted by the masses at a party, which usually means massive amounts of kale is out.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t make healthy changes to an old favorite, so when he mentioned meatballs, I got excited. Way back in the day, before I knew how to cook and ate all sorts of gluten, I would buy that little packet full of powdered “stuff” to make Swedish meatballs. It was one of his favorites. But long gone are the little packets, the gluten, and the dairy. But that doesn’t mean Swedish meatballs are a thing of the past.
My version of these meatballs are lean (thanks to the ground elk I used – you can use any ground meat you prefer) and nutrient-packed thanks to the use of almond flour and ground flaxseed instead of breadcrumbs. The sauce comes together pretty quickly and can even be made in advance and refrigerated if you prefer. Regardless of whether you’re making these for a holiday party or just for a family night filled with comfort foods, they’re guaranteed to bring a smile.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Swedish Meatballs
For the cashew “sour cream”:
½ c cashews
Juice from 1 lemon
2 c beef stock
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cooked and roughly chopped (I simply threw the mushrooms in the microwave with a touch of water – you could also sauté them in a bit of oil.)
2 t nutritional yeast flakes
1 T onion powder
2 T arrowroot powder
For the meatballs:
2 lbs lean ground beef, venison, elk, or your meat of choice
1/3 c almond flour
1 T flaxseed meal
1 t allspice
1/8 t cardamom
1 T onion powder
1 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
For the rest:
1 T ghee (or grapeseed oil – ghee is casein-free, but if you strictly avoid dairy, another oil will be a fine substitute)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 t ground nutmeg
¼ c chopped fresh parsley
Soak cashews in enough water to cover overnight or around 8 hours. Drain and place in a blender. Add lemon juice and start blender to puree cashews. Gradually add about ¼ cup of the beef stock and continue to blend until consistency is about that of thick sour cream. (Stop to scrape down sides of blender as necessary.) Add mushroom, nutritional yeast flakes, and onion powder and blend again until smooth. Add the rest of the stock and the arrowroot starch and blend until combined. Set aside.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine ground beef, almond flour, egg, flaxseed, allspice, cardamom, onion powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until well-combined. If desired, check seasoning by making a tiny meatball and cooking on a skillet – taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Use a tablespoon to scoop out meat and form into meatballs with your hands. Place on a baking sheet. You should get around 50 meatballs.
Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sauce from the blender and cook, whisking, until thick. Lower heat to low, and adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste. When meatballs are finished, add to sauce and stir to coat. If sauce is too thick, add additional stock and stir in as needed.
Once everything is thoroughly heated, sprinkle nutmeg over and garnish with parsley.
Serve over gluten-free pasta, or even place in a slow cooker on the “warm” setting, with toothpicks for cocktail party serving.