Italian Chickpea “Meatballs” with Herbed Tomato Sauce

IT’S MARCH MADNESS BABY!!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Buttermilk Red Pepper Tomato Soup

It’s football season. I’m not super into watching sports on TV. I like playing sports, but there’s a fine glaze that forms over my eyes whenever Mike switches the channel to a game of any kind. I’m still trying to figure out why there is Sunday night football, Monday night football AND Thursday night football. It feels like it’s always on. (Sorry football fans).

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But – BONUS! If I don’t care about what’s on TV, that leaves me plenty of time to cook. And that’s something I’m totally fine with. On a separate note, does the buttermilk face I made in my soup look slightly demonic to anyone else?

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What You Need:

  • 15 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 large red peppers, seeded and sliced into rough strips
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sliced chives
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large baking dish, place the halved tomatoes, onions, red peppers and garlic, alternating layers to ensure they’re all combined.

Cover and bake for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are puckered with split skin, surrounded by juices.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the solid veggies and place in a food processor.

Blend the roasted veggies until smooth, and pour into a large bowl.

Add the spices and buttermilk and stir well. Reheat if necessary but it should be hot enough to serve.

Pro Tip: Dip a grilled cheese in it. Is this even a pro tip? Tomato soup and grilled cheese go together like chocolate and milk.

My other pro-tip is to save the leftover baked veggie juices, pour into a Tupperware and freeze. It’s vegetable broth for your next recipe. BOOM!

Haddock Baked in Spicy Cajun Tomato Sauce

I think we all kind of feel the same right now. It’s that post-holiday food coma and seemingly perpetual exhaustion from too many glorious days off that makes it feel almost impossible to get back on track, go back to work and get motivated to put down the holiday cookies and champagne and pick up a salad.

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One thing that helps me is cooking up a big batch of something super light and super healthy so I can enjoy it for dinner and then take the leftovers for lunch. Having a set lunch plan helps me avoid unnecessary mid-day splurges at the bakery and sandwich shop located RIGHT BELOW MY OFFICE. They sell bagels and sandwiches and cookies and coffee. Oh, so an entire day’s worth of food less than 50 feet from my desk? Awesome. A day without a pre-meditated food plan basically means sacrificing my diet to this restaurant.

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So, to avoid taking the easy route in the new year, I wanted to start things off with just the right dish to last a couple days. I prepared it while Mike was at work so he would have something yummy to come home to, so with his seal of approval under my belt, I present you with this delicious Haddock dish.

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What You Need: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and discarded if desired for less heat
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced, with juices (canned diced tomatoes also work for this)
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
    • 1 lb Haddock or other white fish such as flounder or tilapia

What You Do:

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In a large, deep skillet with olive oil heated on medium, cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the peppers and white wine, cooking until just soft.

Add the tomatoes and Cajun spice and combine well.

Place the haddock in the skillet with the tomato sauce, cover and let simmer for 5-8 minutes or until fish is fully cooked and flakes easily.

Then it’s ready to serve! Check out the whole plate – I also made raw shredded lemon Brussels sprouts that made one heck of a side dish. Stay tuned for that recipe later this week!

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Pro Tip: This dish makes excellent leftovers, but be sure to eat it within 5 days 🙂

 

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Vegetables

Whenever Mike and I return from a holiday weekend, we inevitably feel totally stuffed (even if our last big meal was the day before) and guilty from all the treats and goodies we tossed freely into our mouths. And yet somehow we still manage to cram leftovers down our throats.

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When we returned on Sunday from our whirlwind Thanksgiving holiday in Connecticut and New York, I gave myself one last hurrah meal. I indulged with a bagel pizza I made using a New York bagel we heisted from Mike’s aunt’s house before heading out. There is just something so special about these bagels. It’s rumored to be the water used in the dough, which is apparently unique to the Empire State. Whatever it is, I had no choice but to say a tearful farewell to these bagels and what had been turning into a dangerous daily breakfast habit.

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Enter the spaghetti squash. Low in calories and sugar but high in nutrition and taste, there is no better way to reverse the holiday binge than with spaghetti squash. I typically prefer to prepare these as though it is actual pasta, and slather it with homemade tomato sauce and cheese, but given the circumstances I thought a lighter meal would be better. And this dish certainly is light. It really helped start our week off on the right foot.

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What You Need:

  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 5 cups cooked)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded if desired)
  • 4 or 5 large white button mushrooms, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided*
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 6-10 Campari Tomatoes, cut into quarters (juices should be kept and added to dish)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

*Because this recipe calls for vegetable broth, you have the option to simply make your own. Boil 2 1/2 cups water in a pasta pot and add any parts of the vegetables from this recipe that you’re discarding. (Onion and garlic skin, mushroom stems, a few springs of sage, jalapeno stem and any unused parts of the tomatoes). Once you have boiled down the vegetables, strain the broth into a separate pot and set aside.

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Halve the spaghetti squash with a sharp knife. Dig out the seeds with a spoon and place squash face-down on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the squash skin becomes darkened and the squash begins to caramelize around the edges. If you can easily stick a fork through the skin and squash meat, you’re good to go.

While the squash is baking, heat coconut oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent and soft. Add chopped mushrooms and jalapenos, heating continuously until the mushrooms are brown, soft and fragrant. The mushrooms will emit some water, so let the entire dish simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Once the water begins burning off, add one cup vegetable broth and stir. The heat should still be on medium and the broth simmering. Once it has simmered down to less liquid, add the sage and tomatoes with their juices. Continue to simmer.

Using a fork, remove the strands of spaghetti squash from the shell. You should have about 5 cups. Add it to the vegetable mixture and mix everything up well.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth (if you made your own, simply freeze any leftover broth for another dish).

Add the spinach and mix until it becomes limp and blends into the dish.

Top each serving with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

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Pro Tip: If you have extra time, pile the whole deal into a baking dish, sprinkle with the cheese and bake on 350F for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Imitation Jambalaya Stew with Chorizo

This weekend was a bit of a wash, literally and figuratively. It rained and/or snowed almost the entire two days, basically rendering any serious prospects of trail running, hiking or long walks with our dog impossible. Well, unless we wanted to get drenched and freeze our fingers and toes off, which we didn’t.

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On top of the weather, we also woke up Saturday in a bit of a haze from Friday night’s Halloween shenanigans (worth it) and sacrificed actual productivity for egg sandwiches and re-watching movies on HBO (also worth it).

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Can you guess what we’re dressed as?

But we finally put on our rain coats and begrudgingly left Madison behind to head to the Farmer’s Market’s last outdoor market of the season. I almost can’t believe we’re already making the transition to the winter market, but then again, it snowed on Sunday, so nothing really surprises me anymore.

It was raining, it was cold, and Mike had just found out that a show we bought tickets to see that night had been cancelled, so the day really wasn’t shaping up very well… until we found chorizo.

Let me tell you – chorizo has some serious mood-improving qualities. With our night suddenly wide open, the promise of a chorizo-filled dinner was the answer to turning a fairly crappy day into an actually pretty OK one. We scuttled around from market tent to market tent, buying up all different kinds of veggies to put in our chorizo stew – just a germ of an idea so far but quickly shaping into something great.

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A few mildly productive hours later, we were back home, prepping our rainy day chorizo stew. Mike wanted it to be like a jambalaya, so we gave it just enough kick to have that Louisiana Creole flavor. He was head over heels for the chorizo, and I was excited for the return of tri-color carrots into my life. A perfect match.

What You Need:

  • About 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 4-5 medium potatoes (any kind is fine) cut into cubes
  • 4-5 large tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 small-medium bell peppers, cut into small slices
  • 1 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large chorizo sausage links, sliced into small rounds
  • 1 cup rice cooked according to package directions

What You Do:

Because the potatoes and carrots will take longer to cook, start these first. Fill a 5-quart pasta pot about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrots, and boil until both are soft. Don’t overcook these as you will be adding them to a hot sauce at the end.

While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, start your tomato sauce. The best thing about this dish is the spicy tomato sauce, which is easy to make by quartering your tomatoes and gently pulsing them in a food processor until they have formed a chunky sauce.

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Pour the sauce into a wok or large skillet and heat on low-medium.

Make your rice, and keep it warm until the meal is complete. This dish is great over a bed of rice, but you can eliminate the extra carbs if you want and it will still deliver.

In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on low-medium heat and add your sausage. Let them simmer and flip with the bottom sides are browned.

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Also in another pan, on low-medium heat, heat a teaspoon of olive oil and add the garlic and onion and cook until the onions are translucent and soft.

Add the bell peppers, chives and the jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. When they’re ready, add them to the tomato sauce and stir well.

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Strain the potatoes and carrots when ready and add those to the tomato sauce.

Also add the sausage, careful to leave behind any oil or juices left in the pan.

Then, add your spices, and stir well, bringing to a slight boil.

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Leave the entire jambalaya stew on the stove to, well, stew, for about 10 minutes before serving, just to make sure all the flavors can interact.

Serve over a bed of rice.

Pro Tip: Jambalaya is traditionally a spicy surf and turf dish, so this could be great (and authentic instead of imitation) with shrimp, mussels and/or scallops as well. The great thing about this dish is being able to make the sauce as spicy or as mild as you would like, so feel free to mess around with the ingredients and do frequent taste testing! 🙂

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Ratatouille with Coconut Curry Sauce

I feel bad calling myself a cooking enthusiast since I had not even heard of ratatouille until I saw the Disney movie. After seeing a rat prepare it, I thought, “I could do that.”

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But then, a lot of time went by. (A LOT of time. I just checked, and that movie was released in 2007 – yikes!)

So seven years later, I got my act together and made a decision to prepare this undoubtedly delicious meal for my in-laws, who were visiting from New York. I learned the basic gist of the recipe, and I was only feeling a little apprehensive about being able to pull it off.

But then, I was totally sidelined. The power of suggestion is absurdly effective. One second, I am happily going about my day thinking about trees and flowers (not really, just trying to make a point here), and the next, I see a commercial for pizza and suddenly, that is ALL I WANT.

As I was preparing for ratatouille-making, a friend happened to mention having had a delicious coconut curry dish at lunch.

Well. I’ll be damned. I LOVE coconut curry.

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So, since I was already feeling overwhelmed by the recipe, I made an effortless decision to swap out the sauce for a coconut curry tomato sauce.

I’ll tell you – it was an amazing decision. This dish does not disappoint, and was a hit with my in-laws (at least that’s what they told me) 🙂

Quick Disclaimer: If you don’t own a mandolin, this recipe is still possible to make – it just might drive you crazy. Make sure you have a sharp knife, at the very least!

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What You Need for the Ratatouille:

  • 1 medium zucchini squash, ends cut off
  • 1 medium summer squash, ends cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper and yellow bell pepper, tops cut off and de-seeded but still bell-shaped
  • 2 cups dry Jasmine or white rice

What You Need for the Coconut Curry Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (powdered ginger will also work fine)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juices (this is equal to 3 1/2 cups diced tomatoes if you wish to stay away from canned foods)
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large wok or skillet, pour in the olive oil and lightly simmer the onion, garlic, jalepeno and fresh ginger until soft. (If you only have powdered ginger, add it later).

Add the tomatoes and curry powder (also add ginger powder if using).  Turn heat up to bring to a slight boil and stir well.

Add the coconut milk and sugar, stirring well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Set aside, but keep warm on low heat.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice all of your vegetables. As I said, if you don’t have a mandolin, you can get away with cutting everything by hand. Try to make very thinly-sliced pieces. Thicker pieces really only impact how long the dish will take to cook.

Layer the vegetables in alternating order along the bottom of a large baking dish or dutch oven. Each time you complete a layer, spoon about 1 cup of the still-hot coconut curry tomato sauce over the veggies.

Continue layering and alternately pouring with sauce until the veggies have been used up. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may find you have vegetables left over. This is ok! They make great snacks, after all!

Pour remaining sauce over the top, gently poking apart the vegetables to let it seep through.

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Cover, and place the whole concoction into the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and are easily pierced with a fork. You may find it takes slightly longer depending, again, on the size of your baking dish and thickness of your layers.

While the dish is baking, cook your rice according to package directions.

When everything is ready, serve the ratatouille over the rice and enjoy! It’s where French cuisine meets Indian cuisine, right? Bon’ appetite!

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Pro Tip: If you have leftovers and want to re-purpose the meal to try and pull a fast one on your family, simply pulse the ratatouille (without the rice) in a food processor with a small amount of vegetable broth to turn it into soup! Make it as chunky or pureed as you desire, and add the rice after for some additional texture.

Healthy and Easy Crustless Summer Vegetable Quiche

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I have never been so determined to make a dinner from scratch as I was when I forged ahead and baked this quiche, even though I didn’t start it until 8pm on a work night, knowing full well it wouldn’t be ready to eat until at least 9:30pm; and that’s if everything went smoothly. (It did).

Perhaps a saner person would have looked at the clock and resigned themselves to leftover Annie’s Mac and Cheese, or even a fresh salad, but I would not give up the dream of quiche. It came out of the oven so late that Mike didn’t even eat it (he had already eaten the mac and cheese and a fresh salad with toast on the side, like a smart thinker).

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But I made sure to ooo and ahhh over this quiche as I helped myself to not one but THREE (small) servings, trying to savor it as the clocked ticked rapidly toward 10pm and my bedtime loomed near. I try not to eat close to going to bed, but quiche night was an exception.

It’s good. Good enough to wait well into the night for, and good enough to risk going to bed with a quiche hangover. I also need to note that the reason it didn’t maintain it’s pie-slice shape in the photos was because I insisted on eating it within a few seconds of taking it out of the oven. Let this thing cool – it’s worth it!

What You Need:

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  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno or habenero pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped kale (spinach would work well too!)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup almond milk (or any other milk of your choosing)
  • 1 cup shredded muenster cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6-8 very thin slices of zucchini
  • 6-8 very thin slices of tomato

Quiche (4)What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 375F.

In a lightly oiled medium skillet, heat the garlic and onion on medium heat until the onion becomes soft and translucent.

Add the jalapeno or habenero, and bell pepper, and chives, and stir.

Add the broccoli florets and stir well to combine with the onion mixture. Add a tablespoon of water if necessary to keep the pan moist, and cover, cooking on low-medium until the broccoli has reduced, about 7 minutes.

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While the broccoli mixture is cooking up, grab a small mixing bowl and combine the eggs, milk, cheeses, mustard, black pepper and salt, stirring well.

Set aside.

Before taking the broccoli mixture off the heat, add the kale and stir well.

Pack the broccoli mixture into a well-greased pie dish.

Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli filling, using a fork to gently nudge the broccoli around to let the egg mixture seep through to the sides and bottom of the pie dish. (There should still be a healthy amount of egg mixture over the top of the dish.)

In any pattern you like, place the zucchini and tomato slices around the top of the quiche. Make a happy face if you want!

Place the pie dish in the oven for about 40 minutes (check after 20-30 though – you want the egg cooked through and the top to be slightly browned and crispy but not burned, obviously).

Let cool for a few minutes before delving in, if for no other reason than to keep it in pie-slice shape 🙂

Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Have it for breakfast! Experiment with different cheeses too – I think Parmesan or feta would be absolutely delish.

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