Meatballs | Gluten Free AND Homemade!

The Meatball battle. It’s a war I’ve been fighting with my mother since I was old enough to speak. I decided way back then that I did NOT love homemade meatballs. She tried and tried and tried to convince me that meatballs were BETTER homemade. I disagreed. I loved-me-some good frozen meatballs. Every Italian blooded person reading this blog has officially clicked the “unfollow” button by now, but I can promise you, if you hang in there with me, I was finally able to come to my senses.

We have this crazy thing about meatballs… as long as my husband and I have been living in the same household, be it in our new home, the terrifyingly risky apartment we first lived in, or our starter home, the house he grew up in; we have had our share of some crazy memories associated with meatballs. There is a period of time that is so under appreciated by so many, that golden time when you find the person you will spend the rest of your life with, but still do not have any major life commitments yet. It’s the time in life when you can have fun, and be care free. Our period of this phase of life together began just after I graduated college. We got our first apartment together, with minimal monthly bills, while I was subbing, and waitressing in the summers, and he was working 12 hours shifts, rotating every two weeks between days and nights. Eventually I went back to school, and his job landed him staying away more than not. So when he would come home, we made the most of it. From our favorite little local restaurant/bar surrounded by some of the greatest group of people in the same phase of life as us, to cookouts and fires in our backyard that went way beyond the normal “last call” hours, we enjoyed life, worked hard, and played harder.

I know you are wondering, “how does this have anything to do with meatballs?” Well trust me, if you are any of those friends from that phase of life, you know EXACTLY how this connects back to meatballs (and flip cup… but that’s not what this post is about!) Every time the bar closed, the fires dragged on, or the appetites grew, we found ourselves crowed in our little Big Run kitchen cooking up frozen meatballs at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, rarely but even occasionally as early as midnight. Yes, somehow we always ended up back at our house feeding lord knows how many people, Meatballs. It became a standing joke between this group of friends from that golden phase of life. Long standing rivalries over flip cup always came to a halt over a ridiculous tradition of taming the post-alcohol hunger with frozen meatballs.

Fast-forward 4 years, one move, and two kids into the future, and those memories feel like a lifetime ago. One of those couple friends we used to spend every free second with recently got married and we found ourselves headed out to dinner with a portion of that old group again, only this time there were about 6 additional little ones ranging from baby carriers, high chairs, all the way up to pre school age. I feel safe in saying the groom-to-be was a little overwhelmed walking into that dining room…!

When I say that phase in life is the “golden phase” I don’t mean it in a way to place it above any other phase of life, I am just trying to explain the purpose and the value of it. Life is SO short, and it changes so drastically once kids are in the picture; with those changes all being amazing, and monumental, and even golden in their own ways. But don’t rush it. Enjoy these little phases of life because they all fly by so quickly. And if you are past it, I hope you find yourself reflecting on those carefree memories that stilly little things like “gyros at 2 in the morning while wearing feather boas, and cups of ice being dumped…” and never forget them. Life is so good.

So returning to the “meat” of this post; alright, that was a little corny even for me. My oldest daughter is obsessed with meatballs. She lived on frozen meatballs for a phase, and now being cared for by an amazing Italian cook while I’m at work, has acquired a slightly more sophisticated taste for meatballs, forcing my hand into trying out my own version of a “good homemade meatball” but one that was also gluten free for her little sister and myself to enjoy. (Meanwhile… my mom says, “it’s about time!!!”)

So I began scouring the internet for suggestions and this is what I was able to come up with:

IMG_0751-I started out following a strange suggestion, that I felt would really help with the gluten free texture, and that was to soak bread in milk. So I began with two sliced of UDI’s Gluten Free White Bread, crust removed, ripped into chunks and soaked in milk.

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I seriously love this towel, it cracks me up every time I read it, thanks Danielle!

While those were soaking I worked with equal parts ground beef and ground pork, adding in one egg, some parmesan cheese, some parsley, some garlic, a chopped onion, and a little shake of Italian seasoning blend, salt and pepper.

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Next, I added the milky bread mixture (the whole thing, not just the bread) and really mixed the entire bowl well with my hands. This took  a while since I wanted to make sure everything was evenly combined.

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I began methodically rounding each little clump of meat into what I felt to be a nice sized ball for spaghetti or even sandwiches, for leftovers. I’d guess about two tablespoons of meat? Maybe a little less?

Next I placed a skillet on the stove with some good olive oil in it and heated it to medium, placing each rounded ball of meat in to brown on all sides evenly. I then transferred the balls to a plate and continued until all the meatballs were well cooked.

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Once all of the meatballs were browned evenly I placed them back into the skillet (you could use a crock pot if you wanted to instead) and poured our favorite spaghetti sauce over letting them simmer on low for about a half hour before serving.

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They were definitely a hit! I was pretty pleased with the final results as well! So whether your in that “work hard, play harder” phase, or the “throws of parenthood” phase… or even the “I have to repaint the walls in my house because I have teenagers and their friends” phase; may this post bring up some fun memories, inspire new memories, or even just push you past the breaking point, ready to dive into the homemade versions of your family’s recipes. 

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Homemade Gluten Free Meatballs

  • Servings: 30-36 meatballs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 slices gluten free white sandwich bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Place gluten free bread in a bowl with 1/2 cup milk and let it stand 5 minutes.
  2. Combine ground beef, pork, garlic, onion, parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add milk and bread mixture. Mix well with hands until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Begin rolling the meat mixture into approximately 1-2 tbsp balls and brown in skillet evenly on all sides. Remove and continue until all of the meat mixture has been formed into balls and browned on all sides.
  4. Return meatballs to the skillet and add 1-2 jars of spaghetti sauce turning heat to low. Cover and let simmer for approximately 1/2 hour before serving.
  5. Serve with pasta or rolls.

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Gluten Free Stromboli

Gluten-free fourteen years ago looked nothing like it does today. Flours didn’t hold the rich consistencies they have today, products were not so readily available, and let’s just call it like it is: the stuff that was available? It was crap.

One of the first game-changer gluten free products we found when I was younger was this amazing invention known as Chebe original cheese bread! We still use this as a staple in our house for Stromboli and pizza crusts. There are a variety of options, but I prefer the classic cheese bread. Every year at Easter my family mass produces Easter Pizzas which are very similar to the traditional Stromboli with a slight twist. With Chebe bread mix, Stromboli becomes a quick last minute throw together meal.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

To start, you need:

  • 1 box mix of the cheese bread mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (any kind you prefer. I use whatever is left over in my fridge)
  • 4 tablespoons of water.

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To start, add the mix, two eggs, oil and cheese into your mixing bowl. I typically use a fork to mix these first ingredients. The mixture will begin to stick together forming small crumbs.

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Oooh love some good quality i-Phone pictures! Vanessa Huey would shudder at these photos! Hopefully this summer, she and I will have the opportunity to collaborate over a few projects and you won’t have to be tortured with my “lovely” amateur phone pictures!

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Once these first ingredients are mixed really well together, slowly add the water  to the mixture and begin to knead the dough with your hands. Gradually it will stick together to make a glorious little knot of dough! I think the most amazing thing about this product is the elasticity. This is not a characteristic often attributed to gluten-free foods.

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The trick to a simple Stromboli, and those of you who can actually bake with regular flour may concur with this trick, is to line the counter with plastic wrap before laying out your dough. (As luck would have it, I opened our plastic wrap box still sitting in the drawer, and it was empty) I happened to discover that press-n-seal wrap also will work if you happen to be that person, like me, who opens the plastic wrap box only to find an empty roll STILL. IN. THE. DRAWER. I’d like to take this moment to totally point the finger at my husband. Unfortunately the reality is, it was probably my fault. No, guaranteed it was my fault.

I will show you the purpose behind rolling out your Stromboli on the plastic wrap in just a moment. If you have a rolling pin that you have used on gluten in previous recipes or baking projects, take a second piece of plastic wrap and lay it on top of the dough while you roll out your crust. The thinner the crust the better. I like to keep mine 1/8 of an inch. When the dough gets to 1/4 of an inch or thicker, it can feel gummy whenever it’s finished.

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Loving that smooth round roll, right? Well I can promise you that the second one I rolled out was much smoother; however, not photographed. Let’s be realistic, I made these in 15 minutes after work on a Thursday and top-notch photogenic food was not my first priority.

Once your crust has reached that nice thin quality, lightly spoon your pizza sauce on half of the crust and begin layering your fillings of choice. In our house we follow this order:

  • Thin layer of Del Grosso spaghetti sauce (my favorite!)
  • A solid layer of pepperoni (with extra for the little ladies to snack on while we assemble)
  • Half of a deli-meat container of smoke ham (we like the kind with a bonus storage container when it’s emptied!)
  • 5 round sliced of provolone cheese (smoked or non-smoked… we switch it up!)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of  shredded mozzarella cheese

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I don’t add any additional seasonings to the crust or the layers of filling. The meats already layered into the Stromboli add so much flavor to the final product. Hey, less is more, right?

Now the magic of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap as a guide, fold your Stromboli crust closed by pulling it over with the plastic wrap.

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Look at that gloriously CLEAN counter top and perfectly folded Stromboli! Carefully peel the plastic wrap back and begin to seal the edge of the Stromboli by pressing the two edges together evenly. Use the plastic wrap as a guide when transferring the completed Stromboli to a baking sheet.

*I STRONGLY recommend using a baking sheet with sides. Depending on how much delicious meat you have added, there will be a slight grease trail while the Stromboli bakes.

Poke the top of your Stromboli with a fork and place that bad boy into the oven.

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Turn on your oven light if you want to watch the magic happen. Let the Stromboli bake for approximately 30 minutes, removing it from the oven when the edges are just slightly golden brown. Let the Stromboli stand about 10 minutes before serving.

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Look at that ooey-gooey, cheese bursting at the edge. My husband willingly eats gluten-free and really likes these crusts. We’ve used these crusts to make Steak and Cheese Stromboli, Buffalo Chicken Stromboli, and countless other “empty the cupboard” Stromboli ideas.

So, if you’re in the mood for a meal that tastes like you worked on it for an hour, try a quickie Stromboli!

And don’t forget to order some Chebe Original Cheese Bread mixes for your next dinner ideas!

Cheers!

  • Whitney