Menu planner: Walnut-chocolate bliss balls make a scrumptious dessert

Thinking ahead to your next few meals? Here are some main dishes and sides to try.

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Walnut chocolate bliss balls.

Walnut chocolate bliss balls.

California Walnuts

Walnut-chocolate bliss balls

Process 2 cups walnuts until finely chopped. To food processor, add 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 10 pitted Medjool dates. Pulse again until mixture forms a thick paste. (Don’t process too long, or mixture will become too sticky.) Roll into 16 uniform balls. Roll some of the balls in additional coconut or cocoa powder, if desired. Store in refrigerator or freezer until ready to serve.

Polenta gratin with mushrooms and cheese

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 15 minutes


1 (16-ounce) tube sun-dried tomato or regular polenta, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/3 cup sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup shredded 50% light cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a 7-by-11-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, arrange polenta slices, allowing slices to overlap. Heat a large, nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and salt. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook 2 minutes. Stir in Alfredo sauce and basil. Spoon mushroom mixture evenly over polenta. Top with cheese. Bake 9 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Per serving: 132 calories, 7 grams protein, 3 grams fat (19% calories from fat), 1.6 grams saturated fat, 21 grams carbohydrate, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 560 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 1.5.

Skillet beef and mashed potato pie

Makes 5 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes


1 1/2 pounds meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)

3 teaspoons dried Greek seasoning, divided

2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce

1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas and carrots (thawed)

1 (25-ounce) container refrigerated prepared garlic (or other) mashed potatoes

Heat a large, nonstick ovenproof skillet on medium-high. Add meatloaf mix and cook 8 minutes or until no longer pink; drain. Add 2 teaspoons of the Greek seasoning, tomato sauce and peas and carrots. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Heat potatoes in microwave according to directions. Stir remaining Greek seasoning into potatoes. Heat broiler. Spread heated potatoes over meat mixture. Wrap handle in foil. Place skillet under broiler, 4 inches from heat, and broil 2 to 3 minutes or until potatoes are brown. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 348 calories, 33 grams protein, 11 grams fat (27% calories from fat), 3.0 grams saturated fat, 31 grams carbohydrate, 91 milligrams cholesterol, 571 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.

Roasted cod with warm tomato-olive-caper tapenade

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes


1 pound cod fillets (see NOTE)

3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Rub cod with 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Place on baking sheet. Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout (depending on thickness of fish).

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in medium skillet on medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, about 20 seconds or until it begins to soften. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, 1 1/2 minutes or until softened. Add olives and capers; cook, stirring, 30 seconds more. Stir in oregano and vinegar; remove from heat. Spoon over cod and serve.

NOTE: Use frozen cod if fresh is not available or is too expensive. Thaw before cooking.

Per serving: 151 calories, 19 grams protein, 7 grams fat (39% calories from fat), 0.6 gram saturated fat, 4 grams carbohydrate, 43 milligrams cholesterol, 262 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Carb count: 0.5.

Slow cooker chili

In a large, nonstick skillet on medium, cook 2 pounds lean ground beef 6 to 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Place cooked beef in a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Add 1 package slow-cooker chili seasoning, 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes with liquid, 2 (14.5-ounce) cans rinsed reduced-sodium kidney or pinto beans (or combination) and 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours. Stir before serving. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped onions.

Turkey reuben wraps

For a quick weeknight meal, spread four (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas with 1 tablespoon Thousand Island dressing each. Top to within 1 inch of edge with 1 1/2 cups (6 cups total) fresh baby spinach, 2 ounces (8 ounces total) deli sliced honey-roasted smoked or other turkey breast, 1 ounce sliced (4 ounces total) reduced-fat Swiss cheese and 1 cup (4 cups total) bagged coleslaw mix. Roll tightly. Wrap each in plastic wrap; refrigerate 15 minutes. Cut diagonally in halves. Serve with oven fries (from frozen).

Spaghetti pizza

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Break 8 ounces spaghetti into 2-inch pieces. Cook according to package directions; drain. In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs. Gradually add 1/2 cup 1% milk, 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Stir in spaghetti pieces. Coat a rimmed 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spread spaghetti mixture into pan, building up sides slightly. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread 1 (26-ounce) jar red spaghetti sauce over crust. Spread 2 cups cooked broccoli florets and 1 thinly sliced zucchini over sauce. Sprinkle with 1 more cup mozzarella. Bake 35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

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