Themed menu for March Madness
Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:35 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:35 a.m.
With the Final Four taking the court on Saturday, I thought it would be fun to come up with a themed party menu.
I don't really get into the NCAA basketball tournament every year. The last time I remember watching and cheering on a team was way back in ninth grade, when I was a Duke fan, admittedly for the cute guys (Grant Hill, Christian Laettner). That was the year of the classic Laettner game-winning turnaround jump shot against Kentucky in the semifinal game. But since then, I haven't gotten into it — haven't filled out a bracket for a pool or watched with interest. I can understand how it could be fun, and if I had gone to a basketball school, I would probably be more interested (but I went to Georgia, a big football school).
Anyway, I made three foods that would be perfect for a night of basketball: Smokin' Mozzarella Balls, Super-Size Meatballs with Spinach and Cheese (which can be made into little sandwiches) and Peanut Butter Balls. Yes, my theme is balls. I even tried to make my peanut butter balls look like basketballs, which didn't turn out so well, though they still taste good.
The mozzarella balls are similar to cheese sticks, just a different shape, plus they have a little adobo sauce or hot sauce for a kick. You can even dunk them (get it?) in marinara sauce for an extra flavor kick.
The super-size meatballs and meatball sandwiches are delicious. And with the addition of spinach and using low-fat ground meat, you don't have to feel bad about eating this manly food.
The peanut butter balls are so good, and a perfect little bite-size sweet ending. I made up this recipe, taking some of the classic ingredients and to jazz them up. They are great, and remind me of my favorite candy — Reese's peanut butter eggs. I did try to tint some vanilla almond bark orange using gel food coloring, but only got a light peach color. If you have some orange candy melts leftover from Halloween, though, that would be a good alternative. And I'm sure no one will complain if you just use chocolate chips as the coating.
So, impress your friends with a basketball-themed menu, even if you can't impress them with your bracket.
Smokin' Mozzarella Balls
Vegetable oil for frying
8-ounce container fresh mozzarella balls (bite-size)
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers, or hot sauce
½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of your favorite marinara or pasta sauce, warmed
Pour a couple of inches of oil into a medium saucepan or electric skillet. Bring to 350 degrees, checking with a thermometer.
Drain liquid from the mozzarella balls and pat dry with paper towels.
Place flour, salt and pepper into a medium-size bowl. Place egg and adobo or hot sauce into a second bowl, then whisk to combine. Place breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese into a third bowl and mix to combine. Roll mozzarella in flour, then egg mixture, then breadcrumb mixture.
Carefully place 4 to 5 coated balls into hot oil. Move them around with a heat-proof spatula. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Continue until all have been fried.
Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.
Adapted from Picky Palate, www.picky-palate.com
Super-Size Meatballs with Spinach and Cheese
One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 ½ to 2 2/3 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
½ a medium onion, finely chopped (optional)
3 garlic cloves, chopped or 1 to 1½ teaspoons garlic-herb seasoning
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
¾ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
A pinch each salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wring all the water out of the spinach using a clean kitchen towel. Place the ground meat in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of it. Add the spinach, onion (if using), garlic or garlic seasoning, egg, milk, breadcrumbs, cheese and salt and pepper. Mix until evenly combined, then form the mixture into 12 large balls (smaller if desired). Arrange them on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).
Adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray
Super-Size Meatball Sandwiches
Dinner rolls, about the size of your meatballs
Fresh baby spinach, or desired lettuce
Super-Size Meatballs with Spinach and Cheese (recipe above)
Cut each roll in half to make buns. Place two are three baby spinach leaves (or lettuce) on the bottom "bun." Top with a meatball and marinara sauce. Place the top "bun" on top of the meatball. Serve.
Peanut Butter Balls
1½ cups peanut butter
¼ cup finely chopped lightly salted peanuts
½ cup ground or finely crushed graham crackers (about 4 sheets)
1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ stick butter, softened
Vanilla almond bark, candy melts and/or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate and 6 ounces milk chocolate
Combine all ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour. Four mixture into bite-size balls and place on a waxed paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, an hour or so. Meanwhile, melt desired coating. (To make them look like basketballs, you can use orange candy melts or try to tint almond bark orange). Once peanut butter balls are firm, dip them in desired coating until covered, then return them to waxed paper lined baking sheet. Place tray back in refrigerator or freezer until chocolate is set. Can be stored in refrigerator for at least a week.
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