Blogging 101

Dusk on the Parkway

There is rarely a perfect time to do anything.

My nest is emptying — I’ll be depositing my older son at college for his freshman year in about 10 days.  Between his lovely petite amie and rowdy bro-pack, my younger son is gone as often as he is home.

So while I am not spending a lot of tiBoone Golf Clubme meal planning and cooking dinner, I’m busy doing a lot of freelance editorial work, cranking out pubs in anticipation  of going up for Full Professor in the Fall, planning work/ play trips to Chicago and France over the next couple of months, dating regularly, learning to golf, hiking a couple of times a week and hanging out/ staying in touch with my girlfriends, old and new,  here, at the lake and beyond.

So nocone manor carriage trail, this does not seem to be the perfect time to dive back into blogging. Over the last few weeks though, I’ve felt faint stirrings of those compulsions that drove me to publish actively and passionately on my old blog, Another Marvelous Meal (AMM), for several years.  Admittedly, there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time that drove me into that blog.  Suffice it to say that when you are in serious denial about the state of your relationship and life, and have hunkered down into survival mode to protect your children, writing a food blog about Happy Family Dinners can be a useful coping mechanism.  While AMM still gets tons of page views daily and has these inexplicable spurts in Facebook follower growth, I can’t go back there.  Hence this “new” blog which has limped along over the past couple of years.

I love the concept of Carolina Bon Vivant — living the good life here in the Carolinas. It’s Charcuterie Rhubarb April 2015not that I’ve not been doing that — I’ve just been lazy, inhibited, distracted, and generally unmotivated to blog until recently.  But now, I’m beginning to again find delight in photographing food and my surroundings, joy in cooking and creating recipes, adventure and passion in my kitchen adventures.

So despite it not being the perfect time to begin again,  I’ve signed up for Blogging 101 for the month of August and look forward to making time to write, photograph and edit, freeing myself from the self-imposed need to create, test, style, photograph and publish recipes and  spend the month enjoying sharing my good life.

Back to school and meal planning

The kids and I have been back to school for about a week now.  I had this vision that all in life would immediately settle into a new routine as the over-business of my summer magically turned to mist and evaporated.  Sadly, that is not how it is going.  Take Two.

I made a meal plan last week and shopped without considering our schedule — XC practice every night with one weeknight night meet and an overnight on the weekend, a late afternoon department meeting, and plans to check out the new brewpub with a friend midweek.  Both kids had heavy first week homework loads to boot.  Much pizza and subs were consumed while my beautiful end of summer produce rotted in the fridge.

This week looks just as full — more XC practice for Travis, Jack in driver’s training until 7:30 tonight and tomorrow night, Open House at the high school as well as a work commitment tomorrow night as well.  My goal is simple meals (for me anyway) with an abundance of late summer fruits and vegetables to make up last week’s lack.

Monday – mojo grilled chicken wraps with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, black beans

Tuesday – french dip roast beef sandwiches, tomato salad

Wednesday – salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes, couscous, zuchinni gratin

Thursday – chicken souvlaki with zucchini, tzaziki, pita, greek salad

Friday –  burgers with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, corn on the cob, baked beans

Here’s to a great week of healthier meals!

Lynn

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

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Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

My boys are both in high school now, and both are running cross-country.  My older son is driving now so the two of them leave the house around 7:45 in the morning and are gone until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.  I am hearing faint whisperings of an empty nest. At first I felt a bit at loose ends, but then I remembered how much I relish time home alone.  And in the past few weeks, several tasks that have lingered on my to-do list for an absurdly long time have finally gotten done.  I had hoped that if I ignored that stuff long enough it might go away but apparently the IRS had no interest in cooperating.

Family dinner is more important than ever.  Warren Buffett is constantly begging to watch New Girl during dinner but I resist.  We talk about school, all the crazy politics these days, Warren Buffett’s latest plan to make a million dollars. I tell them goofy stories about my students, correct their table manners and insist they eat their vegetables.  They make me laugh.  They make each other laugh. And then we watch New Girl.

This recipe for chicken meatballs with pasta and a pomodoro sauce served with a green salad is a perfect family dinner — lots of carbs and protein for the athletes. The meatballs can be a do-ahead or a chance to drag the kids into the kitchen and put them to work.  It is a versatile  meal– skip the meatballs and go vegetarian or skip the pasta and go low carb.  Make a double batch of the chicken meatballs to use  in meatball subs for a later meal.  I freeze them before baking, but you could also bake and freeze, then rewarm in the sauce.

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • olive oil cooking spray

For the Pasta al Pomodoro:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon  Gourmet Garden Basil Herb Blend or basil pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (divided)
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes until it is wilted and any water has evaporated.
  5. Add the garlic and cook another 1-3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and let the vegetables cool.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, cheese, egg, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  When cool, add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Stir in the milk, adding it sparingly.
  7. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray
  8. Roll the chicken mixture into 12 golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on the cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.
  10. Wipe out the non-stick skillet and heat the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the minced onion and cook for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1-3 minutes.
  11. Increase the heat to medium and add the crushed red pepper flakes, tomatoes, basil puree, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
  12. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot of boiling water then drop in the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is not quite tender (about 2 minutes less than the prescribed cooking time).  Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  13. Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the pasta water into the sauce to loosen it.  Bring the sauce to a boil and stir in the drained pasta, continuing to stir until the sauce coats the pasta and the pasta is al dente.
  14. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls.  Top each with 3 meatballs and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

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