Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cheese-stuffed cocktail meatballs

Whew, good morning, icicles!   It is fah-reez-ing here in Pittsburgh, and I'm so thankful I don't have any reason to step one (or both) of my feet outside in the foreseeable future.

I won't mind being cooped up inside this week since I was able to get out and enjoy lots of time with friends this weekend.  Dessert and dinner dates, chick flicks and baking, and discussing spring and summer vacations.  It was so much fun!  But, I was happy when Sunday night rolled around because that meant Matt returned from his weekend visiting his folks.  I missed the guy!

I also missed his man-ppetite -- that's "man's appetite" FYI.  I was working on new recipes for Super Bowl Sunday and desperately wanted a guinea pig.

His absence challenged me to channel my inner snacker and football fanatic.  I thought of past Super Bowl parties and what dishes I most looked forward to.  Most of those foods could be described in three words: cheesy, meaty, and dippable.  More than a few of those items were also miniature.  (Obviously.)  It wasn't hard at all to come up with ideas.

What was difficult was limiting myself to only three.  If only we could delay the Super Bowl another two or three weeks, right?  Don't be surprised if you see some entree-ified versions of snacks in the next few weeks.  Once my brain starts, it's hard to stop.

So, with a happy heart and a satisfied stomach, it's my pleasure to share with you the first of three new recipes ready for your raucous and hungry crowd: cheesy stuffed meatballs!

Talk about starting off with a home run, er, touchdown.  Cheesy, meaty, and dippable.  Check, check and check.

Lean ground beef is seasoned and shaped into meatballs around a cube of fresh mozzarella cheese before being baked in the oven.  Served hot on a platter with savory marinara sauce for dipping, these are impossible to resist!

Talk about crowd-pleasing comfort food at its very best.  I loved loved loved how the cheese oozed out of a few of the meatballs during cooking, as if to give a little preview of what's inside.  As if meatballs weren't already enticing!

He may not have been present for the cooking process, but Matt showed up just in time for the sampling.  After a hug and a kiss, I told him what was waiting in the kitchen.  I could barely finish when he made a bee line to the kitchen.  "You had me at meat and cheese, dear."

Three years ago: Turkey & rice stuffed peppers

Cheesy Stuffed Meatballs
-makes roughly 32 meatballs

A few notes: Feel free to use this recipe as more of a guideline and choose whatever cheese and meat combination you prefer.  Ground turkey or ground chicken would be great, as well as any firmer cheese -- think pepperjack, provolone, and cheddar.

1 pound lean ground beef (I used a 93/7 mix)
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons milk
1/4 pound block mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange a wire rack over it.  Coat rack liberally with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine meat, bread crumbs, cheese, spices, egg, and milk.  Shape 1 tablespoon of the meatball mixture around 1 cube of cheese and place on wire rack.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Transfer meatballs to platter and serve with toothpicks and marinara sauce for dipping.  Enjoy!

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