Weekly Winner: Just in time for Chinese New Year – minus the pig :-(

Teriyaki meatballsI’d like to think I had this all planned out.  That I knew that yesterday was the Chinese New Year and that, traditionally, one ate noodles, mushrooms, and greens for luck, health and prosperity.  I mean, in theory I knew all this… I just didn’t realize that yesterday was actually the Chinese New Year AND that it was the year of the pig!  I do love me some pig!  As luck would have it, I had planned this dish for dinner anyway.  Had I really thought it all out, the meatballs would have obviously been made from pork.

This recipe from Cook’s Country for Teriyaki Meatballs caught my eye.  When I realized they were chicken meatballs, I almost didn’t read any further.  To me, chicken meatballs are usually a sad excuse for a ball of meat.  Bland, dry, not worth the effort of rolling out.  But right away they explained that these were different.  They figured out a way to pack flavor, structure and moisture into these little gems.  Yes, they did!  The homemade teriyaki sauce was also a revelation — not gloppy and sickeningly sweet like a lot of bottled versions.  Just thick enough to glaze the tender, tasty meatballs.

I decided to serve them on Udon noodles which I get frozen from my favorite Asian market, but obviously these would be awesome on rice, on other noodles, or simply served with toothpicks as appetizers.

Teriyaki Meatballs

Makes 40 bite-sized meatballs

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped coarse

1-1/2  cups chopped green cabbage

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

4 scallions, minced

3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro (I used parsley)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on the bias

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Procedure:

  1. For the meatballs:  Adjust oven rack to the upper-meddle position and heat oven to 400F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray.  Combine mushrooms and cabbage in food processor and pulse until chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 8-10 pulses.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add mushroom mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  3. For the sauce:  Wipe now-empty skillet clean with paper towels. Whisk cornstarch and vinegar in small bowl until combined; set aside. Bring mirin, water, soy sauce, and sugar to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; transfer 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce to mushroom mixture.  Let mushroom mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Cover skillet and set remaining sauce aside.
  4. Add chicken, panko, scallions, cilantro, parsley, egg, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to cooled mushroom mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Divide chicken mixture into 40 portions, about 1 tablespoon each.  Roll between your wet hands to form 1-1/4 inch balls and space evenly on prepared sheet in 8 rows of 5.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Uncover sheet and bake until meatballs are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking.  Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat.  Add meatballs to skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

 

 

 

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Weekly Winner: Reworking the Waldorf

farro waldorfI gotta admit, I do love a retro salad.  Crab Louie, Ham Salad, and perhaps my all-time favorite in this classic category: The Waldorf.  Apples, grapes, walnuts, raisins, celery (not a fan but it’s got to be there!) all combined in a tangy mayonnaise-based dressing.  Seriously, what’s not to love??  Well, for starters the calories.  Yes, you’re getting all sorts of healthy things in there but usually the dressing is so thick that it overwhelms everything and wilts the bed of salad greens the whole thing is served on.

What about lightening up the dressing, and rather than putting it on lettuce, build some whole-grain goodness into the mix as well?  Now, we’re talking!  That’s exactly what attracted me to Food Network Magazine‘s Farro Waldorf Salad.  I took the revamp a step further and swapped out the sour cream for plain yogurt in the dressing.  I also found that I only needed about 1/2 the amount of dressing called for.  Don’t use it all at first — start with half and work from there.

This should be the new standard for Waldorf Salad….and it definitely will be the only version served around here!

Farro Waldorf Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 cup farro

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 scallion, sliced

3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 apples, chopped

1 cup halved seedless grapes

3 stalks celery, sliced, plus 1 cup chopped celery leaves

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  • Cook the farro as the label directs, then spread on a baking sheet and let cool.
  • Make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, scallion and dill in a large bowl
  • Add the apples ,grapes, celery ,walnuts, raisins and farro to the bowl with the dressing; toss.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley and celery leaves

Weekly Winner: A Better Take on Zoodles

pastaI love pasta.  I don’t hate zucchini.  I don’t particularly love zucchini either, it’s more like I simply don’t have an opinion one way or another about zucchini.  I’ll eat it, and because it’s a vegetable and healthy, I’m trying to eat more of it.  But that’s where I draw the line.  Do not go messing with my pasta and try to get me to substitute real pasta for zucchini noodles (aka zoodles)! I found a much better alternative — add the zucchini to the actual, delicious pasta.  In doing so, you can surprisingly improve both!

Case in point: Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini from Cooks Country Magazine. Now I’ll admit, when I saw this recipe I thought “Hey, here’s a healthy pasta recipe for the New Year that won’t be too bad.”  Wrong, it was amazing!!  I mean, like, seriously delicious.  It is so easy, and comes together so quickly but seems so much more complex than the few simple ingredients would suggest.  So if you’re trying to “lighten up” your pasta without replacing your pasta (cause that would be really sad in my book), try this.  It is a definite winner.

Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound linguine

Salt & Pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 zucchini, shredded and patted dry

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Procedure:

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  2. Heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in now-empty pot over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and chickpeas and cook until zucchini is wilted and most of its excess moisture has cooked off, about 6 minutes.  Using potato masher, lightly mash chickpeas.
  3. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Pecorino, parsley, lemon juice, pasta and reserved cooking water.  Serve, passing lemon wedges, extra oil and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Crushin’ on Crusted Cauliflower (in it’s entirety)

cauliflowerI realize there are a few people out there that dislike cauliflower.  Personally, I don’t get it.  I adore the stuff.  Anyway you make it I’m OK with it, with the exception of boiled.  Honestly, I don’t think you should boil any vegetable.  Boiled vegetables should be banned.  I’ve also always been intrigued with cooking a whole head of cauliflower.  I’ve done the cauliflower “steaks”, I’ve pureed, I’ve riced, I’ve smashed and I’ve cut into florets…. but whole?  Now there’s a show-stopper!  Cooking a whole cauliflower is not without its difficulties, however (or so I thought!)  Getting the entire thing cooked properly is complicated (or is it?)  I’ve ordered it out at restaurants on occasion and it seems the core and stalks are never quite as done as the florets.  This is no longer a concern of mine.  I have found the perfect, whole cauliflower recipe and man, is it good!

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese comes from Cuisine at Home.  First of all, what’s the deal with the “everything bagel seasoning” lately??  It’s everywhere and on everything!  I guess it is this year’s “Za’atar” seasoning.  But anyway, I digress… here is the recipe.  Oh wait!  One more thing…. this recipe says it serves 12.  Twelve???  My husband and I devoured the entire head of cauliflower with a filet of salmon each.  I’m not proud…I’m just sayin’.

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese

Serves 2, 4… or 12… whatever!

Ingredients:

Spice blend:

2 Tbsp each dried minced garlic and dried onion flakes

1 Tbsp each poppy seeds and toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp kosher salt

Cauliflower:

1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

black pepper to taste

1 large head cauliflower

For the sauce:

4 oz plain cream cheese, softened

2 oz goat cheese, softened

3 Tbsp buttermilk

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp each minced fresh parsley and chives

1 tsp minced fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Stir together all ingredients for the spice blend.
  3. Whisk together 2 Tbsp of the spice blend with the yogurt and olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a large bowl; season with pepper.
  4. Add the cauliflower to yogurt mixture and oat completely.  Transfer cauliflower to prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the spice blend.
  5. Roast cauliflower until golden brown and fork-tender, about 1 hour.  Let cauliflower rest 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter.
  6. For the sauce, puree cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon juice, and fresh garlic in a mini food processor.  Add parsley, chives, and dill and pulse until combined; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cauliflower with sauce

Weekly Winner: Simple, Sumptuous Sumac-laden Supper

Couscous ChickenThis was a fascinating dinner I made last night.  On the one hand, it’s a super easy one-pot meal. On the other hand, it was uniquely complex and exotic-tasting with just a few ingredients.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas was a perfect cool evening, post-holiday meal — warm and comforting, yet healthy and nourishing.  The foreign feel of this dish comes from a rather large amount of sumac which is both cooked in the broth and added at the end for a final flourish.  Sumac has a slight citrusy taste and also a mild numbing effect on the tongue without adding any heat.  Just tasty goodness in a bowl here.

The recipe comes from Milk Street and because it comes together so quickly and is made up of items I almost always have on hand, I think I’ll be making this a bunch this winter.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup pearl couscous

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3 tsp ground sumac, divided

1 cinnamon stick

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal

15-1/2 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp grated lemon zet, plus 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped.

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sumac and the cinnamon, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken, carrots, 3 cups water and the couscous.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and the lemon zest and juice, then remove and discord the cinnamon stick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in half of the mint and transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac and the remaining mint.

Weekly Winner: A Better Idea than Chicken in a Blender!

Chicken-Cordon-Bleu-Soup_EXPS_THN18_128604_E06_06_6b-696x696The first round of holidays are over (hence the delay in my posting) and I am back on the soup bandwagon.  Big Time.  There is nothing like a bowl of creamy, cheesy, luscious soup to give you the courage and sustenance to face the rest of the holiday chores and obligations.

I love the idea of taking an entrée or specific dish and transforming it either into a pizza or a soup.  I’ve done this with chicken tikka masala (into a pizza – fabulous), loaded baked potatoes (into a soup – super yummy), and BLT’s (into both a pizza and a soup at various times).  You get the idea.  So, when I came across this recipe from A Taste of Home for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup I knew I was going to have to try it.  It did not disappoint.  And while, yes…. having ham, chicken, swiss cheese  and half-and-half does make it a bit rich (which is a good thing), having the base of the soup be pureed cauliflower adds thickness without additional heft.  And, your getting a vegetable which does not exist in the original form of Chicken Cordon Bleu — bonus!  It’s healthy-ish! Yeah, not really but it is super duper tasty!

A quick word about this fabulous picture.  It’s not mine.  I took it directly from the magazine.  I did take a picture of my soup but it just didn’t quite make the cut.  Here it is: cordon bleu soupSee?  Not quite the same.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup finely cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Procedure:

  • In a large saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and onion; cook and stir until crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in flour until blended; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until cauliflower is tender, 12-15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an immersion blender. Or, cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender; return to pan.
  • Stir in chicken, cream, ham, mustard, salt and pepper; heat through. Stir in cheese until melted.

Weekly Winner: Changing Up Beef Stew – Chinese-Style

beef stewI’m not a huge fan of typical beef stew.  Cubes of beef with veggies in a broth is just not that exciting to me.  Pot roast is a bit better … succulent beef that falls apart or shreds at the lightest touch… better but not perfect.  Spicy shredded beef on noodles (and not just any noodles, but toothsome, slippery Udon noodles) – now you’re talking beef perfection!!!

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles might just become my new favorite comfort food.  This is fancy enough for company but also perfect for cozying up on the couch in your jammies with.  To top it all off, it’s made in the slow cooker!  Hands-off comfort food.  You just can’t beat that!  I got this winner from Food Network Magazine.  It couldn’t be easier to prepare or tastier to eat.   I did change up the recipe one little bit:  it called for watercress as it’s “greenery”.  Hubby doesn’t care for watercress and I already had a combination of spinach and arugula so I used that.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef chuck roast

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 pod star anise

1 9.5-ounce package dried udon noodles

1/2 bunch watercress, leaves picked (about 3 cups baby arugula and spinach combination)

Sliced scallions and balsamic vinegar, for topping

Procedure:

  1. Put the beef in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth, then whisk in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, chili-garlic sauce and ginger. Pour into the slow cooker and turn the beef to coat. Add the star anise. Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Discard the star anise and transfer the meat to a plate. Shred into bite-size pieces, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim off any excess fat from the liquid in the slow cooker. Return the meat to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain. Divide the noodles and beef stew among bowls. Top with the spinach/arugula, scallions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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