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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kathy's Waikiki Meatballs

The last time I made turkey meatballs from scratch, they were pretty disappointing. They were low on flavor, and the texture just wasn't there. Armed with a recipe from my good friend, Kathy, however, I was determined to create a flavorful turkey meatball! Her Waikiki Meatballs - featuring a delicious sweet and sour sauce - are fantastic and will certainly become a favorite at our house too.

Kathy has been a wonderful mentor to me. I met her soon after I moved to the D.C. area through a leadership program at a local church. Our class learned so much about how to live out our faith in the workplace. Her teaching and guidance helped shape me as a young professional, and I am so thankful to have met her during those first few difficult (yet exciting) years in the working world.

Kathy's recipe calls for ground beef, but I decided to use ground turkey to cut down on the fat. I highly recommend using fresh ginger in the recipe as well. In order to get a fine mince on the ginger and onion, I used the food processor. It cut down on time and tears from cutting up the onion myself! One way to test the seasoning in your meatball is to make a small patty and cook it quickly in the pan of oil and butter mixture. You can add more salt if the flavor isn't coming through. My meatballs were browning very quickly in the pan, so I decided to bake them for about 15-20 minutes to ensure they didn't burn. This process worked really well - less stressful too!

Once the meatballs have about ten minutes left to bake, start preparing the sauce.

Be sure that you mix the cornstarch, sugar, reserved pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce together before you add it to the skillet. This helps dissolve the cornstarch completely. The sauce won't take long to thicken over medium heat. You will notice that it turns a translucent color when it's close to being done. Then, add the pineapple.

Throw in the chopped green pepper and the meatballs and toss to coat the meatballs in the sauce.

If you really want to intensify the island flavors, I recommend you make coconut rice to serve with this hearty meal. Food Network has a great recipe here. You can also use the light coconut milk to cut down on the fat.

This dish is a both comforting and exotic. The fresh ginger adds something special to the meatballs, and the sweet and sour sauce with the crisp green pepper is the perfect complement. Though the turkey meatballs are a little less firm than beef ones, the crispy exterior provides additional texture. Serve this crowd-pleasing meal, and you'll be transported to beautiful Waikiki in no time.

Waikiki Meatballs
From Kathy's Kitchen
Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or about 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground turkey or ground beef
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 13-ounce can pineapple tidbets or chunks, drained (save the liquid)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup chopped green pepper
  • Cooked rice for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put onion and fresh ginger in a food processor and chop finely. You can also just use a knife to mince the onion and ginger, but I think that the food processor is easier and ensures more evenly minced ingredients.  

Thoroughly mix the beef, crumbs, egg, salt, milk and onion / ginger mixture. Shape into 1-inch rounded balls. 

Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and brown the meatballs. It will only take about five minutes. Transfer the browned meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until fully cooked. 

While the meatballs are baking, mix cornstarch and sugar and stir in reserved pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce. Stir until smooth. Pour into the skillet you used to brown the meatballs. Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for one additional minute. 

Add the pineapple, meatballs and green pepper. Serve with rice.

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