Nourish Yourself in the New Year: Make a Night of It

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In this month’s theme of giving you tools and practical strategies for eating smarter throughout the year, this one is low-hanging fruit; a super-easy step that will radically simplify your meal planning. Rather than start from scratch each week with what you’re going to make, designate two or three nights as themes. For us Hubers, we’re going with Monday vegetarian, Wednesday whole grains (which could include whole grain pastas) and Thursday seafood.

night-of-itThe beauty of this approach is that it allows you to structure your meal planning while still leaving you open to creative interpretation. For instance, I’m not starting from scratch when deliberating what to make on a Thursday night; I already know I’ll be making seafood. But that could be as varied as Curried Mussels or Blackened Catfish or Barramundi with Shallots and Chile.

It’s also a good idea to feature food groups you’d like to eat more of. By putting whole grains in the spotlight once a week, for example, you’ll come up with creative ways to use them rather than defaulting to your comfort zone. And don’t forget to share the weekly themes with the rest of the family; post them on the fridge or a chalkboard so that everyone can get on board.

This week, make a night of it—even two or three nights of it—and see how it affects the way your weekly meal mix.

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Parchment-Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Back in the day in San Francisco, when A16 was Zinzino, we lived just a block and a half away on Chestnut Street. One of our all-time-favorite dishes there was parchment-baked spaghetti and meatballs. It was, truly, the ultimate comfort food. The noodles were shot through with flavor with an altogether unique texture—chewy in a good, satisfying way. Zinzino turned into A16 not long after we left the city and that dish disappeared along with it. Until now. I’m happy to report that, after all these years, I’ve successfully replicated it here. Note that this is not a throw-together-in-10-minute supper, but rather one for when you’re looking to warm yourself up from the inside out (like, say, after it’s been raining for umpteen days straight). Two other thoughts on this dish: you could use a high-quality jarred tomato sauce if you’d like, and you could double the meatball recipe and freeze half.

spag-meatballs-recipe1 cup coarse bread crumbs, pebble-sized, torn from stale, rustic bread
1 tablespoon lowfat 1% milk
1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoon grated garlic
1/3 cup grated onion
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 cups onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
15-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
28-ounce can pureed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 with a baking sheet on the middle rack. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl and pour in milk. Squeeze with your fingers until the milk is absorbed by the bread. Add ground beef, grated garlic, grated onion, parsley, and 1/2 tablespoon oregano to the bowl with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands, squishing the mixture between your fingers, until it is well blended. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saute 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper and saute 2-3 minutes more, until onions are just tinged brown. Pour in crushed tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon oregano and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, while meatballs brown.Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, nonstick saute pan over high heat. Remove meatball mixture from fridge and roll out 1-inch balls, browning in the pan on all sides, about 5 minutes total (you should have about 16 and may have to work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan). As meatballs are done, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add spaghetti to water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Return to pan with the tomato sauce and mix well.

Tear off 2 18-inch pieces of parchment paper. Crease all of them by folding them in half in both directions. Place a piece of parchment on the warmed baking sheet and top with spaghetti mixture and meatballs. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top and lay the remaining piece of parchment on top. Starting at the corner, crimp the edges up and over onto themselves, rolling tightly to seal. Continue the movement, working around the perimeter, until entire package is sealed.

Bake for 15 minutes, open package carefully and serve with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Serves 4