Weeknight Meals

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs

Two of the most common misperceptions (excuses, maybe?) of everyday healthy cooking is that it takes too much time, and it costs too much. (That, or if it is good for you it tastes like crap.)

These meatballs prove that doesn’t have to be the case. Three servings of vegetables, plus lean protein, from kitchen to table in about 30 minutes.

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First, the time. I try to cook or prep as much food as I can over the weekend. I am really good at coming up with excuses during the week, and I’m especially likely to talk myself out of cooking something that takes more than 30 minutes. My timesavers for this recipe: I roasted and shredded a spaghetti squash Sunday, and I bought  jarred spaghetti sauce. I like homemade sauce, but this saved a lot of time for not a lot of money.

Second, the cost. Here’s a breakout of what I spent (realizing that prices vary by market and brand, and season).

Ground turkey: $4.29
Frozen spinach: $.59 (1/2 box)
Egg: $.16
Onion: $.13 (1/4 of an onion)
Parmesan: $.47
Breadcrumbs $.40
Spaghetti squash: $1.99
Jarred spaghetti sauce: $2.00 (on sale)
Total: $10.03
Cost per serving: $2.52

If you’re looking to cook healthier without breaking the bank, make friends with the frozen food aisle — specifically, frozen vegetables. It’s not unusual to find any number of vegetable varieties on sale for $1 per bag. Unlike canned vegetables, frozen retain their nutritional value. A small amount of cheese adds flavor, as do inexpensive dried seasonings.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs
Adapted from Bob Appetit

1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 oz. frozen spinach,  thawed and well-drained (1/2 of a 10 oz. box)
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Coat a broiling pan or a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Adjust oven rack to the top one-third.

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl. Shape into 12-15 meatballs and arrange on broiling pan. Brush with olive oil. Broil 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve meatballs with spaghetti squash and marinara sauce. Top with additional cheese if desired.

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One-Pot Pumpkin Pasta

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The pumpkins! They have arrived! They’re cropping up in front of the grocery stores, the pie-baking displays are up, and a certain coffee chain is selling its infamous seasonal spiced beverage.

A little pumpkin seemed just right for the kitchen this weekend, and this pasta recipe did not disappoint.

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One pot, a few pantry basics, some spices, and twenty minutes later, dinner is on the table.

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I accidentally used an entire 13 oz. package of pasta, which made the sauce super-thick. Next time, I will make sure to measure.

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One-Pot Pumpkin Pasta
Adapted slightly from kitchentreaty.com

8 ounces (uncooked) linguine (I used whole grain)
4 cups vegetable broth (I used reduced sodium)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup petite diced yellow onion (about 1/4 of a large onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
4 oz. goat cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped, if desired

In a large, heavy pot, combine all ingredients except goat cheese and parsley. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook for 9 minutes, stirring and tossing with tongs. As the mixture begins to thicken, stir constantly, scraping the bottom to prevent sticking (you may wish to switch from tongs to a wooden spatula or spoon). Test the pasta; cook an additional minute if needed.

Remove from heat. Crumble goat cheese into the pasta. Stir gently until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir and taste; season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Divide between bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

I started a new job today. I’m really excited for an entirely new challenge, meeting new colleagues, and using my brain in new ways. More to come on that front.

Anyway, they say you should take time off between jobs. I didn’t really follow that advice. I took a couple of days, and I played catch-up on errands, sleeping, and mostly boring things. (I would have included quality time at the pool, but Mother Nature had other plans.) But, I did get to use some of that extra time for berry picking, making and canning salsa, and doing some prep cooking for the week ahead.

Here’s a quick weeknight dinner I whipped up to take advantage of zucchini season, utilize other ingredients I had on hand or was purchasing, and to create a no-leftover meal (between welcome events, navigating a new commute, and various social outings, leftovers would otherwise go uneaten).

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Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Per person:
2 teaspoons oil or fat of your choice
1 small zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion, if desired
4 oz. cooked shrimp, cut in half if large
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, other seasonings, to taste
2 or 4 small corn tortillas, 2 flour tortillas, or 2 leaves Boston Bib lettuce

For serving, as desired: diced avocado, salsa, cilantro, lime wedges, etc

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, peppers, and onions; sauté until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp to pan; heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, and/or cumin.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas (if using). Spoon filling into tortillas or lettuce leaves; serve with desired toppings.