Italian Chickpea “Meatballs” with Herbed Tomato Sauce

IT’S MARCH MADNESS BABY!!!!

IMG_1355

I’ve gone completely off the deep end. Mike doesn’t even know how to handle my new-found love of all things basketball. But tell me there’s $100 at stake, and I take shit seriously.

IMG_1311

I joined the NCAA pool at work, and in my determined fervor to not lose, I spent (no joke) 3 hours cramming college basketball knowledge into my previously sports-neutral brain. I studied stats. I read player analysis and game predictions from various sports writers. I compared different brackets online and looked into why a team was chosen over another and whether it was the best choice.

IMG_1334

What this experience teaches us is that I am highly motivated by prize money. I won’t say how my bracket is doing, because I’ve also developed a bit of a serious superstition problem, but I will say I’m going through withdrawals at the moment since the games don’t continue until Thursday. Like I said, Mike is wondering who I am and what I’ve done with the real Jen.

IMG_1347

But really – she cooks AND she likes basketball? He’s not complaining.

What You Need:

  •  1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • IMG_135315 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium eggplant cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

IMG_1348

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

Combine the tomatoes, eggplant, onion and garlic in a large dutch oven or baking dish and bake, covered, for about 45-60 minutes. It’s done when the veggies are soft and cooked through with their juices at the bottom of the dish.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, egg, all the spices and the cornmealand blend until well-combined. This is your “meat”ball dough.

Scoop the dough out of the food processor and form into small round balls. Set aside.

IMG_1344

Once the tomato and eggplant mixture is done baking, scoop out the veggies using a slotted spoon to separate them from the juices.

In the food processor, blend the tomato and eggplant mixture until it becomes a chunky sauce.

Pour the sauce into a slow cooker and add the chickpea balls.

Cook on low for 1-2 hours (I cooked for 2 hours and kept on warm for another hour while I was at work).

Serve over baked spaghetti squash and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

And I will say that some of the “meat”balls did break apart in the crock pot (just a bit) but all that happens is the tomato sauce turns into a delicious “meat”sauce. YUM.

IMG_1360

Advertisements

Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals: Sweet Pepper, Corn and Potato Stew

You know what’s really great? Frozen vegetables.

IMG_1069

Everything outside has been noticeably dead since mid-January when the temperatures plummeted and sucked the life out of everything. I’m skeptical about where my tomatoes are coming from at a time like this, because I’m pretty sure it’s not the farm upstate.

So frozen veggies! What an idea! For these slow cooker meals, it’s a great solution. Not least of all because I’m usually only making a slow cooker meal in the first place because I am trying to save time. So if I don’t have to slice up a vegetable, that’s a big win.

IMG_1076

One quick note about this dish – if you don’t eat dairy or you hate the idea of buttermilk, leave that ingredient out of the recipe. Another option is to top the dish with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

IMG_1184

What You Need:

  • 5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 10oz bag frozen sweet corn
  • 2 cups chopped bell peppers (I used red, yellow and orange for some summertime color)
  • 5 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeded if desired to reduce spiciness)
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded cheddar

What You Do:

Put everything except the buttermilk into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8 hours, or high heat for 4.

When it’s done, add the buttermilk and stir well. Top with cheddar cheese.

IMG_1075

 

Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals for Winter: Coconut Butternut Squash and Spinach

IMG_1039

My car has been in the shop for more than 3 weeks. It wouldn’t start, and although the temperature outside at the time was below zero, I was told that wouldn’t matter, even for a 10-year-old car prone to a mild degree of grumpiness.

Luckily, the car place gave me a loaner, and it happens to be a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta. This thing is SLICK.

IMG_0958

Therefore, it makes me feel pretty slick to be driving it. It might as well be a Maserati. I’m turning up the radio, leaning back, giving other drivers a little nod to acknowledge that I realize I am winning at driving.

The latest news is that my car still isn’t fixed, which I’ve already decided means I’m just going to keep the loaner car forever.

In the end, nothing really matters as long as I have a way to get to the grocery store. I like Thai food a lot and this dish tastes like Thai food. Plus it’s super easy and makes a ton.

IMG_1041

What You Need:

  • 1 lb Butternut Squash, peeled and seeded and diced into cubes (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 small cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (seeded if desired to reduce spiciness)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp oriental seasoning (if you don’t have this, just use a pinch of garlic powder, a pinch of onion powder, a pinch of ground ginger, and a pinch of black pepper.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 cups spinach, raw

What You Do:

In the crock pot, add the squash through the oriental seasoning and mix well.

Cook on high for 5 hours.

Once it is ready to serve, add coconut milk and spinach and mix well, continuing to cook and stir until spinach is soft and reduced.

Add some red pepper flakes to the top of each dish if desired. Enjoy!

IMG_1040

Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals: Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash

Once again, I will repeat: I love the snow.

IMG_1002

There are a few basic, undeniable truths about New England life between November and April.

1. It gets cold.

2. It will probably snow.

3. It will probably snow more than once. And be really windy.

4. It will stay this way for so long, you’ll begin to forget four seasons exist.

IMG_0956

People get really annoyed about the snow and how long this whole season drags on for. Give me a snow day, a glass of wine and a good meal, and I’m good to go. I’m pretty sure winter in New England is why crock pots were invented.  After a long day of shoveling, maneuvering cars that were not built for blizzard conditions through snow banks, and uncomfortably trying to get work done on my slow home computer, nothing beats wandering into the kitchen and discovering that dinner is just…ready. Just like that.

IMG_0958

What You Need: 

IMG_1001

  • 4 cups cubes butternut squash
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced (substitute potatoes here if desired)
  • 1 can chickpeas (15.5 oz)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp oriental seasoning OR 1 tsp each of onion and garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 cups shredded swiss chard (leaves only – remove from stems)

What You Do:

In your crock pot bowl, add the squash through vegetable broth and cook on high for 4 hours.

Once the time is up, keep warm and add the coconut milk, stirring well to combine.

Add swiss chard leaves, stirring well until the leaves become limp and reduced.

Now it’s ready to serve!

IMG_1004

 

Heavenly Crock Pot Meals: Vegetable Stew with Chickpeas

Thank you Parenthood. Thank you The Newsroom. Twice in one night I found myself bursting into tears because your stories are so damn compelling.

IMG_0962

I am talking total waterworks. I’ve been known to fold during iPhone commercials and especially poignant endings to novels, but it was a double-whammy this time around. As I sat alone at home with a glass of wine watching my shows On Demand, these people’s fictional lives really rocked my world. I hate series finales. Worst. Idea. Ever.

IMG_0948

So maybe I made myself feel better by stuffing my face with slow-cooked comfort food. Maybe.

What You Need:

  • 3 large tomatoes, diced into cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved, with stems cut off
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

IMG_0961

What You Do:

Easy. Dump everything into a crock pot and turn it on. Cook on high for 6 hours.

Pro Tip: Make ahead and freeze for a fully prepared meal at any time. This serves 4.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Sweet Potato and Beer

On Sunday I received a text that spoke directly to my heart.

photo

The text came from my friend Mary, and to be fair, we had finished a 17 mile run just hours earlier. But if I’m going to be honest here, I will admit that I usually feel like I want to eat everything, regardless of how far I’ve run or even whether I’ve run at all.

I have a lot of cravings that tend to dictate what Mike and I eat for dinner.

IMG_3699

As you probably guessed, On Sunday like my friend Mary, I too felt like eating everything. To handle this feeling in the most mature and self-controlled way possible, I ate a handful of sour jelly beans and drove to the supermarket to buy ingredients for one of my favorite comfort food meals – slow cooker pulled pork. I felt like I needed comfort food – who doesn’t?!?

Knowing Mike and I couldn’t eat it until Monday night practically drove me insane, but it was well worth the wait. Absolutely delish! And I got kudos for making pork (Mike’s all-time fav meat dish that I rarely make).

IMG_3667

Seasoned Pork ready to start slow cooking.

IMG_3661

Spice Rub!

What You Need:

  • A boneless pork shoulder (also commonly called pork butt) between 3 and 5 pounds
  • One large sweet potato, grated or shredded (I used my food processor)
  • One large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup beer (I used a brown ale. If you don’t want to use beer, the same amount of vegetable or chicken broth works too)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Thicker Style Hot Bone Suckin’ Sauce)

IMG_3645What You Do:

Line the bottom of the crock pot dish with the graded or shredded sweet potato, the thinly sliced onion, minced garlic and chopped scallions.

Pour the beer over the mixture. Drink the rest!

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, chili powder, salt, cayenne, cumin and cinnamon.

Prepare your pork. I sliced it into large chunks and cut off as much fat as I could.

Rub the spice mixture over the pork pieces and place the pork over the onion mixture in the crock pot dish.

Set the crock pot on High for 6-8 hours OR on Low for 8-10 hours.

When it’s ready, spoon the pork out of the crock pot onto a separate plate.

Drain the liquid left in the crock pot through a strainer and INTO A POT so it doesn’t go down the drain. (This is only important to do if you do not wish to use BBQ sauce. If that’s the case, see below for the Pro Tip).

Return the onion mixture that was captured in the strainer to the crock pot. Return the pork to the crock pot and with a fork, begin pulling it apart until it is all looking like goodness.

Add your BBQ sauce and it’s ready to serve!

Pro Tip: If you do not wish to use BBQ sauce, pour the strained liquid back into the pulled pork mixture slowly until the pork is moistened (you may not need all of it!)

Pro Tip #2: Select a gluten-free BBQ sauce for a totally GF meal!

Pro Tip #3: Take advantage of the fact that this recipe allows you to say “pork butt” multiple times in conversation.

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog – a perfect beer for this recipe!