lunch

The Chef’s Egg Rolls

Can I just reiterate that I love having a chef in my family? This time she gifts us little brown packages of fried Asian awesomeness! One of the best things about homemade is that you get to pick and choose your favorite flavors. And I’m not sure I could get enough water chestnuts, ginger, cabbage, carrots, garlic, soy sauce, etc. wrapped in a crispy egg roll wrapper. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can’t.

Makes about 35 egg rolls
So you will need 30-40 egg roll wrappers depending on how you fill them

4 cans sliced Water chestnuts (drained)
1 10 ounce bag shredded Carrots
4-5 Tbsp chopped Garlic
3-4 Tbsp chopped Ginger
1/4 cup Soy sauce

Stir fry in vegetable oil about 3 mins.
Set aside this mixture

In a stock pot place
10 cups shredded Cabbage (cole slaw is what I used)
2.5 cups Chicken broth (can use vegetable broth)
3/4 cup Soy sauce
3/4 cup reduced sodium Soy sauce
3 Tbs Sugar
Bring all ingredients to to a boil, reduce to simmer for 5 minutes then let cool for 10 mins

Strain cabbage and combine with shredded carrot mixture.

Make a paste with flour about 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water mixed.

Lay the wrapper like a diamond with a corner pointing at you. Place about 3 Tbsp of filling into each egg roll wrapper, across the center (in a line between the two middle corners), then fold bottom corner over filling then both sides, then use finger to apply paste along the edge of top corner and roll the filled wrapper over the pasted corner. Press anything that didn’t seal down and it’s ready for frying.

Side note: I work in batches because egg roll wrappers dry out quickly (not as bad as wonton wrappers) so I make like seven at a time and fry because I can fit that many in my skillet

Fry in a pan with 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in pan, after first side is browned (about 1 minute) turn and brown other side.

Place finished egg rolls on paper towel. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. *Sadie suggests plum sauce 😉

Chicken Lettuce Wraps – PF Chang Style

Are lettuce wraps like perfect or what? They’re a little sweet, a little salty, a little crunchy, a little chewy… They just check off every box for taste pleasing. But the best part is that since the carrier for deliciousness is lettuce, they are totally guilt free. (At least that’s how I rationalize.) They are great as an appetizer, or in my opinion a meal in itself.

The following recipe is adapted from food.com and I think it’s just right. (Also it can easily be doubled, or quadrupled…)

3 tablespoons oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup water chestnut, diced into pea-sized pieces
3 tablespoons chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 -5 leaves iceberg lettuce

Stir Fry Sauce (*Double for topping)

2 Tbsp Soy sauce
2 Tbsp Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Teriyaki sauce (For reserved sauce)

Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until done. Remove chicken from the pan and cool.

Keep oil in the pan, keep hot. As chicken cools mince water chestnuts to about the size of small peas. Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl. When chicken is cool, mince it as the water chestnuts are. With the pan still on high heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil. Add chicken, garlic, onions, and water chestnuts to pan. Add stir fry sauce (1/2 if doubled) to pan, saute mixture a couple minutes.

Oh yeah.

Oh yeah.

Spoon the fabulousness into pocket of rinsed and crunchy lettuce. Add Teriyaki to remaining half of stir fry sauce and top chicken mixture with that tasty dressing!  Take big bites (your mouth says ‘thank you’). We also had other optional sauces like Teriyaki and Asian Zing (from Buffalo Wild Wings), but the stir fry sauce is my fave.

*Edited from the original, with updated sauce information.

GG’s Beef Stew

This is a family heirloom. My mother has memories of her grandma making this stew. She tells me, and now my children, almost every time we eat it, “I used to smell this stew when I would get off the bus. Grandma would have the windows open and I knew… And I would run to the house. We would eat it with buttered bread and a big glass of milk.” So I can think of no better introduction or suggestion. We always make it in big batches, so I tried to break it down into a 1 pot portion. (And therefore can be easily doubled… or quadrupled.) It’s a hearty stew and we have always enjoyed the rustic (large) bites of meat and veggies. I hope you do too!

As organic as possible (my addition)

2 – 2 1/2 lbs chuck roast (stew meat), trimmed and cut into 1″ (or so) cubes

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ (or so) cubes

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ (or so) pieces

3-4 celery stalks, cut into about 1″ (or so) pieces

2-3 large onions, peeled and quartered

2 large cans whole stewed tomatoes, halved and quartered in the can with a knife (it’s tradition)

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp salt, to taste

1 tsp black pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp sugar

1 stick butter

Place meat in a pot (dutch oven) with about 1 1/2 quarts of salted and peppered water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Allow to simmer until tender, about 30-45 minutes, depending on cut. Skim off and discard the froth. Throw everything (except sugar and butter) into the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, add butter and sugar. Simmer until veggies are tender, about 45 mins to an hour (if you can wait that long). Salt and pepper to taste.

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Open your windows to let out the aroma, and serve with buttered white bread and milk- optional, but highly recommended.

Spicy Northern Bean & Sausage Soup

I’m a huge fan of soup all year round. It’s warm when it’s cold and it feels light when it’s hot. Soups are a tasty way to get a daily dose of vegetables and protein. Delicious and nutritious? It’s like a food fairy tale… but not. This is a “chop, chop, in the pot” recipe, so it can’t get much easier. And may I suggest eating it with a hunk buttered corn bread?

As organic as possible:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 rainbow carrots diced

3 cups chicken broth

14 oz chicken Andouille sausage

3 – 15 oz cans Great Northern beans, drained

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil in dutch oven style pot on medium heat. Sauté carrots about 1 minute, add onion. Let cook about 2 – 3 more minutes and add garlic. Sauté vegetables for another minute and add broth, sausage, beans, cumin, oregano, cayenne, pepper, and salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat, allowing to simmer for 25 – 30 minutes. And if corn bread is not an option,  a hunk of crusty white bread or maybe tortilla chips should suffice… Enjoy!

The Curry, Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich

I was eating my daily dose of vegetables and enjoying them thoroughly because they were generously doused with my Gram’s Curry Dip. And the thought occurred to me, “I wish I had a piece of bacon to dip in this right now.” (Admittedly I have issues). It was a total “light-bulb” moment, except you have to say it like Gru from Despicable Me. So let’s take Gram’s dip to the next level… a spread. Oh my goodness, you won’t be sorry.

Serves 2

As organic as possible:

4 slices thick white country bread

6 thick bacon slices, cooked crispy but meaty (you bacon lovers know what I’m saying)

2-4 leaves iceberg lettuce (depending on their size)

4 slices ripe juicy tomato

4 Tbsp Gram’s Curry Dip

Place the bread in a toaster oven (or toaster obviously) and toast lightly, for a little texture but maintaining softness. Spread some of Gram’s Curry Dip on the insides of all four slices (so the goodness is on the top and bottom of your new favorite sandwich). Layer on the lettuce, tomato and bacon. Top your sandwiches, cut them in half and serve. Then gloat, because those cute little cafes with their fancy sandwiches have nothing on you right now.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is crazy delicious. It is “the chef’s” recipe and it is full of flavor. You could bring this to a gathering and blow all of the other side dishes out of the water, impress your family at home or indulge yourself for a light lunch. No matter what the ocassion, this should now be your go-to pasta salad.

For dressing

1/2 cup champagne vinegar
3 garlic cloves roughly minced
Juice of half one lemon
1 1/2  Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
Pinch of kosher salt
Pepper to taste

1 cup olive oil

Combine the first seven ingredients, all except oil. Then slowly add oil while briskly whisking to emulsify. Then chill for 1/2 hour

For salad

1 cup cucumber diced
1/2 cup Kalamative olives (whole to measure then sliced)
About 10-12 spicy pickled green beans finely diced
3/4 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes
2 cups diced mixed mini sweet peppers (about 8 oz.)
8 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 pound penne pasta cooked

Toss all ingredients and add dressing…chill for an hour and retoss before serving.

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Look at all of the things in this beautiful salad!

Now I have to mention that I first went to the grocery store and couldn’t find a couple of the items… And I said to the chef, “Rachel, I’m going to have to put you on the shelf with my other fancy chef’s cookbooks because I can’t find all of your fancy ingredients.” And because she is awesome she brought me this…

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And because she explained it to me, I can tell you that the spicy beans are found next to the hot sauces, not in the jarred pickle/olive section. And the champagne vinegar was originally bought at Whole Foods, but also found at TJ Maxx. If you still can’t find it you could use a red wine vinegar in its place.

Simple Southwest Burgers

These burgers are juicy, delicious, and easy to make. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe something cold to drink and something cool, creamy and crunchy on the side… but nothing more in a burger, that’s for sure. And now that it’s officially grilling season, let’s fire up the BBQ and chow down.

Serves 4

1 1/4 pound ground beef

1/2 cup chipotle garlic salsa

Pinch of salt

Approx 1 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic (or 24 dashes straight from the jar)

Approx 1 tsp Chili powder (or 16 dashes straight from the jar)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 rounded Tbsp Queso Cheese Dip (such as Trader Joe’s Chipotle Queso)

Four buttered and toasted sesame buns

Owen is the ‘grill master’ of our house, and you can see that his measurements differ from mine. But the instructions are simple… You’ll be happy with the results!
Get your grill nice and hot. In a medium bowl mix your burger, chipotle garlic salsa and a hearty pinch of salt. (Being the health nuts we are (yeah,) we use 90/10 ground sirloin, but 80/20 chuck would be delish). Form four patties, and place on a plate. Then wash your hands. Now, it gets tricky… not really, season each patty with three dashes of the granulated garlic, two dashes of chili powder and some freshly ground black pepper. Using one hand gently rub in the seasonings on the surface of the hamburger and flip it over. With the clean hand, repeat the seasoning method on the other side and follow with a rub from your raw meat exposed hand. Next, wash your hands again. Move your plate next to the grill. If your grill happens to be outside, weather permitting, take a deep breath and enjoy the great outdoors. When you’re ready, place the hamburger patties on the grill and let them cook for about four minutes (give or take depending on your preferred doneness), then flip to the other side and top each with a rounded tablespoon of the queso cheese. Allow them to grill for about 4 more minutes, then place the gorgeous cheese dripping patties on your toasted bun and serve with your favorite sides. (Sidenote: I thought this burger was begging for a couple strips of crispy bacon on top, but Owen is not a big fan of bacon… And this was his recipe so I let it ride. But if you are a fan of bacon do yourself a favor and fry some up to put on top of this burger!) Enjoy!