If you are like our family, your dogs are part of the family. And that means they get a birthday party too - or at least a really yummy birthday dinner! Since Copper (our older dog) has food allergies, it's hard to find special occasion treats like cake at the store. So we make our birthday (cup)cakes out of hamburger - and with a few handy twists, the people members of our family enjoy it for dinner too!
Since we have 3 people and 2 pups in our house, this recipe makes four large meatballs - 3 for the people and 1/2 each for the dogs. But you can easily double the recipe if you need more.
The first thing you need to do is set the oven for 350 degrees.
For my meatballs, I like to use a mix of ground beef and ground pork. It's just a preference, so any type of ground meat, or combination of meats, you like will work. Put one pound of raw meat in a mixing bowl, along with 1 egg, 1/4 c applesauce (no sugar added is best), 1/3 c of almond flour and a medium zucchini - finely grated. The applesauce and zucchini provide extra nutrition for everyone, as well as keeping the meatloaf tender and moist. The almond flour and egg keep everything together. We use almond flour because we have gluten issues in our house - plus it add a little extra protein. But feel free to use breadcrumbs instead of the almond flour if that's your preference.
Mix the meat mixture with your hands until everything is incorporated, but don't over mix - that will make the meatball tough.
Spray a muffin tin with a baking spray to keep everything from sticking.
Take out 1/4 of the mixture, roll it in a ball and put it in one of the cups in the muffin tray. Then with the remainder of the meat mixture, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 of a medium onion chopped. You can also add any other spices or seasoning that your family likes. I usually put in some basil and oregano to make them into Italian meatballs, but I have also made this recipe with thyme and sage, as well as oregano and mint.
Once the extra seasoning is incorporated into the meat, divide and roll the remaining mixture into three balls and put them in the muffin tin cups.
Make sure you remember which one's are for the dogs and which one's are for you! You don't want the dogs getting the balls with the onion and garlic in them.
Put the meatballs in the oven and let them bake for 30 minutes. While they are baking, peel your potatos and cut them into approximately 1 inch pieces and put them in a pot covered with water. By cutting them smaller like this, they will cook faster.
Cook the potatoes on high until the water starts to boil. Then turn down the heat to medium and continue to simmer until you can stick a fork in the potatoes and the potato slides off the fork easily.
When the meatballs are done, take them out of the oven, and let them rest for 5 - 10 minutes.
While the meatballs are resting, drain your potatoes, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the water. That will make them easier to mash. Put the potatoes and leftover water back into the pot. Add the butter and with a hand mixer, mix the potatoes until they are whipped. You can add a couple of tablespoons of milk to help get them creamy.
Now you are ready to decorate! Using a butter knife, take your mashed potatoes and spread them like frosting all over the top and sides of your meatballs. Once they are covered, you can use any treats that you have to make the decorations. For ours, we usually use a homemade cookie treat, or freeze dried treats to decorate for the pups, and steamed carrots and broccoli for the people.
And that's it! You now have a meatball and mashed potato dinner for your people family and a birthday meatloaf cake for your pup!
Meatball and Mashed Potato Cupcakes
Makes 4 cupcakes
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c applesauce - no sugar added
- 1 medium zucchini - finely grated
- 1/2 medium onion - finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- Salt / Pepper to taste
- 6 medium potatoes
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1/4 c milk
- Salt / Pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Combine in a medium sized bowl the beef, pork, egg, applesauce, and zucchini. Mix until well blended.
- Separate out 1/2 of the mixture (dog portion) and set the rest aside (people portion).
- Roll the dog portion into balls and place in muffin tin. Push down slightly so you get a flat surface on the top and bottom, but still have rounded sides.
- In the people portion, add in the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and mix until well blended.
- Roll the people portion into a ball and place in muffin tin. Push down slightly so you get a flat surface on the top and bottom, but still have rounded sides.
- Put in oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 - 10 minutes
While your meatloaf is cooking:
- Peel and cut potatoes into evenly sized chunks, put in pot and cover with water.
- Boil potatoes in water until a fork will go into them easily, and slides right out when lifted (about 20 minutes after boiling).
- Drain most of the water (you will want to keep a tablespoon or 2 in the pot with the potatoes to help with the mixing), and use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes until there are no solid or large chunks. Remove 1/4 of the potatoes and set aside.
- Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to the remaining potatoes and continue with the hand mixer until you have a good mashed potato consistency.
Assembling your Birthday Meatball Cupcake:
- Move the dog's meatballs to a plate that they can eat off of.
- Using a butter knife, or frosting knife, "frost" the meatloaf with the 1/4 potatoes that you did not include the dairy or spices by spreading them over the top and sides of the loaf.
- At this point, you can use kibble or small dog treats to decorate the cake before serving.