Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

No offense to T.S. Eliot, but I firmly believe March is the cruelest month.  It’s long, for one.  There are no holidays.  It still gets dark early, and it’s still cold.  The tourists are in full force, so you’re actually avoiding the cherry blossoms, at all costs.  And someone chose March to be Women’s History Month – which don’t get me wrong – this is important – but how come we’ve got to cram all the events and all the meetings and all the speeches and all the things into March?  I’m pretty sure – actually I know – that women are awesome all year round.  (AKA, I’m really lucky and work on issues that I feel incredibly passionate about, but I’m also le tired.  Growing a human is hard.)

However, despite the lack of posts and despite whining above, rest assured, we’ve been dominating Cooking Light’s March issue.  No one is going to call these meatballs pretty – but they were delicious.  And polenta…it’s the new staple in our house.

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Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

for the polenta:

  • 3-4 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • salt, pepper
  • 3/4 cup ground polenta
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • shredded cheese of your choice

for the meatballs

  • about a pound of lean ground meat (we used turkey)
  • splash sesame oil (this stuff is powerful)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • splash soy sauce
  • pinch of panko or breadcrumbs

for the sauce

  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (yes, really)
  • big dash sriracha or hot sauce
  • about 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • big dash of worcestshire sauce
  1. Make your meatballs.  Combine the turkey, onion, garlic, sesame oil soy sauce and breadcrumbs.  Roll into about 15-20 meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, about six minutes.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, get your stock boiling for your polenta.  (Note: you may need way more liquid at the end.)
  4. Add water, ketchup, sriracha, oyster and worcestshire sauce to the pan and whisk it up.  Return meatballs to the pan and cover, simmering until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. When the stock is boiling, add salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the polenta.  Depending on what kind you use – it may take up to 25 minutes.  Add butter and cheese and season to taste.
  6. Serve the whole shebang with a healthy side salad – this kind of heaviness needs a little greenery.

 

The Verdict:

We are the converted.  Polenta – never again pre-prepared.  Ever.  THIS is the way to go.

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Ground Turkey Tostadas with Pickled Onions and Jalapeño

There’s nothing I don’t love about Mexican food.

Onions? Check. Cilantro? Check. Heat? Check. Crispy, fried corn chips? Check. Melted, delicious dairy? Yes, please.  Something you can make with veggies or with meat, so Husband doesn’t complain about wasting away? YUP.

Because we tend to have Mexican food fairly often, I keep a lookout for interesting twists.  This quick-pickling innovation, from Cooking Light, really is as good (and as quick) as it sounds.  Reduce the amount of jalapeño if heat isn’t your thing.  But seriously, make these.

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Ground Turkey Tostadas with Pickled Onions and Jalapeño

  • 1 thinly sliced red onion, divided
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • large handful chili powder
  • about half handful ground cumin
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • small handful garlic salt
  • handful pepper
  • handful crushed red peppers
  • corn tostadas
  • to serve:
    • sour cream, cilantro, cheese, avocado
  1. Combine 1/2 of your sliced onion, vinegar, water, a little bit of sugar, about 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the jalapeño in a small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for a minute.  Remove from heat and place to the side while you make the rest of your meal.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add the other half of the onion, along with bell pepper.  Cook down about 5 minutes, and then add ground turkey and garlic.  Break the turkey up and add all of the spices.  Cook 5-7 minutes, or until browned.
  3. Drain pickled veggie mixture.  Top tostadas evenly with the ground turkey, pickled onions and jalapeños, a bit of sour cream, avocado, cilantro – whatever makes your heart sing.

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The Verdict:

While lamenting the effectiveness of the tostada as a food delivery system, Husband agrees: we should pickle more vegetables, more often.

Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki

I’ve been waiting all week to post these bad boys.

This past weekend, Husband and I hosted my parents.  Normally, this is a good excuse to shuttle off to that restaurant we’ve been dying to try but can’t quite justify the expense…but since my parents were coming off a 3-day Civil War/college reunion tour, they wanted some home-cooked food. Enter sandman Deb Perelman.

Tip: next time your parents are coming off a 3-day Civil War tour (I’ll let you all ponder that in your heads.  Parental units hopping on and off a bus, checking out battlefields, dressed in orange and/or tiger stripes, chanting about Old Nassau.  My dad , the civil war buff, bopping about in his Abe Lincoln t-shirt.  My mom, the bewildered German, wondering when the part is when she gets to see her kids.  Makes me giggle.) make them this.

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Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

for your meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey (use a mixture of lean and fatty meat, so it does not dry out)
  • about 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful cumin
  • small handful coriander
  • large pinch of salt & pepper
  • about a tablespoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (better if toasted quickly)

for your chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • small handful sumac
  • a big bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • a bit of lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt, pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • olive oil
  • optional: olives (blech) or anchovy paste (yum), to add brininess

for your tzatziki sauce

  • about two cups plain Greek yogurt
  • about 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon, plus a little grated zest
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • optional: fresh dill, 1 clove minced garlic (there’s lots of garlic in the rest of this recipe, so I omitted it, or I should say, Husband omitted it, since he’s in charge of tzatsiki in our house!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Comine all of your meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly, using your hands, but do not overwork the meat.  Shape the meat into little golf balls.
  3. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large saute pan and brown the meatballs.  Do not overcrowd the pan.
  4. On a large pan covered with aluminum foil (to make your cleanup easier!), bake the meatballs for about 10 – 13 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, get your smashed chickpea salad going.  Combine all of the chickpea ingredients in one bowl, minus olive oil.  Mash (a potato masher works well!) together – leave it a big chunky.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  6. Finally, mix all of your tzatziki ingredients together in another bowl.  Season to taste.
  7. Serve everything together, all at once, and let the praise wash over you like a college fight song.

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The Verdict:

I know it LOOKS like a lot, but if you have the ingredients, this is easy-peasy and oh-so-good.  Mom, Dad & Husband all raved about this little combination, which we also served with salad and pita bread…tiding us all over until the next Civil War battlefield tour.

Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

Right before we left for Miami last weekend, I had a conundrum.  We had nothing in the fridge.  We were leaving in the morning, so running to the grocery store didn’t seem practical.  I didn’t want to go out to dinner or order takeout – we were about to spend three days in a place known for $16 actually $24 cocktails (side note: who thought it would be appropriate to charge MORE than the price of a whole pizza for a little bit of rum in a plastic cup!?).

So I thought about it and scrounged around and made this.  And felt really pleased with myself when we had leftovers sitting in our fridge when we got home Sunday night. Varina: 1, bathing suit: 0.

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Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

  • olive oil
  • one tablespoon of butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds, a little bit of oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar good tomato sauce (obviously, make your own if you have the ingredients on hand!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 box rigatoni
  • about half a bag of spinach
  • CHEESE, and lots of it.  I used a combination of grated mozzarella, parmesan, and gruyere.
  • fresh herbs – if you have them.  parsley & basil are lovely.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F & prepare a baking dish with a little bit of cooking spray.
  2. In a large, deep skillet heat a little bit of olive oil and butter together; melt the butter over medium heat.  Add onions, a bit of salt, pepper and some crushed reds and cook down, 4-7 minutes.  Add garlic and ground turkey and break it up in the pan, so all sides can brown.
  3. Get your pasta water boiling; cook pasta slightly less than al dente, so it returns some crunch once it’s out of the oven.
  4. Once the turkey has cooked though, add tomato paste, mix through, and then add tomato sauce.  Mix thoroughly.  Add cooked pasta and spinach; give the whole thing a good toss.  Add about half your cheese and mix again.  If you have herbs, you can add them to the mix, as well.
  5. Scoop the pasta and turkey mixture into your baking dish and top with cheese and a little bit more sauce.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

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The Verdict:

There is simply no way to mess this one up.  Add all the vegetables you have – mushrooms, shallots, peppers, whatever you please.  Make your own sauce.  Leave out the meat.  Use all the cheeses you have.  Get out your bathing suit and do a little happy dance, especially if you’re married to my husband, who doesn’t like the the crusty side parts as much as the middle, so you get all the best parts.

Home Alone.

The original plan for this week had us eating out tonight with friends, so when we decide to reschedule, I haven’t planned on anything for tonight.  With the husband out to dinner with a prospective summer associate (guess the wining and dining days are back), I’m on my own.  After hitting the gym, I’m starving, but nothing in the fridge is speaking to me.  Time to mix it up.

Protein Mix Up

  • olive oil
  • leftover ground turkey from last night
  • spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • a couple of cubes of fontina

In  medium saute pan, I heat some olive oil and add in the ground turkey to heat it through.  After a couple of minutes, I crack in two eggs, and a big handful of spinach.  Cooking it all through, I add in the fontina at the very end, to let it melt down.  Comfort on a plate, with a side of Sriracha.

The Verdict
I’m always happy when I can live off “the frost of the land,” also known as the contents of my fridge.  I think the takeaway here is not necessarily to repeat this particular “recipe,” but to be unafraid to throw some random things together in a pot and see how it turns out.  In this case, not badly!