leftover edition: meatloaf

meatloaf wrap

 

Q: What should I do with leftover meatloaf?

A: Make a wrap!

Might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but we’ve been eating a lot of wraps lately so I wondered how successful a meatloaf wrap could be. One reason wraps are so lovely is because they’re extremely versatile and handy. From prep to transport, they’re a quick and easy alternative to the traditional lunchtime sandwich. And if you’re cutting carbs, a low-carb lavash works great! I also recently discovered some tortillas that are only 6 carbs per tortilla.

For the meatloaf edition, I used tomato sauce to create an aioli and keep all the delicious flavors of meatloaf in wrap form. I also recommend heating it up a bit in the microwave before eating. Just enough to make the cheese a bit melty and warm the greens. It’s like an my wrap imagined what an italian inspired burrito might be. Ok so maybe an Italian burrito would involve pasta of some sort, but we’re talking fusion here.

Meatloaf Wrap:
  • Leftover meatloaf
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
  • 2 big handfuls of greens (I used a supergreen mix from Costco. You can use spinach or baby kale too)
  • 2 pieces of lavash bread (note: you can use a tortilla instead, but you may need to adjust the amount of filling to be a bit less so it doesn’t explode on you)
  1. Make sure you have a nicely shaped piece of lavash bread to start. The traditional low-carb lavash can come in very large oblong shapes. If you’re using one of these, it may help to cut it into a rectangle. Any shape will work though it may help the wrapping process to have it wider than it is tall. The size of a cutting board is pretty good and will keep you full all day.
  2. Mix the mayo and tomato sauce to make the aioli, which helps keep the lavash from being too dry. Spread the aioli on the bread. I usually make sure there’s spread on the right 2/3 of the wrap, but you can cover the whole wrap in it if you want!
  3. Place 2 slices of cheese on the wrap along the right edge. You want them to line up against the short side of the wrap. That way, when you roll it (from right to left), there’s cheese in every bite =) If you’re using a tortilla, just make sure half the tortilla is mostly covered with the cheese.
  4. Slice the leftover meatloaf and place the slices on top of the cheese so there’s a vertical line of meat along the right edge of the wrap. It’s ok if you need to cut the slices in half so they’re more narrow/wrapable!
  5. Cover the right edge with lots of greens. Proceed to wrap and roll from right to left, compressing the greens in there to keep the wrap wieldy. Make a nice diagonal cut for flair and enjoy!

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

This is a filling meal that makes great leftovers. It takes a bit of planning because you’ve got to cook/prep the ingredients before assembling and baking. Sometimes it can feel like a waste to have to put hot food in the oven to bake for another 30 minutes when it’s fresh off the stove and tastes great as-is. But trust me, the time in the oven is really what pulls it all together, otherwise you’re just eating an inconveniently mini-bite-sized stir fry and mash. The food just needs to get to know each other and bond (so it doesn’t fall into a pile when served). Plus it gets crispy on top – a little crunch is good! I’m a texture fan.

I substituted cauliflower mash for the potatoes, which I encourage for their added fiber and vitamin content, but it’s a matter of taste and ease. I get it, sometimes food processors are a pain – if mashed potatoes are your jam, go for it! I’ve made this dish with colored cauliflower too (yellow) and it was just as tasty then too.

Shepherd’s Pie

Cauliflower Mash Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 T butter (garlic butter, if available)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese, optional (I used about 1/8 cup)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 20(ish) oz. ground beef (1 package of their organic beef, for you Costco shoppers out there)
  • 2 T oil (I used coconut oil, but any will do)
  • 3 cups frozen veggies
  • 2-3 T worcestershire sauce
  • 3 T water
  • 2 T corn starch
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

Chop the cauliflower into florets and steam. You want it to be extremely well-cooked. To the point where it takes no effort whatsoever to pierce through. This is what will give them a mashed potato consistency when processed. (I’ve tried roasting cauliflower to create a cauliflower mash but it didn’t turn out as mashed potato-like as when they were steamed through.)

If you don’t have garlic butter, that’s fine, you can steam some garlic at the same time. Just make sure to remove the skin when you add to the cauliflower mash.

While the cauliflower is steaming, start cooking the filling. Mix the ground beef with salt and pepper to taste. I like a blend of white pepper and freshly ground black pepper, but this is up to you! Heat up the oil in a pan and when it’s nice and hot, add the ground beef and sauté.

Cook the veggies. Microwaving them is a time-saver and saves you from having to wash another pot =) I like sticking them in the microwave with a few teaspoons of water until tender (5-6 minutes depending on your microwave). It’s a quick way to steam them and by the time they’re nuked, it’s prob about time to add them to your ground beef.

You want the ground beef to be about 80% cooked through when you add the veggies. Drain the water from the veggies before adding and then mix ’em all up together. Turn the heat down to low and prep the sauce/gravy.

Mix the worcestershire sauce, water, and corn starch in a small dish or cup so there are no lumps. Add this mixture to your pan, turn the heat back up to medium, and watch gravy appear as you mix (the cornstarch will cook and thicken). Mix it all up so the filling is even all around. Turn off the heat and set aside.

By this point the cauliflower should be cooked through. Add the florets to a food processor, along with whatever you’d usually add to mashed potatoes. Garlic butter and a bit of cheese were my choices, but regular butter and steamed garlic will do in a jiffy. Feel free to add a bit of broth, cream, or milk if your into that too. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Here comes the part where the flavors come together!

Find yourself a dish/a few dishes. It can be a 9×13 casserole dish like I used. It can be smaller individual portion-sized ramekins. Whatever floats your boat. Add some filling to the dish until it’s about half full, then top it off with cauliflower mash! Make sure the mash goes all the way up to the edges of the dish so the filling/sauce doesn’t bubble up.

Stick these pies in a 400°F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the top is just crispy. 

Let it cool, and enjoy!

20150426_212552 copy

 

Simple Seared Salmon

salmon

Seared salmon is scrumptious, satisfying, and salutary.

I’ll let you in on a secret. When I was in elementary school, my mom told me that fish made me smarter. Truth! And she wasn’t wrong. Those omega-3s are beneficial for memory, synapses, and more. This meal reminds me of those simpler times. I also love being able to taste the essence of foods. Blanched green beans are not boring. They are beanful. GREEN beanful. Salmon has that umami essence of the sea, without smelling too much like the ocean. More like melt-in-you-mouth flavor complimented by a crispy, chewy, skin.

As an “adult,” I’ll admit that the loveliest part of this seared salmon meal is that I went from kitchen to dining table in less than 10 minutes. Okay, so the veggie part of this was already done (thank you leftover green beans!).

Salmon pairs so perfectly with basic veggies too. I made a batch of green beans earlier this week which served me well here! The salmon came frozen, so I’d taken a moment the night before to move it to the fridge. I guess this does take a bit of planning. By a bit I mean ten seconds =)

Simple Seared Salmon

  • Wild salmon filet, skin on
  • Salt
  • Oil
  1. Oil a pan and heat over medium. I’ve been using garlic oil lately which adds a nice aromatic flavor to the salmon.
  2. While oil is heating, generously cover both sides of the salmon with salt. I like Himalayan pink salt.
  3. Once the pan is hot, lay the salmon filet skin side down for 4 minutes.
  4. Flip the salmon over and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Salmon should flake but still seem moist! Remove from heat immediately to avoid overcooking.

simple pesto aioli chicken wrap

pesto chicken wrap

Here’s a quick lunch you can take to work and a snazzy way to eat up those chicken breasts.

lavashJon loves flatbread and we’ve found  that Trader Joe’s lavash is pretty awesome and easy to use. It’s already cut into a handy rectangle that happens to fit perfectly into my toaster oven and is easy to roll up. Unlike other flatbreads we’ve encountered, it also holds together pretty well after being toasted and rolled.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp mayo
  • 1-2 Tbsp Pesto sauce
  • 1 piece lavash flatbread
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/5 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 sliced tomato (optional)

To make:

  1. Combine the mayo and pesto. This is your pesto aoili!
  2. Spread evenly on the lavash
  3. Cover with shredded mozzarella
  4. Toast until the cheese is just melty
  5. Spread the chicken strips on top, about 2/3 of the way across the lavash
  6. Add the chopped spinach on top of the chicken
  7. Optional: Add sliced tomato on top of the spinach (this helps to keep the tomato in the middle of the wrap and avoids a soggy wrap when lunchtime comes around)
  8. Roll tightly, starting with the spinach/chicken covered side
  9. Cut in half diagonally for added style points. Stick 2 toothpicks in each half to keep it from unravelling in transit.

 

garlicky greens

Garlic Spinach
Sautéing greens is super easy, and they cook quickly.

I like to add garlic to mine for flavor (and health benefits!). When I’m feeling fancy and don’t mind the extra time, I’ll chop up some onions too.

How to cook fresh greens:

  1. Add some oil to a warm pan. Use whatever you’ve got handy (olive oil, coconut oil).
  2. Add garlic (optional). You can add a whole clove as is, minced, or crushed.
  3. (If you’d like to use onions, add chopped onions here. Turn the heat down to low and let them get lovely and translucent. ~15-20 minutes)
  4. Chop up some greens. Use a lot because they shrink down to about 1/4 of their original volume!
  5. When the garlic/onion are ready, turn heat to medium and add the greens until there’s no more room in the pan
  6. Stir around until they’re mostly wilted, and add more fresh greens
  7. Continue to stir around, add more fresh greens until their all cooked up

chickpea crust quiche

Quiche

I found a recipe from Cake Batter and Bowl for a quiche with a crust using mainly chickpeas. Intrigued, I adapted it based on what was in my fridge and pantry. The results surprised me. Not only is it pretty easy to make, but the crust holds together very well, and it’s tasty to boot! Feel free to modify as you see fit to your fridge and tastebuds. In the quiche pictured above, I used spinach and chopped up some sliced pepper turkey we have in the fridge for sandwiches.

For the crust:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • scant 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 well-rounded Tbsp coconut oil

For the filling:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup of meat, crumbled or diced (turkey slices, cooked bacon, sausage…)
  • 1 cup cooked greens (spinach, chard…I bet broccoli or grilled asparagus would taste great too!)

Add chickpeas, wheat flour, and coconut oil to a food processor and process away until a soft dough forms. Mold this into a greased pie pan. You can have fun making a pattern in the edges. Or attempting to (see picture above for my first go at this). Bake the crust alone for 20-25 minutes at 350°F oven.

Note: You might have a little dough leftover – this is OK. My pie pan seems a bit small. It’s 6.5″ in diameter at the bottom though it measures almost 9″ at the top, if I include the little aluminum edge. Which is the diameter to measure pies with anyway? Indeed, despite similar labels, pie pan volume varies quite a bit. Tricky tins! You might have to adjust the amount of filling based on how it looks sitting in your pie pan. The good news is, another beaten egg and milk are pretty easy to add if you need more volume.

Note II: I use a small convection toaster oven, which I believe adds a few minutes to the cooking time. Start checking on it at around 20 minutes to make sure your crust doesn’t burn.

While that bakes, get the filling ready. I like to use freshly sautéed greens as opposed to frozen. It seems like an extra step but doesn’t actually take up much more time and adds so much more flavor! Beat your eggs, add milk and a dash of salt, and mix together.

Once your pie crust is ready, remove from the oven. Mix up the greens, meat, and cheese so they’re all evenly distributed in the cooked crust. Then, slowly pour in your egg mixture. It will take a few seconds to settle into all the nooks and crannies, so gently agitate the pan and continue to pour your egg mixture until there’s absolutely no more room.

Carefully get this back into the oven and back for another 40 minutes at 350°F or until the egg is set.

Slice and serve!

steaming slice(Best served when warm and the cheese is melty!)

 

saladtime: chicken, feta, carrot, tomato

(Picture forthcoming.)

I just decided I have a new goal: to have an interesting homemade salad for lunch at least 3 times a week. Maybe it’s a belated new year’s resolution of sorts.

Jon and I had some chicken breasts that needed to be cooked, so I thought I’d make salads with chicken for lunch. I wasn’t expecting them to be very memorable (alas, I didn’t bother to take pictures at all). It surprised me how filling and satisfying these tasted and inspired me to try making interesting salads more often. Also, I realized I should never settle for a mediocre lunch when delicious ones can be simple!

This particular salad came about using what was in the fridge—fairly basic ingredients:

For 2 very filling salads:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 C feta cheese
  • mixed greens! (I use the bag of supergreens from Costco)
  • balsamic vinaigrette (again, mine is from Costco. I love Costco.)

I made the chicken breasts the night before, seasoning them with a little salt and pepper, and then cooking them on a hot pan coated with coconut oil. 6-7 minutes on each side, or until the juices run clear. Timing will depend on the size of the breasts (yes, I just said that).

Now for the salad assembly…

  1. Fill the salad container you’ll use with mixed greens. I recommend a big one! Start by adding 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and toss to coat. If you need more dressing, add it little by little. Some of the best salads I’ve tried have just a light coating of dressing on the greens (no puddles of dressing at the bottom).  Now that the greens are lightly covered, they should sink down a bit and create space for your toppings.
  2. Slice the carrots into matchstick pieces. I cut the carrot into 2 inch pieces, cut these pieces in half lengthwise, and then sliced them finely. Cut these in half again and sprinkle on the salad.
  3. Slice and/or dice the tomato and add a layer to your salad.
  4. Cut the chicken into strips and then dice into pieces. Add to salad.
  5. Sprinkle a generous layer of feta cheese over all of this.

Voilà! A simple recipe for a deliciously filling salad.

rice soup (aka juk or congee)

Juk
My family calls this dish rice soup.  It’s pronounced something like “juk” in Chinese and is usually labeled “congee” on restaurant menus. Which is good because calling it porridge doesn’t do it justice.

It’s basically rice cooked in more liquid than you’d normally use. It is a perfect food for winter, for when you’re feeling under the weather, or if you’ve gotten a tooth extraction, like my dad did last week. My grandma has been making him rice soup all week long and I’ve been quite a lucky benefactor.

The key to good juk is to break down the rice grains until it’s all a thick and mushy soup – my grandma describes this property as “noh” in Chinese. Starting with a good broth or bones and add-ins helps tremendously. My grandma usually does pork meatballs, maybe a few dried shrimps, and when we’re fancy, adding a thousand year old egg just before serving.

It’s not literally a thousand years old. What are you thinking? It is preserved though, and I guess it kinda looks like a fossil. It’s just a duck egg wrapped in clay and other materials for a few months. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this process but I’m sure Google will be able to help if you’re curious. As far as my grandma has described, they bury them in clay pots for a bit before they’re ready to eat. They are generally an acquired taste for westerners, especially with their dark black and green appearance, gelatinous consistency, and creamy greenish yolk. They are particularly delicious when they have a snowflake/flower-like pattern on the egg (see pic below) – I think this is a sign it’s been preserved properly and the salts/reactions that give the egg their flavor and texture have done their work.

Here’s my grandma’s traditional recipe. Be warned: grandmothers are not precise cooks. But their food is somehow always tastier.

Grandma’s Traditional Recipe (written as she told it to me):

  • Jasmine Rice
  • Pork Neck Bones
  • Ginger
  • Ground pork
  • Dried Shrimp (optional)
  • Salt, to taste (at the very end)

Wash the rice. It’s best to do this the night before so it cooks better. Just wash it and let it sit in water until you’re ready to use it. Stick it in the fridge or let it sit out if it’s cold enough out. Make bone broth with pork neck bones if you have any (or other bones if you have those). There’s enough flavor to get broth out of them twice. You can cook the bones right with the water and rice, but then you might have small bits of bone in there, so you can cook the broth first and transfer it to the other pot if you want to avoid this.

If you want 2 bowls of soup, get 2 1/2 bowls of water or broth for the rice (for 2 small Chinese bowls worth of rice soup, it’s about 3/4 cup rice). If you want dried shrimp, rinse/clean them and add to the broth with the rice. Add a few slices of ginger (somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and a few inches wide). Once the water is boiling, turn it way down. It doesn’t need to keep boiling. It might not even look like it’s cooking. If you want meatballs, add small balls of ground pork (seasoned lightly) and bring the soup back to a boil. Turn it way down and leave the lid on. Cook for at least 30 minutes or until it’s “noh.” If it’s taking a long time, take your chopsticks and stir it up in the pot a bit to break apart the rice to get it “noh.” It’s ready. You can just heat it up when you’re ready to eat it. Salt can be added at the very end – use however much you think it needs. You can even add more water if you think it’s too thick.

The easiest way to keep cooking it once the broth/water is boiling is to transfer it to the hot steamer. This way there’s no chance of it sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot, it can turn black and is really hard to clean.

 

The snowflake “Fa” pattern below is a sign of a quality thousand year old egg.

Thousand Year Old Egg

homemade mocha lara bars

mocha larabarA gluten-free treat that’s so satisfyingly simple.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cup medjool dates,* pitted
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1 TBSP ground coffee beans
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Put everything in the food processor until the nuts are finely chopped and the dates have become paste-like.
  2. Pour/mold the mixture onto a small baking sheet with parchment – I used the one from my toaster oven. Press it together to make it more compact. It’ll be sticky so you could use another sheet of parchment paper in between your hands and the mixture.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for an hour or so, or in the fridge overnight. I usually put something heavy on top of the flattened mixture to help pack it down some more (keeping the mixture covered with the extra sheet of parchment or plastic wrap of course!).
  4. When it’s firmed up a bit, cut it into your favorite or most portable shape, wrap individually and enjoy!

*I recommend starting with whole dates. Removing the pits yourself is an extra step, but I find that the dates tend to be drier when they’ve been pitted and packaged for a while. If pre-pitted dates are what’s available to you, they’ll work too! You just may need to add extra dates or 1T of water at a time to get the mixture to hold.

There are endless variations! Dates are the key ingredient here – you can add or remove ingredients as you like to create different flavor combinations. I made a Pecan Pie version tonight as well using 1 cup roasted pecans, 1 cup pitted medjool dates, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla (process pecans, cinnamon, and salt until finely ground, then add dates and vanilla and continue processing until you’ve got a coarse paste).

 

 

 

guidelines for chimichurri

Aren’t all recipes like guidelines anyways? Why should you add ingredients you don’t like into something you will eat, or restrict your additions of things you like? You shouldn’t!

This is a quick set of guidelines for a sauce so versatile, you’ll make more just to see what else you can use it on. This may not be the most traditional version out there, but it certainly will become yours. You’ll need:

  • Garlic
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Oregano
  • Salt, & Pepper

How to make Chimichurri:

  1. Get condiment container. I like to use a glass jar that used to hold peanut butter. It’ll be useful to store the chimichurri on the table so you can put it on everything you eat
  2. Add pressed/minced garlic to this container
  3. Chop parsley finely and add to the jar
  4. Pour olive oil in so it covers the mixture
  5. Crush dried oregano to release all the goodness and flavor and add to the jar
  6. Add a few big dashes of balsamic vinegar
  7. Add salt and pepper
  8. Mix well. Taste. Adjust as necessary.

How much of each? You tell me. These are guidelines! Remember? I’ll walk you through my thought process, but it’s fun to use your own nose and tastebuds to make this recipe unique to you. The lovely thing about chimichurri is that it keeps and gets better with age as the flavors have time to mix and develop. If you don’t plan on using it up within 2-3 days, store it in the fridge to help keep it from going bad.

  • Garlic. I am a firm believer that you can never have too much garlic. If you really, really, really need a number because you don’t want to scare your upcoming date by saying “hello,” I’d say use about 6 big cloves. Or more, depending on your affinity for this delicious bulb. Fresh pressed garlic gets integrated into the sauce really well and may be ideal, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use minced garlic if you have that handy and feel lazy (as I often do). Garlic presses are a pain to clean, they have so many little holes that the garlic bits can settle into. And my garlic press seems play hide and seek with me. My kitchen is so small I don’t know how it wins! Anyhow I’ve made this with both these types of garlic and have loved them all. You can always add more later. You do keep spare garlic right? (I keep it in the freezer to keep it from sprouting, this helps me make sure I never run out)
  • LARGE bunch of parsley. Because once you taste this you’ll want a lot of this, trust me. I like flat leaf parsley, but any will do. No need to throw out the stems, just cut off the very very ends and use the rest. If you have a food processor chopping this takes about 10 seconds. Doing it by hand can make it fun because you get to enjoy the herbal aroma a bit more and you get to be close up and personal with your food while you make it.
  • Olive Oil. Lots of this. You need at LEAST enough to cover all the contents of the jar and then some. A high quality olive oil adds lots of delicious flavor, and using enough will keep it from growing rancid (if any of the parsley is piled up higher than the oil, it may start to grow some mold).
  • Oregano. This is a key ingredient. Crush it to release the flavors right before adding it. Otherwise you might be adding orego for a while with minimal flavor impact. You’ll smell it’s essence being released right away as you crush it. I rub my forefingers and thumb together, crushing the oregano as I sprinkle it in. I imagine you could use a mortar/pestle if you have one (I don’t). If I’m feeling impatient I’ll crush a bunch in my palm with my other thumb (trying to get it to a powder) and pour it in the jar. I’d say at least 1.5 tablespoons. Start with that, you can always add more if needed.
  • Balsamic Vinegar. Another key ingredient. Ok, so it’s often red wine vinegar, but since I only store Balsamic in my cupboards this is what I use. It’s for a sweet acidity to perk up the sauce so you feel a kick. I recommend a few big dashes, but go easy on it to start and see how it changes the flavor of your sauce.
  • Salt (& Pepper). This is a very personal amount. My mom can’t handle any pepper in anything whatsoever. Seriously, freshly ground pepper is a bit too spicy for her. I love pepper! I don’t know that this sauce particularly needs it. But salt is a definite must. It enhances the flavor and what may taste kinda bland at first can suddenly be complete with a dash more salt! Just remember you can’t take it away once you’ve added it in.

One of these days I’ll try measuring out the ingredients I use. But I really do enjoy tasting and adjusting each time I make this. Also, since when are bunches of parsley all the same size?

 What to do with Chimichurri sauce

This Argentinian sauce is often used to compliment a great steak and/or sausages (in choripan). These are the obvious and delicious options, but the world is your canvas – get creative! You can use this sauce to:

  • Season classic chicken breasts: Add as a bold sauce after they’ve already cooked or as a marinade to infuse flavor. Or both!
  • Make pita chips: Simply cut pita into wedges (or whatever shape you like) and  brush on a generous layer of chimichurri. Bake for ~7 min at 400°
  • Top your eggs: Works on all kinds of eggs – scrambled, omelette-style, frittata, over-easy, sunny-side up…
  • Dip bread: Serve chimichurri with warm crusty bread for an easy appetizer
  • Make a sandwich fancy: Spread on the bread and add your favorite sandwich ingredients. Try adding your favorite cheese(s) and grill!
  • Top pasta: A ready-to-go pasta sauce – think of it like pesto, only with a pesto kick. Works with spaghetti squash too! (depending on how thick your sauce is, you may want to add olive oil to help coat your pasta easily)
  • Spice up a salad: Chimichurri’s got oil, vinegar, plus a whole lot more flavor

Possibilities don’t end here – how do you like to use chimichurri sauce?