Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs (Subs)

mozzarella stuffed meatball with dripping cheeseThe weather here has been rainy and dreary all weekend, and it has quickly thrown me back into winter comfort food mode. The temps haven’t even been that cool, but the rain completely drains me of any energy. Aren’t rainy days suppose to be for sleeping in, cuddling up with a good book, and maybe wandering in to the kitchen to bake?

The weirdest thing about this is how do you develop a craving for something you’ve never really (at least memorably) eaten? Truthfully, it has been a couple weeks since we made these meatballs. They came about a couple weeks ago during our freezing spell here as a direct result of a meatball craving on my part. Huh? In fact, I can’t really remember a time where I have actually had meatballs. Growing up, we occasionally had meatloaf, but I never remember mom making meatballs. Nonetheless, meatballs it was. Meatball subs in fact. I suppose the recipe is actually pretty timely considering there may be a big game coming up this weekend. I can promise you none of that was planned in advance. Maybe my unconscious is trying to tell me something?

mozzarella stuffed meatballs in pan

The recipe I used is from Kelly Craves but was originally adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. I followed Kelly’s adaptions pretty closely, although I made a few substitutions based on what was available in my kitchen  – mostly whole wheat Panko bread crumbs + Italian seasoning rather than Italian-style bread crumbs. As I referenced above, I served the meatballs over rolls with extra marinara and some additional shredded mozzarella cheese. Of note, I felt that the baking time needed to be a little bit longer than the 15 minutes called for in the recipe. I used the full 2-lbs of meat called for in the recipe, but I also ended up with 25 meatballs rather than 18. I baked mine for 18 minutes, and a few of them had just a touch of pink in the middle. It is hard to use a thermometer in these due to the cheese, so use your best judgement in baking them.

Baking time aside, we really enjoyed these both on the subs and alone with marinara for lunches. Given the opportunity, I am sure they would also make a great hot appetizer served with toothpicks for any appetizer-appropriate sporting events. 🙂 If it says anything about the recipe, my husband asked which recipe I was working on while I was composing this post. His response, “Man. Those were good.” Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs (Subs)
Adapted from Kelly Craves, originally from Giada de Laurentiis

1 small onion, chopped finely or grated
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. plus 1/3 cup marinara sauce (use your favorite)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. lean ground beef (we used 93/7)
fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, cubed into 1/2-inch cubes
olive oil, if desired
whole wheat hoagie bun
extra marinara
shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the onion, it can be grated or added to the bowl of a food processor until chopped very finely. Mix the onion, parsley, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, egg, 2 tablespoons marinara, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Add the ground beef and mix with your hands until the mixture is completely uniform. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs (mine were about the size of a standard ice cream scoop). Flatten each slightly. Add the mozzarella cube and re-form the meat around the piece of cheese.

Add the remaining 1/3 cup of marinara in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place the meatballs inside. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil at this point if desired. Bake the meatballs for 15-20 minutes or until the meat is browned and cooked through. While the meatballs are cooking, warm the extra marinara on the stove top.

Turn the oven to low broil. Split the buns if necessary, cutting only part of the way through the bread (like a hot dog bun). Add 3-4 meatballs to each bun. Top with extra marinara and shredded mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.


Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

french dip alone

I have been hearing about this recipe for months from my parents. Both of them. They make this with some regularity. Frequently enough that when I called for the recipe, my dad had it memorized. Not that it is too complicated, but still. My parents are not the only ones. I know I have seen recipes similar to this floating around on different blogs as well. Truthfully, I have no real reason to be so late to the french dip party. This is an easy recipe concept that requires almost no active time in the kitchen. Attractive? I think so. The biggest reason we had not made this sooner is probably just the lack of a beef roast (or any roast) in my freezer.

french dip plated closer side view

As I eluded to above, this recipe is as easy as they come. Prepping the crockpot is what I like to call a “dump and cook job.” There is a little more involved at the end, as the meat needs to be shredded/cut thinly, but even with that, this easily falls into a weeknight capable recipe. My parents like to use their bread-machine to make a fresh loaf of bread for the sandwiches, and I am sure that would be amazing. My only tip would be if you have a little extra time, making these ahead of time would allow you to skim some of the fat off the au jus after it cooled. The meat and remaining au jus could easily be rewarmed in the crockpot. Nonetheless, I did not do that when we made these, and we ate them just fine. 🙂

These were definitely a hit at our house. Guess a gal really ought to learn to listen to both of her parents? Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches
Adapted from

3-4 lb. rump or other beef roast
1 (10.5 oz) can beef broth
1 (10.5 oz) can condensed French onion soup
1 (12 oz) can full-bodied beer
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
French rolls
provolone cheese

Trim any excess fat from the roast. Place in the crockpot. Pour the beef broth, french onion soup, and beer over the roast. Add the garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on low for about 7 to 8 hours, or until the beef shreds easily. Shred or thinly slice the beef as desired. Place the meat back in the crockpot with the cooking liquid and heat through.

Turn the oven to broil. Split the rolls and add meat as desired. Top with sliced provolone cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is just melted, about 1-2 minutes. Serve with the cooking liquid as au jus.

Root Beer Pulled Pork

rootbeer pulled pork

I’ve mentioned it a couple days ago – but football is back, and this weekend, no matter what level you prefer to watch (high school all the way up through the pro’s), you’re set until the Super Bowl in February. While we may be located in Arizona, I am still a Nebraskan at heart, so college football (specifically the Huskers) is my football of choice. 

One thing about football is that my husband has a very specific mental definition of “game food.” I still haven’t quite figured out the specifics (as it seems to keep changing), but it seems to revolve around food that is somewhat portable that goes well with game day beverages of choice. Unfortunately for me, cookies don’t quite fit the bill (although I strongly disagree). 

root beer pulled pork after cooking
rootbeer pulled pork sandwich

While I’m not quite sure pulled pork meets the bill of portable, this recipe has passed his inspection to qualify as “game food.” It is a recipe that really can’t get any simpler – any cut of pork + root beer + barbeque sauce of choice in the slow cooker. It can be scaled down for 2 or all the way up to feed a party. For the meat, we typically use a pork loin roast. While I haven’t tried it myself, I’ve heard reports of cuts from pork tenderloin to pork shoulder working well. Any cut of pork that will do well in the slow cooker should be fine.

The recipe came from one of my co-residents last year, although I’ve heard people have also found it on We’ve made it several times at this point, and it always seems to disappear before I am able to get any good pictures. Whomever your team is, I hope you are able to enjoy this as “game food” before the season is over. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Root Beer Pulled Pork
From Shannon D.

approx. 1 lb. pork loin
1 liter root beer (approx 1/2 of a 2-liter bottle)
barbeque sauce

Trim the meat of any large portions of visible fat. Place in the slower cooker. Cover with root beer about 2/3 up the cut of meat. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low.

When the meat is cooked through, remove and shred. Drain the root beer reserving 1/4-1/2 cup. Place the shredded meat back in the slow cooker and mix the the reserved root beer until the meet is just moist. Mix in barbeque sauce until desired consistency. I usually turn the slow cooker back to low to heat through (about 5-10 minutes). Serve with rolls and additional barbeque sauce.

Tijuana Torta

tijuana torta
May 1st. May Day. My husband and I were asking around here, and no one in Arizona knows what a May Day Basket is. They are basically a container (usually cups) filled with popcorn and other goodies that you leave for friends on their doorstep. The aspect of running away so that you do not get kissed was a real threat as a child!  Please tell me we weren’t the only ones to grow up with this tradition?
With it being May 1st, the other thing that must mean is Mexican food. I know you’ve heard the commercials already. They’re definitely on the TV and radio around here… tacos, margarita specials. Yes, Cinco de Mayo is quickly approaching! As if I actually needed a reason to crave Mexican food 🙂
If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds at your local Mexican joint, it is certainly possible to conquer a Cinco de Mayo themed meal at home. Start the meal with this guacamole. In the next couple days, I’ll provide a couple meal options and finish up with an easy but impressive dessert. Throw in some chips, salsa, and a little tequila, and you’ll have quite the fiesta.
tijuana tortas before baking
The term torta has many meanings, but in Mexico torta is often a sandwich. This is my quick “Mexican” meal and just goes to show that it is possible to have a delicious meal when  you are short on time. It also goes to show that you can make a Mexican-themed meal vegetarian without relying totally on cheese. The original recipe for these is from Eating Well. When we made these, I  made them exactly as written, however in the future, I would swap lettuce for the cabbage. I typically like small doses of cabbage in my  tacos for the crunch, but on the top of these sandwiches, it was just too much. When I made these, I used a loaf of homemade French bread that I had made (simply because it needed to be used), however I am sure these would be great with purchased bread as well. We made them open-faced, but you can always add the top piece of bread if you’d prefer. Enjoy!
Tijuana Torta
Adapted from Eating Well
1 (15oz) can black beans 
3 Tbsp. prepared salsa 
1 Tbsp. chopped pickled jalapenos
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 ripe avocado
2 Tbsp. minced onions
1 Tbsp. lime juice
salt, to taste
1 whole grain (8-10-inch long) baguette 
1/2 cup shredded jack cheese 
1-1/2 cups shredded lettuce
Preheat the oven to broil (low if possible). Mash beans, salsa, jalapeno, and cumin in a small bowl. Mash avocado, onion, and lime juice in another small bowl. Add salt to taste.Slice baguette in half the long way so that you have a top and bottom piece of bread. Cut in half to make 4 equal sized pieces. Hollow out some of the bread from the middle of each piece, set aside for another purpose. Divide the bean paste and avocado mixture between the pieces. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. Divide the lettuce between the sandwiches and enjoy!

Mural of Flavor Chicken Salad

Life has been a little less eventful around here the last few weeks. My hubby has been out of town for his rotations for the past couple months. He’s been back on the weekends because he’s only been a couple hours away, but it has just been animals and I kicking it most of the time.
As much as I love cooking, I’ve always found it hard to cook for 1 person. Anything you make, you end up eating the leftovers ALL WEEK, and after 4 or 5 days of the same thing, I’m definately ready for something new.
A couple weekends ago, we were out hunting for the dried chipotle peppers that I needed for these dark chocolate chipotle cookies, and we ended up at Penzey’s Spices. While we were wandering through the store, my husband found a spice mixture called Mural of Flavor. It’s a mixture of several spices (which I’m not for sure), shallots, onion, garlic, lemon peel, chives and orange peel and is suppose to make a pretty good turkey salad.
In addition to being home by myself, I am attempting to motivate myself to study for our chemotherapy exam on Friday. Think treatment regimes for every major type of cancer plus the worst form of alphabet soup possible – CVP, R-CHOP, FOLFIRI – I thought pneumonics were suppose to help you remember something!
Anyway, the salad… Turkey salad sandwhiches sounded a pretty good solution for a couple of quick meals for myself at home, so we decided to get some of the spice mixture.  Well, it wasn’t quite turkey salad… but a rotisserie chicken quickly fixed that problem.
I unfortunately do not have any pictures of the finished sandwiches, but I can assure you that they were quite delicious! It wasn’t as heavy on the mayonnaise as some other meat-salad sandwiches can be. Both the hubby and I really liked this fact. The reicpe card states that this would be a great solution for a lighter meal after Turkey day – I would have to agree. This may be one to bookmark for after the holidays next year (or just sub in some chicken and try it now)! Enjoy!
Mural of Flavor Chicken Salad
Adapted from Penzey’s Spice recipe card
6 c. cubed chicken (leftover turkey)
2 Tbsp. Mural of Flavor
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 c. fat-free mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1-2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, mix the Mural of Flavor with the water. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, and mustand and mix well. Stir in the dried cranberries and the pecans. Add the chicken to the mixture and toss gently to coat. Add sugar, sald and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Fruity Curry Chicken Salad

I was looking through my photos tonight, and I can’t believe that I haven’t posted this recipe yet. Chicken salad definitely isn’t the fanciest meal, but it works GREAT as a good quick supper! I love curry powder in this recipe. Mix it with chunks of apples and grapes, and you’ve got a pretty good chicken salad.

My husband and I made this as a light supper several times throughout the summer for those days when it’s just too dang hot to cook. I do not ever add the pecans or raisins as personal preference, but they are in the recipe. The original recipe is here at Get some great bread, lettuce leaves, or croissants, and try it out!

Fruity Curry Chicken Saladadapted from
1 lg. can 98% fat-free shredded chicken
1 stalk celery, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 Golden Delicious apple – cored and diced (we leave the peel on; it could be peeled)
1/3 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 cup light mayonnaise

In a large bowl combine the chicken, celery, onion, apple, grapes, pepper, curry powder and mayonnaise. Mix all together. Serve!

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Sandwiches

It seems like many of the recipes that we have been making lately have somewhat of an asian flavor to them, and these sandwiches were no different. It is another recipe that I discovered on the website. She seems to make quite a few asian inspired dishes, so her recipes have fit right in with our asian kick. We didn’t make these sandwiches quite as written, but they still hit the spot.

Fresh pineapple has been on sale at the stores around here, so I swapped fresh for the canned rings. I’ve never thought of grilling pineapple before, but it was really good! We grilled more than we needed for the sandwiches and just ate the extra on its own with the meal. Also, we had to sub normal sliced bread and sliced American cheese for buns and swiss cheese respectively because we didn’t have any on hand. When we make these in the future (and there will be a when), I will be sure to get the slices of swiss cheese because I’m sure that change would make these sandwiches that much better.

We enjoyed these with some grilled sweet corn for a great summer meal. In this recipe, the chicken breasts were marinated in a bottle of teriyaki marinade. However, I have recently discovered a recipe for teriyaki chicken that makes a wonderful teriyaki-like sauce. Next time we make these, we’re going to use this sauce, and I’ll update this on how it turns out! Enjoy!
Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Sandwiches
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if they are too thick, cut them in half)
1-2 cups teriyaki sauce
sliced swiss cheese
1 can pineapple rings (or fresh pineapple cut into rings)
hamburger buns
light mayonnaise
Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound to an even thickness if desired. Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce for at least 6 hours (overnight if possible) in a covered bowl or ziploc bag.
Place the pineapple rings on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.
Grill the chicken breasts 5 minutes on the first side; turn over and add pineapple and slices of swiss cheese. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until done. Remove and place on bun with mayonnaise and desired toppings.