Thai turkey and zucchini meatballs

thai turkey and zucchini meatballs

Life is so hectic nowadays with both a baby and a toddler that I keep f***ing up while following recipes.  Luckily, things still usually turn out and this is one of those instances.  This is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Thai turkey meatballs and it’s adapted because I straight up f***ed up the original recipe.  Basically, I put waaay more zucchini in the meatballs – hence I’m calling these turkey and zucchini meatballs – than the recipe calls for as most of the zucchini was actually supposed to be sliced up and added to the sauce. I was worried the meatballs would fall apart and the whole thing would be a disaster but it turned out really well and we all loved it!  Whew.

(We’re still cooking Whole30 for Rock but I’m not 100% strict about using ‘compliant’ ingredients if getting them makes my life 100% harder.  But if you are strict about it, you can use homemade chicken stock and crazy expensive compliant fish sauce.)

3 zucchini  /  1 lb ground turkey  /  3 stalks of green onion  /  1 clove garlic, minced  /  1 and 1/2 tsp grated ginger  /  small bunch of cilantro, chopped  /  1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes  /  zest and juice of 1 lime  /  1 tsp sea salt flakes or salt to taste  /  1 tsp grapeseed oil  /  3 tbsp Thai green curry paste  /  1 (14 oz) can coconut milk  / 2 cups chicken broth  /  3 tbsp fish sauce  /  a large handful of sugar snap peas  /  optional: limes cut into wedges & small handful of Thai basil leaves to serve

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To make the meatballs, trim the ends of the zucchini and coarsely grate onto a piece of paper towel.  Squeeze out as much water as you can from the grated zucchini and toss into a large bowl.  Finely chop the white parts of the green onion and add that along with the ground turkey to the bowl.  Next, add the garlic, ginger, 2 tbsp of the cilantro, crushed red pepper flakes, lime zest and salt to the bowl.  Using your hands, mix the meatball mixture just until everything is combined.

IMG_1124To measure out the meatballs, use a heaping teaspoonful for each one and then simply roll into balls.  You’ll end up with about 30 meatballs.

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Finely chop up the green parts of your green onion.  Heat up the oil in a large dutch oven or lidded pan and give chopped green onion a quick fry.  Add the curry paste and then the coconut milk, chicken broth and fish sauce.  Let the sauce come to a boil and then gently drop the meatballs into the soup.  Drop them in going around the dutch oven in a circle going from the outside inward.  I was worried they wouldn’t all fit in but they did!

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Let the sauce come to a boil again and then slap the lid on and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Let it simmer for about 20 minutes and check that the meatballs are cooked through.  Add the snap peas and the juice of the one lime.  I didn’t do this but if you want you can serve with some Thai basil and lime wedges.

Thai turkey and zucchini meatballs

 

 

pork-stuffed cucumber soup

pork-stuffed cucumber soup

So we COOKED cucumbers today for the first time!  And I guess we also stuffed pork into cucumbers for the first time too!  Onwards we go with Rock’s Whole30 challenge and tonight I made this soup from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings book. Kind of reminded me of Chinese winter melon soup and it was delicious.  Even our toddler finished his bowl which is amazing considering he’s so picky lately.  A few things – to make it Whole30 I had to substitute the soy sauce with coconut aminos (something i didn’t even know existed until a week ago!) and I used organic chicken stock instead of bouillon cubes (which still has some trace amount of sugar in it but I made the executive decision that I just didn’t care.  Turns out sugar really is in EVERYTHING! If you’re strict with Whole30 you can always make your own chicken stock.)

And as for the cucumbers, I used the English cucumbers that are readily available at the supermarket but after making this soup, I’m pretty sure the recipe uses the other variety of cucumber that’s shorter and chubbier; not sure what it’s called.  Our cucumbers looked waaaay longer than the ones in the book.  Do we not use the same type of cucumber as in the US??  Will google that later.  Next time I’d probably hunt down those fatter cukes or cut the English ones into thirds.  I also only used 4 cucumbers and 10 cups of stock, which I’m glad I did because my dutch oven was almost filled to the brim!  Here I’ll give you the recipe with the ingredient list straight from the book though.

This would serve 3-4 as a main.

1 lb ground pork  /  1/4 cup light soy sauce  /  10 cloves garlic, minced  /  1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper  /  5 cucumbers, peeled, ends not trimmed  /  3 chicken bouillon cubes  /  1 bunch honshimeji mushrooms, trimmed (I couldn’t find these so I substituted enoki mushrooms)  /  1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion

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Mix the pork, soy sauce, garlic and pepper together in a bowl.  Then, cut the cucumbers in half, crosswise.  Chrissy suggests using a measuring spoon or a pineapple corer to hallow out the cucumbers so that they become hallow tubes with still the end intact.  I just used the handle of a spoon and it worked great.

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Then you stuff the cucumbers with the pork mixture. (We had quite a bit of pork mixture leftover and in hindsight, we should’ve just made them into meatballs and added them to the soup.  Next time!)

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Next, in a large dutch oven or soup pot over high heat, mix 12 cups of water with the bouillon cubes and bring it to a boil. (Or if you’re using chicken stock, simply heat it to a boil.)  Add in the cucumbers and lower the heat to a simmer; letting it cook for 30 minutes.

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Then add in the mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes longer.  The cucumbers should be tender and the pork cooked through.  Serve with the green onions over top.

pork-stuffed cucumber soup

 

 

shakshuka

shakshuka

I can’t believe we’d never had this before!  A friend from my UVIC days who also happens to be doing Whole30 right now recommended I try making shakshuka so that’s just what I did this morning.  I had to google it and it’s a Tunisian dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce that’s popular in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s usually a breakfast dish but can also be dinner.  Sold! Love breakfast for dinner. I’ve actually seen similar recipes in a couple of my cookbooks but they just went by different names.  Anyway, there seems to be a hundred slightly different ways you can prepare this dish and I read maybe 10 different recipes… and then just winged it ‘cus I got too confused. But it turned out great! Will definitely be making this again.

Makes enough for 2 servings

1 tin (28 oz) of whole tomatoes, excess liquid drained  /  1/2 yellow onion  /  1/2 red pepper (I had a sweet pointed pepper that I used)  /  2 cloves garlic  /  1 tsp cumin seeds  / 2 tsp Hungarian smoked paprika  /  1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes /  4 eggs  /  olive oil  /  small handful of chopped cilantro (I’m lying. I was lazy and just ripped some up)  /  salt and pepper to taste

IMG_1115Mince the garlic and dice up the onion and red pepper.  Heat up maybe a tbsp or so of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook the garlic, red pepper and onion until the veggies have softened and the onion has gone translucent.  Then stir in the crushed pepper flakes, paprika and cumin seeds.IMG_1116

Tip in the tin of drained tomatoes and just kind of break up the tomatoes with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Lower the heat a bit and let it simmer away for about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then its time to add the eggs.  As you add each egg, make a little well in the sauce first to crack them into.

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Now you just have to be patient and let the eggs poach in the sauce.  I was not patient though and in the end, I put a lid on the skillet for just about a minute to quickly finish cooking the eggs.  You’ll have to poach them for probably about 10 minutes but it just depends on how cooked you want the eggs; I wanted the yolks still a bit runny.  You can check how cooked the eggs are by gently poking the centre with your finger.

And that’s it!  Finish off by drizzling some more olive oil over top and scattering some cilantro over.  Rock had his serving with some baby potatoes and I had just a piece of toast with it but this would be amazing with some nice crusty bread to sop up the sauce.  I also saw some variations that add some feta cheese or black olives or prosciutto over top so you could always try that too.

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cauliflower and cashew curry

cauliflower and cashew curry

I’m going to be trying out lots of new recipes this month because Rock is doing the Whole30 meal program!  Our friend recommended it so he’s giving it a shot… while I happily sit this one out.  There’s TONS of stuff you cannot eat including dairy, ALL grains, ALL sweeteners, legumes… even stuff like soy sauce and quinoa isn’t allowed.  Talk about a challenge!  So I’ve been sifting through my cookbooks looking for recipes that don’t include any of these forbidden foods, while also still being something I would actually like to eat, and I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Simply Nigella book.  It turned out really yummy!  She calls it a “Multi-Culti Curry” as it combines Thai and Indian flavours. Aymeric and I had it with some naan bread but you could also serve it with rice.  Rock ate it with some baby potatoes (potatoes are Whole30 at least!)

Serves 2 as a main dish.

1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets  /  2 bay leaves  /  2 tsp sea salt flakes or salt to taste  /  1 tbsp coconut oil  /  2 green onions, thinly sliced  /  2 tsp minced ginger  /  seeds from 3 cardamom pods (which I couldn’t find so I substituted roughly 1/3 tsp ground cardamom)  /  1 tsp cumin seeds  /  1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro stalks  /  1/4 cup Thai red curry paste  /  1 can (14 oz) coconut milk  /  2/3 cup cashews  /  1 lime  /  small handful of chopped cilantro

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In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add the salt, bay leaves and the cauliflower florets; cooking them until they are just tender – about 4 to 5 minutes.  In the meantime, add the coconut oil, green onion, ginger, cardamom, cumin and cilantro stalks to a wok or large lidded pan over medium heat and cook for about a minute.

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Add the curry paste to the wok and then the coconut milk.  Stir it all together and bring it to a boil.  When the cauliflower is cooked, drain and add to the wok.  Give it a stir and you can add more salt to taste if you want.  Slap on the lid and turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook away for about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, just give the cashews a light toasting in a small frying pan.

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Stir in half of the cashews to the curry.  Then to serve, simply plate up along with the lime cut into wedges and scatter over the rest of the cashews and the chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!

cauliflower and cashew curry

roasted cauliflower, feta, and orzo salad

I made this salad from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings yesterday for a barbecue with Rock’s sailing buddies and it turned out AMAZING. Which I’m not surprised by ‘cus everything I’ve made so far from this cookbook is really good.  I’m obsessed with this cookbook and even gifted it to both my sister and cousin this past Christmas.  Anyway, I only tweaked this a little by using less salt and substituting dried cranberries for dried cherries.  I have a Costco-size bag of craisins that I need to get through!  Rock loved this and had multiple servings of it last night so I’m sure we’ll make it again. And maybe try it with quinoa instead of orzo to make us feel like we’re oh so healthy.

for the cauliflower and orzo: 1 head of cauliflower, broken into little florets (about 5 cups or so)  /  4 tbsp olive oil  /  3 cloves garlic, mined  /  1 tsp salt (I used maybe 1/2)  /  1/2 tsp ground black pepper  /  1 cup orzo pasta

for the dressing and salad:  3 tbsp olive oil  /  3 tbsp fresh lemon juice  /  1 tsp honey  /  1 tsp dijon mustard  /  1/2 tsp salt  /  1/2 tsp ground black pepper  /  1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion  /  1 cup crumbled feta cheese  /  2/3 cup dried cherries (or cranberries!)  /  4 cups baby spinach

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Preheat the oven to 400F and toss the cauliflower with 3 tbsp of the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and then spread on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes; until softened.  Set aside to cool and move onto the orzo.

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Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package’s cooking directions as you want it slightly underdone.  I cooked mine for about 5 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water and drain again.  Then just toss the orzo with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Then to assemble the salad! I mixed the dressing in a separate bowl as I didn’t want to dress the salad right away but you can just mix it straight in the bowl you’re going to serve in.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  Then just throw everything else in there and give it a good toss.

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That’s the only photo I took of the salad, minus the dressing, as we were running out the door so it’s not the best.  This salad deserves a better photo!

kalua pork in an instant pot

hawaiian kalua pork (in an instant pot)

We got an Instant Pot some months back and have to say, we are loving it! Especially now with both a toddler and a newborn, I don’t really have much time (or sanity!) to spend a lot of time cooking.  My latest Instant Pot experiment is this kalua pork recipe which is something I decided to try solely because I have some Hawaiian alaea sea salt that I picked up last summer when we were in Honolulu.  To be perfectly honest, probably the last time I had kalua pork was on family vacation as a kid at one of those tourist luaus so I can’t say how authentic this tastes.  And while I’m fairly certain that an entire pig super slow cooked underground in a pit would be way more amazing, this turned out pretty damn good.

So I read through a bunch of recipes for kalua pork and in the end I accidentally combined a few recipes together.  Only realized it after I had all my ingredients thrown into the pot. Oops!  I also did things as lazily as possible.  But it turned out really yummy so no complaints here.  Rock’s already decided we’ll be making this again.  If you don’t have alaea sea salt, I’m sure any coarse sea salt will be fine and I found liquid smoke at just my local supermarket.

~ 5 lb pork butt/shoulder, cut into 2 or 3 chunks (I had 2 roughly 2 lb cuts)  /  3 slices of bacon  /  1 and 1/2 tbsp coarse alaea sea salt /  1 tbsp liquid smoke (I used hickory)  /  1 cup water

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Set your Instant Pot on sauté and cook the bacon for a few minutes and then press ‘cancel.’  Leaving the bacon in the bottom, toss in the pork butt and sprinkle over the sea salt.  Then pour in the water and add the liquid smoke.

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Lock the lid on, set the vent to sealed and press the ‘manual’ button and set to 90 minutes.  And that’s it!  When it’s done, release the steam and the pork should be fork tender and practically falling apart.

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Take the pork out and shred with a couple of forks and you can mix in some of the cooking liquid (and delicious fat!)  We ate this with some soft dinner rolls and salad and then had leftovers to boot.

kalua pork in an instant pot

hashed beef rice (hayashi rice)

hashed beef rice (hayashi rice)

My sister’s visiting and had us watching this quirky Japanese show on netflix last night called Samurai Gourmet.  The show is full of slowly panning close up shots of food (basically food porn) and made me want to go back to Japan sooo bad.  And it made Rock want to eat everything sooo bad.  Anyway, hashed beef rice was featured in one of the episodes and Rock and my sister immediately said they wanted to eat that.  So of course, we decided we’d have to do so.  Since none of us had even heard of this dish, let alone eaten it, I had to do a bit of research.  What it is is a popular western-style Japanese dish that’s basically a beef stew that’s served with rice.  This recipe I adapted from one I found on norecipes.com and it turned out delicious! We had no idea how it would taste but it was really, really good.  Will definitely be making this again!

Serves 4 to 5.

~ 750 grams beef chuck or roast (I used a bottom round roast)  /  3 yellow onions  /  4 cloves garlic  /  3 handfuls of cremini mushrooms  /  2 cups red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)  /  2 cups beef stock  /  4 tbsp tomato paste  /  ~ 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or your choice of cooking oil)  /  1 tbsp worcestershire sauce  /  1/2 tbsp soy sauce  /  1 tbsp sweet paprika  /  2 bay leaves  /  2 whole cloves  /  4 tbsp butter  /  1/3 cup all-purpose flour  /  salt and pepper

First, for the prep.  Mince the garlic. Halve and then very thinly slice your onions into thin half-moons.  Next, cut up your beef into roughly 3/4 inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.  In a dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat up your cooking oil over medium-high heat.  In batches, sear off the beef on all sides until browned.  Scoop the seared beef out and into a bowl to set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium.  Now add the onions, garlic and 1 tbsp of butter to the dutch oven.  Lightly season with some salt.  Give it a bit of a stir and then slap the lid on for about 10 minutes.  Take off the lid and slowly caramelize the onions, stirring often.  The recipe I was referring to said to cook the onions for an hour but I was too impatient for that and gave it maybe about 20 minutes.

Next, turn the heat down to low and add back in the beef and the rest of the ingredients except for the butter and flour.

Now to let everything simmer away for 2 hours.  I know it’s a long time, but you want the meat to get nice and tender.  Partially cover with the lid but if you notice that the liquid has cooked down quite a bit, pop the lid back on.  I put the lid back on mine after about an hour and a half.  When the stew is almost ready, make a simple roux.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and then stir in the flour.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in the roux, a spoonful at a time so you can thicken it to your liking.  I didn’t use up all the roux.  And then you’re done!  We had it served with some sushi rice.

Chinese steamed fish with black bean and garlic

chinese steamed fish with black bean and garlic

One of my favourite foods growing up was Chinese steamed fish smothered in fermented black beans and garlic.  I know fermented black beans doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing but they are sooooo delicious and even if you don’t think you’ll like them, you’ve probably had them in some Chinese dishes.  You can find these beans at any Asian grocery store.  Anyway, I just started cooking with fermented black beans for the first time a few weeks ago so I thought I’d try and make this fish dish.  I haven’t had it in many many years and I don’t even remember if it’s something that my family made or we had when we ate out at restaurants but I remember loving it.  From some lazy googling, it seems like there’s countless variations on how to make it so I decided to adapt my usual Chinese steamed fish recipe and it turned out great!

It would be ideal to use a fresh whole-head-and-tail on firm, white-fleshed fish such as cod but that’s not always possible so then you can go with some nice fillets.  Cod is my favourite but it was sold out at my nearest supermarket today so I picked up some haddock fillets instead and it still turned out good.

1 whole white-fleshed fish or roughly 500 grams of fillets, ideally cod  /  1 bunch of green onions  /  1 medium sized piece of ginger  /  4 tbsp of fermented black beans  /  4 cloves of garlic  /  3 tbsp seasoned seafood soy sauce (or regular soy sauce mixed with about t 1 tsp of sugar)  /  1 and 1/2 tbsp grapeseed oil or other flavourless cooking oil you have on hand

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Put the black beans in a small bowl and rinse with water a couple of times and drain.  Mince the garlic or if you’re lazy like me, grate it on a microplane.  Toss the black beans, the garlic and 2 tbsp of the soy sauce in a mortar and pestle and just give it a quick little mash or if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just mash everything together a bit with the back of a wooden spoon.  You don’t wanna pulverize everything as you still want some of the beans intact.

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Fill a wok with water and place over high heat to bring the water to a boil. Cut the white parts of the green onions off and scatter in a pie plate.  Slice up the ginger and toss a few pieces in with the green onions and then lay the fish or fish fillets over top.  Tuck in a few more pieces of ginger just for kicks. Then using a spoon, spread the black bean and garlic mixture over the tops of the fish.

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Now you’re ready to steam the fish!  Place your steaming rack on the wok and slide the pie plate.  Cover with the lid and steam the fish until cooked through which will take, depending on the fish you use, somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes approximately. Best to test for doneness by using a fork to check that the fish is cooked through and flaking.  Just before the fish is done cooking or right after, thinly snip up the green parts of the green onions, about 2 tbsp or so.  Also, in a small saucepan, heat up the oil over medium to medium high heat until the oil is very hot. When the fish is done cooking, you can either carefully remove the cooking liquid from the pie plate or use a spatula and take the fish out and place on another plate.  Scatter the green onion over the fish and drizzle the hot oil over the green onion.  Finish off with your remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and serve with steamed white rice.

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paprika chicken and rice bake

The local organic foods market here posted an interesting looking recipe from Buzzfeed on Facebook today and I figured I’d try it out!  I love absentmindedly browsing Buzzfeed but have never tried one of their recipes before.  Wasn’t particularly feeling confident it would work… but it turned out great!  I used mostly the same ingredients but changed all of their measurements.

The original recipe said 5 thighs feeds 5 people but pretty sure I would still be hungry after that!  I’ll say this would feed 2-4.

6-8 skin on, bone in chicken thighs  /  2 tbsp paprika (preferably a good Hungarian paprika!)  /  1 tbsp dried parsley /  1 and 1/2 tsp salt  /  1 and 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper  /  ~ 1 tbsp olive oil  /  1/2 yellow onion  /  4 cloves garlic  /  1 cup rice (right now we really like this sprouted rice & quinoa blend that you can pick up from Costco)  /  1 and 3/4 cup low-sodium / no salt added chicken broth (you’ll need to adjust the amount of broth depending on what kind of rice you are using! just use however much liquid the package says to for 1 cup)  /  optional extra pinch or two of salt for the rice

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Preheat the oven to 400 and in a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken together with the paprika, parsley, salt and pepper.

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Set a dutch oven or other oven-proof pot on the stove at medium to medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and when that’s heated up, place the chicken thighs in skin side down and let them brown up for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, dice up your onion and mince the garlic.  Flip the thighs over and let the other sides cook for another 5 minutes and then remove from the dutch oven.  Add the onion and garlic to the dutch oven and cook until the onions have softened up a bit.

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Stir in the rice, chicken broth and if you want, extra salt, to the onions and garlic and let it come to a boil. Then place the chicken thighs back in on top of the rice, pop the lid on and slide the whole thing into the oven.

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Now you just have to be patient and let it bake away for about 35 minutes.  Then dig in!

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Texas-style chili (instant pot recipe)

my first texas-style chili (instant pot recipe)

Pretty sure the only chili I’ve ever had was from the fast food chain Wendy’s and even then was used merely to dip my french fries in.  I sort of hate beans so chili has never appealed to me but apparently Texas style chili is bean-less so, perfect!  I’ve been wanting to use my Instant Pot more so I decided to try and make chili for the first time in it. This is very loosely based on a recipe I found online from a cookbook called Down South Paleo.  I don’t know how legit this recipe is and I’m obviously no chili expert but I think this turned out really tasty!  (Like, does chili ever have bacon in it?  ‘Cus it does now!)  It was even better as leftovers the next day. Oh and of course you don’t need an Instant Pot to make this but it just speeds up the whole process. You could alternatively just let it simmer away on the stove for a few hours.

500 grams lean ground beef  /  4 slices of bacon  /  1 green pepper  /  1 medium yellow onion /  2-3 carrots  /  2 ribs of celery  /  3 cloves of garlic  /  1 tin (28 oz) diced tomatoes  /  1 tbsp worcestershire sauce /  1 tsp hot chili powder  /  1 tsp paprika  /  1 tsp salt  /  1/2 tsp ground black pepper  /  1/2 tsp cumin

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First, for your prep.  Mince the garlic and dice up your carrots, celery, green pepper, and onion.  Next, chop up the bacon.  Using the Instant Pot, set it to ‘sauté’ and toss in the bacon and ground beef, cooking until the beef is completely browned.  Then add in all the other ingredients and simply stir together.

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Lock on the lid with the steam valve closed and press the ‘cancel’ button to stop the sautéing function and then press the ‘meat/stew’ button.  I think it automatically set itself for 35 minutes and then just let it pressure cook away!  Release the pressure and you are all done.  Sorry the photo isn’t particularly amazing, I was really hungry and wanted to eat!

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At first I was concerned that the chili had quite a bit of liquid in it (though I don’t even know what consistency chili is supposed to have really).  But apparently if you want a thickened chili you could add in a roux or whatever.  Last night we had it with baked potatoes and today for lunch I had it with crunched up saltine crackers and some shredded aged cheddar over top.  Really good!