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Healthy eating meets nostalgic comfort food in Laura Lea’s newest cookbook: “Simply Laura Lea.” The Nashville-based cookbook author and founder of the blog LL Balanced brings those favorite, comforting dishes to your kitchen in an easily digestible and straightforward manner—without having to sacrifice healthy eating. 

Related Reading: How to Make Easy Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce 

Simply Laura Lea: Balanced Recipes for Everyday Living, $25.16 on Amazon

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Rather than peddle restrictive diets, Laura firmly believes that focusing on whole, fresh foods and ditching preconceived notions of what you should (and shouldn’t) eat is the best kind of diet. And the recipes in her book highlight that impression. Alongside buffalo cauliflower hummus and miso coconut-roasted eggplant are the likes of chocolate chip banana bread steel cut oats and hearty turkey cheddar lasagna. The book is also geared toward home cooks with dietary restrictions; each recipe is designated with a symbol, so you’ll know whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, keto-friendly, gluten-free, or paleo.

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A fun, always crowd-pleasing recipe to start with is Laura’s cheddar-stuffed buffalo meatballs. These plump turkey- and beef-filled meatballs boast a couple secret ingredients (Mayo! Frank’s RedHot!) that give them a super tender finish and extra spicy kick. They’re also gluten-free and keto-friendly. Laura thinks they’re delightful on their own, thanks to that cube of cheese in the center of each ball, but she also suggests using them as a filling for meatball subs, paired with a swipe of mayo, a tangle of white onion and shredded lettuce, and a final showering of cheese.

Cheddar-Stuffed Buffalo Meatballs Recipe

After years of making a variety of meatballs and meatloaves, I’ve realized that the best result comes from a combination of beef and turkey. This pairing, combined with a few tablespoons of mayo (yep!), makes for the most tender texture. My love for Frank’s RedHot continues on in this recipe, pairing gloriously with an oozy cheddar cheese filling. For a dairy-free version, feel free to sub a vegan cheese of your choice, but I don’t suggest leaving it out altogether. These meatballs are divine on their own, but you can also throw them into a roll with an extra smear of mayo, some finely diced white onion, shredded lettuce, and another sprinkle of cheddar.

Cheddar-Stuffed Buffalo Meatballs

Makes: 17 meatballs
  • 4 teaspoons avocado oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, diced into
  • 1/4-inch pieces (1/3 cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons original Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef, 85/15 blend recommended
  • 1 pound dark meat ground turkey
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (make at least 17, can make a few extra)
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place a slotted baking sheet or ovenproof cooling rack on top. Make sure parchment overhangs the edges by at least an inch. Grease the baking sheet with 2 teaspoons avocado oil. (I suggest using a pastry brush.
  2. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat, and add remaining 2 teaspoons avocado oil. When oil moves quickly around the pan and is shimmering, add shallots, and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and add garlic and onion powder. Stir continuously for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. While veggies are cooling, place all remaining ingredients except cheese in a large mixing bowl. Once veggies have cooled for 5 minutes, add to the bowl. Use clean hands to thoroughly incorporate ingredients.
  4. Scoop up approximately 1/4 cup meatball mixture, and form a rough ball shape. (I like to use a dampened 2-inch retractable ice cream scoop or dampened 1/4 cup measure.) Place on the baking sheet, then repeat with remaining mixture. Use your thumb or a tablespoon measure to make a well in each meatball, approximately 1 inch wide. Fill each hole with a cheese cube. Pinch the meatballs closed, and roll into a round shape. (I find it helpful to rinse my hands a few times while doing this to prevent sticking.) Space meatballs approximately 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake meatballs for 21 minutes, then test to see if ready by slicing one in half. It’s completely cooked if no pink remains. If you see any pink, bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before using a spatula to remove the meatballs from the broiler rack.
  6. Leftover meatballs will keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Header image courtesy of "Simply Laura Lea."

Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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