weeknight gourmet

Chicken Meatballs with Braised Lemon and Kale

IMG_0413Here’s a light and healthy dinner that only requires one pot!

The broth has a nice flavor from the shallots and lemon.  The meatballs — which are gluten-free — are quite tasty thanks to the garlic, shallots, scallions, and red pepper flakes.  The braised kale is tender.

Overall an easy, healthy weeknight meal.

Gluten-Free Chicken Meatballs with Braised Lemon and Kale
Bon Appetit

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium shallots, minced, divided
  • 1 scallion, minced (all parts), plus thinly sliced green tops for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground chicken meat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced and seeds removed
  • 2 cups low salt chicken broth
  • 1 large bunch curly kale, destemmed

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add shallot, scallion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly until softened and fragrant, about 6 minutes.

Add 1/3 of ground chicken and cook just until cooked through, breaking up any clumps. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Add remaining chicken meat, salt, and several grindings of black pepper. Mix just to combine. Wipe out pot and add remaining Tbsp. oil. Heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Form meat mixture into 8 meatballs each about 2–2 1⁄2-inch in diameter and add to pot (mixture will be soft). Cook until light golden brown on all sides, 6–8 minutes total. Remove meatballs to a plate; set aside.

Add remaining shallot and lemon slices and cook until lemon slices are tender and starting to turn light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and return meatballs to pot.

Bring to simmer, lower heat and cover. Cook meatballs until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Add kale to pot, and cook until tender and bright green, 4–5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Divide kale and sauce among 4 shallow bowls, topping with meatballs and lemon slices. Garnish with sliced scallion tops and serve.

High Five for Muffin Meatballs

highfive copyWhen I was a kid, I loved Highlights Magazine!  Doesn’t everyone remember the hidden pictures?  The publishers of Highlights now have High Five for the preschool set.

Charlotte adores this magazine.  We read each issue cover to cover multiple times!  She loves the stories, the hidden pictures, and the RECIPES!  Each issue has a recipe you can made with your toddler.

One of our favorites has been Muffin Meatballs.  The meatballs are baked in a muffin tin and taste almost like a mini meatloaf.

I serve the meatballs with ketchup for dipping along with some veggies for a tasty dinner.

Muffin Meatballs
Highlights High Five

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (we used 90/10; you could also use meatloaf mix)
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Spray muffin tin with Pam or some kind of vegetable oil spray

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Form medium sized balls and place them in the muffin tins. Cook approximately 35 minutes. Let the meatballs stand for a minute or 2, and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon.


Weeknight Chicken: Chicken with Herb-Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce

IMG_0320Delicious and easy weeknight chicken!  There is basically no chopping required except for one little shallot!

I followed the recipe and the chicken turned out quite moist.  But the tomatoes are the real star of the show.  So much flavor from the roasting; the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce add a nice touch.

Will definitely be making this again!





Chicken with Herb-Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce
Bon Appetit

  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes or other small tomatoes on the vine
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, and herbes de Provence in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add tomatoes to pan (oil may spatter). Transfer skillet to oven and roast, turning once, until tomatoes burst and give up some of their juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce.

Meanwhile, season chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast chicken until cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet; heat over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze pan with vinegar, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan; add tomatoes and their juices and simmer until sauce is just beginning to thicken, about 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice chicken; divide among plates. Spoon tomatoes and sauce over; garnish with herbs.

Soup Season! Chicken & Spaghetti Soup

IMG_0308The only food Charlotte loves more than chicken soup is spaghetti.  And by spaghetti I mean spaghetti.  She is very particular when it comes to pasta shapes (unlike her mother).  So when I saw this chicken and spaghetti soup recipe, I knew I had to make it for my girl.

This is an almost-homemade soup.  Sautee some carrots, celery, and onions.  Add broth (I used stock) and water.  Bring it to a boil and add the spaghetti.  Once the pasta is cooked, you add shredded chicken.  I used white meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken.  Top with some dill.

Super easy and tasty!  Charlotte gobbled it up!

Chicken & Spaghetti Soup
Real Simple

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 ounces spaghetti (1/4 box), broken
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and 4 cups water to the pan, season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken. Sprinkle with dill and additional pepper.

Grown-Up Franks & Beans

IMG_0274Break out your dutch oven!  Here’s a great fall dish!

White beans and some browned sausage cook with white wine, broth, onion, and lots of garlic and herbs for nearly an hour.  The tender and flavorful beans are served with sweet Italian sausage on top.  Serve with a green salad or crusty bread.

A couple of notes: I actually forgot to buy fresh thyme and didn’t realize we were out of bay leaves.  I added about 1/2 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence along with the parsley. I also seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper when I added the butter in the final step.

I’m happy to be reunited with my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Look out for many more stews, soups, and braised dishes as the cooler weather takes hold!

Franks & Beans
Bon Appetit

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1½ lb sweet Italian sausage links (about 6), divided
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 10 flat-leaf parsley stems
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (such as oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and tarragon), divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5–8 minutes. Remove and discard casings from 2 sausages; add sausages to pot. Cook, breaking up with a spoon, until sausages and onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add beans and wine to pot and cook until wine is reduced by half, 8–10 minutes. Using kitchen twine, tie parsley and thyme into a bundle; add to pot along with bay leaves and broth. Cook on medium-low heat, partially covered and stirring often, until liquid thickens, 40–50 minutes. Discard bundle and bay leaves. Mix in butter and 2 Tbsp. chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, after beans have been cooking for about 25 minutes, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook remaining sausages, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 15–20 minutes. Slice.

Divide bean mixture among bowls. Top with sausage slices and remaining 1 Tbsp. chopped herbs.

Dipping Delights: Baked Mozzarella Bites

IMG_0269Here is an easy and tasty snack or lunch for your little one!  Charlotte loves cheese sticks so I figured these mozzarella bites would be a hit.

To prep, simply cut up a piece of string cheese, dip into egg or egg substitute, and dredge in some toasted panko.  Then bake for just two minutes to soften the cheese (the recipe calls for three minutes but a few pieces melted too much).  Serve with some marinara for dipping.  What kid doesn’t like to dip?!

Everyone in the house loved them!  Tim and I gobbled up some leftover pieces and Angus ate one that hit the floor.

Baked Mozzarella Bites
Cooking Light

  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 (1-ounce) sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 3 tablespoons egg substitute
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as McCutcheon’s)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup panko to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and place the panko in a shallow dish.

Cut mozzarella sticks into 1-inch pieces. Working with one piece at a time, dip cheese in egg substitute; dredge in panko. Place cheese on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 3 minutes or until the cheese is softened and thoroughly heated.

Pour the marinara sauce into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring after 30 seconds. Serve with mozzarella pieces.

Zucchini Tart With Crumbled Sausage and Dijon

IMG_0023I posted a photo of this recipe on Facebook about a month ago.  It was the second time I made it and it is SO tasty.  I’ve made it with sweet and hot sausage.  Both work well.  I also added some grilled corn (as seen in photo).  The mustard – sausage combo is tasty and I think could work with a number of different veggies.

In general puff pastry is a great starting point for easy savory tarts.  Here are a few of my favorites:

These tarts are a great brunch, lunch, or dinner!  Super delicious with a simple green salad.

Zucchini Tart With Crumbled Sausage and Dijon
Real Simple

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 small zucchini (about 1 pound), sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (half a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • green salad, for serving

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until cooked partway through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon; reserve the skillet.

Add the zucchini, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the drippings in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.

Unfold the pastry on a baking sheet and prick all over with a fork, leaving a ½-inch border around the dough. Spread the mustard on the pastry (avoiding the border); top with the zucchini and sausage. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cut the tart into 8 pieces. Serve with salad.

Meatless Monday: Fresh Pea Soup

IMG_0253Wow!  It’s been a while.  I am back in NYC after spending the summer at our house in the Berkshires.  Takeout is not an option up there and restaurants are a good drive away.  So, my kitchen was very busy — I cooked 3 to 4 meals a day depending on whether Charlotte ate dinner with us.  But I found it tough to fit blogging in.

Since returning to real life in the city, I’ve made some post-Labor Day resolutions.  Getting back to my blogging is one of them (as is staying away from carbs).  So be on the lookout for some new recipes!

It was a rainy morning so I decided to make this very easy pea soup while Charlotte was at school.  She loves soup.  And the recipe is from my favorite source, the Barefoot Contessa.

Just a couple of notes on the recipe.  I used frozen peas because that is what I had on hand.  And, I used my immersion blender to save myself from cleaning my blender.

So here are the reviews:

ME: I love peas and really enjoyed the soup. It is light and fresh and actually takes good cold as well.  Next time I might add a bit of pancetta or bacon.

CHARLOTTE: My three-year-old first declared that it was “disgusting” based on nothing other than its color. She then tasted it and said she liked it.  But chicken soup and black bean soup still reign supreme for her.


Fresh Pea Soup
Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning.


Easter Egg Overload? Time for some Deviled Eggs!

IMG_1292Lots of leftover Easter eggs?  Deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser…or so I have heard.  I wrongly assumed I wouldn’t like deviled eggs because I didn’t care for the hard-boiled yolk.  But Tim loves deviled eggs so I decided to give them a try.  YUM!  I’ve been missing out.

I followed Emeril’s recipe (below), using my new favorite hot sauce Frank’s.  There is a nice little kick from the mustard and hot sauce!

In case you are wondering how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg, here is a good recipe to follow.  But the perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg is stickier and harder to peel.  Not he ideal solution for decorating Easter eggs, but here is a tip for easier peeling so your deviled eggs look as good as they taste.  Slightly crack the egg before you put the cooked egg in an ice bath.

Now all I need is one of those cute deviled egg trays!
Deviled Eggs
Emeril Lagasse

  • 6 eggs, hard boiled, cooled, and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Variation: add 1 teaspoon chopped canned jalapeno peppers
  • 4 radicchio leaves, for garnish
  • 3 parsley sprigs, for garnish
Place the cooked egg yolks in a bowl. Using a fork, work the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, chives, and salt and pepper into the yolks to form a smooth paste. Taste. Place 1/2 of this mixture in a small pastry bag with a large star tip. To the remaining mixture, add the jalapenos and season with Hot pepper sauce. Fill 6 of the egg halves with the basic filling. Fill the pastry bag with the jalapeno filling. Fill the remaining egg white halves. Top with paprika. Place on a platter on the radicchio leaves, and parsley sprigs.

Barefoot Contessa’s Seared Scallops

IMG_1268I have been cooking but, as you may have noticed, I have not been blogging.  At some point in the fall, blogging started to feel like a chore so I pulled back and just cooked without the pressure of having to document it all.  The downside of not blogging is not having a record of all the great recipes I made.  (I REALLY wish I could remember which baked French Toast recipe I made on Christmas morning.)

But I am hoping I will have a lot more time and energy to cook and blog over the coming months since I am now only working part time.

Last night I made this delicious scallop recipe from, my favorite, the Barefoot Contessa.  The scallops were quite simply prepared and served on top of a puree made from Yukon Gold potatoes, leeks, and celery root.  Note that the recipe calls for grapeseed oil.  It has a higher smoke point than the oils you likely have in your pantry which is important when you are searing at a high temperature.  I followed the instructions on how long to cook the scallops and they turned out perfectly.

The potato-celery root puree was super simple but delicious.  It’s a great and lighter alternative to regular mashed potatoes.  I used a combo of milk and heavy cream.

If you like scallops, I definitely recommend this recipe.  And, the puree may become a new side dish staple.

Seared Scallops and Potato-Celery Root Puree
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, Ina Garten

  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 leeks)
  • 4 cups (1½ pounds) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ¾” cubes
  • 4 cups (2 pounds) celery root, peeled and diced into ¾” cubes
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 to 26 large “dry” sea scallops
  • 4 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided
  • Basil-infused olive oil, for serving (optional)
  • Minced fresh chives, for serving

Active time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Serves 6

Melt butter over medium heat in a large (8″ to 10″) saucepan or Dutch oven. Rinse leeks well in a colander, spin dry in a salad spinner, and add to pot. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Add potatoes, celery root, cream, 4 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. pepper to the pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to very low, cover pot, and simmer gently 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Be careful—don’ let the vegetables scorch on the bottom of the pan! In batches, pour mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Taste for seasonings, return to saucepan, and keep warm over very low heat. If mixture gets too thick, add a little more cream.

If it hasn’t already been removed, peel off the tough strip of muscle on the side of each scallop. Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat two 12″ sauté pans over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil to each pan, and when oil is almost smoking hot, add half the scallops to each pan. (If you don’t have two 12″ sauté pans, cook scallops in batches and keep the first batch warm in a 250° oven until second batch is ready.) Cook undisturbed about 3 minutes, until golden brown on the bottoms. Don’t crowd scallops, or they’ll steam rather than sear. Using a small metal spatula, turn scallops and cook on the other side 2 to 3 minutes more, until just barely cooked through. (If the pan is hot enough and you let the scallops cook undisturbed, they will not stick to the pan.)

To serve, spoon warm puree onto 6 plates. Place scallops on puree, drizzle with basil oil (if using), and sprinkle with chives.