Could Not Have Been Easier

January 10th, 2013 · 23 Comments · Pasta, Picky Eating

I guess it’s not breaking news that pasta dinners are faster than most, but because I tend to plan around the pasta-hater in my house, I don’t get to make these kinds of dishes as often as I’d like. And when I do, and they turn out as deliciously as this Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham (Meal #2 of 7 in my Seven Days, Seven Dinners challenge), I am reminded why I keep trying to fight the good pasta fight. I love Orecchiette here because it scoops up the peas and ham without requiring too much concentrating. (Have you ever tried to have spaghetti with peas? By the time I’m done with dinner and all that twirling and scooping and balancing, my brain hurts.) We used some crazy mail-order country ham (more on that later), but any old ham or pancetta would be fine. Whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for lunch the next day — or in our case, whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for the diner not enjoying the real dinner at the table.

Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham

1 pound of orecchiette
handful frozen peas to taste
salt and pepper
shake or two of red pepper flakes
olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 slices of Country Ham (or ham or a handful of pancetta pieces)
1/2 cup Parmsean, plus extra for serving
2 pats butter
handful freshly chopped mint or parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions.  When it has one more minute of cooking, toss frozen peas into the water with the pasta. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water then drain in a colander, drizzling a little olive oil into pasta to prevent sticking. Return pot to the stove and over medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook about a minute, stirring. Add ham and cook until slightly crisp. Add pasta and peas to the pot and stir everything to combine. Add cheese and butter and a drizzle of reserved pasta water to make the cheese distribute evenly. Serve in bowls with more cheese and herbs.

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Freezer Meatballs

January 7th, 2013 · 33 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning

So how’s everyone doing with Seven Days Seven Meals? I had to go out last night after work, so I’m starting with Operation New Dinners tonight. Well, if we’re going to be technical about it, I actually started on Sunday when I made a batch of lamb meatballs for the freezer. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me knowing these are waiting for us to devour on Thursday, when soccer is going to end late, and dinner is going to have to happen fast. Like 15 minutes fast. I’m not sure what meal will be built around them, but below I have a few options.

Keep me posted on your progress, too. Please share your triumphs with us, and remember: Catastrophes are always good for a laugh.

Freezer Lamb-balls with Two Options
Makes 16 meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, whisked
not quite 1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon minced onions
1 large garlic clove, minced

What I did Sunday: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients thoroughly but gently, and form into small balls as shown above. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then freeze in Ziploc. Total time sacrificed for the betterment of my weeknight self? About 15 minutes hands-on, 35 minutes total.

What I’ll probably do on Thursday: Make Lamb Pita Sandwiches. Place frozen meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 400°F. While they are baking, I’ll wrap whole wheat pitas in foil and heat them in the same oven for the last 10 minutes of meatball baking. I’ll also prepare sandwich toppings: pomegranate seeds, chopped fresh mint, feta, something green (cucumbers or shredded raw kale), plain yogurt mixed with lemon and a little cumin and salt. When meatballs are cooked, I’ll throw three or four into each pita along with assorted toppings as deemed acceptable by children.

What I could also do: Make Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dip. Place frozen meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 400°F. While they are baking, I’ll mix plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon, salt, a dash of cumin. I’ll serve lamb balls with yogurt dip (or ketchup if necessary) and some kind of salad with kale, feta, and pomegranate seeds — all of which I have in the fridge from my Sunday shop.

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