Showing posts with label bison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bison. Show all posts

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Clean Eating's Picadillo Chowder: A "Super Bowl" of Healthy Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Happy Sunday! Whether you are watching the Super Bowl or enjoying a "souper bowl" of soup like this hearty, healthy Picadillo Chowder I adapted from the current issue of Clean Eating magazine, I hope you are enjoying the day.

Clean Eating says, "In Latin America, a picadillo usually consists of finely chopped well-seasoned meat and vegetables served alongside a bed of rice. Here, we've transferred the concept to the soup pot, turning it into a healthy chowder meant to spice up your cold winter nights."

I loved the concept of this recipe but I did made several changes--subbing ground bison for the pork, increasing the amount of brown rice, increasing the beans and adding kidney beans to the black beans called for in the recipes, adding tomatoes (good for lycopene and vitamin C and makes for a prettier broth too), increasing the seasonings and subbing out cilantro for the parsley garnish. (All changes are noted in red below) It resulted in a very flavorful, hearty but not too heavy bowl of soup.

Picadillo Chowder
Clean Eating Magazine, February 2011
(Serves 4)
Hands On Time: 30 Minutes / Total Time: 1 Hour

1 lb lean ground pork (I subbed bison)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
32 oz low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed (added 1 can of beans)
(added 1 can of no-salt kidney beans)
(added one package Pomi chopped tomatoes)
1/4 cup brown rice (used 1 cup)
1 tsp ground cumin (used 2 heaping tsps)
1 tsp chili powder (used 2 tsps)
juice 1 lime (used 1 and 1/2)
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional (used cilantro)

Place a large stockpot on medium heat. Add pork and onion and cook for 3 minutes or until pork is opaque and onion begins to turn translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove pot from the heat, pour pork mixture into a heat-proof colander and drain fat from meat. Return pork mixture to pot and add broth. Stir in beans, rice, cumin and chili powder. Bring chowder to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in lime juice and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.

Notes/Results: A filling and tasty soup--almost like a brothy chili. The lean ground meat and brown rice with the beans provide lots of protein and fiber. The cumin adds that warm, slightly smoky flavor which goes nicely with the kick of chili and the brightness of the lime juice. (Clean Eating sometimes holds back a bit on the seasonings so I added more--clean eating doesn't have to mean less flavor!) It also needed a good pinch of salt and some black pepper to pull out all the flavors. Another soup that is even better the next day when the flavors are blended together and more pronounced. I would make this again.

It looks like we have some hearty soups, salads and sammies in this Super Bowl Sunday edition of Souper Sundays--let's take a look.

From Michelle at Ms. Enplace, it's Creole Vegetable Soup, or "Wisdom Tooth Soup" as it is known in her house. She says, "The Husband made Creole Vegetable Soup for me years ago when I had my wisdom teeth out. He called his dad to get the recipe. I still have it scribbled somewhere. Chopped everything itty bitty knowing my condition. Worked all day while I was passed out on codeine. For true. It makes me faint. He chopped, boiled, shredded, simmered. And then we ate. Then I ran to the bathroom. Apparently codeine makes me puke too. It took a while to shake the teasing that followed. Both of us."

Julie from Little Bit of Everything made a creamy Wild Rice soup and says, "There's something hearty and almost meaty (or so I tried to tell Tim) about Wild Rice Soup. When I told Tim I was making Wild Rice Soup, he said chicken and wild rice soup? I said no, besides the bacon, there's no meat in this recipe but aren't you happy it does have bacon it? Actually lots of bacon. This recipe called for 1 pound of bacon, I scaled it down to 1/2 pound. Seriously, a pound of bacon?!! Like many soups, this one is better on day two or even day three."

Lovely Lori from Fake Food Free has Green Chili with Pork and Chickpeas to share and says, "When you first read this title you might have thought of chilies as in peppers. That wouldn’t be completely off the mark. This dish does contain green chilies, but it is also a twist on the classic that can be found everywhere from Texas to Cincinnati and in between. I have had this recipe for several years and I make it at least once every winter. It is such a nice break from red chili with its beans and ground beef. Over time, I’ve adjusted it to my tastes. I add canned green chilies along with salsa verde and I use less pork."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes has a Chicken Vegetable Soup to share but wants to be all about the topping, a yummy Parsley Pesto from her freezer. Pam says, "It’s about what is floating (not quite attractively) on top of the soup. The garnish. See, what happened, is that as I was rifling through the freezer, trying to use up some veggies frozen during last summer’s surplus, I stumbled upon a ziploc bag. A ziploc bag containing Parsley Pesto and I thought…hey, that is why I make and freeze these things…to use them! Only I usually forget. Only this time I didn’t. And it was good, added just the right touch to my basic, no frills, soup. So, this is just a tip, a reminder, don’t have naked soup. Garnish it."

Gwen from Simply Healthy Family tried a Sauerkraut and Sausage Soup and says, "This recipe came from my '1 Stock 100 Soups' Cook Book. I altered it a bit, omitting the dumplings and sour cream and I added some potatoes, turnips and parsnips that I had to use and to make it heartier. I hesitated making this soup thinking the kids wouldn't even touch it but to my utter amazement, each and every one of my 4 kids had seconds or third helpings! You just never know I tell you. Simmering the Sauerkraut made it much milder and even sweet some how.This soup was a big hit in our home and will make your tummies warm and happy during this crazy Winter weather!"

Denise (aka Denny) of Oh Taste n See made a Red Kidney Bean Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mini Peppers and says, "If there is a dish that has innumerable ways of making it, or no real set way of making it, its a salad. You can throw just about anything edible together and call it a ‘salad’. That's the beauty of the thing. Verdict: I was bored with the usual salad with cucumber, this was a great variation. The crunchy peppers, with the tangy sundried tomatoes drizzled with the spicy citrusy dressing was very refreshing. The beans made sure it was also very filling."

It's a colorful Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad for Janet from The Taste Space. She says, "The next day, when I tasted it, I was floored. This was an “Oh my gosh, this salad is SO GOOD” moment (it really needs the overnight marinade, by the way). There was enough extra marinade that it was used as the dressing once the spinach was added. I never would have thought to pair all these ingredients together, but the spinach was the perfect accent. It was a great lunch for work, since I packed the spinach separately. Filling, tasty and healthy – what else could you want?"

A warm Souper Sunday welcome to Nashira from Plateful, joining us for the first time this week, all the way from Qatar and with both a salad and a sandwich to share. First up, her Spiced, Colorful, Tangy and Crunchy Salad with Sausage, Olives and Vegetables. She says, "Toss quickly this mildly spiced fresh salad, packed with nutrients, to go with your meals. This recipe adds a delicious crunch and a brilliant splash of color to your eat well goals. This, along with the heat from the pickled jalapeno, makes it a totally irresistable salad. Use firm, fresh vegetables and leaves. Make sure to rinse well before slicing. For a better crunch, you can add icerberg lettuce instead of frisee."

About her hearty Grilled Chicken Mortadella Sandwich, Nashira says, "This is another no fuss recipe. All you need to do is fill two slices of Italian bread with the ingredients and grill--nothing can go wrong. My family enjoys the balance of flavors and textures offered by this delicious, warm sandwich. I hope you try it and enjoy it too." Welcome to Souper Sundays Narisha!

Roz of la bella vita made a Sun-Dried Turkey Burgers with Basil Aioli and says, "It is completely outstanding! No lie, friends! You've got to add this to your healthy recipes file! It is truly the best of the last three healthy recipes that I've posted BY FAR! Once again it is from Cooking Light's "Fresh Food Fast" cookbook, with my own adaptations and additions (that made a big difference!); a resource that is shocking my family and me for the tasty, yet good-for-us recipes that are provided. I'm just amazed! You'll never know that this recipe is actually good for you! And isn't that one of the goals that eating more healthfully is all about: Enjoyment!?"

Libby from The Allergic Kid tried her son's idea for dinner, resulting in these healthy Flatbread Tacos. Libby says, "I could almost see the wheels turning, as he blurted out "Make your own pizza tacos!" which combined his two favorite meals, pizza and make your own tacos. Did he want pizza toppings on tortillas or the other way around? It turned out he wanted the soft dough of a pizza and the do it himself element of taco night at our house.I was sold. Clearly, I need to start asking my kid these kind of questions more often!"

A little something delicious for everyone this week! Thanks to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creamy Lemon-Rice Soup with Mini Meatballs: Lemony Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

When I saw a recipe for Creamy Lemon Soup with Lamb Mint Meatballs in the March 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine it stayed in my head and I knew I had to make it. In an feature on the next generation of meatballs (the Puttanesca Sliders are on my must-make list too), I loved the combination of a Greek avgolemono (chicken and rice soup with lemon and beaten eggs) base with the savory tiny meatballs. The perfect comfort food.

The recipe can be found on the Sunset website here.

I did make a few changes to the recipe. First off, finding ground lamb is hit or miss here and my usual source was out so I subbed in some ground bison or buffalo. Since I am currently trying to avoid dairy, I subbed almond milk for the milk in the meatballs, which I baked instead of pan-frying both for ease and to reduce the fat. Finally I doubled the lemon--because I loves me some lemon. (My changes are in red below) The result; this Creamy Lemon-Rice Soup with Mini Meatballs, was exactly what I wanted and a bright, not-to-heavy soup to welcome Spring with.

Sunset Magazine says, "This classic Greek soup, avgolemono, gets its velvety texture from beaten eggs. Once you add them, be sure not to boil the soup, or the eggs will curdle. These lamb and mint meatballs are meant to be tiny so you get one in nearly every spoonful of soup."

Creamy Lemon-Rice Soup with Mini Meatballs
adapted from Juliet Glass, Sunset Magazine, March 2010
(Serves 6--Makes 8 Cups)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 garlic clove, minced
finely shredded zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp each chopped fresh mint leaves & flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 lb ground lamb (I used ground bison)

Soup and Serving:
7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
wide ribbons of zest from 1/2 lemon (use a vegetable peeler)
1/2 cup aborio rice or sushi rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil (omitted)
3 large eggs
fresh juice of 1 large lemon (I used 2 lemons)
chopped fresh mint and parsley

Make meatballs: In a large bowl, combine egg, panko, milk, garlic, lemon zest, mint, parsley, salt, and pepper and let sit a few minutes for crumbs to soften. Add lamb, breaking up with your fingers, and mix well with your hands.

With wet hands, form meat mixture into 3/4-inch balls (use about 3/4 tsp for each)and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Chill until a little firmer, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make soup: In a large covered pot, bring broth and zest to a simmer. Add rice and simmer over low heat, partially covered, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

While soup simmers, heat oil in a large heavy frying pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs in 2 batches, turning once, to brown on 2 sides, about 6 minutes total. Shake pan, rolling meatballs around to brown a little further. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to paper towels. (I cooked the meatballs on a rack over a foil-lined pan in a 425 degree F. oven for about 10 minutes)

With a slotted spoon, remove zest from soup and discard. Add meatballs and bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn off heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs to blend and add lemon juice. Whisk in a ladle of hot soup. One at a time, whisk in about 5 more ladles of soup, then return mixture to pot. Rewarm over low heat if needed. Serve immediately with more mint and parsley.

Per 1 1/2-Cup Serving (as written in magazine): 312 cal., 51% (158 cal), from fat; 21g protein; 18g fat (5.3g sat.); 20g carbs (0.7g fiber); 344mg sodium; 179mg chol.

Notes/Results: Creamy, hearty and delicious, this soup really hit the spot. A perfect soup to please kids with the mini-meatballs in almost every bite and no pesky vegetables getting in the way ;-) In fact, in making this again, I would probably throw a few veggies in just to up the nutrition a bit--maybe even some fennel for something different. Baking the meatballs worked perfectly. I baked them on a cookie rack over a foil covered pan so any fat and juices drip down. In addition to the lamb and bison, you could use lean ground beef, turkey or chicken in the meatballs. The soup goes together easily, with making the meatballs the only slightly time-consuming part and although best served fresh, reheats fine as long as you do it "low and slow" and don't boil it so the eggs don't curdle. I would make this again happily.

Lets take a look in the Souper Sunday kitchen and see who is here this week:

Debby from A Feast for the Eyes made a gorgeous green Creamy Asparagus Soup from one of her favorite recipe magazines, Cook's Country. She says, "Winner, winner, winner! Craig and I both loved this soup a lot. The first thing we commented about was the pretty color. We do taste with our eyes, don't we? The balance of asparagus flavor was perfect. Craig didn't taste the peas nor the Parmesan cheese. These surprising ingredients complemented the overall flavor of the soup. I think you could easily substitute the heavy cream for half and half, or even milk. To us, 1/4 cup of heavy cream for six servings isn't too big an indulgence."

Wanting to use up some leftover beer and please her meat and potato loving parents, Joanne from Eats Well With Others found the solution in this Irish Beef and Guinness Stew. Joanne says, "And I have to say. That the meat. And potatoes. And Guinness notwithstanding. This was amazing. The best stew I have ever had. The leftovers are even better. The day after the day after leftovers are. The. Best. And I imagine that the third day would have trumped all. But just try getting it to last that long. Impossible, I tell you. Im. Possible."

Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies used the gift of some Caribbean pimento peppers from her husband's coworker to make a stew, this Island Style Beef Curry. She says, "With great trepidation I opened up a pepper. It looks like an elongated and pointy habenero, and indeed is related, but has no heat. It is gloriously fruity and floral. I braced myself when I bit into a tiny piece, sure that fire would follow. It didn't. No heat, all flavour. So I did my best to create a laid-back Island-style stew, cue the steel drums."

Here's a new friend to welcome, Zibi from her blog, Fresh Slowcooking. I love that Zibi found my blog and Souper Sundays while looking for a gingery soup broth and finding my post on a Tyler Florence recipe! Her resulting Meatball Ginger Stew looks wonderful. She says, "I prepared this in my slow cooker, and Instead of using strips of beef, I made baby meatballs out of some grass-fed ground beef we had in the freezer. Since my husband and I were both feeling under the weather, I was aiming for something really gingery that would soothe our symptoms. In the end the soup had a really meaty flavour and the ginger and green onions added a refreshing flavour to the soup overall. It's probably due to my dulled senses from my cold, but I think this soup would actually benefit from even more ginger, depending on your tastes." Glad to have you here Zibi!

Instead of buying the Taiwanese salads from the self-serve counter at her local Asian market, Christine from Kits Chow began making her own healthier versions at home, like this colorful Carrot Salad. Christine says, "I stopped buying the salads because of their heavy hand with the salt. The salads were inedible. The salt wasn't mixed into the salads and I bit into a hunk of coarse salt. Now I make my own. I used the mandoline to slice the vegetables but it isn't necessary."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina made some cute little "packages" of Rolled Sandwich with Russian Salad for a party she recently hosted. She says, "As many of you already know, I prepared an 'all-appetizers' lunch, and I promised to post all the recipes. I started the lunch with some canapes and brochettes: this is the first one. You can prepare Russian salad at home the day before... or buy it if you feel overwhelmed! Tie the sandwich with a chives (or nira garlic) leaf. If it breaks, take a deep breath and start with a new leaf."

Great recipes this week--thanks to Debby, Joanne, Natashya, Zibi, Christine and Graziana for joining in the fun. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich recipe you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sunday logo for all the details.

Have a wonderful week and Happy Spring!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish & Stall-Style Minced Beef Stir-Fry for Cook the Books: "A Taste for Adventure"

Our first Cook the Books selection for 2010 is "A Taste For Adventure" by Anik See, hosted by the wonderful Rachel at The Crispy Cook. A delectable blend of travelogue, foodie memoir and cookbook (there are close to 40 recipes throughout the book), Anik See writes of her adventures around the world on a bicycle. Journeying to Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Canada, See's
descriptions of the people she meets and the incredible food she shares with them are vivid and transport the reader to the many exotic places she visits. It was a fun book to read and I particularly enjoyed her chapters on Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand, three countries I traveled to frequently for business in a previous life. Although as a business traveler primarily (with a few pleasure trips thrown in on the side), I didn't have the same type of adventures and experiences See did but we did share the pleasure of wonderful food and incredible people. For my representation of the book I chose to journey to Thailand and cook two recipes, the first Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla) from my own Thailand experience, and the second, Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao) from the book.

One of my worst and best travel experiences happened on the same trip in Thailand where a long trip full of workshops in multiple countries with a co-worker was scheduled to end in Thailand with a long weekend on the island of Phuket. The bad part, I got the WORST case of food poisoning I have ever had. I won't go into all the details ;-) but I spent a miserable week flat on my back in the hotel room assuming I was going to die in Thailand and wishing it would happen already and end my suffering. (Yes, a bit dramatic but it was pretty bad!) By Friday I was at least able to hold down the crackers and 7-up the hotel doctor was making me eat, so my co-worker and I continued with our plans to relax in Phuket and arrived that afternoon to our hotel, Mom Tri's Boathouse. The kind people at the Boathouse took very good care of us and although I went to dinner the first night planning only on continuing my bread and 7-up, the waiter talked me into lemongrass tea, jasmine rice and a simple, clear turmeric soup with fish and mushrooms, that he felt would be good for my stomach. It might sound weird that it was my choice for my first real food in days, but it was delicious and I felt much better almost instantly. We were scheduled to take the hotel's weekend cooking class and I was feeling good enough to enjoy it. The chef Tummanoon Punchun was a kick--very funny and patient and our group was made up of people from all over the world. We bonded over food and even made a version of the soup I had eaten the night before. We all got a copy of "The Boathouse Cookbook" to take with us, signed by Punchun, the author-chef.

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla)
"The Boathouse Cookbook" by Chef Tummanoon Punchun
(Serves 4)

350 g (12 oz) fish (or chicken)
4 shallots, peeled
150 g (5 oz) turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped
12 stalks lemon grass, outer skins removed
4 Tbsp chopped galangal
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro root
6 cups chicken stock
(added 1 can straw mushrooms, rinsed and drained)
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
(added the juice of 1 lime and cilantro to garnish)

Slice the fish and set aside. In a food processor, blend together the shallots, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal and cilantro root to make a smooth paste. Heat the chicken stock, then add the herb and spice paste and bring to the boil. (Note: I simmered the herb paste in the broth for about 10 minutes, then poured it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids then brought it to a boil and added fish and a can of straw mushrooms). Add the chicken of fish and simmer until it is just cooked. Season with sugar and fish sauce, and serve immediately. (Note: I reduced the amount of fish sauce by 1/2, added the juice of one lime and garnished with chopped cilantro).

Notes/Results: Still delicious and although Tom Kha Gai (coconut soup with chicken) will always be my favorite Thai soup, this one brought back the good memories of the trip. A visit to the Thai store gave me everything I needed to make the soup, and it goes together easily. I did realize why I never make it though, making the paste in the food processor gives ample opportunity for getting yellow stains from the turmeric root all over. My dishwasher is hopefully removing most of them as I type this. If you make it, I recommend straining the solids from the broth before adding the fish as outlined in my notes in red on the recipe. It was fun to pull out the cookbook and my folder of notes from the class (I still have it almost 10 years later!), to make this recipe.

I wanted to try one of the Thai recipes from the book and since I love lettuce wraps, the Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry sounded great and easy too. I used ground bison in place of the minced beef and since I got a half head of green cabbage in my CSA box, I used wedges of it to "scoop" up the beef.

From the book: "The cart owner peers at me from under a large, conical straw hat, then, grinning, he grabs a piece of meat and places it on a chopping board so worn into concavity it could be used as a bowl. In a rapid staccato of metal on wood, he attacks the meat with two cleaver, mincing it in a matter of seconds. After he pours a bit of oil into the wok, he stirs it with a pair of chopsticks and with his other hand tosses in a constant stream of ingredients--garlic, chilis, shallots, lemongrass, chopped coriander and it's root, the minced beef. A sharp, spicy smell hits my nose and drifts around me. Deftly he adds some liquid, a bit of sugar, then lines a large plastic bowl with lettuce leaves. He spoons the beef into it and pushes it towards me, smiling, showing me how to take one of the lettuce leaves and fold it so it is sturdy enough to use as a spoon."

See says: "This is a popular late-night snack on the streets of Bangkok. Bird chilis, lemongrass, palm sugar, and rice wine are available at any Asian food market. Cilantro with its roots still attached should be easy to find there too."

Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao)
"A Taste for Adventure" by Anik See
(Serves 4 as a snack)

2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 bird chilis, fresh or dried, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 inches fresh lemongrass, chopped, or 2 Tbsp dried lemongrass
1/2 bunch cilantro, with roots, chopped
1 lb minced beef (I used bison)
1/2 cup beef stock or water
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine or sake
1 head lettuce, separated into leaves (I used cabbage instead)

Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilis, shallots and lemongrass and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro and beef and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up the beef as you stir. Add the stock, palm sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine. Bring everything to a boil and cook for another minute. Serve in bowls with lettuce on the side for scooping.

Notes/Results: This was delicious, nicely spicy with lots of layers of flavor. It's a bit spicy and a bit sweet with a nice little tang to it and its perfect scooped up on cold cabbage leaves (or lettuce if you want to use it). With all the liquid--stock, sake, soy sauce, it is different from the dry beef in most lettuce wraps or the larb (ground meet mixture) I get at my local Thai restaurant and I think it is a great alternative. I will make this one again.

Great food for a great book--that's what Cook The Books is all about. Thanks to Rachel for picking such a fun and interesting book for this round! Rachel will be posting a round-up of all the dishes from "A Taste for Adventure" at the Cook the Books site soon. BTW--I am hosting the next book, one of my favorites and a foodie classic, "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel. (We will be reading and posting a dish for this book by March 26th). If you want to join us and read or re-read this wonderful book, you can get all the Cook the Books details here at the CTB site.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nigella's Thai Crumbled Beef Bison in Lettuce Wraps--Fully Loaded for Good Taste & Good Health

"Resolutions" is our theme this week at "I Heart Cooking Clubs." I have mixed feelings about resolutions, mainly because I, like others have made many a long list of them for the new year in the past and they generally don't last through the spring. On the other hand to not have any resolutions/goals/commitments (or whatever you like to call them) set for yourself and expect to actually see any changes in your life is an exercise in futility. So for me it is not about making annual "resolutions" but more about periodically taking stock of where I am, decide where I want to be and then setting small achievable goals or action steps will that get me there --whether that be in January, at the start of a new season, or whenever I feel the need. Last year about this time (see post here), I set a goal of cleaning up my food act and focusing this blog and my cooking and eating on healthier food choices the majority of the time, with the occasional indulgence thrown in. (I give myself a B+ for the year. Overall I kept it pretty healthy but the indulgences snuck in a little more often than I wanted!)

This past October, I recommitted to that earlier goal and I added a few additional action steps to help achieve a happier, healthier me. More manifesto than resolutions! ;-) I won't share them all for fear of boring you but a few that pertain directly to this blog are:
  • I will put my focus not just on foods that I love but on foods that love me back, that nourish me and fuel my body.
  • I will eat as much locally-grown, whole, and organic food as possible utilizing my CSA box, farmers markets, my co-op and natural foods stores for the bulk of my groceries.
  • I will create my own healthy recipes or make healthy changes to the other recipes I make and load them up with healthy and nutritionally dense ingredients.
  • I will continue to prove to myself & others that healthy food can be delicious and fun.

On that note, I chose Nigella's Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps, not a bad recipe as written by Nigella, but easily improved in healthiness and taste with a few additions. Lean, grass-fed bison replaces the beef, adds more protein and reduces the fat, local Manoa green leaf lettuce replaces the yellow/white iceberg lettuce, red bell pepper, carrots and cucumber add color, texture and nutrients, and a small sprinkling of unsalted peanuts add extra protein and crunch. I also added some thin rice noodles drizzled in a little hot chili-garlic oil to bulk the wraps out a bit and make them more of a meal. There is nothing boring or flavorless about these lettuce wraps!

This recipe can be found in Forever Summer (pages 10-11) or on Nigella's site here. My changes / additions are in red below.

Nigella says: "Given that I made this out of my head rather than out of a book, I don't know how authentically Thai it is, but I do know it's authentically wonderful. What I was going after was that first course (among many) I always order in Thai restaurants, of crumbled meat, quite dry, soup-sharp with chili, which you eat by scooping with crunchy, boat shaped lettuce leaves.

You may need to be rather brutal with the lettuce as you tear the leaves off to provide the edible wrappers for the beef, which is why I specify one to two icebergs. If you wan to perk the leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate repositories for later, leave them in a sink full of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on their plate."

Thai Crumbled Beef Bison in Lettuce Wraps
Nigella Lawson
(Serves 6--as appetizer)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 red birdeye or other small, hot red chillies, finely chopped
3/4 lb (375g) ground beef (Used buffalo / bison instead)
scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce
4 scallions, dark green bits removed (and set aside), finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
3–4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1–2 small heads iceberg lettuce (Used green leaf lettuce)
8 ounces thin rice noodles prepared to package instructions and drizzled with chili oil
1/2 red bell pepper julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
chopped green scallions

Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and when warm add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s wiser not to leave the pan, as you don’t want them to burn. Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes till no trace of pink remains. Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid’s evaporated. Off the heat, stir in the scallions, zest and juice of the lime and most of the cilantro. Turn into a bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining coriander just before serving.

Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate – they should sit one on top of another easily enough – and let people indulge in a little DIY at the table, filling cold crisp leaves with spoonfuls of sharp, spicy, hot, crumbled meat, noodles, vegetables, and peanuts.

Notes/Results: I forgot how much I really love good lettuce wraps and how quick and easy they are. I should be making/eating them more often! These were delicious--spicy, savory, tangy and had great texture with the warm meat and noodles with the crunchy, cold veggies. The green leaf lettuce worked well, even if a bit messy with all the toppings--for even more nutritional value kale, collard greens or chard could be used as the wrapper. Although I used ground bison because I really love the taste and the leanness, lean ground beef, ground turkey breast or minced tofu would work equally well. I served these with Sunday's Curried Yellow Pepper Soup for a healthy dinner. These are way better than the ones at my local Thai restaurant and I will make them again. And if you compare these wraps to the picture of Nigella's version on the website--with all the healthy additions I think they look even tastier! (Come on--eat the rainbow Nigella!) ;-)

Nigella's Original Version

Fully Loaded Wraps from Kahakai Kitchen

You can see what recipes the other IHCC participants selected to represent their "resolutions" by going to the IHCC site here and following the links.

So what do you think about resolutions? Do you make them or have another process to set goals for yourself?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things I Am Loving This Week

Back again with the "Things I Am Loving This Week"--those (mostly) food related things that I am enjoying and want to share.

I enjoy a big plate of pasta as much as the next person, but I also crave a good spaghetti squash now and then. Since they were on sale, I bought one and decided it was in need of a nice meaty, but still full of vegetables kind of sauce, so I threw this Hearty Ground Buffalo and Veggie Ragu together and loved it. I made the sauce using what veggies I had in my fridge and it can be changed up to suit your needs/tastes. I used ground buffalo but any ground meat will work. Wanting to give it a kick, I added dried red chili pepper flakes and threw in some leftover olives and of course my true love, capers. Yum!

Hearty Ground Buffalo and Veggie Ragu
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground buffalo (bison) or lean ground beef or turkey
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes, drained of 1/2 liquid (I used the no-salt)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
2 Tbsp capers
2 cups baby spinach leaves
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, red pepper and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ground bison and cook until meat is brown and cooked through. Add chili pepper flakes, oregano, basil, parsley, canned tomatoes with half their juice and tomato paste and stir. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add olives, capers and baby spinach and cook another 20-30 minutes until all veggies are cooked. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve over cooked spaghetti squash (see cooking directions below) or pasta with a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese if desired. Enjoy!

For spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce the squash several times with a small knife and bake until tender and skin can be very easily pierced with a fork. (About 45-55 minutes depending on size of squash). Let squash cool to the touch then cut it in half lengthwise. Remove seeds using a spoon, then using a fork, pull the strands of squash away from each half and place in a serving bowl. You can add a bit of olive oil or butter if desired, although with the sauce you really don't need it.

I think I have already shared my love for trolling the beverage isle of any good natural foods stores--so many delicious things to try like these Alodrinks I bought the other day. Made with aloe juice and pulp they are very refreshing and taste so good. I have tried two of the five flavors so far, Awaken (with wheatgrass) and Allure (with mangosteen and mango) and I am loving both of them. A little higher calorie and higher sugar than I want to drink regularly (about 60 cal and 15 g sugar in a serving--half a bottle), they still make a refreshing occasional treat to enjoy.

I have a penchant for pickles, especially dill pickles, so when I saw this recipe for Quick Indian Pickles in the November Sunset Magazine, I knew I had to try it. (BTW--loving this issue of Sunset too--so many good things in it!) The recipe combines my love for pickles with another love--Indian flavors and spices. I found some little Persian-style mini-cucumbers at Whole Foods so it was easy to whip up a batch. They are delicious and only 13 calories a spear so how can you not love that?

Quick Indian Pickles
Sunset Magazine, November 2009
(Makes 24 Spears)
Time: 1 Hour

1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp each brown mustard seeds, black peppercorns, whole coriander seeds,whole allspice
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 cardamom pods, split
2 small dried hot red chilies, broken in half
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, peeled, thickly sliced
6 Persian cucumbers, each cut into 4 spears, or 2 English cucumbers, each cut into thirds crosswise and then into 4 spears

Warm oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook, covered, until they pop, about 2 minutes. All at once, add remaining spices except for turmeric and cook, stirring, until spices are very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add turmeric and stir until just sizzling. Carefully add 1/2 cup water, the vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes.

Pack cucumber spears into a deep bowl. Pour pickling liquid over them, weight with a small plate to keep them submerged, and let cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes. Lift pickles out of brine to serve.

Make ahead: Chill, covered,up to 2 days (pickles will get more flavorful).

Per Spear: 13 cal, 12% (1.6 cal) from fat, 0.3g protein, 0.2g fat (0g sat), 2.7g carb, (0.3g fiber), 181 mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol.

So these are the "Things I Am Loving This Week"--what things are you loving?

Don't forget, I am hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week (see this post for details). Hope to have you join us!