Weekly Winner: A New Take on Spaghetti & Meatballs – Thai-style

thai turkey meatballWho doesn’t love a bowl of noodles and meatballs?  Regardless of the particular ingredients it is approachable, familiar comfort food at its best.  But when you can take an old standard such as spaghetti and meatballs and not only lighten in up, but spice it up and put a Thai-style spin on it, sign me up!

Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Broth and Noodles comes from Epicurious and was the perfect dinner on a chilly, rainy spring evening. The original recipe calls for snap peas, but required such a small amount that I did not want to get them just for this recipe so I substituted frozen edamame.

There are a lot of separate steps in this dish, but it’s all easy and comes together quickly.  The only downside is dirtying up a few extra bowls but the coziness factor of this dish definitely makes up for it.

Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Broth and Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the meatballs and noodles:

  •  1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  •  6 oz sugar snap peas, strings removed [or frozen edamame]
  •  1 medium red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into 1/4″ thick strips
  • 4 oz dried rice noodles, such as pad Thai noodles
  • 2 tsp virgin coconut oil [insert my eye roll here] or grape seed oil

For the broth:

  •  1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil [again, insert my eye roll here] or grape seed oil
  •  2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1-1/2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
  •  1-1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
  •  1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  •  2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  •  1 tsp soy sauce
  •  3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste [I used about 2/3 this much to control heat]
  •  Lime wedges, chopped peanuts, basil leaves for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet or 13×9 glass or metal baking dish with parchment.
  2. Beat egg in a large bowl with a fork. Add turkey, panko, scallion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and 1/2 tsp salt and stir well to combine.  Using your hands, roll mixture into 1″ balls, packing firmly (you should have about 25).  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  3. Roast meatballs, turning once halfway through, until firm and cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatball registers 165F, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook snap peas (or edamame) and bell pepper in a medium pot of boiling, well-salted water for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a colander with a spider, slotted spoon, or tongs, reserving water in pot.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Return water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain noodles , then transfer to a large bowl and toss with oil.
  5. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add coconut milk, curry paste, broth, lime juice, soy sauce and salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls, ladle broth over and top with meatballs and vegetables.

Weekly Winner: Glorious Green Goodness with just a tad of decadence.

carbonaraThere is nothing more comforting than a creamy, luxurious bowl of pasta– especially since winter is still going strong here in Chicago.  While I may be dreaming of  glorious spring vegetables that will eventually take over the markets, right now I need more sustenance and comfort than a light, springy pasta.  Enter: Pea and Spinach Carbonara.

The recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is super easy and gives you a hint of springtime flavor.  It is also really quick to make,  which leaves you plenty of time to put on an extra layer, find the throw blanket and curl up on the couch!

Pea & Spinach Carbonara

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 small clove garlic, minced

8 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

3 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 9-oz package fresh tagliatelle or linguine

8 cups baby spinach

1 cup peas

Procedure:

  1. Put 10 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add breadcrumbs and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley.  Set aside
  3. Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons Parmesan, egg yolks, egg, pepper and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.  Add spinach and peas and cook until the pasta is tender, about 1 minute more. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Drain and place in a large bowl.
  5. Slowly whisk the reserved cooking water into the egg mixture. Gradually add the mixture to the pasta, tossing with tongs to combine.  Serve topped with the reserved breadcrumb mixture

Weekly Winner: A Better Idea than Chicken in a Blender!

Chicken-Cordon-Bleu-Soup_EXPS_THN18_128604_E06_06_6b-696x696The first round of holidays are over (hence the delay in my posting) and I am back on the soup bandwagon.  Big Time.  There is nothing like a bowl of creamy, cheesy, luscious soup to give you the courage and sustenance to face the rest of the holiday chores and obligations.

I love the idea of taking an entrée or specific dish and transforming it either into a pizza or a soup.  I’ve done this with chicken tikka masala (into a pizza – fabulous), loaded baked potatoes (into a soup – super yummy), and BLT’s (into both a pizza and a soup at various times).  You get the idea.  So, when I came across this recipe from A Taste of Home for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup I knew I was going to have to try it.  It did not disappoint.  And while, yes…. having ham, chicken, swiss cheese  and half-and-half does make it a bit rich (which is a good thing), having the base of the soup be pureed cauliflower adds thickness without additional heft.  And, your getting a vegetable which does not exist in the original form of Chicken Cordon Bleu — bonus!  It’s healthy-ish! Yeah, not really but it is super duper tasty!

A quick word about this fabulous picture.  It’s not mine.  I took it directly from the magazine.  I did take a picture of my soup but it just didn’t quite make the cut.  Here it is: cordon bleu soupSee?  Not quite the same.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup finely cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Procedure:

  • In a large saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and onion; cook and stir until crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in flour until blended; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until cauliflower is tender, 12-15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an immersion blender. Or, cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender; return to pan.
  • Stir in chicken, cream, ham, mustard, salt and pepper; heat through. Stir in cheese until melted.

Weekly Winner: Herby, Nutty, Creamy Comfort. Almost Perfect Pasta

IMG_0533Pasta in any form makes me happy.   I’ll take plain with butter, extravagantly layered lasagnas or a luscious mac-n-cheese.  If it involves pasta, I’m in!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts, which I found in a recent issue of Milk Street Magazine, has all my favorite things – cheese, nuts, and herbs — if it had bacon in it, it would be the perfect!.  Of course, there’s nothing stopping you (or me next time) from adding some bacon.  Note to self!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh sage, chopped

6 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp black pepper

12 oz rigatoni or penne rigate

Chopped toasted walnuts, for garnish

Procedure:

  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the olive oil and sage.  Microwave on high just until hot and fragrant, about 1 minute but check after 30 seconds; it should not sizzle.  Cool to room temperature.
  2. In food processor, process the sage-oil mixture and parsley until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add parmesan and lemon zest and process until well incorporated, about 5 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Stir in ricotta, kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add pasta and 2 tablespoons of salt; cook until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  5. Toss the pasta with the ricotta pesto, then stir in the reserved cooking water; the pasta should be creamy.  Serve sprinkled with chopped toasted walnuts and additional parmesan.

Weekly Winner:  Guilt-Free Cheesy Goodness

This is the time for comfort food.  The weather is cooling off, its getting dark earlier and earlier, holiday planning has begun and when it all gets a bit overwhelming, it’s nice to dive into a big bowl of comfort.  I don’t know about you, but when I think “comfort food” two things instantly come to mind: Cheese and Pasta.  The good news is both of those can easily be had with mac-n-cheese.  The bad news is you never feel good about diving into a big bowl of mac-n-cheese. That is, perhaps, until now.

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese takes the regret out of cheesy mac-n-cheese. And, if you’re like me and truly love roasted vegetables, it doesn’t even seem like you’re making a sacrifice to “healthy-up” a bowl of pasta and cheese.  The vegetables take up a lot of valuable “real estate” in your bowl, so you wind up using and eating a lot less pasta.  Also the veggies fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than a vat of pasta.  It’s a win-win-win kind of situation.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine, and the only concession I made was to use regular pasta instead of whole-grain. I still can’t go the whole-wheat route with pasta.  I’m getting enough fiber from all these tasty veggies so I can enjoy my good old-fashioned pasta without feeling bad. I did swap out the boring elbow macaroni for the more interesting and fun wagon wheel shape.  They seemed to better fit the size of the veggies. What? Don’t you match up your pasta to what else is in the recipe?

So the next time you need to curl up on the couch with some serious comfort food, try this mac-n-cheese and come away feeling a bit better about yourself!

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray

10 ounce fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce cauliflower florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce butternut squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice

10 ounce quartered Brussels sprouts

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta (or any small-shape regular pasta)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups fat-free milk

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 ounces freshly grated white sharp cheddar cheese (about 1-1/4 cup)

4 ounces freshly grated creamy Havarti cheese (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and coat with olive oil spray. Toss broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, and season with salt. Spread vegetables in an even layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring vegetables and rotating pans halfway through cooking time, until vegetables are soft and have begun to brown around the edges.
  • While vegetables roast, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain, and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Add onion, and cook over low about 2 minutes. Add flour, and cook another minute or until the flour mixture is golden and well combined. Add milk and broth; whisk, increasing heat to medium-high until mixture comes to a boil. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes or until it thickens slightly, and then season with pepper.
  • Remove pan from heat; add cheeses, and mix well until cheeses are melted. Add cooked pasta, and mix well; fold in roasted vegetables.

 

Weekly Winner:  Because You Can’t Always Be Good

For the most part I cook healthy food. My weekly repertoire consists of low-calorie, whole foods made from tons of veggies and lean meats with the rare exception of the occasional pork fest.  No processed foods, not a lot of fat (but come on, some!) and a healthy dose of all the right “super foods”.

But you know what?  Every once in a while you just gotta be bad. I’m not talking about three Big Macs and a couple of milk shakes kind of bad, I’m referring to heart-warming, soul-satisfying, ooey-gooey, cheesy bad. The kind of dish that restores your faith in humanity.  For me, that kind of dish is usually mac-n-cheese.  But just because I’ve decided to be bad (and be happy about it), that doesn’t mean I can’t dress up and “adultify” mac-n-cheese and transform it into something, dare I say, elegant?  Its spring and the asparagus (look, a vegetable!!!) is fabulous right now so lets add that along with a sophisticated pork-product (prosciutto) and put on our fancy jammies to enjoy this meal.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto is too good to be abbreviated and hyphenated.  This dish deserves to be called by its full name and eaten with reverence.  The recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine and is surprisingly a one-pot wonder.  No separate pan for a cheese sauce or even for a bechamel.  Nope, all you need here is one big ‘ol pot and the restraint to actually dish it out into separate bowls rather than diving in with the wooden spoon.  Not that I would ever do that. Because that would be bad.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

3/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

8 oz. elbow macaroni

2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup evaporated milk (not fat-free)

2 large eggs

5 oz. Fontina, coarsely grated (about 1-3/4 cups)

1 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips

2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

Bring a 4-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. With a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl, and keep warm.

Bring the water back to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, whisk the evaporated milk, eggs, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Add to the pasta, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts, another 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the asparagus, prosciutto, and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Weekly Winner:  Super Cozy, Super Tasty, Super Healthy -But What Is It?

I crave structure.  I adore lists and make them with wild abandon.  I organize, strategize and categorize literally everything in my life (yeah, I know…I’m working on it!) But I truly do love everything to have a place and to have a place for everything.

So then this recipe happens. Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce.  It’s fabulous. It’s easy. It’s healthy. I’m just not exactly sure what it is! Is it a soup? Is it a stew? Perhaps a side dish?  No, far to hearty and complete for a side dish.  Whatever its supposed to be, it was my lunch recently and I seriously enjoyed the heck out of it. I think the only thing I would possibly add to this is a piece of crusty bread along side it. Although honestly, I didn’t miss it.  This is a bowl you want to curl up in. It is incredibly satisfying and complex-tasting and I would make it again in a heartbeat if I could only find under what category I filed the recipe!  Seriously, I had to look up the recipe online as I could not locate mine. I’ve checked soups, side dishes, lunches, vegetables…nada.  Luckily I remembered pulling it from Food & Wine magazine. See, I told you I need to work on it.

Enough of my problems and hangups.  Make this dish.  Whatever it is.  Because all that matters is it is one big bowl of tastiness.

Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Kosher salt

One 8-ounce bunch of Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Torn basil and marjoram leaves, 
for garnish

Finely grated Pecorino Romano, 
for serving

Procedure:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.

Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon into bowls and garnish with torn basil 
and marjoram leaves. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

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