"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Monday, December 3, 2012

Crock Pot Cheese Stuffed Italian Meatballs and Parmesan Crusted French Fries

I like to use my crock pot as much as possible on Sundays.  Otherwise, we end up so hungry after church that we go out to eat instead of making something at home.  I'm making a real effort to eat out a lot less, so I'm doing as much preparing ahead of time as possible.  I enjoy cooking, and with all the great ideas on Pinterest, I have an endless supply of ideas.  Problem is I can never follow a recipe as written.  I like to do my own thing.  (I have the same problem with homeschool curriculum, so I guess it's just me.)

Anyway, these Cheese Stuffed Italian Meatballs are based on the recipe found here.  But I did make several changes.  Here's what I did.  Don't ask me for exact measurements. I don't typically measure.  Kinda like your grandma, and you liked her food, so just go with it.  First off, when I cook, I generally make about three different meals - one for the baby, one for me, and one for my husband and the eight and four year olds.  The baby has allergies to nuts, eggs, wheat and dairy, and I'm on a very low carb diet, so I have to adjust for all these people ;)  It's a fun challenge.

So, these meatballs contain both extremely lean elk burger and not at all lean pork sausage :)  I did most of my prep work Saturday night so Sunday church prep would go smoothly.  I began by pulling a chunk of burger from each and put in a baggy for the baby.  I had to fry that up before we ate, but it only took a few minutes.  If I would have had a little oven safe bowl, I would have put the meat in that inside the crock pot, protected from the other contaminants ;)  I bought some little bowls for just that purpose Sunday afternoon. 

Okay, back to the recipe... I measured out eight ounces of the burger for myself - mostly elk, but a little pork too, and put that in a separate bowl.  I put one egg in my bowl and two eggs in the main batch.  Then I added 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the main batch and two into mine.  I added all the spices - roughly 1/2 teaspoon of each for the main batch - salt, pepper, oregano and basil.  (I used garlic salt and a pizza herb seasoning blend in mine).  I mixed it all together - and to the main batch added Italian bread crumbs - maybe about 1/2 cup.  Mine got no bread crumbs, and they held up just as firm as the others.  

I picked up walnut sized balls of the meat mixture and pressed a 1/2 inch cube of mozzarella cheese into the center.  Then I covered them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator.  This wasn't part of the recipe, but I didn't want to mess with making meatballs on Sunday morning.  There's never enough time then anyway. On Sunday morning, I popped them into the crock pot (gently :) and poured a can of spaghetti sauce over the top of the meatballs and turned the crock pot on high.  They cooked about 4 hours before we had lunch, then stayed on "keep warm" all day and my husband and older boys had them again for dinner.  We still had 11 left over after that, so I froze them, and have been told to "definitely" make them again.
 Now my meatballs were a little different, as was my sauce, thanks to wanting to cut the carbs.  As I mentioned, I didn't use any bread crumbs in mine, and I also didn't do them in a crock pot.  If I had a little crock pot, I would have used it, but I didn't so these went into a small ceramic dutch oven, which I put in the oven with the timer set.  I was going to leave them without sauce, but at the last minute decided to add part of a plain can of tomato sauce.  Then I figured there ought to be some seasoning on it, so I sprinkled some of the seasoning I used on the potatoes over the top. (That recipe is next...)

That turned out to be a mistake.  These were W-A-Y too salty ... and I love salt.  They were almost inedible (most people probably would have said they were inedible).  The meatballs were good, but I should have gone with my first thought and skipped the sauce.  Not to mention, it made the pot a huge pain to clean up.  

 Okay, so on to the potatoes.  This is another Pinterest recipe, but for some reason the pin doesn't go to the link today.  Anyway, this called for thyme, oregano, old bay seasoning, salt, pepper garlic powder and parmesan cheese.  I did the baby's without parmesan - they are on the left side of the pan.  The rest of the family's were on the right.  I cut the potatoes into wedges, tossed them with olive oil, then sprinkled the seasoning blend over them and tossed to coat.  They were placed in the oven with my meatballs, and ended up cooking around 45 minutes at 425 degrees.

They were perfectly well done when I pulled them out.  My husband liked them, but none of the boys would eat them.  And they absolutely love fries.  Eventually the baby ate his, but his eyes watered the entire time.  I'm not sure if it was the Old Bay or the pepper ... or both.  Either way, next time I'll go with my gut and do my own seasoning.  I probably won't use the Italian seasonings or the Old Bay, and I'll go lighter on the pepper.  Maybe I'll just use Lowry's or Ranch dressing mix - which is always a hit, but then those are completely different recipes, aren't they?  Anyway, it worked well to make my own fries in the oven, and I'll definitely be doing that again.

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