Spanikopita Chicken Meatballs

 

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Guys, meatballs are kinda my thing.  As much as I love good old fashioned Italian-style meatballs in “gravy” (if you don’t call red sauce with meat gravy in Philly you just don’t belong here), the kind of meatballs I like to make are not what your Nonna might expect.  I’ve made meatballs that are stuffed with cheese, meatballs that taste like Chinese orange chicken, and most famously, my Raspberry Chipotle Meatballs– those bad boys won me a meatball contest at work last year.  Not kidding.  I even got a trophy!

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Photo Cred: Krissy Iaci 

There are so many different types and so much you can do with meatballs.  This recipe that I’m sharing with you today was inspired by an appetizer dish from Rachael Ray.  Instead of serving them as an app, I updated the recipe a bit, added a serving of rice, and voila it was our dinner!

These Spanikopita chicken meatballs are so delish, and they are not bad for you at all!  They are jam packed with spinach and using ground chicken breast limits the fat in the meatballs too.  When I originally tried this recipe, I used real (whole fat) feta cheese, but I recommend if you’re trying to be “good” to use fat free or reduced fat feta.  The feta texture and flavor is still there, but won’t cost you as many calories (or points if you’re on Weight Watchers like me!).

Spanikopita Chicken Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from:  Rachael Ray 
Serves: 3 (18 meatballs total plus sauce)
WW Smart Points (with real feta): 7
WW Smart Points (with fat free feta):  3 (omg right)

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
  • 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (I use cheesecloth)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese *see note*
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 3/4 cup Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, coriander
  • Salt

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Housewarming Party Spread

Hello again, friends.  I hope you all had a good weekend.  I’m hanging on the sofa, enjoying today’s chilly afternoon.  Dave has RedZone football on, and I’m still reeling from a wonderful party at our new house.  Yesterday, we *finally* threw our housewarming party after moving into our home in late May.  It’s been a journey and a lot of work getting the house together… buying some new furniture, painting a few of the rooms, hanging up pictures, etc.  It’s nice for everything to be coming together.  The housewarming party was a great success- lots of friends and family came to visit and we had a great time.  But, more importantly… the spread was fantastic.

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After lots of planning, stress, more planning and more stress- I landed on what I hoped to be enough food for the 60+ people we were expecting.  I wanted to share my party spread and the corresponding recipes with you, in the hopes of maybe making YOUR next open house party less stressful.

Our party was awesome, and the food was absolutely perfect.  There are a few tips I’d first like to give before diving into the yummy recipes I’m sharing.

  1. When you’re going to try and cater your own party, you can never have too much planning.  My first step of planning was for our menu.  I saved recipes with links to the original pages on an email draft, and added as I thought of more.  At the same time, I made my grocery list.  Every time I added a recipe, I would open it up and jot down the ingredients I’d need to buy for it.  I’ve found this to be SO helpful while I’m at the grocery store.
  2. For your menu, come up with a variety of options.  Finger foods are always ideal, less waste and clean up required.  A few hot items, a few cold items are nice… as well as a good combination of veggie-friendly and carnivore-friendly.
  3. Next, plan when you’re cooking EVERYTHING.  If there’s anything you can prep before hand, do it.  The less you have to do the day-of, the better.  Trust me.  Things get crazy and stressful and this will make your life so much easier.
  4. Double check your ingredients.  I had to go back to the store twice, after not remembering to save my onions, or buy extra limes.  Your prep will run smoothly if you check all of your ingredients before starting on your recipes!
  5. Map out your serving plan just as precisely as your recipe plan.  Know what serving utensils, dishes bowls, and space you’re going to use before making up your mind.
  6. Labels.  Label your food and drinks, please.  You wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste because someone doesn’t know what’s in the cheesy dip no one’s touched yet.  People feel more comfortable eating food when they have an idea of what it is… don’t you?
  7. Ask for help!  Grab your spouse, Mom, friend, anyone who offers to help you.  It’ll be nice to get to delegate some of the work, but also getting another opinion when you’re stuck with a last minute decision is clutch.

Now that you’re ready to plan… let me share my menu with you!

Before the madness

Before the madness

For our food spread, I wanted to go with most recipes I could make before the day of the party.  I’m a huge fan of dips, so I always have a few of those.  I also had a few cheese plates we got for our wedding that I wanted to show off, so I definitely wanted to do some fun cheeses.  Adding in a few other apps here and there, and Dave’s requested Chick Fil-A nugget platter, we came up with a great variety of food that was pretty much gone by the end of the night!  It was a huge success.

Soft Pretzels:  Being in Philly, I had to order our favorite soft pretzel tray from Philly Soft Pretzel Factory.  I like to get the full tray but only include salted pretzels and everything pretzels.  Yum.  Dave picked these up about an hour before the party started.

Cheese Plates with Crackers:  I ALWAYS try to buy my cheese from Trader Joe’s.  They have an awesome variety and great prices and if you’re not sure what to do, their staff is very helpful.  I went with a crunchy, aged sharp cheddar, a 1000-day aged Gouda, the always reliably delicious and creamy Saint Andre, a nutty Manchego, and a slightly stinky Blue Stilton.  We had a few accompaniments to go alongside the cheese and crackers- Fig Butter, Honey, Dried Cherries, and Truffle Marcona Almonds.  Nommm.

Caprese Skewers:  This is probably my new favorite entertaining snack.  It’s healthy, it’s easy, and everybody loves them.  These bad boys are simple… buy yourself some small wooden skewers, stack a grape tomato, basil leaf, and chunk of fresh mozzarella.  You can drizzle with balsamic or put a small dish in the center, like I did, for your guests to dip.  I recommend doing this day of so the tomatoes and cheese don’t dry out.

Tortellini Skewers w/ Pesto Dipping Sauce:  Another SUPER simple recipe.  I bought a huge serving of the pre-cooked tortellinis from BJ’s and cooked them up day of.  Throw two tortellini’s on each skewer and then again, either drizzle or offer a pesto dipping sauce.  I wanted to do this instead of a pasta salad, that people would probably serve themselves too much of.

Roasted Shrimp w/ Cocktail Sauce:  This was a great make-ahead snack.  Bought a giant bag of Extra-Large frozen raw, tail-on shrimp from BJ’s.  Shrimp can be expensive, so definitely try to get them in bulk!  I thawed the shrimp, then spread them in a foil-lined, pam-sprayed cookie sheet.  Then, I sprayed the shrimp with coconut oil spray (olive oil drizzle would be fine too!) salt and pepper.  Popped them in the oven at 400 for about 4-5 minutes on each side.  I put those in a tupperware until the day of, when I served with cocktail sauce.  Simple, yet these were the first snacks gone!

BBQ Salami:  Two Hebrew National Salamis- score and place in foil inside a baking dish.  Cover the salami with BBQ sauce.  Sweet Baby Ray’s is a family favorite (and gluten free!).  Bake in the oven for about 45 min or until the BBQ sauce starts getting all carmelizedy on the salami.  Cut or slice and pour any extra BBQ sauce ontop.  Serve with mustard, again, family preference is Nance’s Sharp and Creamy.  Another big hit.

In case you're like me and had no idea what kind of salami to buy :)

In case you’re like me and had no idea what kind of salami to buy 🙂

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Roasted Shrimp and Green Bean Salad

Roasted Shrimp and Green Bean Salad

Now, onto the Dips.

Caramelized Onion Dip w/ Wavy Chips:  Based off of Ina’s Pan Fried Onion Dip.  This was a new recipe to me and I’m pretty much obsessed.  This was the first thing I came to when people were leaving and it was my turn to eat.  YUM.

Recipe- 2 Large Sweet Onions, 4 T Butter, 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil, 1/4 tsp Cayenne, 1 tsp Kosher Salt, 1/2 tsp Black Pepper: Cut onions in half.  Make thin slices with the cut side-down (half moon shape).  Cook the onions for about 30-40 minutes with all other ingredients listed so far in a saucepan.  Put aside and let cool.  Meanwhile, in a mixer, combine 4oz Light Cream Cheese, 1/2 cup Fat Free Sour Cream, and 1/2 cup Olive Oil Mayo.  Once the onions are cool, add them to the mixture and combine.  I tried to remove the onions from the grease, and did not just dump them in together.  

Spinach Dip w/ Carrots and Celery:  A classic staple for us.  I make this all the time just to have for Dave and I to snack on during the week.

Recipe- One container fat free sour cream, 3/4-1 cup of Olive Oil Mayo.  Mix with one package of cooked chopped spinach (I drain mine using cheese cloth.  SO MUCH BETTER than paper towels, i promise it’s worth the small investment), one small can of diced water chestnuts, and one package of Lipton Vegetable soup (dry mix only).  Serve with raw vegg.

Buffalo Chicken Dip:  I never make this because everyone does, but it was a specific request from Dave… so of course I made it again.  Check out my fav recipe here on the blog, not too long ago.  I like to serve this with crackers or my favorite, Fritos Scoops.

Roasted Jalapeno & Honey Hummus:  Another repeat for the blog, but my favorite and really the only hummus in my life anymore.  It’s so good.  I used only 2 peppers, without seeds and it was pretty hot.  Not sure how I used 4 as I talked about in the original post, but go for it if you like heat.  I try to keep things on the less-spicy side for big parties.  Served this with Pita chips.

Cheese, Salad, Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Dip

Cheese, Salad, Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Dip

Spinach Dip and vegg

Spinach Dip and vegg

Time for the “main” dishes!  Not too heavy, I tried to still stay with finger food.

Chicken Nuggets:  I’d like to say this was for the kids we were expecting, but I’m pretty sure the adults devoured them just as much.  Saved myself some time and ordered the biggest party tray available at Chick Fil-A.  They’re the best.

Balsamic Roasted Veggies:  I like to have a healthy option and a good hearty veggie option since Rachel my sister-in-law is a vegetarian, I always try and remember that not everyone can eat meat!  During my prep day, I sliced two eggplants, a few lbs of zucchini, carrots, asparagus, and multi-colored bell peppers (keep those whole!) and threw them in the oven at 400, sprayed with some oil salt and pepper.  I roasted the veggies for about an hour, flipping every so often and turning the bell peppers.  For the bell peppers- you’ll want to get those nice and browning, then toss them in a paper bag.  Let them steam for about 10 minutes, then remove the skin and seeds once they are cool.  I placed all the veggies in a tupperware with balsamic vinegar poured overtop.  Served these room-temp day of.

Strawberry Salad w/ Lime Basil Vinaigrette:  You can make the dressing ahead, but definitely do the salad day-of.  I simplified the salad but used the dressing from this recipe.  Mixed greens, tossed with fresh strawberries, raw slivered almonds, and crumbled blue cheese worked great with this light dressing.  It looked like it wouldn’t be enough, but once I tossed the salad with the dressing, it somehow dressed the whole salad.  Don’t panic if you  make the dressing and it looks small!

Dressing- 1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice, zest from the lime, 1/2 cup Olive Oil, 1 T Honey, 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, Salt, Pepper.  Blend in a blender or food processor.  

Italian Green Bean Salad:  This recipe is a favorite of my friend Erin’s family and was passed along to me for my party!  A great additional healthy option, and is perfect room temp.  I did make the salad day of and dressing during my prep day.

Recipe- 2lbs Fresh Green Beans, 1 pint Grape Tomatoes (cut in half), 3 T Balsamic Vinegar, 1 T Dijon Mustard, 1/2 tsp. Salt, 9 T olive oil, 1 large red onion (diced and soaked in cold water).  Drop beans in boiling water.  Cook for about 4 minutes, then drain and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Mix the dressing, then toss with the beans, tomatoes, and onions.  Serve room-temp.  

Raspberry Chipotle Meatballs:  Another staple for parties of mine.  Easy, sweet, spicy, love it.  I bought a 5lb bag of Turkey meatballs from BJ’s and doubled my original recipe I found years ago from Southern Living.  Made these during prep-day, then threw the cold balls into my crock pot a few hours before game-time.

Recipe- 2lbs meatballs, 1 28oz BBQ Sauce (again, Sweet Baby Ray’s for me), 1 15oz Jar Raspberry Preserves (I use All-Fruit brand!), 3 chipotle peppers + 1 Tablespoon of sauce from a small can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo (found near mexican food in grocery store).  Mix everything but the balls in a large pot, add 1 1/2 cups water and whisk.  Add meatballs and cook until heated through or about 45 min.  Re-heat or place in a crockpot to keep warm.

Roasted Veggie platter

Roasted Veggie platter

Pretzels, Nuggets, Salami, and Meatballs

Pretzels, Nuggets, Salami, and Meatballs

Our desserts were completely provided by our fabulous Moms!  My Mom made a decadent chocolate pizza with marshmallows ontop, chocolate covered pretzels, and her famous “White Trash” (white chocolate rolled chex mix, peanuts, and M&Ms).  Dave’s Mom brought us her famous Magic Cookie Bars, Raspberry Bars, Lemon Bars, and my favorite fall-appropriate Pumpkin Bars.  My mouth is watering again!

Dessert Area

Dessert Area

No party would be complete without the libations!  We bought beer, and provided one mixed drink option and two sangrias.  For each of the mixed drinks, I doubled the recipe.  I’ve made the red before and am a huge fan, but the favorite by far was the seasonal Apple Pie Sangria.  I’ll be making that again!  These can be made before the day of, but if you add the fruit in before, take that out day of and replace with new fruit.

Also, with any of the drinks, I’d recommend leaving out the ice and having your guests put their own ice in their cups.  That way, the ice won’t melt and water down the drinks.

Red Sangria, a Bobby Flay Recipe:  I used Spanish Red Wine, and omitted the Blackberries, as they are not in season.
Recipe- 2 Bottles Table Red, 1 cup Apricot Brandy, 1/2 cup Triple Sec, 1/2 cup Raspberry Liquor, 1 cup Orange Juice, 1 cup Pomegranate Juice, 2/4 cup simple syrup, orange slices, apple slices, blackberries, one cinnamon stick.

Apple Pie Sangria:  Followed this one exactly.  The Caramel Vodka we bought was Smirnoff brand called “Kissed Caramel”.

Recipe- 2 Bottles Reisling, 5 cups Apple Cider, 2 cups Ginger Ale, 2 cups Caramel Vodka, 3 honey crisp apples, 3 pears, 2 cinnamon sticks

Maui Moscow Mule:  Vodka, Lime, Ginger Ale, Pimms #1, Mint, Fresh Ginger and Lime Slices.  I made this one too strong at first, so I recommend tasting before serving so you can get the mixture right!  Like the sangria, I had the Ginger and Lime slices as well as mint leaves floating on top.

A pretty picture of my kitchen, where I did all this hard work :)

A pretty picture of my kitchen, where I did all this hard work 🙂

I hope this can inspire you when you’re going to make your own party next!  If you were one of the lucky ones at my party, you’re welcome ESPECIALLY for the Apple Pie Sangria recipe and thank YOU for coming!

Italian Meatball Burgers & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It’s about that time of year… fire up the grill!  Grilling is my favorite , and I couldn’t wait any longer to start it up for the summer.

I’ve been dying to try these burgers since I saw them on this Cooking Light recipe.  It was a great first meal on the Barbie for the season, but I’m sorry to say it certainly wasn’t my favorite burger ever.  They turned out to be really flavorful (just like a meatball!) but a little on the dense-side.

I tried to not over-mix the meat and also tried Bobby Flay’s suggestion to press your thumb in the center of the burger which collects the juices while it cooks and keeps it moist.  They were pretty tasty anyway, and a recipe I’d definintely recommend you giving a shot!

Italian Meatball Burgers

Recipe Adapted from:  Italian Meatball Burgers, Cooking Light
Ingredients:  
8oz Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage
1lb Ground Beef
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning Mix
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Cooking Spray
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, thinly sliced
4 Italian Rolls, sliced
3/4 cup Tomato Sauce
Directions:
1.  Remove the sausage from the casing.  Combine in a bowl with the ground beef and all seasonings.  Do not overmix… but mix with your hands… go on… get ’em nice and messy!  Form into 4 burgers (or 6) and flatten.  Push the center in with your thumb to make an imprint.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or longer.
2.  Spray the grill with canola spray or oil.  Turn on the grill and heat it up!  Turn it on to medium-high heat.
3.  Place burgers on the grill, with the thumb-hole side up.  Cook for 5-ish minutes, then flip ONCE.  Cook for another 3 minutes or so.  Put the cheese on the burgers and close the lid.  Cook for another 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Also, for those two minutes, place the split rolls (spray them with the spray or oil) bread-side down on the grill for two minutes.
4.  Remove the rolls and burgers.  Serve with 2 Tablespoons of tomato sauce ontop of the burger.

Results… Like I mentioned, I think I either a. overworked or b. overcooked our burgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised at either… it’s hard to do it perfectly, especially with a new recipe.  Also, I would have liked to use a thicker tomato sauce.  Ours didn’t add much to the burger but if it were thicker or had more flavor it would have worked well.

You can see the thumb-holes! Bobby Flay's suggestion to keep the burgers moist!

Fresh Mozz is key!

Does anyone have any burger-grilling techniques that work really well?  

BONUS!!  We served these bad boys with roasted brussels sprouts.  They were fabulous!  Here’s how:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

1 Bag Fresh Brussels Sprouts

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Cut ends and any wilted leaves off of the brussels sprouts and toss them in a bowl with the oil.

2.  Place brussels sprouts on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, according to your personal tastes.

3.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, turning halfway through.  Test one out (let it cool for a minute) and you will know when it’s done when your fork goes through easily and it tastes REALLY yummy!  Cook for 5-10 minutes longer testing until they are cooked.