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I don’t want to brag, but we’ve made some pretty great progress in the “I like hotdogs”/tricking-the-kid-to-think-that-everything’s-a-kind-of-hot dog-front. Like, we almost don’t have to lie to him, and we’ve almost got him on board with the idea that meatballs are their own amazing thing.

Plus he eats spinach now! Actual spinach. I don’t want to get too cocky, but at this rate he’ll be eating broccoli by sixth grade. Which is before high school! That’s better than I could have ever imagined. This success is going to my head and I’m starting to think maybe we could do anything, like file our tax return on time, or go jogging, or engage in social interactions with other parents in the neighbourhood.

And I want to take credit for some of this progress, like maybe all this parenting we’ve been doing lately is super good or, at least, better than the rest of our parenting to date, but I think the secret is in the sauce, the sort-of-sweet but looks-like-marinara sauce that adds a hint of variety to the weekly meal rotation without being too much of a stretch, technique- or flavour-wise. Toss it on pasta and it’s a different take on spaghetti and meatballs; throw it on rice and if you squint, it’s almost (almost) butter chicken.

Recipe notes: soy free, nut free; can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free breadcrumbs, and dairy-free by replacing butter with oil. If you hate cilantro, use flat-leaf (Italian) parsley.

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Curried chicken meatballs

Meatballs:

  • 3 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. salt

Sauce:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 28-oz. can tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. salt

In a large pan, melt about a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and cook until fragrant and just beginning to turn golden, about two minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, coriander, and pepper, and stir to coat the onion mixture in the spices; cook an additional minute. Add spinach and cilantro, stir, and let cook until wilted, another minute or two. Scrape the mixture from the pan into a large bowl, and remove the pan from the heat for now.

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Meanwhile, place onion, garlic, tomatoes, coconut milk, garam masala, and salt in a blender, and pulse until pureed. If you do not have a blender with a large enough capacity, work in batches, pouring the mixture into a large bowl and stirring to combine after blending.

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Once the spinach mixture has cooled slightly, add chicken, bread crumbs, and remaining salt to the bowl, and stir to combine. Using clean hands, form 16 balls.

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Melt the remaining butter in the same pan, which you will have returned to medium-high heat.

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Brown the meatballs on each side, and then pour sauce over top. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

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Serve over pasta or rice. Optional: Stir frozen peas into the mixture before serving, if your child has not decided they HATE PEAS today. (One step forward, two steps back.)

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Emily Wight is a working mom, author, and the blogger behind Well Fed, Flat Broke (wellfedflatbroke.com). Her cookbook, “Well fed, flat broke: Recipes for modest budgets & messy kitchens,” from Arsenal Pulp Press will be available in stores in April 2015. She is tired.

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(Photos: Emily Wight)