Citrusy Asian Salad in Crispy Wonton Shells

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It’s been a very hectic week and I didn’t have the chance to go by the grocery store like I had hoped to. There was a potluck BBQ party on Saturday and I had to figure out a no-fuss, yet rather light summery appetizer to take along.  I know I had a tray of shaved beef in the freezer. Since one of my kids has more or less sworn off beef, I figured I could use the meat for an appetizer.

After a mental run down of what seemed like dozens of ideas, I decided on a summery, citrusy salad that could be eaten as a finger food. Ah, what better vehicle to hold the salad than crispy wonton shells! Have you tried those? I must say, this was my first time and I was quite impressed! The shells remained partially crisp the next day, even after a light drizzle of the delicious citrusy-Asian dressing.

It is super easy to make the shells. Just spray a muffin pan and gently mold a wonton wrapper into a general cup shape and bake at 350F for about 7 minutes or so. Similarly, shaved beef is super easy to cook. Fast too! Just season with whatever – in this case, an Asian-inspired marinade, and just saute for a few minutes.

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The salad dressing, which probably is the best part of this entire dish, is a simple combination of lemon juice, honey, teriyaki sauce, few drops of dark sesame oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

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Just layer on the salad ingredients and drizzle the dressing right before serving. These cups were a huge hit at the gathering and people raved about the dressing. Addition of lemon zest does take it a whole new level, so don’t hold back on it!

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So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to impress your friends and family at the next gathering with this super light, yet super delicious Citrusy Asian Salad in Crispy Wonton Shells!

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  • Servings: ”18″
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Ingredients
18 wonton shells
cooking spray
2 cups of Spring green mix
1/4 cup thinly sliced salad radish
1/4 cup finely minced red peppers
1/2 lb shaved beef
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
dash of salt and pepper

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spary a muffin pan with cooking spray. Carefully place a wonton wrapper into each of the muffin cups and gently form into shells. Bake for 8 minutes till golden. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
2. In a medium frying pan, spoon a tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the beef and quickly stir around till meat is browned. Add the teriyaki sauce and garlic and saute for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and let the meat cool to room temperature.
3. In the meantime, remove the wonton shells from the muffin pan and carefully arrange them on a large platter. Place a layer of salad greens into each shell. Place about a tablespoon of the sautéed beef and top with radish and peppers. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, canola oil, honey, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad cups right before serving.

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Comfort Pasta with Kale and Ground Beef

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What is it with pasta and the gazillion ways in which you can prepare them! They truly are a star pantry item!

I know I said I am going to try to get back on my healthy wagon, so I think you will appreciate this recipe. Yes, yes, it’s almost the end of January when most of the resolutions fall to the wayside. But, after trying this recipe, eating healthy may not be that difficult after all.

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This recipe is pretty simple, something I concocted while recovering from a mini version of the flu (thankfully short-lived due to Tamiflu). I didn’t quite have the energy to spend an hour in the kitchen, but at the same time didn’t want to be bed sofa-ridden for another meal. So, there I lay making a mental rundown on the items I had on hand, especially the pound of extra lean beef I was going to make chili with before I fell sick.

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So, now that the chili making was off the table till next weekend, I figured I should use up the beef in some form rather than freezing it. Pasta dish it will be! Kale, carrots, mushrooms, beef and a touch of cream and garlic! Simple, yet comforting enough!

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What are you waiting for? Grab the handful of ingredients this recipe calls for and whip up this dish while the pasta cooks! Yes, it is that simple! Go ahead and try it, you might actually end up planning to make it again soon!

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  • Servings: ”4″
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Ingredients
1/2 package pasta of your choice (I used penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound lean (or extra-lean) ground beef
1 small bunch kale, rinsed and broken into small pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups of slices mushrooms
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons of cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan
crushed red pepper, optional

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and cook pasta per directions.
2. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion till translucent.
3. Add ground beef and brown the meat, breaking up any large clumps.
4. Add the carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
5. Now, add the kale and mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
6. Season with Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt per your taste.
7. Add the cream and grate the nutmeg.
8. Toss with pasta and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Mediterranean Style Beef Kabobs

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There is something about food on sticks…..satay, corndog, popsicle, lollipops, cakepops and kabobs among other delectables on sticks. My personal favorite is a well-spiced kabobs. This recipe uses beef, but I have made a mental note to attempt a vegetarian version one of these days.

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You find a version of these kabobs in several countries. Frequently lamb is used but not everyone in my family is a fan of that, so I opted for extra lean ground beef. A blend of coriander powder, cumin powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic, onions and mint lends an enjoyable blend of flavors without one note screaming out too loud. Lastly, using extra lean meat is an easy way to cut down on excess saturated fat from your meals. I must say even though I used 93% lean beef, the kabob was enjoyable with a dollop of plain yogurt.

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Mediterranean Style Beef Kabobs

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1 lb extra lean ground beef (lamb or chicken)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted (or 1 tablespoon coriander powder)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon or more garlic paste
1 tablespoon crushed dried mint leaves
12 – 14 small bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Preparation
1. Preheat the broiler at high setting. You can also grill the kabobs on an outdoor grill.
2. If using coriander seeds, grind them in a spice grinder or using mortar and pestle.
3. Add all seasonings to the meat and mix well. It works best to use your hands to really mix in all the spices and herbs.
4. Divide the mixture into 12-14 equal portions and shape them around the pre-soaked skewers like a long kabob.
5. Line a baking tray lined with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
6. Arrange the kabobs on the tray and broil for 12 minutes turning once. Spray with cooking spray after turning.

Layered Meatloaf – a spinoff of “Xepa”

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Meatloaf! Another word besides “chili” that makes my kids contort their faces in near disgust. I don’t make it often, but then I have been having nostalgic memories of “Xepa” these past several days and I thought I will reach out to my friend about it.

There is a nostalgic story behind “xepa” (a Portuguese word pronounced “shepa”). Back in my undergrad years, I had couple of awesome friends from Brazil. Every year, the International Student Association at the university put in a lot of effort to host one of the most memorable events of the year – International Festival! We students took over the cafeteria kitchen and cooked up various dishes from our different home countries and served them with pride to the attendees amidst international themed entertainment of songs, dances and skits. Ahhhh….what wonderful times!

One year, my two friends (don’t know if it mattered whether I mention they were both men or not, but in case you are wondering, yes, both were!) wanted to make something too. They made a pseudo meatloaf which really was almost a Swiss roll type of dish with various stuffing such as ham, boiled egg, onions etc.! I remember watching them make it with quite a bit of interest as they placed a layer of seasoned beef on an industrial size baking sheet and laying out all these fillings, end result of which was amazing!

Just last week I learned the truth about “xepa” when I asked one of the two guys for the recipe. The two talented “chefs” had actually winged it with that recipe and even came up with a name, which in Portuguese means “grub”. I should have probably guessed I was looking for a recipe that didn’t really exist after I failed to come up with any meaningful Google searches for “stuffed meatloaf” and other similar terms. But what sweet story! 🙂

So, I thought it might be really fun to do a version of that. However, since I had just about a pound of beef on hand, I decided to do it as a layered meatloaf – or ,may be I should call it layered “xepa”!

Going back to my kids, I am happy to report that one of them commented “oh, this is really good. Not like the one they serve in the cafeteria”. That to me translates to “good job Mom!”. 🙂

One important note though – even though it tasted really good, this was a bit on the dry side. I would imagine that was due to the meat being extra lean! We didn’t mind it knowing it was healthier, but just a heads up in case you guys don’t like the drier taste!

Layered Meatloaf

Ingredients:
1 1/4 lb ground lean or extra lean beef
1 slice bread, soaked in water, and squeezed to remove excess water
1 tablespoon ground flax (flax meal)
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup of thinly sliced onion (white or red)
6-8 thin slices of smoked ham
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated white or yellow cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons minced green onions (green parts)
2 slices of center-cut bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Preparation:
1. Mix flax meal in water and set aside for 5-10 minutes. If you don’t want to use flax meal, you can easily substitute one whole egg for the recipe.
2. Prepare meat mixture by kneading the beef with squeezed out bread, flax mixture, salt, black pepper, minced onion and garlic.
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3. Layer half the beef mixture in a loaf pan.
4. Distribute sliced onions, sliced ham, grated cheese and about a tablespoon of minced green onions evenly over the beef.

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5. Cover with remaining half of the beef mixture.
6. Pour the tomato sauce over the beef and sprinkle with rest of the green onions. If you are using uncooked bacon, you can sprinkle it on top before baking. If using cooked bacon, sprinkle at time of serving.
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7. Cover loosely and bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes till meatloaf is done.

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I served the “xepa” with steamed veggies and mashed red potato. And it was one delicious dinner!

Easy as 1-2-3 Chili

Easy as 1-2-3 Chili

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate easy
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There is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of chili (with all your favorite toppings of course!) to make the winter blues melt away – at least when it comes to warming your tummy! You might have your favorite type of soup/stew that you look forward to, but I kind of favor chili because I can easily incorporate veggies, beans, additional fiber in the form of my secret ingredient (yes, I will disclose it pretty soon here) and also a sneaky dose of antioxidants (hello cocoa!).
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Chili receives a mixed reception in my household! My kids usually whine “why??!!” when I tell them I am making it but usually polish off their bowl – even if half-heartedly at times! May be that goes back to one of my earlier posts about eating habits forming early in childhood. Despite their little whimper about not wanting any chili, I proceeded to make some the other night because I had all the ingredients on hand and I will be able to whip this up rather easily to share with my neighbors (you may remember that I was going to share some with them for helping us clear the snow).

I really prefer to go the route of made-from-scratch rather than semi-homemade.  I think you can be much more creative with using things on hand and coming up with something quite unique and delicious. So, except for couple of canned items, most ingredients are freshly prepared.

Before you go to the list of ingredients, here is a disclaimer. Do not let the rather longish list discourage you from trying out this recipe. Once you prepare the ingredients, it is really a snap to put it all together – and you will be glad you did when you savor the first spoonful of this delicious chili with your favorite toppings!

Ingredients:

1lb ground lean beef or turkey

2- 15-oz cans of beans of your choice

1 cup diced red pepper

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped onions

2 large cloves of garlic (minced)

1 cup of diced celery

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1 ½ teaspoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp salt (adjusted to taste)

1 tsp minced chipotle pepper with a bit of sauce

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup chopped cilantro, if desired

Thanks for still hanging in there.

Preparation:

1. Start by preparing all the vegetables, including garlic and cilantro. Have your seasoning containers laid out or even better measured out. Now you are ready!

2. Heat a large pot over medium high heat and brown the meat for few minutes (about 5 minutes or so). To that add the onions, garlic and celery. Saute for few minutes till onion and celery become a bit soft.

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3. At this point, add the oats and toss them around. Follow with the ground spices, herbs and salt.
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4. Drain the canned beans and rinse well. Add them to the pot and stir briefly. FYI, in the picture below, you will see some strange brownish beans. These are brown pigeon peas leftover from another recipe the previous day and I just used them up as well.
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5. At this point, you are ready to add rest of the chopped veggies, tomato sauce and chipotle.
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6. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce heat to medium low setting and let simmer for about 25 minutes.Now, add the “secret” ingredient (which is not so secret anymore) and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes till all the flavors meld together and you get a delicious pot of awesomeness.

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7. Serve a bowl of this with your favorite toppings – sour cream, bacon bits, cheese, green onions/chives, crushed tortilla chips or just a toasted slice of bread. Enjoy!