Baked Spinach Meatballs with Mozzarella

9/30/2011

Diets are no fun – especially this one. Because I’m in the mood for something SWEET and CHEWY and sweet and chewy is not allowed on this diet. At least not the kind of sweet and chewy that I’m craving. Like, delicious brownies with loads of peanut butter chips. Or a big fat caramel covered popcorn ball. Or a piece or two (or six or seven) of my Grandmother’s Babe-Ruth-Bars. Those things are soooooo fantastic. Imagine tiny layered 1×1 inch cubes made of oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, chocolate and whole roasted salted peanuts.  I’ll have to make them for you sometime over the next 3 months (it’s expected, right?).

Yes, the craving I have right now is for something quick and easy and a definite “no-no”.  I want NO BAKE COOKIES made with all of the ingredients I’m trying to avoid right now: white sugar, real butter, oatmeal, PEANUT BUTTER, semi-sweet chocolate chips… Oh how I miss you, peanut butter and chocolate. More than I miss watching reruns of “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” on TV… More that I miss my blue-green Converse shoes that I wore in high school that my mom threw out because she thought they were getting too ratty looking… More than my favorite pair of sunglasses that I lost on the very first day of my honeymoon when my husband and I were frolicking in the ocean for the first time together. That’s why I’m going to change the subject and tell you about the awesome meatballs I made last night.

I special ordered two and a half pounds of 96% lean ground beef from our butcher the other day knowing full well that it would be super dry when cooked if I didn’t do something to add moisture. So last night, while peering into our fridge, it came to me – spinach. I would take the fresh spinach I had, cook it down, and add it to the beef and make meatballs.  And you know what?  They were amazing! Totally moist and flavorful and delicious… I was thrilled with the outcome. You’ll see in the recipe below that I also caramelized shallots as well. The addition of the shallots and cooked spinach was all the super lean beef needed to keep the balls from being a dry and crumbly disappointment. Yay!

BAKED SPINACH MEATBALLS w/MOZZARELLA

Ingredients:

(makes 20 – 24 meatballs)

  • 1 ½ TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and dried
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 pound super lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 TBSP dried oregano
  • ½ c crumbs of your favorite healthy wheat cracker
  • Mozzarella cut into cubes (I used a stick of string cheese)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large frying pan add just 1 TBSP of olive oil and minced garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant (about 45 seconds). Then add your fresh spinach, stir and flip until you feel confident that most of your spinach has been coated with the olive oil, put the lid on the pan and then walk away for an entire minute. Resist the temptation to lift the lid. Distract yourself by singing a few line of your favorite song. If you don’t have one in mind, feel free to use mine: http://www.myspace.com/jackjohnsonmusic/music/songs/country-road-58473351?ap=1
  3. Once a minute has passed, remove the spinach and garlic from the pan and place it in a separate bowl to cool. Set to the side.
  4. Now, in the same pan you just cooked your spinach, add the other 1/2 TBSP of olive oil, your sliced shallots, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Cook until shallots are soft and brown. Remove from pan and add to the bowl with the spinach and garlic.
  5. Now, take off all of your rings and push your sleeves up because it’s about to get messy. With your fingers, combine your ground turkey and beef. Mix in shallots and spinach (and all of the liquid that’s seeped out of the spinach). Add 1/2 tsp salt, crushed crackers and oregano and give it all a good mix. Using your hands or a spoon or a ice cream scoop start forming your meatballs. I made balls the size of a silver dollar and came up with 22. You decide how many and how big you want yours to be.
  6. This is the only tricky part of the recipe. You need to decide if you’d like to stuff your meatballs with cheese or not. If you do, simply stuff a cube into a ball and then re-roll so that no one is the wiser.  At this point you need to place your meatballs on either a cookie sheet with edges (or risk a huge mess) or you can take a page from Alton Brown’s book and use a mini-muffin pan. Cook for 20 minutes.

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Eat as is or choose to go wild. You can serve them with pasta and your favorite red sauce. Or slice them to top a pizza. Or even stuff them into a hoggie bun. Go ahead – go meatball crazy.

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