Healthy Marinara Sliders (mini-burgers)

Healthy-Marinara-Meatball-Sliders

Yield: 12 sliders, 6 servings (2 sliders per serving) 
 
Ingredients
For the Marinara Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large ribs celery, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
26-ounce container strained tomatoes
1/3 cup parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Slider Buns:
12 whole wheat slider (mini burger) buns, split (or substitute 12 whole wheat dinner rolls)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Meatballs:
1 pound 95 percent lean grass-fed ground beef
1/3 cup cooked quinoa (or substitute 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs)
1 egg
1/3 cup Marinara Sauce (ingredients for Marinara Sauce listed above)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by mincing up some garlic.

And roughly chop half an onion.

No need to waste a lot of time carefully dicing the onion and other veggies, because they’ll all be puréed later on…Next, roughly chop some ribs of celery… and a few carrots (as long as they’re rinsed thoroughly, no need to waste time peeling the carrots either).Grab some fresh rosemary and chop that up too.Grate a bit of fresh parmesan.

Heat some olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.

Toss the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery into the pot and cook until they begin to soften.

Season with salt and pepper.

Next, add some flavor with the following: honey, tomato paste, dried thyme, and about two tablespoons of the rosemary you chopped (set aside an extra 2 teaspoons of the rosemary for later).

Stir to combine.

Add some strained tomatoes and reduce the heat to a light simmer.

Allow the veggies to cook and soften for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan.

Then grab an immersion hand blender (this is my favorite tool in the kitchen – here’s the one I use) and purée until you have a nice, thick marinara sauce.

While the sauce is simmering away, you can prepare the slider buns.

Grab some whole wheat slider buns (mini burger buns) and split them in half with a serrated knife.

Or Substitute: whole wheat dinner rolls will also work if you can’t find slider rolls.

Arrange them on a baking sheet and measure out about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Brush the oil over the burger buns.

Then sprinkle on some garlic powder and the rest of the freshly chopped rosemary you set aside earlier.

Add a bit of black pepper if you’d like.

These little extras create a more gourmet-tasting and flavorful burger.

Place the baking sheet under the broiler and keep a very close eye on the slider buns –  they should be toasted within just a couple of minutes. And (warning!) setting-off-smoke-detectors charred just a few seconds after that!

Last step: prepare the meatballs.

Grab a large mixing blow and add some ground beef.Also add an egg and some cooked quinoa to the mixing bowl.

Or Substitute: If you don’t have quinoa or don’t want to spend the extra time cooking it, whole wheat bread crumbs or whole wheat Panko crumbs will work just as well.

Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Finally, measure out about 1/3 cup of the Marinara Sauce you’ve just cooked from scratch and add that to the bowl as well.

Then mix everything up very thoroughly (go ahead and use your hands – they’ll get all messy when you form the meatballs anyway).

Use your hands to form twelve equally sized meatballs.

Arrange the meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place them under the broiler.

When the meatballs are nicely browned on top, they should be cooked through and ready to eat.

Scoop a couple tablespoons of your homemade marinara sauce on each slider bun bottom.

Top with a meatball and a couple more tablespoons of marinara.

Then add a burger bun top, and dive in.

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