Polenta is the ingredient I always forget will provide the variety to a weeknight meal we all need. Rice takes forever. Pasta seems overdone. Polenta? Yeah polenta cooks in just a few minutes. I like it soupy to be spoon-able. I used pre-cooked turkey meatballs, zucchini and a really quick sauce. Poof! Dinner!
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup dried polenta
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, shredded or chopped
1/2 cup milk
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the zucchini and tomato paste to cook for about 4 minutes.
Add in the meatballs, 1 cup of the broth, and salt & pepper. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 8 minutes until broth reduces a bit.
In a medium pot, add the polenta, butter, 1 cup of broth, 1 cup water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and stir in the milk and cheese.
Spoon polenta in to the bowls, then top with meatballs, zucchini, and the sauce.
Some of the most delicious things are not photogenic. This broccoli & cheddar risotto was so good but totally looks like rice-a-roni or something. I have looooved the pressure cooker and it is so great for risotto. It simmers opened for 4 minutes, then cooks for 6 minutes. Add a few minutes for getting to pressure and releasing the pressure. Done! Or, you could always make rice chop up some broccoli and add some cheese. Whatever works for you!
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 white onion
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup water or white wine
salt & pepper
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups shredded cheddar
Cook the risotto in a pot or in a pressure cooker, as you normally would: (Here’s my method via pressure cooker) or (Here’s my method in a pot).
I added in the broccoli to cook with the rice.
While is it hot, stir in the cheese.
At first I was disappointed the broccoli came apart, but then it was pretty great for a very evenly creamy bite. The texture was in the rice, and it was so unbelievably creamy. The little one was into it and it is still pretty addicting as leftovers!
You know when the all the stars align and your seemingly straightforward dinner wows you? This was that moment. I knew it was going to be good, and a nicely balanced meal, and pretty easy, but I didn’t really anticipate how much we’d all LOVE IT.
Excuse me while I pull out the ole soapbox. Get yourself a meat thermometer. Do not cook meat (especially pork!) without one. If you think you don’t love pork tenderloin then it miiiight be that you’ve only had it severely overcooked. Then it’s bland, boring, tough, and yuck.
Mr. J marinated the pork for flavors of honey and lime. Then while he grilled it to perfection, I made some rice with
peaches nectarines, lime juice, peach jam, red onion.
1 pork tenderloin
1/2 cup lime juice + 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup rice
1/4 red onion
~ 1 cup cilantro (1/2 bunch)
1/4 cup peach preserves
Marinade the pork in 1/2 cup lime juice, honey, & garlic powder for 4 hours refrigerated.
Get the rice cooking.
Grill flipping to cook each side. Grill to at least 145 degrees. Let it sit about 5 minutes after removing from the heat.
Chop the onion, nectarine, and cilantro and add into the cooked rice.
Add in 1 tablespoon lime juice and peach preserves. Mix well.
Slice the pork and serve with a sprinkle of cilantro over a bed of the rice.
We really did love this. I was so into the peaches with the pork with the onion. The babe couldn’t get enough pork. He had so much and just kept asking for more! Though, he wasn’t into it the next day as leftovers. He liked the rice being kind of sticky…it was much easier for him to spoon from his bowl.
Every veggie can benefit from some prosciutto! I loved the hands-off-ness of this side for a fresh & salty side. They’re just so easy and could easily pop onto the grill. I baked them since they were going with some seared scallops which were cooking inside anyway.
Asparagus spears (I doubled them per prosciutto slice)
Trim the ends of the asparagus and preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
Wrap the asparagus in prosciutto at an angle. (I doubled the asparagus per prosciutto slice).
Bring the balsamic to a low boil in a small pan for about 5-8 minutes until it gets thicker.
Bake for 15 minutes, turning halfway. Cook until the asparagus gets tender and the prosciutto crisps.
Remove the balsamic from the heat and allow to cool to room temp where it will become syrupy.
Drizzle with balsamic reduction & enjoy!
It isn’t really asparagus season but I was wanting this and it was great. The little one gobbled some and had scallops for the first time!
This salad served to clients at work made me want to make it ASAP. I love fresh pineapple and since the little one will always eat cucumbers, it means we always have some around. My mint plants are going gang-busters so poof! This salad was born. I planned to make pulled pork int he crockpot so this was perfect alongside it! I also would definitely chop it up more and use it as a relish. Yum!
1/2 cucumber, mostly pealed
1 cup fresh pineapple
8-10 mint leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
Chop the cucumber & seed, if necessary. Chop pineapple, shallot, and mint. Add it all to a bowl.
Add in the lime juice & olive oil. Toss well.
Refrigerate until serving, or serve immediately.
I thought this was perfect with the pork. I was so glad to have something zippy and fresh. This salad was so fast to throw together. The pork cooked all day in the crockpot and it was the fastest dinner to get together. Uhh it was just. so. ideal on a hot hot hot night. The leftover pork will be frozen and probably will go inside tacos. I’d really love this cuke & pineapple all diced up as a relish on a taco or sandwich.
Seriously, make this for your next BBQ and everyone will appreciate this cool, sweet, light, refreshing salad.
I road tested this pasta salad out and turned it into a meal by making it a vehicle for taco salads. It features flavors of a margarita, lime, with a touch of salt. I heard a tip of tossing the pasta in vinegar while it cools so I wanted to try it out. I think it works a bit, I don’t know that is changes the pasta salad to out of this world, but it totally has more flavor than many run-of-the-mill pasta salads.
1/2 pound rotini pasta
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup margarita mix
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tomato chopped
1 cup roasted corn
Green onions, chopped
fresh lime squeezed & zested (optional)
Boil the pasta and drain then toss with the apple cider vinegar. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before dressing it.
Whisk together the mayo, sour cream, margarita mix, chili powder, and salt.
If the pasta hasn’t completely chilled, then cover the dressing and mix later. If the pasta has already been chilled, then toss in the dressing.
Add in the veggies and herbs.
I think this would be great at a BBQ. I think it could have had more lime-ness. Next time I’ll juice a lime and zest it up. We topped them with taco-salad toppings like taco meat, avocado, and salsa. It was great for a bit of change from the usual taco salad. I used up some taco meat from the freezer and it involved very minimal cooking…many birds, one stone!
I was totally inspired by this lunch-lady-dude on Next Food Network Star when he made maple bacon creamed corn to top with a crab cake. I wish it were time for local fresh corn, but we’re not quite there yet. Instead, this is the snazziest freezer-side-dish ever.
We grilled some chicken to serve over this sweet and smokey creamed corn. I couldn’t believe it…the little one gobbled almost a whole chicken thigh! He tends to choose the fruits/veggies/carbs over chicken but we just keep serving it. He had some regular corn and some of this maple bacon creamed corn.
The creamed corn took the same amount of time to cook as the chicken. Perfect!
2 slices of bacon
1/2 yellow onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups corn
3 tablesoons of water
1/3 cup milk or cream
2 tbs maple syrup
Pan fry the bacon.
While the bacon is cooking, chop the onion and add the onion pieces and butter to a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Let the onions cook until soft & translucent ~8 minutes.
Add in the corn (mine was frozen), the water, syrup, and the milk.
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes.
If using frozen corn, remove about 1/3 – 1/2 and blend or food process it a little bit. Break it down a bit without totally obliterating it. Fresh corn will likely break down a bit on is own.
Add that back in, stir, and then add in the crispy bacon.
Stir while cooking another minute or two. Serve and enjoy!
I loved the sweet maple-y bacon flavors with spiced grilled chicken. It was a quick & unusual side dish for us with some pretty easy grilled chicken thighs. I like a new thing to go with something hands-off/no-stress/straightforward other foods. It would have been ideal to have a sharp & peppery arugula salad with this, but this was what we could make happen. This family dinner outside was glorious.
One drizzly Sunday I was hell-bent on making corn & zucchini something. As in, there were already groceries in the house and I willingly ventured to Wegmans…on a Sunday…with the little one…after going to Target. I do love taking the little one on errands partly because he seems to enjoy it, and I want him seeing people/places/learning how to behave in public/knowing we need to do things beyond playing together. But let’s be real: most grocery stores are BA-NAN-AS on Sunday afternoons. Also, we need a rule against 85-year-olds doing their errands on the weekends.
Anywho, I got it into my head that it should be like a pancake-ish. Mine ended up being a little more eggy/fritter-y but we still got the little one to eat it. (he’s not so into eggs right now)
I loved these as a non-traditional side dish for our house. They reheat well too.
Corn & Zucchini Fritters
adapted from Menu Musings’ Corn Cakes with Cilantro Lime Cream
2 cups corn (I used cooked frozen)
2 small zucchinis, shredded & moisture squeezed out
2 tbs chopped chives (optional)
1 tbs fresh thyme (optional)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup panko
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees (or warm a pan if frying them – I did both).
Mix together corn, shredded zucchini, chives, thyme.
Whisk the eggs and milk, then add panko, cornmeal, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Add the wet mixture into the veggie mixture and stir to combine.
Use a muffin tin, muffin-top pan (my fav), or a baking sheet and spray liberally with non-stick spray. Add the zucchini corn mixture and bake. Cooking time will vary depending on your baking vessel. I partially cooked by baking for 10 minutes to set before pan frying.
Or pan fry until crisp. I pan fried to finish them off for about 3 minutes per side to crisp the edges.
I liked these a lot! They might not be a meal you remember for life, but they’re a fun way to enjoy some veggies in a form I don’t have daily. They reheat well and could be made as mini balls with toothpicks as an appetizer! They’re pretty mild flavored and friendly for the kiddos or your favorite vegetarian.
We tend to be slaw/potato salad folks around here. I almost made this as potato salad, but that takes so. much. longer. This, as pasta salad, was super quick…like end of naptime quick. I boiled the pasta and started to fry the bacon while the pasta got a chance to cool. It got dressed to hang out in the fridge until dinner time. Voila! This is best when chilled for 1-3 hours and served then. To serve the next day it’ll need some mayo/plain yogurt/sour cream. The blue cheese dressing is more on the oily side versus the purely creamy side.
Bacon Blue Cheese Pasta Salad (serves 4)
1/4 box of large elbow pasta
2-3 slices of bacon
1 1/4 cup blue cheese salad dressing
2 tbs fresh chives, chopped (or green onions)
salt & pepper
crumbled blue cheese (optional)
hot sauce (optional)
Directions: (prep at least 1 hour in advance)
Boil pasta according to the package, cooking until soft, less than al dente.
Chop and pan fry the bacon until crisp, then drain.
Let the pasta cool. Stir a few times so it doesn’t become one chunk of pasta. Once cool, mix in 1 cup of the blue cheese dressing and the chives. Add in salt & pepper. Then cover and refrigerate at least an hour, preferably 1-3 hours.
Before serving, mix in the rest of the dressing and most of the bacon, reserving a little for the top.
Serve with the rest of the bacon on top. Enjoy!
This was great! I liked the flavor and the subtlety of it. I didn’t add in additional blue cheese or hot sauce, but this could totally become buffalo blue cheese pasta salad. I used the good, produce-area, blue cheese dressing. I think this is so easy that it is worth repeating and adds a great alternative to the normal, often-lackluster pasta salad.
I know. I can admit. I’m caesar dressing obsessed and after making Caesar Brussels Sprouts, I thought it would be really good for roasted asparagus. It was! I jazzed up some creamy caesar dressing and added some hard boiled egg, but you could totally make your own caesar dressing. I loved it and could have had just that for dinner!
1 bunch asparagus
1 egg, hard boiled
1/4 cup creamy caesar
2 tbs grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp minced garlic
cracked fresh pepper
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Trim the asparagus then drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet.
Roast for 15 minutes.
In a jar, add caesar dressing, 1 tbs of parmesan, anchovy paste, garlic, and pepper. Shake well.
Lay the asparagus on a serving plate. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and the remaining Parmesan.
Chop the hard boiled egg and sprinkle over the top.
I loved this. The tiniest bit of anchovy paste makes this dressing so. much. better. Trust me, nobody will know what it is, but that tiny touch is necessary. Plus, it lasts forever in a tiny tube in your fridge. I love the salty, peppery dressing with the just-roasted asparagus and egg. It was such a great side dish and a sign that spring is on the way!