Lunch and Dinner

The Minimalist Kitchen: One Pot Pasta

hot plate

I’m currently crashing at my sister’s studio apartment. The “kitchen” I’m working with includes a tiny sink, a foot of counter space, and one hot plate. Despite the fact that I will be moving to bigger place soon, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably be dealing with tiny kitchens for the rest of my stay in this city. Hong Kong has so many amazing things to offer but alas, space is not one of them. I’ve decided to start a new series on the blog called The Minimalist Kitchen. I’ll be exploring what you can and can’t get away with in a seriously small kitchen. For those who are in my boat, hopefully I can share what I learn about doing more with much less.

I read about Martha Stewart’s One Pot Pasta on The Londoner. It’s elegantly simple and you need close to zero cooking skills to make it. You end up with a comforting pasta dish that tastes light and fresh, and is full of vegetables. It’s also a flexible recipe–I had some bell pepper I needed to use up so I threw them in as well. Best thing about this one pot pasta? The entire process of making a big batch will not take you more than twenty minutes!

Not only is this a great lazy or time-saving meal for people with normal-sized kitchens, this recipe is a life-saver for people who only have one burner. Sure, I can still make a normal pasta dish with one burner and just switch out pots or pans, but when you have no counter space, a one pot meal is amazingly convenient when it comes to avoiding kitchen accidents! I managed to burn through a plastic curtain with a very hot pot my first week here.

Oh, well. You live and you learn. And you learn that one pot pasta is awesome. Check out Martha Stewart’s Recipe and I’m sure this will become one of your go-to meals.

one pot pasta

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Lunch and Dinner

The Ultimate Healthy Fast Food: White Bean Tuna Salad

white bean tuna salad

Even when you’re someone who loves cooking, there are just some days where you don’t have the time or motivation to make yourself a proper meal. Or so you thought. White Bean Tuna Salads have become my go-to back-up plan meal. It’s perfect for those days that I can’t imagine spending even twenty minutes cooking but still don’t want to spend extra money ordering takeout or wasting so many calories on a crappy fast food meal.

I used to hate the idea of salads, probably because before I started cooking, the only salads I ate were those sad ones you buy near your office made with rotting iceberg lettuce, croutons, and a few pieces of tasteless chicken that come with a side of nasty packets of dressing. I’ve since realized that even the simplest salad, made with good ingredients, can be as tasty and satisfying as they are healthy.

Despite how simple it is, this is a pretty nutritious meal. While I don’t think tuna is a fish you should eat every week because of it’s higher mercury content, I think it’s perfectly healthy once in a while and it’s a good trade-off considering how convenient it is. Stock up on a few cans of tuna and white beans. You probably already have olive oil and vinegar. Then on those special days when you need something filling and healthy, and you needed it five minutes ago, you’re only a bag of baby spinach away from a great meal. Bonus points if you prep the day before and cook your own beans, but canned beans are perfectly fine. Just give them a good rinse before you put them in the salad so that you can avoid that gassy feeling we all just LOVE.

White Bean Tuna Salad
Makes 1 serving
About 550 calories per serving

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup drained whites beans (rinsed if using canned beans)
3oz drained canned tuna, albacore or skipjack

In a large bowl, pour the balsamic vinegar into the olive oil as you whisk vigorously to make a vinaigrette. Put the spinach in the bowl and toss to coat with the vinaigrette. Top with beans and tuna. Dassit!

tuna white bean salad

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Lunch and Dinner

Turning The Muffuletta Sandwich Into A Salad

Muffuletta Salad

One of my favorite things I ate in New Orleans was the original Muffuletta sandwich. There wasn’t anything complicated about the sandwich, but the mixture of Italian cured meats, cheeses, and olives was just so good. Now, I’m not a sandwich person. I crave them once in a while, but I find it to be too much bread to be an everyday thing. How could I enjoy the flavors of the Muffuletta at home without sacrificing nutrition too much? I swapped out the bread and pickled vegetables for fresh vegetables and greens. Yup, I turned the Muffuletta into a salad.

This salad is one big delicious mess. Cured meat isn’t as good for you as fresh meat, but this salad is a more balanced way to enjoy the charcuterie and cheeses we love so much. Just remember to get the best quality cheeses and meat you can, organic if possible. Make the Muffuletta Salad. You know you want to.

Muffuletta Salad
Makes 2 servings

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
10 pimento-stuffed olives, sliced in halves
1/4 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 large handfuls of baby romaine lettuce
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 ounce fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 ounce mild provolone cheese, sliced
1 ounce prosciutto, sliced
1 ounce salami, sliced

In a medium bowl, pour the red wine vinegar into the olive oil as you whisk vigorously to make a vinaigrette. Take one tablespoon of the vinaigrette and toss with the pimento-stuffed olives, shallot, garlic, oregano, thyme, and crushed red pepper in another small bowl.

Add the romaine lettuce, bell pepper, and tomato to the fist bowl and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Split the salad into two dishes, and arrange the cured meats and cheese on the two servings. Top each with the remaining vinaigrette and and olives mixture.

Muffuletta Sandwich in Salad Form

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Lunch and Dinner

I’m Obsessed With A Sardine Salad. No, Really.

Sardine salad with feta and avocado

The word “sardine” by itself is enough to put most people off. Pair “sardine” with “salad” and I know half of you are about to X out of this post. Wait! Give me a chance to tell you why you might want to start eating this surprisingly delicious salad. Hear me out.

I love sardines but I never quite know what to prepare them with. I actually got the inspiration for this salad from a fitness book. I’m a big fan on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, and one day decided to buy his book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body (my Amazon affiliate link). While his podcasts and blog are AMAZING and he’s just a fountain of knowledge, I didn’t get too much out of this particular book. For one thing, I could never quite decide which body type I have, which is kind of a pre-requisite to achieving your ideal body. But the bigger problem is I looked at the workout plans and decided I would completely disregard them and keep doing what I’m doing. So, yeah. I did get one important thing out of this book: my new favorite salad. He talks about making a salad with greens, veggies, sardines, avocado, and feta. And that’s what I did.

Sardines are like the win-win-win fish for me. They’re low in mercury, high in omega-3 fatty acids (as well as iron, calcium, and potassium), inexpensive, and sustainably-fished. Though fresh sardines taste better, canned sardines are good too. They’re really easy to find and not too high in sodium for a canned food. I suggest opting for sardines with bones rather than the skinless boneless type. The bones are soft enough to eat and you get more calcium that way. Aside from the sardines, this salad has so many nutrients and healthy fats, it’s almost obnoxious. But believe it or not, it tastes kinda awesome! All the ingredients come together really well creating a refreshing Mediterranean-flavored salad. OK, not sure if avocado is Mediterranean but, hey. You can never get enough avocado. The best part of this salad is that it’s stupid easy to make and takes like five minutes. It’s my new fast food.

Mediterranean sardine salad

Mediterranean Sardine Salad With Avocado
Makes 1 serving

1 can of sardines packed in olive oil (preferably including bones)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large handful spinach
1 tomato, sliced into 8 wedges
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into cubed and scooped out of its skin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Open the can of sardines and pour one tablespoon of the olive oil in the can into a bowl. Slowly add the balsamic vinegar as you whisk furiously with a fork until you have an emulsified vinaigrette. Add the spinach, tomato, and red onion to the bowl and toss until the vinaigrette is evenly distributed. Roughly cut the sardines into big chunks in the can. Top your salad with the half the sardines (or all of them if you’re hungry), feta, avocado cubes, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Prepare to feel awesome.

Sardine Salad

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Lunch and Dinner

Three Clean and Tasty Meals Delivered To My Doorstep: A Blue Apron Review

Wow, these recipe + ingredients delivery services are really taking off! I wrote a review of Grubkit last year–a service that lets you choose a recipe you want to make and they send you a kit that consists of pre-measured non-perishable ingredients and a simple recipe. All you need to do is buy the fresh ingredients and make your meal. Blue Apron takes it a step further. It’s a weekly service that sends you the ingredients and recipes for three meals, for however many servings you choose. You can pick vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals. Unlike Grubkit, Blue Apron sends you everything. Aside from oil and salt, you are delivered every single ingredient you need for your meal.

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I was very fortunate that my friend Lynda hooked me up with a free trial for Blue Apron. I selected the non-vegetarian option. The recipes for that week included crispy chicken chopped salad, roast beef with horseradish sour cream and carrots, and shrimp and asparagus fried rice.

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I received a big, insulated box with all my neatly organized and labelled ingredients, as well as the three recipes printed on big cards with step-by-step photos and instructions.

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I was pleased with the quality of meat, seafood, and produce. I love that they use seasonally inspired recipes, and I found all three to be fairly clean and nutritious. I mean I wouldn’t usually make breaded fried chicken, but when you control the amount and the quality of oil used, and it’s served on a massive plate of vegetables, I’m happy to call that a clean meal. All three recipes were pretty solid for the most part, but they were more everyday-eating as opposed to gourmet. When you’re churning out 6 recipes every week, I guess it’s understandable that Blue Apron doesn’t have time to develop well-tested, mind-blowing recipes. But hey, we don’t need gourmet everyday. My onlycomplaint was they suggested stir-frying with olive oil. No, no, no. At the high temperatures you’re supposed to be stir-frying with, you should be using an oil with a higher smoke point.

I think Blue Apron is a fantastic option for a busy person who still wants to prepare their own meals using fresh ingredients, and is willing to pay a premium for the convenience of having their meals picked out for them and delivered to their door. It comes up to about $10 per meal which is very comparable to take-out, and totally worth the extra effort of cooking it yourself because your meal will be far more nutritious and will probably taste better too. However, if you’re like me and like to do your own food shopping and meal planning, it might be a little restrictive and you would end up spending more than if you went to the grocery store. The good news, if you fall somewhere between these two personality types, is that you have the option of skipping future shipments at no cost if you don’t like what they’re sending you, or if you know you won’t be able to cook all three meals that week.

Final verdict: I’m a fan! It might not be the right option for me right now but I will totally consider signing up again if life gets busier and I need a little extra help in continuing to cook and eat clean, seasonal meals every week. Go check out Blue Apron and give it a try!

Quick Notes

  • $9.99 per person, per meal with free shipping (minimum order of 2 servings of each of the 3 recipes)
  • Fresh, seasonal ingredients delivered to your door (no need to sign for package)
  • Each serving is approximately 500-700 calories. Calories are estimated and printed on each recipe card.
  • You can either pick three vegetarian meals or three meat/fish/poultry meals. As of right now, no mix and match.

Blue Apron
http://www.blueapron.com
Twitter: @blueapronmeals

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Lunch and Dinner

Bacon Fried Rice

Turkey Bacon Fried Rice

I saw this recipe for Bacon Fried Rice on Shutterbean. I’m usually a little dismissive when it comes to Western takes on Chinese food, because you know, that’s my cuisine and my peoples. But how can one not be enticed by Bacon Fried Rice? I mean, bacon. Fried. Rice. All three words sound delicious.

Unfortunately, my go-to store ran out of organic bacon and non-organic supermarket meat scares me, so I had to settle for turkey bacon. It still came out tasty, but it was definitely lacking that little kick the bacon grease would have given it. Go check out the recipe on Shutterbean, it’s good stuff. My only suggestion would be to julienne the carrots and stir-fry them with the veggies, but that’s just ’cause I hate raw carrots. Can’t wait to try this again with real bacon!

bacon fried rice

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Lunch and Dinner

I Need A Hug From My Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a crazy time in my life. There’s so much going on that it’s a little too much to take in at times. I put in my notice at work last week. While I still have two months to go, I am starting to pack up everything I’ve acquired in my ten years in New York City to return to a faraway city I haven’t lived in since I was a teenager. I’m talking opposite-side-of-the-earth far. I’m ready to start a new chapter but I’m not ready to leave all the people I love, even if it ends up being temporary. It’s bittersweet.

I’m not doing the best job of processing all my different emotions, the change, and my never-ending to-do list. Or how to balance productivity with spending time with the ones I will miss the most. All I can do is try. Sometimes I just need a hug. May it be in the form of a physical cuddle, encouraging words, or a box of cookies warm bowl of soup.

I’ve actually only had chicken tortilla soup once but it was the most delicious, comforting thing I could have eaten on a cold winter’s night. I’ve been craving it ever since. And while I don’t make as good a version as La Esquina, this is exactly what I’ve needed the past few days.

chicken tortilla soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes about 6 servings

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (remove seeds if you don’t deal well with heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon salt
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

For serving:
corn tortillas, cut into strips
a squeeze of lime juice
a few chunks of avocado
chopped cilantro

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken breasts and simmer for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool. Then chop into cube-sized pieces.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Once hot, add the diced onion and jalapeno and cook for five minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chili powder and cumin and mix until well combined.

Pour in the chicken stock and add the diced tomatoes, black beans, diced cooked chicken and salt. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes. To serve, ladle out your desired portions and add tortilla strips into each serving. Lightly stir each so that the tortilla can start to soften in the hot soup. Top each serving with lime juice, avocado, and chopped cilantro.

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Lunch and Dinner

The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Beef Chow Fun

beef chow fun the chinese takeout cookbook

Despite being born and raised in Hong Kong, I never really learned to make Chinese food, aside from simple fried rice and stir-fried eggs with tomatoes. And much as I love Chinese food, I don’t know all too much about it, not even my beloved Cantonese cuisine. I was even more confused when I moved to the US and didn’t recognize items on American Chinese takeout menus like General Tso’s Chicken and Crab Rangoon, though they soon became my favorite guilty pleasures. I’ve been really into cooking for over a year now and am proud of what I’ve accomplished in the kitchen, yet something has always been nagging me at the back of my mind. I need to learn how to make Chinese food. I need to get back in touch with my roots. Looks like I’ve found a little motivation!

chinese-takeout-cookbook

I’m excited. One of my favorite bloggers, Diana Kuan of Appetite for China, recently got her book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook published (my Amazon Associates link). She posts awesome recipes on her blog and I even had the opportunity to take one of her dumpling-making classes here in New York City (she’s just as lovely in person). So of course I had to get a copy when the book came out. It’s filled with all kinds of great stuff I can’t wait to try, both “authentic Chinese” and “American Chinese”. I used to be a bit of a snob about that distinction but she makes a really great point in her book–all food has evolved from somewhere or something else; food changes, travels, adapts.

I chose to make Beef Chow Fun first, as it’s one of my favorite dishes, and I had a huge bloody steak leftover from my Valentine’s Dinner, waiting to be stir-fried. I only have one small Chinese market in my neighborhood and unfortunately they didn’t know what fermented black beans were, so I had to forego those for my recipe. Otherwise, it came out pretty good! I still need much practice with the art of stir-frying and I don’t think I fried the noodles for long enough. Regardless, I enjoyed my homemade Beef Chow Fun and appreciated that it didn’t come out super greasy as it sometimes can when you order takeout.

I’m actually moving back to Hong Kong soon, where I won’t need to trek to a Chinatown to gather ingredients, so this cookbook is coming with me. I have a feeling that I will be turning to this book again and again. It will feed me comforting, nourishing food in the years to come.

beef chow fun

 

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Lunch and Dinner

Las Vegas and Canned Salmon

vegas

I went to Las Vegas this past weekend for a Bachelorette Party Trip. I had never been before, and what better way to go than with a really great group of girls and to celebrate one of my best friend’s last days of being a single lady? Although our time in Vegas was waaaaaay tamer than most people’s, I had a blast.

I bought this dress in Vegas to blend in with all the glitter and rhinestones. I clearly didn’t get the gaudy memo. I look deceivingly happy in this photo–in reality we were at Tao and were all cranky about how much we were paying for such shitty food.

We got back to NYC Monday night after midnight, and with mild jet lag and only 5 hours of sleep, I dragged myself to work the next day. It was not pretty. I do not function well without a good night’s sleep. I hid from all my coworkers to avoid conversation and ate anything with sugar in sight to keep me from falling asleep.

crispy salmon bites

Cooking is the last thing I feel like doing when I’m exhausted and disorganized after vacation, even if some real food would do my body so much good. This is where Gina’s Crispy Salmon Bites come in. I rarely eat canned fish, and if I do, they’re sardines because I can’t get fresh sardines nearby. But in my current frazzled state of mind, these little babies are perfect. They are tasty, they’re quick to make, the ingredients are super easy to gather, and they taste worse for you than they actually are, which is great because I am NOT craving a salad right now. Check out the recipe for Crispy Salmon Bites at Running to the Kitchen, and bookmark it for a lazy day.

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Lunch and Dinner

When You’re Too Lazy to Make Thanksgiving Dinner, Make Turkey Burgers

Maybe it’s not that you’re lazy. Maybe you’re only cooking for one or two. Maybe you can’t afford a whole turkey. Maybe you’re not into the gluttony of a huge Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe you’re not American and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Whatever the reason is that you’re not having your typical American Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a way you can have a little taste of it without too much work. I love this burger with baked sweet potato fries. It’s a reasonable size, it’s clean (especially if you buy farmers market turkey), and you’ve got all the delicious flavors of Thanksgiving without the food coma.

But the very, very best part? I feel like I’m eating Ikea Swedish meatballs, for some reason. I love Ikea. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
4 dinner rolls or your bun of choice
1 handful baby salad greens
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Homemade cranberry sauce (recipe below)
Baked sweet potato “fries” (recipe below)

In a large bowl, add the diced onion, salt, and pepper to ground turkey. Mix thoroughly with your hands, then form four equally sized patties. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of your patties, until cooked through. Keep the heat on, but remove patties from skillet and cover (or place in the oven) to keep warm.

You can start toasting your rolls or buns before this next step. To make the gravy, mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoon of water to make a thin paste. Pour paste into the same skillet and start whisking to mix with skillet drippings. As it thickens, pour the milk and stock, while continuing to whisk. After a few minutes, it should reach your desired consistency.

Now you can assemble your burgers. Cut your freshly toasted rolls or buns. Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the bottom half. Place a few baby salad greens on top of mustard, followed by the turkey patty, a tablespoon of gravy, a tablespoon of homemade cranberry sauce. Top with the other half of your roll and serve with baked sweet potato “fries”.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

3 cups cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Add cranberries, both sugars, orange juice, lemon juice, and cinnamon to a small saucepan over medium high heat. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce to low heat.

Let mixture simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cranberries are very tender, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Baked sweet Potato “Fries”

A few sweet potatoes, peeled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
Additional seasoning of choice, e.g. I like paprika

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Cut your sweet potatoes into “fry”-shaped 1/4 inch-thick strips. Try to keep them all around the same thickness so they bake evenly. In a large bowl, add canola oil a little splash at a time while tossing the strips, until you just coat them with enough oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your seasoning of choice, and toss until strips are evenly coated.

Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread strips in single layer, leaving room between them. You may need more than one baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and use a spatula to flip all the strips. Return to oven for another 15 minutes, or until “fries” are crispy.

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