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Easy Spare Ribs

Don’t have 3 hours to spend making your spare ribs? This recipe allows you to make delicious spare ribs in just over an hour. It’s so easy, a middle schooler could make them.

First take your favorite barbeque sauce and pour it into a large skillet. Add half the amount of water to the sauce and stir to mix. (One bottle sauce and half a bottle of water is what I use for one rack of baby back ribs.)

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Add in your individually cut baby back ribs. Place them on their sides in the sauce. Make sure the sauce comes almost to the top of the ribs. Heat to a low simmer and cook until ribs halfway done (about 30 minutes). Then flip them.

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Continue to cook on a low simmer, allowing the sauce to reduce and caramelize on the bottom side of the ribs. Then flip again to allow the other side to caramelize. The whole process should take about 1 hr 15 mins.

To make it a little more fun, use a plain barbeque sauce and add your own flavor ingredients such as bourbon and maple syrup.

Enjoy!

Easy Spare Ribs
Ingredients
  • 1 19 oz bottle favorite barbeque sauce
  • 1 rack baby back ribs
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, pour in the bottle of barbeque sauce. Add 1/2 the amount again in water (1 bottle sauce=half bottle of water)

  2. Cut your baby back ribs into individual ribs and place on their sides in the sauce. The sauce should just come up to the top of the ribs.

  3. Cook on a gentle simmer until half way done (about 30 minutes). Turn over the ribs.

  4. Cook until the barbeque sauce reduces and caramelizes on the bottom of the ribs. Flip and caramelize the other side.

  5. The cooking time is approximately 1hr 15mins. Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Winter is coming. Mittens, warm sweaters, soft snowflakes, roaring fires…and slow cooker pot roast. This dish screams winter to me with its onion flavored gravy, carrots and tender meat.

Who doesn’t love an easy slow cooker meal that tastes great? This one is a favorite of mine and, as always, it’s easy.

First, in a large Ziploc bag, combine the flour and salt. Add in the chuck beef and shake to evenly cover.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Brown the meat on all sides.

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Place the browned beef in your slow cooker. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions on top. Pour in the beef broth, cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

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Remove the beef and vegetables. Transfer the gravy to a saucepan and heat on medium. Mix together the cornstarch with 4 tbsp of water. Add in a stream to the hot gravy while whisking to prevent lumps. The gravy will thicken. Serve with the meal.

Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 lbs chuck beef
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 lbs red potatoes halved
  • 6 carrots halved
  • 2 yellow onions quartered
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
Instructions
  1. In a large ziplock bag mix the flour and salt.

  2. Add beef into the bag and shake to coat evenly.

  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil.


  4. Add beef to skillet and brown on all sides. Transfer to the slow cooker.

  5. Place potatoes, carrots and onions on top of the beef.


  6. Pour beef stock into the slow cooker pot.

  7. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

  8. Remove beef and vegetables from the slow cooker. Set aside in a warm place.

  9. Pour the gravy into a saucepan and heat on medium heat.

  10. Mix the cornstarch with 4 tbsp. water to form a slurry.

  11. While whisking, add the cornstarch slurry in a stream into the gravy. Keep whisking to prevent lumps. Heat until thickened.

  12. Serve gravy with the beef and vegetables. Enjoy!

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Goan Chicken Cafreal

Where exactly is Goa? It’s a Portuguese colony located on the western coast of Indian. Spices and flavors are intense in Goan cuisine and here is one of the more popular Goan dishes, chicken cafreal. Made with chili peppers, ginger, garlic, lemons, cilantro, and more, this dishes flavors will explode in your mouth.

First, in a blender or food processor put your minced ginger, garlic, chili peppers, black pepper, cloves, cilantro, onions, cashew nuts, cumin, sugar and garam masala powder. Blend until a paste is formed.

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Put the chicken pieces in a large dish and rub the turmeric, salt and lemon into the chicken. Then pour the green paste over the chicken and allow to marinate, in the fridge, for 2-3 hours. (I used chicken pieces, but traditionally cubed chicken is used).

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In a large skillet, melt some butter and fry the chicken until cooked through. You may have to do this in batches if your pan isn’t big enough.IMG_4962.jpg

Place all chicken back into skillet once cooked and cover with remaining marinade. Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. Add the sliced green pepper and red onion to the top of the dish. Cover and simmer for another 5-6 minutes to soften the vegetables.

Serve with a side of lime. Enjoy!

Goan Chicken Cafreal
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs chicken
  • 2 inches ginger minced
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 green chillies chopped
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 10 cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp garam masla powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 green pepper sliced
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • butter for frying
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor combine the ginger, garlic, green chilies, pepper, cloves, cilantro, yellow onions, cashew nuts, cumin, garam masala and sugar. Blend into a paste.

  2. In a large dish, coat the chicken with the turmeric, lemon juice and salt. Cover with green paste and marinate for 2-3 hours.

  3. Melt butter in a large frying pan. Fry the chicken until cooked through. You may need to do this in batches.

  4. Add all chicken back into the pan. Add remaining marinade and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Add water if needed.

  5. Placed sliced pepper and onion on top. Cover and simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until vegetables soften.

  6. Serve with limes.

 

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Dutch Baby Pancake with Sausage and Apricot Filling

This is DELICIOUS. Make it. Eat it. Love it. I don’t need to say anymore. Well, except how to make it.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt and sugar.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a large saucepan place 2 tbsp. of butter. Put the saucepan in the oven to heat up the pan and melt the butter.

Once hot, pour the batter into the saucepan and put it back in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes.

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In a separate saucepan cook your sausages until done. Remove them from the pan and cut into round slices. Place them back into the saucepan and add the canned apricot, maple syrup and nutmeg. Heat on medium and toss to combine.

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Once cooked, remove the pancake from the oven. Spoon the filling onto the pancake and serve immediately.

Dutch Baby Pancake with Sausage and Apricot Filling

Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb sweet sausage links
  • 1 15 oz can apricot halves may sub peaches
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, salt and sugar.

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  3. Put butter into a large, oven proof skillet and place into the hot oven.


  4. Once the skillet is hot and butter melted and starting to smoke, pour the batter into the skillet.

  5. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until puffy and brown.

  6. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, cook the sausages. Slice into rounds (this is easiest to do after they are cooked)

  7. Add the apricots, maple syrup and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

  8. Once done, remove the pancake from the oven. Top with the sausages and apricots. Serve immediately.

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Maple Bacon Chili and the PTO

This is an award winning chili recipe. By that I mean this chili took first place in a hard fought, Parent Teacher Organization, contest. This is my friend’s recipe and she generously agreed to share it with me.

The PTO is at the center of the stay at home mom’s social structure.  From plant sales to luncheons, Hollywood portrays these groups as bored women who gossip, drink, raise a large amount of funds, and judge each other. Our real life PTO just judges cooking. There is an annual, chili cook off where both mom’s and dad’s make their best soup and chili to be judged by the town. It’s intense and the competition is fierce. The PTO is where it’s at.

There were grumblings from the runner up of this competition that “chili is not supposed to be sweet”. This chili is. And it’s delicious. And kids like it too. And that’s why it won.

The secret ingredient is…..baked beans. Yep, I was shocked too. She also disclosed that she made it with filet mignon (don’t tell the runner up). That might of helped with the adult vote. But you’re in luck, it tastes just a good when made with chuck steak (and it’s much cheaper).

It’s easy and simple to make. First cook four to five strips of bacon and chop them into 1 inch pieces. Then brown your ground beef and cubed steak. Put the meats in a large soup pot with a large can of baked beans (she used Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans), 1 can kidney beans, 1 can cannellini beans, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for several hours and serve with buns and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

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Maple, Bacon Chili

Ingredients
  • 4-5 strips bacon
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb chuck steak cubed
  • 1 28 oz can baked beans
  • 1 19 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 19 oz can red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp mustard
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon and cut into 1 inch strips

  2. Brown the ground beef and chuck steak

  3. Add all ingredients into a large soup pot and simmer, covered, for several hours

  4. Serve with buns and tortilla chips

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Kashmiri Chicken Curry

Several years ago a friend came over to my house to teach me Pakastani cooking. He was very excited to show me a black cardamom pod and how he used it to flavor the chicken and rice. Fast forward ten years and exotic spices are becoming easier to get. I ordered a small packet of black cardamom online and a few days later tried my best to recreate the meal he carefully taught me to make.

Now, he used a pressure cooker to make this dish. I don’t have a pressure cooker so I did my best to imitate the process in my frying pan. To help achieve this, first finely chopped the garlic, ginger and onion. Then use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic and ginger into a paste.

Next fry the onions in a decent amount of olive oil on medium heat. Once translucent, add the whole spices and cook them for an additional two minutes. Add the chicken and brown. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan.

Lower the heat and add the garlic/ginger paste, remaining spices and tomato puree. Cook this mixture for about 15-20 minutes. You want the onions to break down a little.

Add 3/4 – 1 cup of water and bring everything to a boil. Put the chicken back in the pan and cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and black cardamom and garnish with cilantro.

I served this with Spiced “Black” Rice, which is basmati rice that has turned golden by caramelized onions.

Please sign up for my blog so that you don’t miss my next post on how to make this delicious spiced black rice.

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Kashmiri Chicken Curry
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped fine
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 pieces chicken (as many as you can fit in your pan)
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger minced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 rounded tsp ground cumin
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree or sauce
Instructions
  1. In a large frying pan (pick your biggest one with a cover), cook the onions in the oil until translucent on medium heat.

  2. Add the whole spices and cook for 2 minutes.

  3. Add the chicken and brown it. Then remove it from the pan and set aside.

  4. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and ginger into a paste.

  5. Add the paste to the pan and fry for 1 minute.

  6. Add the remaining spices and tomato puree/sauce. Cook for 15-20 minutes to allow the onions to break down.

  7. Add 3/4 - 1 cup of water to the pan and bring to a boil.

  8. Add the chicken back to the pan. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

  9. Remove the bay leaves and black cardamom.

  10. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Recipe Notes

Best served with Spiced Black Rice

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Moroccan Lamb and Quince

What is a quince? A quince is a yellow fruit that is indigenous to south west Asia, Turkey and Iran. It is woody, hard and inedible raw, but when cooked it becomes a soft, fragrant fruit that tastes like a cross between a pear and an apple. It’s hard to substitute out in a recipe, but a mix of baking apples and pears would be closest.

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I had seen several recipes that required quinces, but I had never seen the fruit before. I was aware that quinces were coming into season (they are generally an autumn fruit) and I took a quick peek in the produce section of my local grocery store. Low and behold, they had them. I must never have noticed them before because they look so much like apples.

My favorite kind of cooking is ethnic cooking. I love Thai, Persian, Afghani, Indian and Moroccan food.  Their generous use of herbs and spices creates flavor combinations that seem to explode in your mouth. I don’t get to cook this kind of food too often because it’s not exactly kid friendly. However, when I see quinces at my local store….I can’t resist.

Traditionally, this dish would be made in a tagine. And you still can. You would need to change the recipe ever so slightly so message me if you want to make it that way and I will tell you how. For those who haven’t heard of tagines, they are terracotta or ceramic coned topped cooking vessels that can be used on your stovetop. However, cooking with a tagine can be a little tricky so I made this dish in my cast iron dutch oven.

This is a tagine.

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Here’s how to make it. First add the butter and oil to the dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add in your meat, onion, garlic and remaining step one ingredients EXCEPT for the saffron and cilantro bunch. Brown.

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Add 3 cups of water, the saffron and cilantro. Cover and simmer on low heat for 90 minutes.

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After 90 minutes, uncover and remove about 4 tbsp. of the broth. Set aside for use in step two.

Reduce until most of the water has evaporated. You will notice the stew steaming less. You want just the oils remaining. This step took me about 45 minutes.

While the stew is reducing, cut and core your quinces. They are very difficult to cut, make sure you use a good, strong, sharp knife. Place the cut slices in water to prevent them from browning while you finish up.

Drain the quinces and put them in a large skillet. Cover with water and add 1 tsp sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the quinces are fork tender. Reserve 4 tbsp. of the liquid and drain the remaining liquid from the skillet.

Add back in the reserved liquid, reserved stew broth, and remaining step two ingredients. Simmer until a thick syrup forms, carefully turning the quinces to coat them.

Once the stew has reduced, remove the cilantro and cinnamon stick.

Place stew on a serving platter or tagine and arrange the quinces on top. Serve with steamed rice or a naan type bread. Enjoy!

Moroccan Lamb and Quince
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs lamb cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 2 onions chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 small bunch cilantro tied together with string
Step two:
  • 1 1/2 lbs quinces cut into 8ths and cored
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. In a large dutch oven, melt the butter and oil together. Add the onions, garlic and meat. Stir to combine.

  2. Add all the remaining step one ingredients EXCEPT the cilantro and saffron. Brown the mixture on medium-high heat.

  3. Add 3 cups of water, the saffron and cilantro bunch. Cover with lid and simmer for 90 minutes on low heat.

  4. After 90 minutes, uncover and remove 4 tbsp. of the broth and set aside for use in step two. 

  5. Leave uncovered and reduce on medium heat until most of the water is gone and only the oil remains. This takes about 45 minutes.

Step Two:
  1. While the stew reduces, prepare your quinces. With a sharp, strong knife, cut quinces into 8ths and core. They are very woody and hard to cut so take your time. Put cut pieces into a bowl of water so they don't brown while you finish up.

  2. In a large skillet, add the quinces (not the water). Add enough water to cover the quinces, add 1 tsp sugar and bring to a boil.

  3. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until quinces are fork tender.

  4. Remove 4 tbsp. of the liquid from the skillet and set aside. Drain the remaining water off the skillet. 

  5. Add the reserved liquid from above back into the pan, along with the reserved liquid from the stew.

  6. Add the remaining step two ingredients to the skillet.

  7. Simmer until a thick syrup forms, carefully turning the quinces to cover all sides.

Serve:
  1. Remove the cilantro bunch and cinnamon stick from the dutch oven. Place meat on a serving platter or tagine and arrange quinces on top.

  2. Best served with steamed rice or naan type bread.

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Croatian Potato Plum Dumplings

Croatia is on my travel bucket list. I have heard that it is breathtakingly beautiful. Located in Eastern Europe and bordering the Adriatic Sea, its cuisine is wide, varied and definitively regional. Potato dumplings made with cheese or plums are native to the Croatian region of Dalmatia. They are considered both a lunch (which is the main meal in Croatia) and a dessert.

These plum dumplings are not hard to make, but they are time consuming. They are different than anything I’ve tasted before, but I did like them. Mind you, I love to try new foods. I’ve had guinea pig (disgustingly rubbery), cow’s udder (you might as well eat a sponge), alpaca (not bad), witchitty grubs (surprisingly good) and blood sausage (not good). I always get sick when I travel because I insist on eating all the local foods. Thankfully, these dumplings won’t make you sick and you will still get to try something different.

I cooked them two ways. First, you need to boil them. Traditionally, you then fry them with breadcrumbs. I found they tasted like stewed plums and fried mashed potatoes when cooked this way. With the second batch, I rolled them in toasted breadcrumbs and baked them. I then poured some stewed plum sauce on top. I personally preferred them this way because the dumplings were a little drier. This recipe makes 40 dumplings so I was able to freeze 1/2 of them for later.

To make these you need to first peel and chop 4 lbs of russet potatoes. Boil them until tender and then mash. You then mix in flour, semolina, salt, nutmeg and butter. Once slightly cooled, you mix in 2 beaten eggs to form a dough. (You may add more flour if the dough is too soft and sticky to work with.)

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Take a small handful of dough and roll it into a ping pong sized ball. Flatten it into a disc and place a plum (pit removed) in the center. Wrap the dough around the plum and roll it back into a ball.  Place on a parchment lined baking tray.

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Boil the dumplings in a large pot until they float. Then transfer them to a skillet with butter and breadcrumbs. Turn carefully to coat and fry all sides.

Alternatively, instead of frying, coat boiled dumplings with toasted breadcrumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch carefully for burning. Cover with plum sauce.

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Croatian Potato Plum Dumplings
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs russet potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 lbs prune plums pits removed
Step two:
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Sauce:
  • 2 cups plums chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and mash.

  2. Add butter, flour, semolina, salt, and nutmeg to mashed potatoes. Mix well.

  3. When slightly cooled, mix in eggs to form a dough.

  4. Make ping pong sized balls with the dough and then flatten into a disc in your hand. Put one plum in the center of the disc and wrap dough around it. Roll into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking tray. (Freeze 1/2 on the tray to prevent sticking. Once completely frozen you can transfer the dumplings to a bag or container)

  5. Boil dumplings until they float.

  6. Method 1: fry in butter and breadcrumbs.

  7. Method 2: coat in toasted breadcrumbs and then bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch carefully for burning.

Sauce:
  1. Combine sauce ingredients with 1/4 cup water in a small sauce pan. Simmer until thickened. Serve over the dumplings.

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Mommy Hides Veggies in the Meatloaf. Toddler Friendly Recipes Part I

 

I just returned from a week’s vacation at the Jersey Shore. With all four kids….

The Jersey shore, for those unfamiliar, is mile upon mile of sandy beaches interspersed with boardwalks featuring amusement parks, water parks, restaurants and shops. We had a blast. But… the baby didn’t sleep, my newly potty trained toddler was afraid of the toilet, the teenagers were moody and I got tendonitis in both wrists from wrestling with two beach carts and a double stroller everyday on the beach.  So when we got home, I asked my eldest daughter what she would like for dinner, with the caveat that it was simple to make. She requested my meatloaf.

My meatloaf is incredibly easy and quick to make. In fact, my husband thinks I’m making it right now so he’s watching the little ones for me. But I’m already done. Shh…

Yes, I hide veggies in my meatloaf. I can’t get either of my little ones to eat vegetables. As a granola and veggie loving mom, this makes me feel like a huge failure. So I hide them.

First mix up your ground beef and ground turkey (or use meatloaf mix).

Add a shredded small zucchini, 3 shredded carrots, 1 egg, salt, pepper, and seasoned breadcrumbs. Mix well. (Optional: add 1/2 small onion, chopped and sautéed).

Place in a 4 quart casserole dish. By the way, that’s TWO veggies!

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Yes, I know you can still see the veggies. Don’t worry, I have another trick up my sleeve.

Pour 20 ounces of marinara sauce over the top. I count this as a vegetable. So now you have THREE veggies.

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And voila! They’ll think they’re eating a hamburger with ketchup. I serve it with corn (FOUR veggies!) and mashed potatoes. Are potatoes a vegetable? I think in the case of toddlers it is. So FIVE veggies! Did I say I was a failing, granola and veggie crunching mom? I take it back. I should get a red SuperVeggie cape and change into it in the bathroom when I’m hiding from all my kids.

Oh yeah, the meatloaf. Bake it at 350 for about one hour. Enjoy!

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Hidden Veggie Meatloaf
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small zucchini shredded
  • 3 carrots shredded
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 20 oz marinara sauce
  • 1/2 small onion chopped fine and sauteed (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef and turkey (You can substitute 2 lbs meatloaf mix).

  3. Add remaining ingredients, except for the marinara sauce, and mix well.

  4. Place in 4 qt casserole dish. Cover with marinara sauce.

  5. Cook for 60 minutes or until center cooked through.

  6. Put on your SuperMom cape and enjoy!

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Thai Lettuce Wraps aka Larb aka Yum

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I love Thai food. So much so, that when I was traveling through Thailand I took the time to take cooking classes. We made Thai red curry paste from scratch, green papaya salad, fried bananas and so much more. It was all delicious. The fresh ingredients direct from food markets were rich with flavor.

The morning food markets in Thailand were full of the sights, sounds and smells of indescribable produce, spices and meats. I even saw bats for sale once! Don’t get the wrong idea though. There were plenty of flies in sight. The smells weren’t always…delightful (think rotting meat.) And the sounds were of a multitude of loudly haggling locals. They were also crowded, sweaty and a little dirty. But I loved them and all the new ingredients and flavors they represented. Cooking in Thailand is definitely farm to table. Thanks to a local Asian store, I have been able to continue making these dishes with only small adjustments to the ingredients (and a heaping increase in food safety!)

Larb is a Thai meat salad served in lettuce leaves that is flavorful, spicy and light. It can be made with either ground pork or chicken.

The first step though is to head out to your nearest Asian grocery store and buy a small bag of sticky or sweet Thai rice. This recipe only uses a small amount, but don’t worry, it won’t go to waste. My next post will explain how to make Thai sticky rice with mango.

Take 3 tbsp of the rice and place it in a small saucepan on low heat. Toast the rice  for about 15 minutes or until a golden brown color. It will start to smell like popcorn.

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Once toasted, grind it in a mortar until it becomes a coarse powder. (You could also use a food processor). Set aside.

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Cook your pork or chicken in a medium saucepan until cooked through. Remove from heat and add one heaping tbsp of the sticky rice powder and your chili flakes. Mix well and then allow the meat to cool for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the lettuce leaves and peanuts) and stir well to combine.

Serve on lettuce leaves and garnish with peanuts.

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Thai Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp Thai sweet/sticky rice
  • 1 lb minced pork or chicken
  • 1/2-1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 small shallots sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 20 leaves fresh mint torn into medium sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup peanuts chopped for garnish
  • 10 lettuce leaves
Instructions
  1. In  a small saucepan, on low heat, toast the sticky rice until golden brown. It will smell like popcorn

  2. Grind the toasted rice using a mortar or food processor into a coarse powder

  3. In a large saucepan, cook the pork/chicken until cooked through. Break into small pieces. Remove from heat

  4. Add 1 heaping tbsp of the rice powder and the chili flakes. Stir till well combined

  5. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. You want it warm, but not so hot that your herbs will cook

  6. Add remaining ingredients, except for the peanuts and lettuce leaves. Stir to combine

  7. Garnish with chopped peanuts and serve on lettuce leaves

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Layered Chicken Taco Salad with a side of Mexican love

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Mexico…it has a special place in my heart. This is where I met my husband. A series of calamitous events had landed me depressed and dejected in Cabo san Lucas. It all started when I was laid off from my government job following the stock market crash of 2008. I made the very responsible decision to spend my new found freedom on vacation in Mexico. I booked a charter trip with my friend to Puerto Vallarta. Shortly before our trip started, a tropical storm formed just off shore of our resort. Perfect…at least the storm matched my mood. My friend and I arrived at the airport at 4am on a cold Sunday morning to catch our flight to Mexico. The Vancouver International Airport is HUGE, but even for that early hour the terminal seemed eerily quiet. We followed the signs to our check in counter, but no one was there. In fact, there was NO ONE in the entire airport! After wandering around aimlessly, we saw a lone soul manning an information kiosk. She told us our flight had left the day before. UGH. I double checked my tickets and they definitely said Sunday. I felt like the universe was conspiring against me and my ill advised vacation. We left the airport feeling frustrated and confused. I was resigned to drinking tea in bed for a week, but my friend was a lawyer and insisted we should just book a new vacation. She was sure that we wouldn’t have to pay for it. So….we booked a slightly NICER vacation resort….and we moved the destination to Cabo to avoid the tropical storm. Once we finally arrived, a group of American guys followed us around all week. The quiet one who mostly read a book while nursing a calf injury looked me up on social media when he got home. A couple years later we were married. Oh, and VISA paid for our entire trip to Cabo since the initial trip was booked through their travel rewards program. Maybe the universe was conspiring…just not against me.

I loved the food at our Mexican resort. My friend and I left 10lbs heavier, and we were only there a week! I LOVE Mexican food. That being said, I should probably move on to this light and delicious salad (which won’t result in a massive weight gain!). It’s perfect for a summer lunch or dinner and the dressing is what makes it so yummy. The layers of crunchy chips, juicy chicken and crisp peppers soak up the flavors of the dressing. Use a glass bowl if you have one to show off the layers.

In the morning, bake or BBQ some chicken to shred for the salad. Also prepare the dressing ahead of time so that the flavors can blend together over time in the fridge.

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My next post will describe how to make the perfect MARGARITA, which would pair nicely with this salad. Visit my facebook page and click on the “follow” button so you don’t miss it!

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LAYERED CHICKEN TACO SALAD
Ingredients
  • 3 cups romaine lettuce chopped
  • 3 cup spinach
  • 3 large roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1 can whole kernel sweet corn
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups colby/monterey jack cheese shredded
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1 1/2 cups tortilla chips broken into medium sized pieces
  • 2 avocado sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
Dressing
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
Dressing:
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large jar that seals. Shake well to blend. Place in fridge for at least three hours prior to use. Shake again before serving

Salad:
  1. In a large glass bowl, place romaine lettuce and spinach on the bottom.

  2. Next layer tomatoes, then corn, black beans, red pepper, shredded chicken, green onions, and cheese

  3. Mix 3/4 cup of the dressing with 3/4 cup of salsa. Stir to mix

  4. Drizzle dressing/salsa mixture over the cheese

  5. Top with tortilla chips

  6. Garnish with avocado, cilantro and a little left over corn and red pepper for color

 

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Summer Pesto Chicken…and the exploding dinner party

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Confession time… I used to cook very little. I lived alone until my early thirties and cooking for one is BORING. My knowledge of cooking was so scant that when my friends and I would have potluck Thanksgiving dinners, I would be asked to bring the cranberry sauce. One year, feeling somewhat inadequate, I made the cranberry sauce from scratch just to prove to everyone that I wasn’t a complete cooking moron.

When I moved in with my husband, I was suddenly cooking for four. While that was a steep enough learning curve, my husband also loved to throw dinner parties. When he would tell me he’d invited friends over for dinner, I would feel the anxiety rising up over me like a fast moving tide. What?! Cook for 8? What on earth could I possibly serve? Every time we had a dinner party, I was a mess. Then one day, our dinner party exploded.

My husband had asked me to throw a dinner party for six. I was stressing about what to cook and looking up recipes online when I received a facebook message from an acquaintance. She wrote that my husband had invited her family for dinner next week and that they would love to come, they just didn’t know where we lived. Confused, I went upstairs to ask my husband about it. I hadn’t known he had invited more people. When I told him about the RSVP and he turned pale and quietly mumbled, “Umm… I have something to tell you”. My heart dropped into my stomach and a tight knot formed in my throat. I waited nervously for him to continue, but instead he pulled up an excel spreadsheet on his computer. An EXCEL SPREADSHEET? He added four names to the spreadsheet and I quickly realized that it was a guest list.  For 60 people. 60 PEOPLE! My friendly and VERY social husband had apparently invited everyone he had talked to for the past week. Even people we didn’t really know. Panic ensued. I nearly fainted. My husband apologized at least six times. The dinner party had exploded into a massive feast.

That day I learned the value of an easy, (yet visually stunning AND delicious), go to recipe, for large dinner parties. So I’m going to share mine. While “technically” an Italian dish, I’m a little unsure of it’s authenticity. However, it’s ability to be easily adjusted for any number of guests made me want to post it here for all of you.

I call it SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN and often pair it with green beans and roasted potatoes. If I’m serving over 10 people, I add in a pasta dish, salad and bread. (Stay tuned for those recipes!)

I’ve written the recipe to serve 6 people, but you can serve it to as little as four or make an entire tray to serve 20.

First, place your chicken into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them.

Cover the chicken generously with pesto sauce.

Cover with spinach.

Drain and gently squeeze the water from the artichoke hearts (this will prevent your dish from becoming soggy). Spread evenly over spinach. Then add the tomatoes.

Finally, sprinkle dish with mozzarella. I like to grind fresh black pepper on top too.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until chicken cooked through.

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That’s it! You’re done. Now you can relax and enjoy your party.

Stay tuned for my next post on Persian cooking. Make sure you don’t miss it by following this blog. Subscribe either below (if on mobile device) or on the right (if on a desktop)

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SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 8 oz (small jar) pesto
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts
  • 2-3 cups roma tomatoes cut into eigths
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Place chicken breasts into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them

  3. Cover chicken generously with pesto sauce

  4. Cover with fresh spinach

  5. Drain and gently squeeze water from artichoke hearts. Spread evenly over spinach

  6. Chop roma tomatoes into 8ths. Spread evenly over dish

  7. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the top

  8. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through