Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Greek Meatballs

After being together 11 months, I pretty much know what Dennis likes to eat. I quickly learned that the word feta, Mediterranean, or Greek would make his eyebrows perk up. So sometimes I come across a recipe and I know he'll love it. Just like with this recipe. It's another recipe from Weight Watchers, but this time it comes from Take Out Tonight. A great cookbook that takes popular restaurant dishes and makes them healthier. I keep coming back to it with great success.

The buzzwords for Dennis would be Greek, meatballs, and orzo. What's not to like? (If only feta had made it in the recipe.)

This recipe takes a little less than hour to put together. No more than 45 minutes if you've got your game face on. I used dried herbs because I had them on hand. If you decide to use dried as well, make sure to reduce the amount by about two thirds. Dried herbs have a much more intense flavor than fresh. I also used fresh tomatoes because why use canned when they are in season? I served this over whole wheat orzo and Dennis gobbled away happily.

This recipe actually serves six. So I was going to put half of it in the freezer. They didn't make it to the freezer because Dennis wanted to eat the leftovers. However, I do plan to make it again soon and freeze them in in small batches to be eaten later. This recipe would easily cut in half. You could use the left over turkey in another dish, make turkey burgers, or freeze it until you need it.

I think these would also be excellent at a party. Just keep them warm in a crock pot and pass out toothpicks.

Before a mashed it all together.

More than 18, but I think we'll deal.

Whole wheat orzo goodness.

Greek Meatballs
(Serves 6)

3/4lb Ground Turkey
1 c. Chopped Onion
1/3 c. Plain Bread Crumbs
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Large Egg
1/4 c. Grated Parmesan
3 tbs chopped Fresh Parsley
1 tbs chopped Fresh Mint
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 (28oz) Can Whole Tomatoes, Chopped
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 lbs Orzo, cooked according to package directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a large jelly roll pan with non-stick spray; set aside.

2. To make the meatballs, combine the turkey, 1/2 c. of the onion, bread crumbs, half the minced garlic, egg, Parmesan, parsley, mint, 1 tsp of the oregano, and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon in a large bowl; mix well with damp hands, form into 18 (1in.) meatballs. Place the meatballs on baking sheet and bake, turning once, 20 minutes. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over med-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the remaining 1/2 c. onion, minced garlic, and 1 tsp oregano. Cook until the onion softens, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and the remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce begins to thicken slightly, 15 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer 15 minutes longer.

4. Divide orzo among six serving bowls. Top each serving with sauce and meatballs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Monday | Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole

Let's be honest, Fall is just around the corner. I am getting my first head of cabbage this week (didn't I just finish eating that stuff?). Not that I am complaining, but the summer produce is about be a faint memory. I think Americans love summer produce. In fact, I know it. Because every recipe I find tucked away in Winter magazines has corn, green beans, or tomatoes in it. Whenever have you been walking around in December and come across fresh tasty tomatoes? (Sub-tropical areas don't count!) Modern day agriculture has created the ability to have seasonless meals. I've tried to enjoy tomatoes (from the grocery store) in January, they just aren't that great.

So because sometimes I can't keep up with all the produce in my box, I am freezing a lot of it to enjoy later. I've frozen batches of Corn Chowder, Stuffed Peppers, green beans, and squash. All of which will be eaten with delight later. On top of that, I made something called Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole. It's from the Weight Watcher's cookbook Turn Around. I imagine eating it in December over some couscous with grilled fish or roasted chicken. But for now, it's frozen into small portions to be enjoyed by two at a later date.

It takes a while to make and isn't something I would make on a weeknight, but this would make an excellent Saturday evening side or vegetarian entree. However, if you know how to slice vegetables and turn on an oven, you'll be fine and dandy. I used dried herbs instead of fresh. I don't remember how much of each, but there are conversions somewhere on the Internet. I also used green bell peppers and double yellow squash instead of zucchini.

Post prep work.

Cooled and ready to go into the freezer.

Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole
(Makes 6 Servings)

1 small eggplant (about 3/4-pound) eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 large yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 onion, very thinly slices
3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tomato, thinly sliced

1. Heat oven to 400F. Spray 2 nonstick baking sheets and a 1-quart casserole with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the eggplant and a 1 teaspoon of the oil in a bowl. Transfer to a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Repeat, first with the squash and then with the zucchini, tossing each vegetable with 1 teaspoon of the oil and arranging in a single layer on the second baking sheet. Bake the vegetables for 12 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and bake 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Cover the skillet and cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, about 5 minutes.

4. Combine the tomato paste and water in a small bowl. Combine the parsley, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper in another small bowl.

5. Arrange half of the eggplant in the casserole and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Continue layering with half of the tomato, half of the sauteed vegetables, and half of the squash and zucchini, sprinkling 1 teaspoon herbs between each layer. Repeat the layers, ending with the squash and zucchini. Pour the tomato-paste mixtures over the top. Cover and bake until the vegetables are tender, 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned, about 15 minutes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meatless Monday | Veggie Stuffed Peppers

I have talked about the Don’t Panic method before when I made Tuna Noodle Bake. It was okay, not the best thing I ever made. I actually still have the stuff on hand to make another pan, but it may not happy. As summer vegetables are at their peak and only have a couple of months left, I am going to start making larger dishes that can be easily frozen. Casseroles in August? I must be crazy. But it’s the easiest way to use up the large quantities of produce. Cooking for two is great, but using half a squash and a small onion doesn’t get you through your Grow Alabama box.

Let me tell you about summer’s bounty. I somehow had 11 ears of corn in my fridge last week. What the heck was I going to make with 11 ears of corn? Well first off I made two batches of Corn and Bacon Chowder and froze them in freezer bags. That will be tasty in December when my fridge won’t know what fresh corn looks like.

Last week I made Veggie Stuffed Peppers. It’s a Weight Watcher’s recipe (from the cookbook TurnAround) that I decided to make because I was feeding three people and because I had corn, tomatoes, and bell pepper that was taking up way too much space in my fridge. The recipe actually calls for using frozen corn and canned tomatoes… but I had it on hand, so I just used fresh. They were a hit with the roomie and the boyfriend. So I decided to make them again and freeze them (because I still have corn, pepper, and a can of tomatoes to use up).

And because it's Meatless Monday, I thought this would be the perfect recipe to share.

The pictures below show the first go round when I had the pretty yellow and red peppers. Later, I only had green peppers and so that’s what I used. These would even be tasty with pablano peppers (probably my favorite mild green pepper).

I added a little bit of cheese.
Veggie Stuffed Peppers
(Serves Four)
4 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 (10-ounce) box frozen corn kernals, thawed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the bell peppers until tender, about 4 minutes, then drain.
2. To prepare the filling, spray a large nonstick skillet with olive oil nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, chili powder, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice.
3. Stuff the filling into each bell-pepper half. Place the stuffed peppers in a shallow 2-quart casserole. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, 20-25 minutes.

A note on freezing: The peppers could have been frozen several different ways. Firstly, I baked them before I froze them. Next time I might just wait to make them until the day I decide to make them. They could have been frozen on cookie sheets, wrapped in paper, and put in a freezer bag. I could have taken out one or two peppers depending on who I was feeding. But I chose to get some small aluminum pans and put two servings (4 halves) in each pan. I am not sure how I will reheat them yet. Either I’ll let them thaw and microwave or I’ll put them frozen directly into the oven and baked them until they are warmed through.