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Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti

October 17, 2012

Lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a cooking rut. It’s not that Joe and I have been eating takeout every night, but I haven’t really been cooking anything interesting. Most nights, I find myself falling back on easy staples like roasted veggies, baked chicken breasts for Joe, and some whole grain, such as quinoa, whole wheat pasta or brown rice. Tasty? Sure. But I’ve hardly been pushing myself out of my culinary comfort zone.

This week, I set out on a mission to get back on my cooking game by making our meals from real, actual recipes. Beef stew and biscuits one night, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas another. It’s amazing how putting a little extra effort into meal planning can have incredibly tasty results. But the recipe I was most excited to try was a recipe I found on Cooking Canuck’s site for Cannellini Bean “Meatballs” made with beans, bread crumbs and Italian herbs.

I tweaked the recipe slightly to suit the ingredients I had in my pantry, and added a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese to the mix, too, since I don’t think adding cheese is ever a bad decision. And although Joe was pretty skeptical of the recipe while it was cooking, he was pleasantly surprised with the end product. I don’t think anyone will be fooled into thinking these are actual meatballs, but once they are tossed with marinara sauce and served over whole wheat pasta it creates an incredibly satisfying, flavorful dinner that will keep you full for hours.

We had quite a few leftover “meatballs” and I found that they heat well in the microwave for lunch the next day or dinnertime leftovers. The second time around, I served them alongside a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts. So tasty!

Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti
Inspired by Cooking Canuck’s Bean Balls
Ingredients
*2 1/2 cups canned white beans, drained or cooked dried beans (such as cannellini beans or my new favorite, cranberry beans)
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2 medium yellow onion, grated
*1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
*1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
*1 large egg, lightly beaten
*1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
*Whole wheat angel hair pasta (enough to serve 4)

Instructions
*In the bowl of a food processor, combine the beans and garlic and process with on-off turns until beans are broken up and begin to hold together but are not so processed that they form a paste. Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and add in the onion, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, egg, Parm, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
*Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop bean balls by heaping tablespoons and shape into circles with your hands, about 2-inches in diameter. Place balls on the baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp around the outside. Remove from oven. Toss with warmed marinara sauce and serve atop whole wheat angel hair pasta. Makes 4 servings

Happy Cooking!
Madison

Garlic Feta Burgers

March 26, 2012
Hey, everyone! How was your weekend? We had a wonderful weekend over here. My mom arrived on Friday night and stayed until Sunday after church. And she brought Nutmeg with her, too! I can’t tell you how good it feels to be reunited with our little fur baby after two weeks without her. 
The weather in Iowa was absolutely unreal this weekend, too, so we made the most out of it by spending a lot of time outside. Tennis was played, more than one long walk was taken and we grilled out, too! Since we don’t have a deck or much outdoor space in our apartment, Joe and I are stuck grilling on our little baby grill (pictured below), which I realize is incredibly lame. But I’m shocked at how well it works. I think it will have to do until we have a larger place to store a grill. 
I made these Garlic Feta Burgers for my mom and Joe on Saturday night and served myself a veggie burger. And we paired it with a fresh salad and steamed green beans. If the calendar didn’t say it was March, I could swear that summer is already here. 
Back to the burgers…
Out of the pound of ground beef that I had on hand, I made three burgers. I seasoned the meat with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper, then formed it into six small patties. For the filling, I combined chopped garlic, feta cheese and oregano for a little Mediterranean flair. Then the filling was placed in the center of three of the patties and topped with the remaining patties for a salty, juicy filling. Just be sure to seal the edges of the patties completely in order to be sure the cheese doesn’t come in contact with the grill.
The burgers were a huge hit with my mom and Joe, and I enjoyed my veggie burger, too. 😉 Now let’s bring on summer!
Garlic Feta Burgers
Ingredients
*1 lb. ground beef
*1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*2 ounces crumbled feta cheese 
*1 clove garlic, minced 
*1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
*3 hamburger buns
Instructions
*In a bowl, combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and ground black pepper. Stir until well combined. Form the meat mixture into six thin patties, about 4- to 5-inches in diameter.
*In a small bowl, combine the feta, garlic and oregano. Place some of the feta mixture into the center of three of the patties. Top each of the feta-topped patties with the remaining patties. Seal the edges tightly with your fingertips to completely cover the cheese. Form the patties into well-formed circles.
*Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill the burgers for eight to ten minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking. 
*Transfer cooked burgers to buns. Serve immediately.
Happy Cooking!
Madison

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

March 23, 2012

You know me. I’m all about simple weeknight meals. In fact, I think everyone I talk to is looking for more easy meals that don’t require a bunch of ingredients or a lot of time. This is especially true when it comes to meat. Being a vegetarian, most of my meals are quick to prepare. Roasted veggies, sauteed tofu, loaded up salads – they’re all quick and easy. So it’s probably no surprise that I have less patience when cooking meat for the hubs on weeknights.

Before we got married, I had never cooked with a slow cooker. After seven months of being married, I’m not sure I could give mine up. Singe Joe is happy to eat meals that are much heartier than my preferred fare, the slow cooker is my savior. It cooks meat to absolute tenderness and does everything for me while I am away at work.

This ‘pulled pork’ (I’m using the term loosely for the barbecue purists out there) was a big hit tonight. Yes, it uses bottled barbecue sauce, ketchup and a tenderized pork loin. But it’s also practically ready to eat the minute you walk in the door. All you have to do is mix together the ingredients for the sauce and shred the pork. It’s really that easy.

And what did I have for dinner you might ask? Greek yogurt, Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, peanut butter and mixed berries, of course. :)

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches
*1 Hormel Always Tender Pork Loin (27 ounces)
*1 cup beef broth
*3 cups water
*Salt and black pepper
*1 cup bottled barbecue sauce
*1/2 cup ketchup
*1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
*1 tablespoon brown sugar
*Hamburger buns or kaiser rolls

Instructions
*In a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker, combine the pork loin, broth and water. Set the slow cooker on low. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 hours, until the loin shreds easily when pierced easily with a fork.
*Remove the loin from the slow cooker. Discard the liquid. Place the loin in a large bowl and shred with two forks. Add in the barbecue sauce, ketchup, white wine vinegar and brown sugar and stir into the meat until evenly combined. Transfer shredded pork to buns and serve immediately. Store unused pork in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes 4 to 6 servings

Happy Cooking!
Madison

Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken

March 14, 2012

Before Joe and I got married, one of my greatest stressors was what we were going to do career-wise. I was working (very happily I might add) in my current job in Des Moines and Joe was searching for a job back in Iowa (he was working in Illinois at the time). Knowing how much we both loved our jobs, I was worried about one of us having to sacrifice a career we loved.

Thankfully, Joe’s company ended up giving him a work territory in eastern Iowa, meaning we could live halfway in between his territory and my work. And since that meant I would be over an hour from work, my company allowed me to work two days a week from home in order to save money and my sanity.

Initially, it was a little difficult to adjust to working at home. So many distractions, poor internet connection at home, you get the picture. Thankfully, Joe and I discovered that a building right across the street from our apartment rents out office cubicles. I can promise you that once we decided to rent out a space, my work situation improved immensely. It’s so nice to be able to have a little work/life separation during the days I work from home, and I feel as if I get so much more accomplished.

Of course on the days I work from home, I have two extra hours on my hands (!!) In the morning, I use my extra hour to get caught up on blog work, do laundry or clean up around the house. And in the evening, I usually spend my extra hour preparing meals that are a little above and beyond what I would normally make on a weeknight.

This week I put my efforts into making this Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken for Joe*, paired with homemade mashed potatoes, which I never make. The sauce that goes atop these chicken breasts is incredibly easy to make and packed with flavor. If you have even more time to spare, I imagine that this sauce would make a great marinade for the chicken a couple hours before putting it on the grill. But, if you’re anything like me, planning that far in advance is not going to happen. In that case, using it as a barbecue sauce (as in the recipe below) works out nicely, too.

*For those of you wondering, I made myself roasted kale and roasted sweet potato fries with cumin and ground mustard.

Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light magazine 
Ingredients
*1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half width wise to make two thin chicken breasts
*Salt and ground black pepper
*1/4 cup maple syrup
*1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
*2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
*1 tsp. dried oregano
*1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
*2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
*1/2 tsp. Worcheshire sauce
*2 tablespoons ketchup

Instructions
*Preheat grill to medium high.
*Meanwhile, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Set aside.
*In a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat, combine the maple syrup, chicken broth, garlic, oregano, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a silicone pastry brush or rubber spatula. Add in the worcheshire sauce and ketchup and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced slightly and the mixture has thickened to resemble thin barbecue sauce. Remove from heat.
*Brush chicken breasts with some of the sauce. Lightly grease the rack of your grill with nonstick cooking spray.
*Place chicken breasts on grill and brush with some more of the sauce. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip chicken. Brush with some more of the sauce. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through and no pink remains. Remove from grill. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Happy Cooking!

Madison

Tamale Casserole

March 12, 2012
Being someone who loves to cook, I didn’t anticipate the stress that would come from having to prepare a meal for our little family every night. Before Joey and I got married, dinner used to be the meal I used to round out my day. If I had eaten a lot of fruit for breakfast and lunch, I would choose whole grains and veggies for dinner. And if I was low on protein earlier in the day, dinner would be based around something like beans or a veggie burger. 
But now that I live with a guy who likes a good square meal on the table each night, it’s not quite so simple. Meal planning must not be in my DNA because I find the task of finding new weeknight recipes that are quick, simple and healthy a bit of a chore. Anyone with me?
Most weekends when I’m looking for recipes for the week ahead I go to Cooking Light magazine. Their recipes are health conscious, easy to prepare and don’t require a host of expensive ingredients. And for someone who is watching their grocery budget that’s a major bonus.
I made this Tamale Casserole from Cooking Light for dinner a couple weeks ago and it received rave reviews from Joe. Since he loves casseroles, I searched out a healthier casserole recipe that I could easily make vegetarian. Although the recipe calls for putting chicken atop the entire dish, I left off the chicken on about a third of the pan so I could enjoy it, too.
This dish is dense, flavorful and reheats well the next day as leftovers. And if you make the chicken breasts ahead of time, it comes together in no time at all. While the original recipe called for an entire can of enchilada sauce, I cut it back to a half cup since it seemed like an entire can would make the dish soggy. But if enchilada sauce is your thing, feel free to add more than the half cup I call for. 
Do any of you feel the stress when planning meals for your family during the week? What’s your solution?
Tamale Casserole
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light 2010
Ingredients
*1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
*1/3 cup fat free milk
*1/4 cup egg substitute
*1 teaspoon ground cumin
*1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
*1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
*1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (I used Jiffy brand)
*1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained 
*1/2 cup enchilada sauce
*2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
*1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (optional, we didn’t use it)
Instructions
*Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. 
*In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the cheese, the milk, egg substitute, cumin, red pepper, cream-style corn and corn muffin mix. Bake for 15 minutes or until set. 
*Remove dish from oven. Pierce the surface liberally with a fork. Pour enchilada sauce on top. Top with the shredded chicken breast and the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut into squares. Makes 8 servings
Happy Cooking!
Madison
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