Hoisin Meatballs: A Party-Perfect Food!

I’m still getting over how crazy-fun this weekend was. I’ve been teaching cooking classes at Whole Foods Annapolis for a few months now, and on Saturday, I had the ultimate privilege of teaching a staff retreat/cooking class/team build with Revolution Annapolis, the leaders from my church, at Whole Foods.

We did a team build similar to a lot of cooking competitions you see on television. I had them split up into four teams of 3-4 people and distributed mystery bags to each team. Team A had a carrot, dates, and chia seeds; Team B had an orange, olives, and gouda; Team C had couscous, broccoli, and buffalo mozarella ; and Team D had a turnip, salsa, and red quinoa. I thought they would all give me grief after seeing all those random ingredients, but they were all so creative! There was a “free” tables with limited cooking equipment and extra ingredients, like maple syrup, kosher salt, a few eggs, butter, olive oil, and random spices. Even though they had to work with their small teams, the staff had to work with EVERYONE in the room, sharing the limited equipment and other ingredients. I was really surprised that Team A made a relish out of grated carrots, dates, and chia seeds that went on top of a sunny-side up egg. It looked a little questionable, but the flavors were really good, so they were the winners. Congrats Team A! Woohoo!

After the fun team-building activity, we prepared a 3-course meal, perfect for entertaining, since that was the theme of the class. Vietnamese garlic noodles with arugula, hoisin meatballs sandwiched between brioche rolls and red cabbage slaw (like this one, but without peanuts, edamame, and carrots), and caramelized onion/tofu/red bell pepper served in endive cups. With everyone working so well together, we got the full menu FINISHED in ONE HOUR (a team who can do that is a good team in my book!). The whole point was to make entertaining stree-free, seamless, and use ordinary ingredients that work well together, with limited runs to the grocery store. Here is one of the recipes that I developed for this menu: hoisin meatballs. Hoisin can be used like an Asian barbeque sauce when seasoned with other ingredients, and is a perfect savory/sweet barbeque-y combo. Love this dish!

Hoisin-Glazed Turkey Meatballs
Makes 12 meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
3 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
1 egg
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

For the glaze:
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Thinly sliced green onion
Roasted white sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Roll about 2 tablespoons of mixture in your hands; space meatballs evenly on the pan to make 3 rows of 4 meatballs (12 total). Bake meatballs for about 17 minutes, until no longer pink in the center.

As the meatballs are baking, whisk all ingredients for the glaze in a medium bowl. Once meatballs are done and cooled, take meatballs and dip them in glaze mixture, then place on serving plate. Sprinkle with sliced green onion and roasted white sesame seeds, place a toothpick in each meatball, and serve (or, you can sandwich between small brioche or King’s Hawaiian rolls, and top with cabbage slaw).

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A green summer smoothie in winter weather

I woke up the other day, and the weather was already in its 20s. How did it suddenly become winter, and yet, winter doesn’t officially begin for another month?!

And because my little one has watched the movie, Frozen, SO MANY TIMES, the song popped in my head when Olaf sings how summer would be. He’s stuck in an eternal winter, and I kinda feel like it’s going to be a long one here on the East Coast!

So think of pina coladas when you make this, but stick a Christmas-like straw in it, because the holidays are here!

Green smoothie with coconut milk
serves 2; makes 1 2/3 cup

1 banana, sliced
1 cup baby spinach
2/3 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup orange juice

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until evenly green throughout.

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Caesar-ish vegan orzo

The other day, I stumbled across a recipe from Minimalist Baker for vegan Parmesan cheese. What?! I had all the ingredients on hand, and made it the same day I saw the recipe. So easy and simple, requiring just four things – raw cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt.

Even if you’re not vegan, I urge you to make this, because you can sprinkle some nutritional yumminess onto roasted vegetables, pasta, or salad. I sprinkled this on to the veggie pizza I made yesterday, and put a whole bunch of it into some orzo salad that went alongside it for dinner. It provides the right amount of savoriness that Parmesan cheese provides, but also a nice little crunch to add to your dishes. Why the name Caesar-ish orzo? It’s kind of like orzo with Caesar dressing, with lemon juice and olive oil, but the Parmesan is vegan, and there are no anchovies in there. Still a totally satisfying side dish!

Caesar-ish vegan orzo
serves about 4-6

1 1/2 cups orzo, boiled and drained, according to package directions
1 cup finely chopped, flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon (throw in some zest for more lemony flavor, if you like)
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan, recipe from Minimalist Baker
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon finely cracked black pepper

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir to incorporate and season to taste. That’s it!

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Lemon-Garlic Orzo Soup with Tofu

I have soup monsters in my family (my husband and kid), so whenever I make a batch, it’s usually gone the next day. This included!

This soup really takes minimal effort. It was just something I made because it was raining and didn’t feel like going to the store, so I used whatever was in my kitchen at the time. And it turned out fantastic! I love the lemony, garlicky flavor of this soup, and the texture that orzo gives to it (shoutout to my friend Carrie, for reminding me to use this ingredient more!).

Lemon-Garlic Orzo Soup with Tofu
serves 4-6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery hearts, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
32 oz chicken broth
16 oz water
2/3 cup orzo
zest and juice from 1 – 1 1/2 lemon
1/2 of a 15-oz block of extra-firm tofu, cut in very small cubes (about 1/4-inch cubes)
few handfuls of baby spinach

In a 5-quart French oven (or other large soup pot) over medium-low heat, add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the garlic and onions, sauteeing until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, dried thyme, dried oregano, and black pepper. Saute for another 4-5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, water, and orzo. Turn the heat to med-high, and bring soup to simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat to low, adding in lemon zest and juice, then tofu cubes. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes; season to taste and make sure orzo is cooked through. Stir in a few handfuls of baby spinach and allow to wilt; serve immediately.

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Gluten-free Vietnamese Garlic Noodles

I was making dinner the other week, when my friend Wendy (if you’re ever in West Annapolis, stop on by her chic women’s boutique, wrabyn) popped on by for pre-dinner drinks.

“What are you making?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, it’s a very gluten-full meal,” I said apologetically. Years back, when I was still living in California, my cousin graduated from pharmacy school at UCSF, and my family drove up north to attend her graduation. Afterwards, she took us to this Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Long. All I remembered from that meal were those garlic noodles! Seriously addicting. For dinner that night Wendy stopped by, I was making a copycat recipe of that famous dish. But oh, I felt bad for my dear friend, who has gluten intolerance issues and has to avoid all things wheat – and this included the noodles, Maggi soy sauce, and oyster sauce in the recipe – basically everything I was cooking with.

“Send me the recipe!” she said.

I gave her a look and replied, “Yeah, right, you can’t even have most of the things in there!”

So this week, I made Wendy a gluten-free batch, to make up for the other dinner. I used gluten-free ingredients, like brown rice pasta, tamari (which is a wheat-free soy sauce), along with butter, Parmesan, and lots of garlic. And I totally succeeded. I love cooking for my friends and family, so making up these recipes for restricted diets is like solving a riddle, which I LOVE! (Nerd alert). Just don’t expect me to make a meal when the room full of guests wants vegan+gluten-free+fat-free+salt=free+sugar-free. I just might lose it.

Wendy, this is for you!

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Garlic Noodles
serves about 6

1 lb brown rice spaghetti (or linguine) pasta, boiled and drained according to package directions
1/3 cup unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped mixed herbs (I use green onion and cilantro)

optional, to garnish: additional Parmesan cheese, herbs, and black pepper

In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, add the butter and heat until melted. Add the garlic for about 1 minute, stirring until the garlic is fragrant. Add the pasta; toss to combine. Mix together the tamari, black pepper, and sugar in a small bowl; add the mixture in to the spaghetti noodles. Turn off heat, and toss in Parmesan and herbs. Garnish as desired, and serve.

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