Archive for ‘Leftovers’

February 16, 2012

Five Under 5: Meatball Sliders

Okay, I admit I’m cheating a bit with this post. But you really could make this with less than five ingredients—if you bought pre-made meatballs and sauce. Friends have told me that the turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s are quite tasty. And there are a number of jarred sauces on supermarket shelves that are winners. I had a few meatballs left over from the batch of 100 I made months ago. I warmed them up in some sauce (confession: I made my own) and put a little slice of fresh mozzarella over the top of the meatball. I lightly toasted some mini hamburger buns and pieced it all together.

1 – Mini hamburger buns

2 – Meatballs

3 – Marinara sauce

4 – Fresh mozzarella

I packed the sliders with some baby carrots, cucumbers and a banana. These sliders would be great for dinner, too.

In doggie news, my sweet German Shepherd is feeling much better after chemotherapy and some prednisone. She’s finally eating and wagging her tail again. Keep your fingers crossed that remission is on its way and that it’ll be a long one.

February 9, 2012

Five under 5: Pesto Burger

It’s pesto—again! I had no idea how much S and C love it. I knew they liked it in their pasta, but they seem to like it anywhere and everywhere. Today, I packed S a leftover pesto bison burger from last night’s dinner. I had mixed two heaping tablespoons of pesto with one pound of ground bison. I shaped them into five patties and cooked them in a cast iron skillet. I topped each patty with a slice of fresh mozzarella and let the cheese get nice and soft. Then, I toasted a couple of Par-Baked Panini Rustic Rolls (a new Trader Joe’s find!) and spread each side with more pesto. I topped the rolls with some spinach leaves and a few slices of red bell pepper. On the side, I served grape tomatoes, carrots, and sweet-potato chips. S begged to have it again for lunch today. Easy enough—and with just five ingredients.

I may have to take a short hiatus from blogging. My beloved German Shepherd, Zoe, has been diagnosed with lymphoma. She was our first baby (we got her when she was just 8 weeks), and has been a sweet, loyal friend for more than 12 years. While there are still lunches to pack, I’d like to make time in the mornings to take her to Dog Beach and the wilderness preserve, making her last days as happy as possible.

February 7, 2012

Thai Fish Cakes

It’s a feast of leftovers at my house, after hosting a Thai food party on Saturday evening (I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures!). I was so worried there wouldn’t be enough food that I sort of  completely overdid it. I made 100 Thai fish cakes, 100 skewers of chicken satay, a large mound of papaya salad and a vat of vegetarian green curry. And that was for 15 skinny women. On top of that, a friend of mine brought two rice noodle dishes, one cold and the other warm. Plus, another made Thai coconut and mango sticky rice. In my defense, I had a handful of moms who at the last minute couldn’t make it.

My kids love Thai fish cakes, especially after dipping them in a sweet chili sauce. It’s a good thing they dig them, because in addition to having them for dinner and snack time, they’re also showing up in S’s lunch today. Fish cakes are one of the very few foods I deep fry. But they’re so quintessentially Thai and so delicious that I give myself a get-out-of-jail pass for serving them to my kids. And I make them only once or twice a year.

The secret to a good fish cake is using kaffir lime leaves. I like to throw in a few extras for extra flavor, and I use a very generous tablespoon of red curry paste. Then, I also add some minced lemongrass, even though the recipe below doesn’t call for it. Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a beaten egg and some thinly sliced snake beans or green beans and you’re ready to mix and shape them into little patties. I deep fry them in a wok, and drain and blot them on paper towels after they’re cooked. Serve these to your family warm, and I promise they’ll think you’re a culinary goddess. But don’t forget that dipping sauce. It comes in a glass bottle, often in the international section of grocery stores and at Trader Joe’s.

Fried Fish Cakes with Green Beans (from The Food of Thailand)

Makes 30

Ingredients

1 lb. firm white fish fillets

1 generous TB red curry paste

1 TB fish sauce

1 egg

2 oz. snake beans or green beans, finely sliced

5 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, finely shredded

peanut oil, for deep-frying

sweet chili sauce to serve

Directions

Remove any skin and bone from the fish and roughly chop the flesh. In a food processor or a blender, mince the fish fillets until smooth. Add the curry paste, fish sauce and egg, then blend briefly until until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and mix in the beans and kaffir lime leaves. Use wet hands to shape the fish paste into thin, fat cakes, about 5 cm (2 inches) across, using about a tablespoon of mixture of each.

Heat 5 cm (2 inches) oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil seems hot, drop a small piece of fish cake into it. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.

Lower five or six of the fish cakes into the oil and deep-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides and very puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep the cooked fish cakes warm while deep-frying the rest. Serve hot with sweet chili sauce.

January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year! – Making Dumplings

Happy New Year! One of the best things about Chinese New Year is that it’s a 15-day event, starting on the first day of the lunar calendar and commencing on the fifteenth. What a great excuse to celebrate and feast for two solid weeks! Much of Chinese New Year, which is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, is about sweeping away any lingering ill-fortune and making room for incoming good luck. And one of the most important ways to do that is with food. Yes, you heard me right—food. What does that tell you about Chinese culture?

The Southerners have their black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, and the Chinese have dumplings—among many, many other foods, such as fish, noodles, pork, duck, kumquats and sticky cake. Each symbolizes a different kind of good luck, whether it’s longevity, abundance, or progress in the coming year. In the case of dumplings, it’s wealth and prosperity, because they’re shaped like ancient Chinese money. So, if you want to be prosperous in the Year of the Dragon, you need to eat dumplings—lots of them.

I think every Chinese family must have its own recipe for dumplings, so there’s not just one way to make the filling for a dumpling. Also, there’s nothing difficult about making dumplings; however, it is labor intensive because of all the wrapping. But if you’re going to make your own dumpling wrappers from scratch, well, then you’re on your own. When I was growing up, my mom used ground turkey to make it a little healthier. But since we almost always do the opposite of what our mothers do, I’ve gone back to the old-school method of using pork. Either is fine.

First, you chop scallions, ginger, bamboo shoots, and napa cabbage into itty-bitty pieces. You can also add shitake mushrooms and cilantro. (On a side note: it took me years to realize that because napa cabbage retains so much moisture that I should salt them in a large bowl and then wring out all the moisture. This step keeps your filling from becoming soggy.) Then you mix it all into your ground meat, along with cornstarch, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt and white pepper and an egg or two. The best way to do this is with your hands. Yep, roll up your sleeves and sink those babies in.

Then comes the tedious part: the wrapping. I usually make 100 at a time and freeze what I don’t cook that night. This year, I thought I’d throw a little dumpling-making party for S and her friends. In exchange for cultural awareness, I’m getting free labor. The girls had fun and after the first 15 minutes, we had a nice assembly line going. Even with all the help, it took well over an hour to wrap all the dumplings.

The great thing about dumplings is that you can steam them, boil them or pan-fry them for potstickers. When you make such a big batch, you can do all three. Don’t forget to dunk them in some savory soy-ginger dipping sauce. One of my favorite ways to eat dumplings is in a bowl of noodle soup. And you know what? Instant ramen noodle is just fine. Simmer the dumplings with the noodles, add a leafy green and when it’s all cooked, sprinkle some scallions, cilantro and fried shallots over the top. You’ll have a soul-warming bowl of dumpling noodle soup. Go eat some prosperity already.

 

 

January 20, 2012

Chinese Noodles with Pork & Peanut Sauce

“Oww!!! Stop it!” S yelled.

“Give it back then,” C said.

“It’s mine!” S retorted.

“Aaaaargh! Give it now!” C screamed.

Sigh. I had lost count of the number of times I had heard this type of dialogue all day. All I wanted was to sit in a quiet room with a glass of Chardonnay and a big bowl of carbs. Carbs are so comforting. And really, any carb would do—pasta, mashed potatoes, a crusty French baguette. But with Chinese New Year just a few days away, I decided that noodles, which represent longevity, would be perfect. I love noodles! But I needed it to be easy and quick, because I wasn’t sure both kids would make it in one piece to dinner.

Williams-Sonoma has a simple and delicious Chinese noodle recipe that requires just a few staple ingredients. You brown some ground pork, add some green onions, garlic and ginger, followed by 2 TB of peanut butter, and then a mixture of chicken broth, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. The sauce thickens as it simmers and after it has reached the right consistency, you toss it with some cooked egg noodles (you could easily substitute spaghetti noodles). Dinner is done! I had set aside some beautiful baby bok choy to go with the noodles, but the battle between S and C had made its way into the kitchen and two little bodies were flying around me. There was no time to cook a separate vegetable. So, I reached for a bag of frozen peas and dumped half of it into the pot of boiling water which was cooking the noodles. I drained all of it in a colander and voila, it was a one-dish meal!

The recipe calls for some chili oil, but I just top my own heaping of noodles with it.

The craziness continued through dinnertime, between the kids taking bites of noodles. But I ignored the insanity and soothed myself with two servings of warm pasta and my long-awaited glass of wine. It was almost like being in a soundproof room.

There was plenty for S’s lunch the next day.

Chinese Noodles with Pork & Spicy Peanut Sauce (Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/ 4 cup hoisin sauce

2 TB soy sauce

1 TB peanut or canola oil

3/4 lb. ground pork

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 cup minced green (spring onions), white and tender green parts

1 TB minced garlic

1 TB peeled and grated fresh ginger

2 TB creamy peanut butter

1 lb. thin fresh Chinese egg noodles

1 tsp hot chile oil

Make the sauce

1. In a small bowl, stir together the broth, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce; set aside. Place a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil appears to shimmer, add the ground pork and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is crumbly and the color changes from pink to gray. Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the garlic, and ginger to the pan and mix well with the pork. Add the broth mixture and peanut butter, stir well, and cook until small bubbles form on the surface. Cook until the peanut butter smelted and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Cook and drain the noodles

2. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles all at once, stir gently, and cook until the noodles are tender, but still slightly chewy, about 2 -3  minutes. While the noodles are cooking, reheat the sauce in the pan over medium-low heat. Pour the noodles into a colander to drain, then shake the colander to remove excess water. Don’t let the strands get too dry, or they will stick together.

Toss the noodles with the sauce

3. Add the drained noodles to the pan with the sauce. Using 2 wooden spoons or spatulas, toss the noodles until they are evenly coated with the sauce and the pork is evenly distributed. Add the remaining 1/2 cup green onions and the chile oil and toss to distribute evenly. Serve right away.

January 17, 2012

Kale and White Bean Soup

After last week’s Frito Pie, I decided we needed to cleanse our system with kale. Lots of it. Yay for super foods! That’s why I was instantly sold when I came across this kale and white bean soup from Epicurious.com. It calls for one whole pound of lacinato kale.  And soup was just the thing, in the midst of a few cold chilly days. Yes, contrary to popular belief, it can get quite brisk in San Diego.

The recipe uses dried beans, but you could just as easily substitute canned ones. If you opt for canned, I recommend that you add the beans towards the end, at the same time as the carrots. Otherwise, your beans will disintegrate after all that simmering. Instead of kielbasa, I chose a smoked chicken sausage with apple and chardonnay from Trader Joe’s. It’s lower in fat, but I think ultimately it was also lower in flavor. Next time, I’ll stick with kielbasa. Last bit of advice: don’t leave out the piece of Parmigian-Reggiano rind. It gives the soup so much richness and depth.

Even if your kids aren’t big fans of kale, I recommend that you try this recipe. Once kale is cooked in a soup or stew, its flavor really mellows out and turns from slightly bitter to sweet. S had seconds for dinner and then asked for it for lunch the next day. C only had one serving, but licked his bowl clean.

CLICK HERE for Epicurious.com’s Kale and White Bean Soup recipe.

January 13, 2012

Recipe Makeover: Frito Pie!

I never thought I would, but I did. And I blame it on the Texan I’m married to. Once or twice a year, my husband gets a faraway, wistful look in his eyes as he recounts how he and his childhood friend used to open a can of chili and pour it into a bag of Fritos.

“Mmmmm,” he’d say. “Frito pie. Those were the days.”

I’d respond with a roll of the eyes and a groan.

For me, Frito pie is right up down there with a tater-tot casserole or a green bean casserole made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and Durkee French fried onions. It just seems antithetical to all things culinary and nutritive. But, love drives you to do strange things.

I heard my husband’s story again over Christmas, so it was fresh in my mind when earlier this week Saveur featured its version of Frito pie on its Facebook page. I thought, I have to see this recipe. The recipe comes from Mabel’s Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Initially, I had my doubts—because what do New Yawkers know about barbecue and Southwestern food, right? But I was impressed with how heavy handed they are with the spices in their chili. They throw in 2 tablespoons each of cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, 1 tablespoon of paprika and garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. At the least, I would have a very flavorful chili. So I decided to challenge myself to a Frito pie recipe makeover. Why not take gas station fare to a much higher level, and at the same time let my husband revisit some of his fondest childhood memories?

I substituted half the ground beef with ground elk to make it healthier, and I also added a can of kidney beans so the chili wouldn’t be so meaty. If I were to do it again, I would add two cans of beans. As the chili was simmering and thickening, I cut up 5 ounces of kale into thin ribbons and threw them into the pot. I know, I know. But, really, no one could tell. Lastly, though this is probably sacrilege to Frito pie aficionados, I substituted Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Chip Dippers for Fritos. They’re basically an organic version of Fritos. Seems silly, but it soothed my conscience.

The Frito pie was a hit! No surprise, right? My husband topped his with sour cream, shredded cheese and lots of sliced jalapeños. Meanwhile, the kids couldn’t get over the fact that they could eat corn chips with dinner. In my family’s eyes, I was Top Chef.

Of course, S wanted Frito pie for lunch. After all, that means she gets to eat more of those corn chip dippers! How can I blame her? Because I confess: I’ve turned into a Frito-pie convert.

Here’s the link to the recipe at Saveur.com:

Frito Pie

January 9, 2012

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Okay, I did not pack this for S’s lunch. She hates mushrooms. If she thinks she sees so much as a sliver of one in her food, it stops her cold in her tracks. However, C loves, loves mushrooms. And he’s not picky about the variety, and whether they’re raw or cooked, so he happily eats plain button mushrooms (which he piles high on his plate at a salad bar), shitakes, creminis or big fat portobellos. I love that he loves them because mushrooms are packed with vitamin B-2 and D, copper and potassium.

After picking C up from preschool today, I decided we’d head home for lunch. I knew there were two portobello mushrooms waiting for us in the fridge. They were left over from a vegetarian craving I had the other night. I didn’t want meat, but I still needed something hearty. Portobellos were the answer. I first made the stuffed mushrooms a couple years ago for my book club, and they were so good I bookmarked the recipe.

The portobellos are first marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Then, they’re roasted gill-side down in the oven for 15 minutes. After that, you flip them over and stuff them with a mixture of spinach, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, onions, chopped mushrooms and breadcrumbs. Simply leave out the breadcrumbs if you’re on a gluten-free diet. It won’t change the consistency much. Put them back into the oven for another 15 minutes. The result? A perfect umami flavor.

As strange as this might seem, I’ve been eating the leftover portobellos for breakfast. I top each with an over-easy egg for a dense, low-carb meal.

As for S, she got turkey and avocado on an everything bagel.

Here’s the link to the recipe at Epicurious:

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese

January 6, 2012

My Favorite Noodle Dish—Ever

This is that dish. Which dish? That dish. The one you pine for when you’re away at camp for the very first time. The one you want every time you visit home. The one you crave at midnight when you’re seven months pregnant. Yes, that dish. The one that makes everything in the world right again, because it’s comfort and home wrapped in a warm bowl. For some of you, it might be lasagna, chicken pot pie or your mom’s fried chicken. For me, it’s this Chinese noodle dish, better known as “wat tan hor” or “char hor fun” in Cantonese. I grew up with it in Singapore and Malaysia, where you could get it at every hawker center in town. Even though my mom never cooked it, it holds a special spot in my heart—and, well, my gut. A delicious egg gravy with seafood and vegetables is poured over pan-fried rice noodles to create gastronomical bliss. It’s something you wish you could bathe in. Before fluids were outlawed on airplanes, I used to have my mom buy the dish from a little hole-in-the-wall in Atlanta and bring it to me when she came to visit.

      

In my family, we’ve renamed it Fat Noodle, after the thick, flat rice noodles that are in the dish. For years, I resigned myself to only getting to eat it whenever I visited home or went overseas. But then, one day I decided I had to try to make it myself. The first few times, it was embarrassing. Yes, it was edible, but nothing like the real deal.

      

After tinkering with a little more rice wine here and and a tad more oyster sauce there, I created something close to the perfect combination. I learned along the way that the secret to a good egg sauce is to turn off the heat immediately after cracking the eggs into the wok. Then you stir quickly, but with just a few strokes to break up the egg. If you leave the heat on, the sauce curdles and gets lumpy.

In my recipe I use shitake mushrooms, which is not traditionally in the dish but I think it adds a nice butteriness. Admittedly, my version of Fat Noodle is not as good as what you get in the streets of Penang, but it’s more than a respectable substitute. And definitely good enough to make you blow your low-carb diet. Added bonus: it’s gluten-free. Yes, the kids love it, too—especially as leftovers in their lunchbox.

The recipe follows the photo. If you don’t like seafood, try chicken, pork or beef.

Wat Tan Hor (Pan Fried Rice Noodles with Egg Gravy and Seafood)

Ingredients

Noodles

1 package of fresh rice noodles

1 1/2 TB light soy sauce

1 1/2 TB dark soy sauce

1 1/2 TB peanut oil

Seafood

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb. large scallops

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1/2 TB peanut oil

Gravy

1 1/2 TB garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal

6 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb. baby bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 TB oyster sauce

1 TB soy sauce

1 TB Shao Hsing rice cooking wine

1 tsp sugar

3 1/2 TB cornstarch

3 large eggs

Separate the noodles into individual strands and place them into a bowl. Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok or pan and put in a third of the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 TB light and dark soy sauce over the noodles. Stir-fry to keep the noodles from sticking. Remove the noodles after they turn a light brown color. Make sure they’re heated all the way through but not overcooked, otherwise they’ll get mushy. Repeat with the next two batches of noodles and add peanut oil as necessary. Set aside and cover with foil. Wipe out wok.

Toss the shrimp and scallops with the sesame oil and minced garlic. Heat 1/2 TB peanut oil in wok over high heat and stir-fry shrimp and scallops until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Wipe out wok.

Stir 1 cup chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry quickly for 15 seconds. Add carrots, mushrooms, stems of baby bok choy and stir-fry for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves. Pour in three cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops back into the wok. Stir chicken broth-oyster sauce mixture and pour into wok. Wait for it to simmer and thicken into a gravy. Crack the three eggs into the wok, turn off the heat and stir quickly with just a few strokes to mix the egg into the gravy. Do not overcook the eggs or the gravy will turn lumpy.

Put a helping of noodles on a dish and ladle the warm gravy over it. Indulge.

January 4, 2012

Meatball and Pineapple Skewers

Remember those meatballs I made a few months back? Well, they’re still in my freezer and I decided it was time to repurpose them. Yes, I could make meatball sliders, spaghetti and meatballs, or simply meatballs and sauce. But I wanted a different flavor altogether. And when I opened the freezer, I also saw a bag of frozen pineapple tidbits. Ta da! Then, I saw the light.

Our microwave oven is still busted and I don’t foresee one in our near future, so instead of warming the meatballs in the microwave I set them in a steamer and let them get nice and juicy. Then, I skewered them on a toothpick along with a piece of pineapple. I wanted to heat up some teriyaki sauce and brush it over the meatball and pineapple, but I ran out of time. If you’re not up for making your own meatballs, you can always opt for the cooked ones in the freezer aisle of your grocery store. Usually, you can find them in beef or turkey. Also, pineapple chunks would skewer better, but I’m so neurotic about canned foods, especially acidic ones that can leach BPA into your food, that I always choose fresh, frozen or jarred, if it’s an option. Next time, I’ll cut up a fresh pineapple.

Part of me is waiting for S’s school to call and reprimand me for sending her to school with toothpicks. The horror! The truth is, it’s S, my daughter, and not C, my son, which means no one will get their eyes poked out today. Except for maybe the boy who grabs the toothpick out of S’s lunchbox.

If you want to try making your own meatballs, here’s the link to the post:

Homemade Meatballs!

 

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