Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps

September 25, 2010

Chef’s Notes: When I found this recipe, I thought it sounded like a healthy, low carb version of Chinese food. Not only is it that, but it’s also delicious! I made only a few small changes to the recipe, which I noted in italics.

Try these with Sesame Green Beans on the side.

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps
(serves 4)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped medium
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup soy sauce (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup ketchup (2 tablespoons)
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (white white vinegar)
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning mix)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (2 teaspoons)
1 head ice burg lettuce, quartered at the core, core removed, leaves separated and torn into approximate 4-inch cups (leaf lettuce)
Garnish: 1/4 cup sliced scallions, 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (just peanuts)

Heat oil in a large (12-inch skillet) over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and water chestnuts; sauté until onions soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add turkey; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until meat looses its raw color, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix soy, ketchup, vinegar, oil, pepper flakes, and sugar. Add to the sautéing turkey; continue to cook until mixture has thickened to the texture of thick sloppy Joe’s.

When ready to serve, warm turkey mixture. Lay out lettuce leaves on a serving tray. Fill each with 2 tablespoons of filling, then garnish with scallions and peanuts.


Untraditional Meatloaf

September 23, 2010

Chef’s Notes: In general, I dislike meatloaf. It’s like a giant hamburger with onions and ketchup. But for some reason, I want to like it, so I’m always experimenting with different recipes. When I found this recipe, I was intrigued by the “that’s-not-meatloaf” ingredients like strawberry jam, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and hot peppers.

This particular concoction is inspired by that recipe. I used quite a few of the same ingredients, but omitted a few things and substituted others. And I roasted and pureed the vegetables because I don’t like tiny bits of veggies in my meatloaf. It’s tasty, and better than traditional meatloaf, but it’s still not quite a 5 star.

Untraditional Meatloaf
(serves 6)

Step One: The Vegetables

1 medium onion, cut in half
1 shallot, divided into sections
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in half
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery, cut into chunks
4 cloves of garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all vegetables except garlic on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Cut the ends from the garlic cloves, wrap in foil, and place on baking sheet. Cook vegetables until lightly browned and very tender. Remove garlic from foil and pop them out of the outer skin. Place all vegetables in food processor and mix until pureed.

Step Two: The Sauce

1/3 C. ketchup
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. strawberry jam
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy seasoning blend (or crushed red pepper)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. thyme
Dash of salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in bowl and whisk until blended.

Step Three: The Meat and Stuff

3/4# ground beef
1/2# ground pork
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C. panko breadcrumbs

Place all ingredients in bowl. Add The Vegetables and The Sauce and mix with hands to incorporate.

Divide the meat mixture into six equal portions, shape into oval mini-loaves, and place on baking sheet. Cook 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes.d

4 Pepper 4 Bean Chili

September 18, 2010

Chef’s Notes: A lot of experiments led to this chili recipe that, in my opinion, is just about perfect. Often, chili is either all about heat with little flavor, or it is bland and tastes like tomato soup with hamburger. And having nothing but kidney beans leads to a boring mouthfeel.

In this recipe, four different types of peppers add a depth and complexity of both flavor and heat, and four different types of beans create a unique shape and texture experience. (I purchased the dried peppers from Penzeys.)

One notable missing ingredient is chili powder. Because chili powder is a blend of peppers, cumin, oregano, and garlic, I just added these ingredients to the recipe instead.

Four Pepper Four Bean Chili
(8 servings)

1 48-oz can tomato juice
4 roasted tomatoes (see note below)
1 14-oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
1 dried ancho chili pepper
2 dried cascabel chili pepper
2 dried guajillo chili peppers
1 C. chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
1 T. cumin
2 tsp. brown mustard seed
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 tsp. Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. cayenne red pepper powder

Soak dried peppers in hot water until soft, about 10 minutes, then cut into chunks. Sauté onions in small skillet with a bit of oil. Mince garlic cloves, sprinkle with a small amount of salt, and then mash them into a paste using the flat side of knife.

Combine all ingredients in 4-quart crock pot. Cook on low 3 – 4 hours. Remove the dried peppers. Taste. If you’d like it spicer, add 2 – 4 T. hot sauce.

1# ground beef (or turkey, chicken, or venison)
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 T. worchestershire sauce
3/4 C. canned red kidney beans
3/4 C. canned black beans
3/4 C. canned Great Northern beans
3/4 C. canned butter beans

Brown ground beef with onion and worchestershire sauce. Drain and rinse beans. Add beef and beans to crock pot.. Cook on warm (or low) for 1 hour.

Additional notes

I roast fresh garden tomatoes in the summer and freeze them. Alternately, you could probably use a can of roasted whole tomatoes.

You will have about 2 1/2 cups leftover beans; place the combined beans in a quart bag, freeze, and use in the next batch of chili.

Per serving
Calories: 267; Carbs: 23; Fat: 12; Protein 17

Acorn Squash with Balsamic Drizzle

September 16, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I love squash. I think it’s at the top of my list of favorite autumn foods. I was trying to decide what to do with one of the acorn squash I bought at the market and I wondered “balsamic vinegar”? I googled, checked out a few recipes, and decided to try this one. I made a few changes in cooking technique but the ingredients are the same. Seriously delicious!

Acorn Squash with Balsamic Drizzle
Serves 2

1 acorn squash
2 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash cut side down in baking dish with about 1 inch of water. Cook 30 minutes. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl and whisk to combine. Cut each half of squash into quarters and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with balsamic mixture. Bake 15 minutes.

Perfect Pot Roast

September 12, 2010

Chef’s Notes: Pot roast was not on my list of favorite foods. In my experience, it was always dry, tough, and flavorless so I never bothered to try to cook it myself.

The local market had shoulder roast (the cut for pot roast) on sale this week for $1.99 a pound. Cheaper than ground beef! So I decided to see if I could cook it and make it edible. Some googling revealed that the best way to cook pot roast is braising – browned and then simmered in a small amount of liquid. I took some ideas from some different recipes and created a concoction. YumO! Seriously, how did I not know how delicious pot roast could be?

Perfect Pot Roast
(serves 6)

2# shoulder beef roast
4 – 6 cloves garlic
1 T. olive oil
One medium or large yellow onion, sliced
1 C. red wine (Do NOT use cooking wine. The quality of your wine is the quality of your food…and cooking wine is about the lowest quality there is. I used a spiced wine from a local winery.)

Season the roast the night before cooking. Cut the ends off the garlic cloves and peel. If they’re bigger cloves, cut them in half lengthwise. (They should be about the width of your pinky finger.) Cut small slits in the roast and slide in the garlic cloves. (The slits should be deep enough that the garlic isn’t visible, but not so deep that the garlic pops out the other side.) Sprinkle the roast on both sides with spices – I used salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, thyme, and Penzy’s Mural of Flavor blend – and rub in. Place the roast on a plate, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the roast and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. For the most even and complete browning, do not move it until ready to flip. When the roast is browned, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting (warm or simmer). Slip the onion slices under the roast and then pour wine over the meat. Toss in a few bay leaves. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid; if your lid doesn’t fit tightly, wrap foil over the top of pan before placing the lid on.

Cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (45 minutes per pound). The meat is done when it is tender when pierced with a fork, or when a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees. About halfway through cooking time, check to make sure there’s enough liquid. (I threw some carrots in the pot at this point.) Ideally, the meat should be releasing enough juices and the cooking temperature should be low enough that you won’t need to add any liquid.

Protein Banana Nut Muffins

September 1, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I love muffins, especially on a chilly morning with a cup of tea. I’m trying to eat less carbs and more protein, and muffins really don’t fit into that plan. So I experimented and concocted and came up with this recipe that’s a bit more compatible with my diet. There is no sugar or sweetener at all, so they are not rich in the same way as a typical muffin, but the spices give it depth and flavor.

Protein Banana Nut Muffins
(makes 9 small muffins)

1 cup flour (I used 1/2 white 1/2 wheat)
6 tablespoons protein powder (I used MLO Super High Protein Powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/4 C. walnut pieces
2 teaspoons assorted baking spices (I used 1/2 tsp. Penzey’s baking spice, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon,1/4 each of nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Stir flour, protein powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a bowl; set aside.

Combine egg, applesauce, yogurt and vanilla and beat well in a medium mixing bowl. Beat in the bananas, walnuts, and spices.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir just until mixed – batter will be thick. Fill 9 muffin cups nearly full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Per muffin: Calories 134. Fat 3 Carbs 17.5 Protein 9.5

A delicious idea for day old muffins: Cut muffin in 4 or 5 thin slices (from the side, not the top) and lay the slices out on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until browned and crispy. Tastes like banana toast!