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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Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna

This month’s issue of Cooking Light is killing it.  Granted, it could be the preggo hormones talking, but I dog-eared almost every single page in the magazine when I got it.

Not that you asked, but here are my general thoughts on Cooking Light:

CL to me = what I imagine Pinterest is to other people.  (Pinterest is far too complicated for me to ever figure out.)  Take the recipe and then add your imagination (and more butter).  Also, I will never use anything but full fat ricotta.  So, of course this “lightened” vegetarian lasagna is really just vegetarian lasagna.  Still, way to go, CL.

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Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna
  • 3- 4 cups cubed + peeled butternut squash
  • approx 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper
  • dash nutmeg (really, small dash – I find nutmeg overwhelming)
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere/Swiss
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 boxes mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 big bunch Swiss chard or other leafy green
  • half box no boil lasagna noodles
  • a little less than a cup ricotta cheese
  • parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and then simmer until squash is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Place squash mixture in a blender OR – use your immersion blender!! Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and blend until smooth.   Add the Gruyere and about half the mozzarella to the mixture; stir until it melts all the way in.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook about 5-7 minutes or until browned and liquid evaporates. Add chard and a splash of broth. Cover and cook until chard wilts.  Drain the mixture – you want all that excess moisture out of there.
  5. Spread about a cup of the squash sauce in bottom of a glass/baking dish, arrange noodles over the sauce, and top with half of the the chard/mushrooms.  Dollop and spread a bit of ricotta all across.  Then, repeat the process – squash sauce, noodles, chard mixture.  Then, more squash, and finally, mozzarella cheese (and parm, if you feel like it).
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes – and then turn the heat up and broil the whole thing for the last 3 minutes.  Serve topped with parsley..and a side salad to cut all that cheese!

 

 

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The Verdict:

This is a cheese-fest. Which obviously means it’s an A+ in my book.  Bonus: it makes servings for dayyyyyyys.

 

Blueberry Barley and Mint Salad.

The last couple of days have been both joyful and deeply sad.  We celebrated our friends’ marriage over the weekend with a beautiful ceremony in Brooklyn, and today, I turn 31.

We also lost my husband’s grandmother this past weekend.  Mimi, as we all called her, has acted as a stand-in grandmother for me over the past decade.  She made us hand-knit slippers at Christmas and cooked the best French toast man has ever tasted.  She stocked her freezer with Peppermint Patties for the women in the family and her fridge with Yuenglings for the men.  She was an amazing mother, grandmother, and all-around person.

Last night, we made this salad, inspired by Cooking Light, as a way to nurture the soul a little bit.

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Blueberry Barley and Mint Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • about 1 cup mint leaves
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • about 5 oz arugula
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes (removes some of the sting!)
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  1. Salt the water, add the apple cider vinegar, and bring to a boil.  Add barley and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop all of your vegetables and place in a large salad bowl with the arugula.
  3. Add mint, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Add hot barley to the vegetable mixture, add goat cheese, and toss thoroughly with dressing.

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The Verdict:

Even if you think this is weird – especially if you think this is weird – give this a try.  THe Husband, who doesn’t like blueberries or red onions, (& doesn’t think of salad as a “real” meal), went for seconds.  And then brought the rest for lunch.

Roasted Salmon with Horseradish and Homemade Dill Creme Fraiche

All of the Safeway grocery stores in DC have an alliterative descriptor, ranging from the innocuous to the offensive.

There’s the Social Safeway up in Georgetown (also sometimes known as the Single Safeway), where it’s rumored you can pick up a date (it’s also just the closest Safeway to the Georgetown campus).  There’s the (former) Secret Safeway, which no one could ever find – (now a ridiculously delicious small-batch grocery store; if you visit DC, you must eat their kale slaw).  There’s the Senior Safeway, located by the Watergate, where some of our more…experienced citizens live.

And there’s the Safeway closest to us, not-so-affectionately known as the Soviet Safeway.  This nickname is based on two primary reasons: 1. its inability to stock fresh bread and anything but the most wilted of vegetables; and 2. its obscenely long lines.

All of this is a (very long) say of saying I don’t buy fresh fish often.  The Husband loves this, as he’s just not into fish.  As someone who negotiates with my sister for the last piece of lox, I feel differently.

This salmon (not from Safeway) was amazing – recipe based on Cooking Light‘s.  It takes a while – but none of it is hands-on; make it the night before, spend a few quick minutes before you leave for work in the morning, and it’s ready in 20 minutes after you get home.  I promise it will make for a very fiesta-y Friday.

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Roasted Salmon with Horseradish and Homemade Dill Creme Fraiche

**if you want enough creme fraiche to adequately feed more than 2 people, would suggest doubling the ingredients starting with heavy cream going through s&p**

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (about 3-4 sprigs)
  • salt & pepper
  • 2-3 big tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 1 pound salmon (this is enough for 2 people, with leftovers for lunch)
  1. Prepare creme fraiche: before you go to bed, combine cream, buttermilk and vinegar in a small bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature, about 8 hours.  When you wake up, add the dill, about 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Cover again and refrigerate, about 8-12 hours.  You’ll have a lovely, tangy sauce when you get home from work.
  2. Prepare horseradish “marinade:” combine a pinch of salt, pepper, horseradish, parsley, shallots, capers and olive oil in a small bowl.  Mix thoroughly, and then spread over the salmon fillets.  Cover and refrigerate, about 8-12 hours.
  3. Cook fish: preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place fish (skin side down) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or until done.  Serve with creme fraiche and a side of simple, roasted asparagus (which magically takes the same amount of time as the fish!).

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The Verdict:

The Husband cleaned his plate.  I nearly licked mine.  Pack any leftover fish with a bit of spinach and a dollop of the sauce, and have yourself a merry little lunch.  Also: when was the last (or any, in my case) time you made your own creme fraiche!?  There’s something that’s definitely not stocked at our Safeway.

Cheesy Polenta & Mushroom Chickpea Medley

So.  It’s Friday and I still haven’t posted my menu plan for the week.  This is because March is #crazypants and there IS no menu plan.  I’ve been eating cereal for dinner.

March is regularly the month where work becomes a little more insane than usual, and cooking/exercising/sleeping/being a nice person (sometimes, I do try to be one!) goes by the wayside.  Planning, schmanning.

And then yesterday, we had a glorious snow day, and I scrounged around in the pantry and came out with this heaping bowl of comfort – inspired by Cooking Light.

IMG_3152Cheesy Polenta & Mushroom Chickpea Medley

  • olive oil
  • 2 cartons mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • leaves from about 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • about 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons or so balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 box instant polenta and…
    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • blue cheese
    • a little pat butter
    • salt, pepper
    • about a cup of parmesan
  • topping: parsley (note: this would probably be heavenly tossed with a little arugula, which I did not have on hand)
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms, onion and thyme; cook down about 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Add white wine and vinegar, cook down a few minutes.  Add broth and season with salt and pepper.  Add chickpeas, bring the whole thing to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
  2. For the polenta, bring your water to a roiling boil.  Add the polenta slowly – whisk swiftly so it doesn’t clump!  Remove from heat after it thickens and add your cheese.  I added the blue cheese cream from the steaks we had for Valentine’s Day as well as a hefty about of parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the polenta at the bottom of a bowl, top with the mushroom mixture, a little bit of parmesan and the parsley.

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The Verdict:

This is basically just comfort food in one bowl.  March: bring it on.