Tag Archives: main courses

portobello mushroom sliders & roasted red pepper pesto

my weekend
new friends (thanks nick)
sunny san diego: always brings out the BEAST in me
eyes closed, bass pounding, menthol cigs and the heavy weight of a hand on my shoulder
my arms, back, neck, thighs
good vibes
consequences now

this classy recipe makes up for my weekend behavior

Balsamic-Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sliders with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
& Raw Kale Salad

2 large portobello mushrooms, gills scooped out, quartered
good balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
dinner rolls or mini brioche buns, brushed with olive oil (and garlic salt!)
spinach or arugula
asparagus cut in thirds
parmesan cheese
1 large red pepper (or a jar of roasted red peppers in oil)
8 – 9 large fresh basil leaves
1bsp lemon
1 tbsp roasted pinenuts
e.v.olive oil, salt, pepper
kale, stem removed, sliced
dried cranberries
slivered almonds
soy sauce
scallions, sliced 

in a mortar & pestle, crush a few leaves from a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic with about 3 – 4 tbsp of good olive oil. whisk in about 1.5 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. drizzle over portobello mushrooms, toss, and leave alone to marinate. Toss asparagus and arugula, separately, in olive oil, splash of lemon juice, s/p.
meanwhile, in an oven at 350F or over a gas stove, char the red peppers, when cooled, peel. Or take 1 pepper from a jar of roasted peppers and place in a small blender. add basil, pinenuts, lemon juice, and a good drizzle of olive oil (3 tbsp). blend until smooth. add olive oil, salt and pepper as needed. Set aside
roast asparagus at 350F for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan, roast for another 5 minutes.
in a grill pan or over a grill, grill mushrooms and bread

meanwhile, toss kale, cranberries, almonds, avocados and scallions in 2:1 parts olive oil and soy sauce. add pepper as needed.

to assemble, roasted asparagus, arugula, mushrooms, dollop of red-pepper pesto, and a slice of avocado
serve the kale salad on the side


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Quinoa Spaghetti and Turkey-Pesto Meatballs

It’s fall! Well, sort of because we had two days of hundred-degree weather. Yeah, I love California. Last week, I started keeping a food journal to keep what I was munching on in check and I apparently do a lot of snacking… I’m not overweight or unhealthy by any means. In fact, I’m actually pretty skinny. However, it’s been a goal to get rid of the layer of fat masking the abs that I know I have. I can do it! Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit regardless of your weight or what your health goals are. If it weren’t for my highly active life, I’m sure I’ll have gained a significant amount of weight. Baha.

Anyways, every so often I crave a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I don’t know why. There’s something about a simple bowl of tomato sauce over pasta that makes me so very happy and satisfied even if spaghetti isn’t really the best thing for you. However, I’ve made this lower in fat and in bad-carbs, and upped the veggies and lean-protein. And, seriously, quinoa pasta isn’t like whole-wheat pasta. It has pretty much the same consistency as normal white pasta but is so much better for you (and it’s actually whole-grain). Get it for you, get it for your family and you’ll all benefit.

Quinoa Spaghetti and Turkey-Pesto Meatballs
Serves 4
Tomato Sauce:
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 onion diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 28oz can of tomatoes pref. San Marzano
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
~1 lb spaghetti

1 lb ground turkey (or meat combo)
1/3 c. minced onion
2 tbsp prepared pesto OR 1/4 c. minced parsely
1/4 c. finely grated parmesan
1/3 c. (italian) bread (about 1 – 1.5 slices) soaked in a splash of milk, crumbled, or panko
(1 clove garlic minced)
2 eggwhites or 1 whole egg

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small skillet, saute the 1/3 c. of onions for the meatballs until glossy and slightly translucent. Add garlic, if using, and saute until fragrant. Transfer into a large mixing bowl and mix together rest of the ingredients with your hands. Shape into about golf-ball size balls and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, turning half-way through, if desired.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, take 1/2 – 3/4 of the can, depending on how smooth or chunky you like your sauce, and puree it in a large food processor with parsley (You can add some basil if you like. I didn’t have parsley!) and add dried herbs, slowly. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta. Keep an eye on it!

In a large frying pan, saute onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent burning. When onions are soft and translucent, add two cloves of garlic and saute until fragrant, lightly browned and no longer raw. Add your tomato puree and simmer for 10 minutes. Slowly add the rest of the can that was reserved. Place meatballs in sauce and allow them to simmer with the sauce for 4 – 5 minutes to incorporate some flavor. Spoon sauce and meatballs over al dente pasta. YUM YUM!

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Gnocchi with Basil-Pesto, Chicken, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta dishes are my idea of comfort dishes– they’re usually cheesy or herby or tomato-y and are filled with instant carbohydrates waiting to be stored into fat cells until I work them off at the gym.

Alone. But not today!

I’m a lone-wolf at the gym but the boyfriend and I are working on my irrational paranoia of seeing people that I know (including him) at the gym derived from probably low-self esteem from freshman-year weight gain, birth control, and an overall decrease in fitness, health, and happiness last year. I love being at the gym: exercising and getting disgustingly sweaty so I need to at least be able to see someone and be fine with it and not let their opinions affect what I do despite whether or not they exist or not. So I’m lucky to have someone to help me out, stay healthy, busy, and to grow from. Love, love, love it.

Since I’m going to be heading to the gym and today, being the worse day, schedule-wise, to cook, I decided to go with a pasta dish. High in carbohydrates (~40g, 16 – 20% DV) from the gnocchi (in moderation, pasta is great!) and only about 355 – 400 calories per ~ 2 cup serving, this is a great energy source, simple, and is incredibly F L E X I B L E. I love pesto with fresh shrimp and blanched asparagus. Usually, I would make my own basil-pesto to control sodium levels but store-bought pesto (with olive oil) is perfectly fine! I also used shredded rotisserie chicken made with NO SALT and pre-made vacuum-packed gnocchi. I’m what you call a TIME-SAVER.

Gnocchi with Basil-Pesto, Chicken, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 2
1/2 package freeze-dried potato gnocchi
4 – 5 sun-dried tomatoes
1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
shredded leftover roast chicken (~1/4 c.)
2 shallots, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced

Basil Pesto Sauce:
2 c. packed fresh basil
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/4 c. pecorino or parmesan, grated
1 clove garlic

In a small food processor, blend all ingredients in Basil-Pesto Sauce until smooth. Season as needed. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in simmering water and a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for 4-5 minutes, drain, and chop into slivers or bite-sized pieces. Bring medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook gnocchi until each potato dumpling rises. Remove, drain, and keep warm. Reserve a little cooking water.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil. Sweat chopped shallots then add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until garlic is fragrant, but not burnt. Add shredded chicken, basil-pesto sauce, gnocchi, and a couple tablespoons of reserved pasta water. Cook until everything is warmed through. If desired, until gnocchi shows a little caramelization. Season with pepper, if needed. Spoon 2 cup serving sizes into bowls and garnish with fresh basil and shredded cheese, if desired.

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Bulgar Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise

summer summer summer!

Sorry for the hiatus but I’ve been having a busy, busy summer: finishing tough summer classes, work as a barista, study abroad confusion, and a quick visit to the dating scene after ending a 2-year relationship but got scooped up again. Within all that, I feel so much lighter: I’ve been treating my body better– working out and getting out– as well as eating less meat and more sustainably. I feel accomplished for the first time in a long time.

Frozen veggie burgers are always kind of lame— the good ones are expensive and the bad ones taste like cardboard. These burgers are definitely meatless but that doesn’t mean it skimps on flavor and zest. The lime mayo is an absolute addition: the contrasting citrus notes with the spicy, earthy cumin served open-faced on a piece of toast. It’s a fork-and-knife burger and it’s delicious not to mention nutritious! Bulgar is a form of whole-wheat that you just cook like rice and is high in protein which is great for vegetarians. The burgers also have beans which is high in fiber and protein. This is a protein-packed meal. It’s great with HOME-GROWN BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES (yes, I’m totally bragging about those deliciously juicy tomatoes I grew), arugula (tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and s/p), and onion sprouts.

Bulgar Burgers with Lime Mayo
adapted from Gourmet Mag ’08
1/2 c. chopped onions, divided
1/2 c. bulgur wheat (fine – medium ground)

1 c. water
1 c. black beans (or pinto), rinsed and drained
1.5 tbsp (low-sodium) soy sauce
1/2 – 3/4 c. crushed walnuts (I used 1/2, but the recipe calls for 3/4)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. packed cilantro springs (you can use parsley if you’re anti-cilantro, you freaks)
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 egg
1/8 c. bread crumbs, more if needed
(1/2 slice crumbled bread, if needed)
1/4 c. light mayo
1/4 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp lime juice
makes 4, 3.5 inch diameter patties

In a sauce pan, heat olive oil and cook 1/4 c. onion over medium heat until golden. Add bulgur and toast for a minute before adding water. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 – 18 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Mix in soy sauce and beans. In a large food processor, combine the bulgar mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro (add more if desired– same goes for spices), cumin, cayenne, egg, breadcrumbs and ~1/2 tsp pepper. Add salt, if needed, but I doubt it. Patties will be soft and if needed add more bread crumbs or freshly crumbled bread keeping in mind that they will chill in the freezer. Form rounded 1/2 c. scoops of patties. The best way is to form a ball in your palms and slap ’em until they’re like patties.

Chill for a minimum of 15 minutes. I froze mine overnight.

While the patties are chillin’, combine mayo, zest, and juice. Add more juice or zest to taste.

Brush patties with olive oil and grill patties, over medium-high heat, for 4 – 5 minutes per side. If you’ve only chilled the burgers for 15 minutes, you might need a perforated grill sheet to keep the patties from falling apart but mine held together on the grill perfectly. You can also cook them in a fry-pan or grill-pan if you don’t have a grill. RESIST THE URGE TO FLIP THEM! RESIST! That is why I didn’t do the grilling.

Toast yo’ bread. Smother tons of freaking delicious mayo on the bread and top with your favorite burger fixings.

Another option a lot of people are taking is making them into mini-burgs. They wrap it up in a pita with Mediterranean fixings and treat the patties like falafel as opposed to a burger. (Try it with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, crumbled goat cheese, and Tzatziki).

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Braised Short-Ribs with Lardons and Vegetables

I’ve been craving something stew-y for a while and finally got the chance to make it while at a friends house. Sure, I couldn’t start til 5PM and it took nearly 4.5 hours to finish and is an extremely time-consuming, complicated dish but it was so worth it. So, so, so worth it– Fall off the bone short-ribs, salty, sticky stew, and sweet veggies. So great.

Lardons are such a great addition to this– technically, lardons are a cube or strip of pork fat but they can be attained by using cured belly meat such as bacon. Although lardon meat is not typically smoked (it’s cured), I think crunchy bacon adds a salty tang and crunchy bite to the stew. And it’s bacon. Come on. Bacon.

Braised Short-Ribs with Lardons and Vegetables
adapted from chef Barbara Lynch
4 – 5lbs bone-in beef short-ribs
1 pint (~1/2 quart) (low-sodium) good-quality beef stock (try using stock, if possible, or reconstituted beef-veal demiglace)
3 c. water
1 small onion, chopped roughly
7 carrots, chopped (or 4 carrots and 4-5 carrots-worth of baby carrots)
4 celery stalks, chopped
(2 parsnips, chopped)
(1 turnip, chopped)
1/2 summer squash, chopped into bite-sized cubes
2 c. dry red wine (such as a Merlot, Pinot, or Cabernet)
1/2 c. tomato paste (~ 5- 6 oz)
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 turkish or 1/2 california bay leaf
a whole pack of (slab) bacon
4 thyme sprigs
EQUIPMENT: 5 – 6 quart dutch oven (or some deep pot that can go in the oven at like, 350F) (mines like 4 quarts)

5 hours before dinner…

Preheat oven to 325F.

Season short-ribs with salt and pepper and brown all sides in a large dutch oven for about 6 minutes over moderate-high heat. Do not over crowd, do one batch and set the meat aside, then do the rest, remove, and let rest.

In the same pot, reduce the heat and cook the chopped onion, celery, and 4 of the carrots for about 7 minutes until softened and onions are slightly golden to make a mirepoix– a fancy name for a combo of uh, onion, celery, and carrots. Deglaze with red wine vinegar, wine, and tomato paste and boil until the alcohol has been removed and it is reduced by half. Add your stock, bay leaf, thyme, and water and bring to a boil. Add ribs and any liquid and blood that have accumulated.

Cover and stick the pot in the oven until ribs are extra-tender. This will be 2.5 to 3+ hours of sitting and waiting but it’s so worth it. The bones add so much flavor and the low temperature really make the meat tender. While the short-ribs are cooking, chop turnips, half a butternut squash, and the rest of the carrots and parsnips into bite-sized pieces and set aside in the refrigerator.

Remove the short ribs from the oven. Remove the short-ribs from the sauce and separate the meat from the bones, being careful not to tear the meat too much and discard the bones. Trim as much fat and connective tissue off as possible. Let the pot sit for 30 minutes to allow the beef oil and fat to rise. Skim AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE– it will be an orangish oil that rises to the top.

At this point, fry up your bacon until crispy and slightly burnt (or however you like haha). Dry on paper towels and chop into small pieces. Return short-ribs and bacon to dutch oven.

Boil the soup until the broth has reduced and become more sticky (10 – 15 minutes). This is also a good opportunity to skim fat as it accumulates to the center while it boils. Again, try and remove as much as possible. It’s pretty gross and fatty haha.

Meanwhile, take the rest of the chopped veggies and boil in salted water for 6 – 7 minutes, until very tender and dump them in iced water to stop cooking. Butternut squash and turnips should be in separate pots as they don’t take as long to cook. When finished, portion beef chunks into individual serving bowls and top with soft vegetables. Ladle some sauce and serve over mashed potatoes or celeriac puree.

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Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Eggplant

I dog-sat for my boyfriend’s parents this weekend. Awesome, in the sense that three ginormous weimaraners are allowed all over the furniture (Aki, my blue girl, came by and helped and even got to sleep on his queen-sized bed with me for a night) but meh because one of the weims gets separation anxiety and before I leave, I have to put them away and everything and calbear sits on me at 6AM to make me feed him (even though he gets fed at 7!)

With limited supplies and time (finals to study for), I needed to make something quick, fresh, and healthy. I did a quick stir-fry. Pretty easy, no? Well, it really is. Broccoli is so good and I had some leftovers from the frittata and I love eggplant. When I was little, my parents would eat sea cucumber (we’re asian) and I never liked the texture– it’s slimey, crunchy, and just weird. In my brain, I somehow thought eggplant was sea cucumber and I never ate it. However, the first time I really started cooking, I cooked Italian and Lidia Bastianich (host of Lidia’s Italy) made such wonderful dishes with eggplant (which compelled me to finally try eggplant parm).

Anyways, so yes…eggplant.

we have a love-hate relationship-- hate here, as he sits on the top of the stairs looking down at me as usual like he be alpha.

Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Eggplant
3/4 oz. Stir-Fry beef, Sirloin beef tips, cut against the grain or firm Tofu (you vegetarians, you!)
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp corn starch

1 head broccoli, cleaned, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed, minced
1 small eggplant or 1/2 a large globe eggplant, chopped
1/3 c. water
1 green onion chopped,  some reserved for garnish

(1/2 tsp garlic-chili sauce)

In a small bowl, mix up the beef and cornstarch. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat.

In a wok (or a well-oiled, deep frying pan), heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high to high heat. The idea behind stir-frying is pretty much heat it over very, very high heat, very quickly. You can’t reach the same temperatures as in an actual restaurant but we want to duplicate it as much as possible. Stir-fry beef until just cooked– about a minute. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil if needed and stir-fry garlic, broccoli and eggplant for about 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is just starting to become colored. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, (and garlic-chili if you decided to use it) and water and stir. Bring to a boil and return meat into the wok. Cook until the sauce is thickened and eggplant is soft. Add green onion and toss for a minute. Serve over fresh brown rice and garnish with more green onion, cilantro, and/or sesame seeds.

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Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash stuffed with Quinoa

I’ve done it. I’ve made the best recipe for Quinoa ever. The stuffing is so good that I’ve eaten about half a cup plain. This is a recipe with many parts so it will take some time to complete and look forward to a messy kitchen. I got the idea for acorn squash from Food Wishes— but I’m not a huge fan of sweets (I know right?) so I wanted to add some sort of stuffing that balances the caramelized sweetness from the glaze. I think the combination of sweet and savory really did it.

A lot of people have never heard of quinoa and I don’t blame them– it’s not readily stocked in supermarkets so if you have a specialty store near you, definitely give it a try. Quinoa is a seed of the Quecha (idk) plant much like how rice is the seed of a rice..plant? Anyways, I like to say that it’s the couscous of the grain/seed group– but I don’t particularly like couscous as much as I like quinoa. Quinoa has that slight “crunch” like brown rice has a slight bite– a completely different texture than couscous (which is a pasta). It’s also extraordinarily good for you (and gluten-free as far as I know). You know how white rice essentially has no nutrition for you? Well quinoa has a good amount of the amino acids needed for humans therefore, a really high protein content (especially for a grain) making it a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians.

Quinoa Stuffing:

1 c. quinoa cooked with 2 c. water or stock (I used 1 c. water, 1c. chicken stock)
1/4 c. each minced onion and yellow bell pepper
1/2 – 3/4 c. diced eggplant, placed in a bowl over a paper towel and tossed with lots of salt
1 medium ear’s worth of fresh sweet corn removed from cob
2 tablespoons garlic

3 – 4 tbsp apple juice
1 green onion chopped, green and whites

4 – 5 large, fresh basil leaves, chopped
olive oil

Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash, cut in half (be careful)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp butter
1 heaping tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp apple juice for each half
sprinkling of freshly ground pepper

Begin prepping your quinoa ingredients– chopping everything up. Then, bring the quinoa and liquid to a boil in a small pot, cover and bring down to a simmer. Simmer until quinoa has “blossomed” and white rings are visible  and is fluffy. ( I burned the bottom a little but it was still good).  When it is done, fluff it with a fork and add some apple juice for fragrance.

While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the acorn squash in half– be careful, I nearly gutted my stomach like, twice. Clear out the seeds with a spoon or your hands and cut criss-cut slashes through the flesh. Brush each with some apple juice. Place skin side up and bake for 20 – 30 minutes. While baking, make the glaze. Cook the maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar into a small skillet– it will boil and froth, keep stirring for a few minutes until it’s syrupy, season with pepper. Remove the squash and divide the glaze among the halves, brushing the syrup into and around the slashes. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until soft and glaze has reduced a bit, taking the squash out every 10 minutes to reglaze.

Find time between this somehow (haha), and over medium-high heat, cook the onions, bell peppers, drained eggplant, and corn in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook until onions have softened considerably. Add garlic and saute until fragrant and cooked through. Add basil and saute. I usually don’t add any more salt because the eggplants are pretty salty.

Mix the quinoa, vegetable mixture and green onions together, season to taste, and mound into the squash.

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