This Meatball is Bananas

For #ThrowbackThursday, I brought back one of my old tricks: mashing fruit or veggies into ground turkey to add moisture and a hint of sweetness. In the past, I used applespears, even zucchini and pumpkin (the last of which was surprisingly popular. Just google “pumpkin meatballs” and you’ll see my 2009-era iPhone shot).

Tonight I went “bananas” and mushed an overripe banana into the bowl of ground turkey, along with bread crumbs, Herbes de Provence and salt & pepper. The meatballs were delicious served over rice with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Sweet!

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Seafood: To Can or Not to Can

Since I always struggle with stocking meat and using it before the expiration date, I decided to experiment with canned seafood. The smell is pungent and not for the fish-averse. But adding shrimp or crab to a meal is incredibly easy when it’s stored in the pantry for dinner emergencies.

Breakfast can benefit too. I made baked eggs with almond milk, spinach, and canned crab meat. For the recipe, see New Year’s Resolution-Worthy Baked Eggs.

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I also made a simple “fried rice” dish by sauteeing the canned shrimp in a pan and adding frozen peas towards the end, while cooking the rice separately. Mix it all together and serve. (Even better, try adding the shrimp to a Caesar salad.)

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One Pot Wonder

One pot casserole = less dishes + uber flavor. There’s something pleasant about cooking a full dinner in one pot. Maybe it’s the fact that you see a future without a pile of dishes, or because the flavors all meld together and it smells more and more aromatic as you go.

This weekend I picked up a bargain cookbook called “One Pot” at Books Inc. in Mountain View for $6 on clearance. There are some pretty intuitive recipes that use ingredients which can be stored ahead of time (i.e. canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, rice, etc.) and they’re healthy too.

Tonight’s chicken & rice casserole took about 1.5 hours total, but I used brown rice which takes longer to absorb liquid. On a cold Sunday night, it was a good recipe to try and we have leftovers for the work week. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or stove/oven-friendly casserole dish over medium heat.
  2. Cook 2-4 chicken breasts until golden brown on the outisde, and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the same pot, saute 1 finely chopped onion for 5 minutes or until soft; repeat with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
  4. Add 1 cup of long grain rice and stir for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add 10 ounces of frozen vegetables (I used peas), two cups of heated broth (chicken or vegetable is fine), plus 1 teaspoon thyme (and 1 tsp paprika – which I didn’t have). Bring to a boil.
  6. Add chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon paprika. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. (Brown rice took an additional 20 minutes but it likely varies.)
  7. Sprinkle with 1.5 cups cheddar cheese and broil in the oven until cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Sweet & Sour Eggplant

Tonight I made a sweet & sour pork dish, of sorts. I baked pork chops on a cast iron griddle in the oven, while eggplant wedges cooked below. After cranking up the heat to 400, I sped up the process while cooking some white rice in the rice cooker.

When the pork and eggplant were done, I sliced up the meat and blended it with the eggplant wedges – plus lots of honey mixed in. The resulting dish, served with rice, tasted somewhat like sweet & sour pork. And the eggplant wasn’t bad either.

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Case of the Mondays

Easy soup from scratch – I boiled leftover (frozen) chicken broth from all those nights of boiling chicken. To the simmering broth I added white beans from the can, chopped onions, Parmesan, and fresh basil.

David suggested adding scrambled eggs and we poured the combo over white rice. Call it recession recipe, or simply a lack of groceries, but it was healthy and hearty!

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Drugstore Dinner

I’ve officially joined the recession bandwagon. Tonight I made dinner from inexpensive drugstore ingredients. (Confession: There’s a Longs next to the dry cleaners right on our way home, so I happened to stop.) And it wasn’t bad. Come to think of it, there are quite a few recipes I could dream up from semi-perishable ingredients – you just have to watch the salt content!

Tonight’s menu: Tortillas + black beans + salsa + canned olives + sour cream + cheddar cheese

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Other ideas…

  • Sundried tomatoes + cream cheese + toast = quick party app
  • Black beans + brown rice + sour cream = healthy dinner
  • White beans + roasted bell peppers + toast (or tortillas, toasted) = pretty app
  • Salsa + cream cheese + tortilla chips = best snack ever
  • Pasta + marinara sauce + Kraft parmesan cheese = you know you love it!

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Simplified Stir Fry

On the way home tonight, I had a sudden craving for Panda Express’ chicken and mushrooms, which I used to order when I graced the food court. With rice in the cupboard, I dreamt up my own vegetarian version using zucchini and mushrooms from the corner market. I picked up some Hoisin sauce, which seemed like the right fit without being certain.

It worked! But chicken was definitely missed this time around. Just dice the mushrooms into quarters, slice the zucchini, and stir fry with 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce until the veggies are tender (10-12 minutes). Serve over rice – which I make in the rice cooker simultaneously.

The best part of the meal was the price – it cost less to purchase the veggies and sauce than my average lunch purchase!

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Veggie Detox

After a BBQ, burrito and burger binge in Austin last weekend, David and I are ready to eat healthy again. Here are some really simple ways to “detox” and up the antioxidants. Sorry, dripping cheese not allowed!

On weeknights when we are starving, especially post-gym, we start with fresh broccoli and hummus. Ranch is also delicious but requires more moderation. It’s surprising how satisfying this “appetizer” can be when you’re hungry.

Veggies pack a lot of nutrients for little calories, so tonight our plate was loaded with peas and rice, plus reheated chicken breasts. It’s nice to feel full without feeling guilty!

Of course, any chance to pack in more veggies is good. Pasta, soups, sandwiches…and I keep a freezer full of peas and corn for busy weeknights.

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Fat Tuesday Dinner with David – Feb. 24, 2009

In honor of Fat Tuesday and my memories of New Orleans eating, I made a super quick version of red beans & rice. To spice up the classically Cajun dish – without actual spices (we’re a heartburn house) – I combined rice, beans, corn and Aidells Chicken Apple sausage.

Preparation couldn’t have been easier; rice from the rice cooker, frozen corn in the microwave, and organic red beans from a can. Just heat the sausage in a saute pan until warm throughout (about 10-12 min.), add the beans and turn the heat down to medium-low for about 5 minutes until heated. Combine with corn and rice, and serve.

I recommend seasoning with butter, salt, and pepper; but David had his with a little yellow mustard.

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