Turkey Peanut Satay Wraps

FullSizeRenderThai-flavored fare a favorite with you, like it is for me? Then these savory turkey wraps will hit the spot. I got this recipe from a Bethel University student worker (Natalie G, that’s you!), who raved non-stop about it, and she had found it on iowagirleats.com. It went together pretty easy—about 30 minutes—and most of the ingredients were the kind of thing I had on hand. I’m not concerned about using soy sauce in recipes, but those who have zero tolerance for gluten would want to sub in gluten-free tamari sauce.

Now for the adjustments I made to the recipe—let’s start with the meat. It called for ground chicken, and I can’t recall seeing that in the grocery store. (And my husband refused to look for it when I sent him to the grocery store for the butterhead lettuce…so that kinda settled it!) Since I had ground turkey on hand, that’s what I used. Not a fan of gathering loads of specialty sauces in my cupboards and frig, I subbed in fresh minced garlic and dried chili powder for the recommended chili garlic sauce. Another addition was the scallions, as I thought they’d give it a nice bite.

It also seemed that the amount of sauce made in the recipe wouldn’t have covered the meat, so I doubled the peanut butter and coconut milk. I was glad I did, because it was JUST right. And so was the flavor!!! It was a great mix of spices, and the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut better coated the meat perfectly. Once wraps were assembled, the crunch of the lettuce wrapped around the spiced meat mixture made for a thoroughly satisfying meal. (Could also be a killer appetizer!) If there’d been leftovers, I’d tell you how it tasted second day, but alas, we ate every last morsel. DEE-lish.

Serves 4

2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, chopped, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 scallions (green onions), chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*
salt and pepper
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used a can of regular, not light, and mixed to include fat and coconut milk)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
*(If you don’t have fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger here)
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 heads of butterhead lettuce

Coat skillet with oil, and heat to medium-high. Add ground turkey, and cook until almost no pink remains in meat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Add shallots (or onions), scallions, and minced garlic, and cook until meat is no longer pink and garlic is fragrant. Turn down to low.

Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in large microwave-safe measuring cut or bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, curry, and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined. Add to meat in skillet, and stir to coat. Turn element off.

Remove core from butterhead lettuce, and rinse. Pat dry. Line 4 plates with several leaves of lettuce, and add large dollop of meat mixture to plate. Put cilantro and chopped peanuts on table. Let each person assemble their own wraps, and top with peanuts and cilantro.

Asparagus and Pea Spring Salad

FullSizeRenderIt doesn’t get any fresher than this springy salad featuring asparagus, peas, and spinach. I first tried the Asparagus Ribbon Salad (from Better Homes & Gardens April 2017 issue) for Easter, and our guests all thought it was dee-licious. I made it per instructions the first time, except for the requested arugula, as it’s expensive and I think it has a bitter bite. So I subbed in Bibb lettuce (aka: butter lettuce) and added some spinach—just because I like to add spinach to dishes whenever possible! Good call on the Bibb lettuce, as it was the perfect compliment to the tender asparagus. It was a nice side salad with ham and cheesy scalloped potatoes potatoes (need to post that one), and a refreshing way to serve the green spears, rather than just microwaving and squirting with lemon.

FullSizeRender-2But I thought the long ribbons of asparagus were kind of awkward to eat, and were a total pain in the keister (yet worth it for Easter…) to prepare. Chopping them into 1-2 inch pieces is easier to do, and easier to eat. I also found the vinegar in the BH&G asparagus-pea pesto recipe to be too sharp—asparagus is such a subtle veggie, and I thought lemon might be a better choice for an acid in the pesto. Then because I CANNOT turn my foodie brain off, I thought I’d boil up some eggs and chop some leftover Easter ham on top to make it a whole meal deal. Loved it!!! It was so tantalizing, my co-worker Ben even asked me for the recipe when I brought a salad to work. Or rather, he said, “Hey Kaaren (his wife), you should get that recipe from Cheryl…”

Here you go, Ben (ahem, I mean Kaaren…).

Serves 6-8

For Side Salad
2 bunches asparagus
3 cups frozen peas, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
½-1 lemon, juiced (¼-½ cup)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ of an English cucumber, sliced into quartered
2 heads Bibb lettuce, cored and chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

For Main Meal Salad
2 cups chopped ham
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup grated white sharp cheddar cheese

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add ice. Set aside to us in blanching asparagus. Trim or snap touch ends off asparagus, then chop into 1 or 2-inch pieces. Fill a medium saucepan with water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a full rolling boil. Add fresh asparagus, and cook 2-3 minutes, or until bright green. Using slotted spoon, gradually transfer all the asparagus to the bowl of ice water. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then drain. Rinse the frozen peas under cold water then drain in separate strainer. Dab both asparagus and peas with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Toss asparagus, peas, and cucumber together in a bowl. Set aside.

To make asparagus-pea pesto, combine 1 cup of blanched asparagus, 2 cups of peas, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in food processor and pulse to form paste. Add Parmesan and pulse to combine. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Toss pesto with asparagus, peas, and cucumber until all ingredients are combined.

To assemble salad, spread Bibb lettuce and spinach on large platter, or 6-8 individual salad plates. Top with asparagus mixture for side salad. If making a main meal salad, sprinkle with chopped ham, chopped egg, and grated cheese.

BLT Salad

FullSizeRender-1My mother has been blessing us with buckets of tomatoes from her garden, and the red orbs are threatening to take over the kitchen—so I’m kinda on a BLT roll. My husband was grilling brats one evening, and I wanted a side salad that we hadn’t had a gazillion times already. So I came up with this BLT combo and taste-tested it on our guests Andy and Nancy, and their daughter Emily, and they all thought it was da bomb. Thankfully, there was a little leftover so I could have it for lunch again the next day, ’cause I thought it was delish, too. I think the trick to infusing the greens with the “BLT” flavor, was sautéing the leeks in a little bacon fat. They really held onto the nuance of the bacon (if bacon has a “nuance,” that is…it’s sort of the bully of meats as far as taste.)

I considered a vinaigrette dressing for this salad, but since BLT’s are all about the mayo, thought I better stick with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. It was a good decision! It really enhanced the other ingredients, without over-powering. My only concern was that it was a little thicker than I would have liked, so it may need more vinegar to thin it down. I’ve given a range here, but I used just 1 tablespoon. More might make it too tart—try it and let me know!

Serves 6-8

For dressing
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh basil pesto
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For salad
1 leek, sliced thin to all but toughest green part*
1-2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 head Romaine lettuce, julienned
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ of a cucumber, sliced and quartered
2 ripe avocados, cubed
2 large tomatoes, diced, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered
6-8 slices of bacon, fried crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled

To make dressing: Whisk together mayonnaise, pesto, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Add more vinegar if needed to thin. Set aside.

To make salad: Saute leeks in bacon fat over medium heat, until leeks begin to caramelize (turn light brown on edges). On large serving platter, layer lettuce, parsley, cooked leeks, cucumber, and avocados. Drizzle with dressing, then top with tomatoes, and crumbled bacon.

*NOTE: It’s best to chop leeks, then soak in a bowl of cold water, in order to let the sand and dirt settle to bottom of the bowl. Then scoop out the leeks and let them thoroughly drain in a colander before frying in the bacon fat. Leeks tend to hold on to a lot of dirt and sand between their layers as they grow. It’s rare to purchase a leek that has been thoroughly rinsed enough to cook it without soaking first.

Super BLT with Pesto Aioli

FullSizeRender‘Tis tomato time, and if you’ve got them coming out of your ears like we do, this twist on the classic BLT sandwich will help you use up your ‘maters. The pesto aioli gives it extra zip, and adds another layer of flavor to the fresh tomato, smoky bacon, and crisp lettuce. So I used up my stash of tomatoes AND my fresh basil pesto that I just made again—a win-win. I also added sliced turkey, and white cheddar cheese to these sandwiches, because I feel like a sandwich with just bacon for meat isn’t really a sandwich. (My husband would disagree—he fried up half a pound of bacon for his two sandwiches the night we made these. When I questioned his quantity, he called me a Bacon Nazi. Ouch. First time I’ve heard those two words together in a sentence…how about you?)

I thought that this might be too simple of a “recipe” to post, but I actually get the most response from all of you when I post stuff I think is too easy to bother sharing (aka: “Judy easy,” in the scale used previously). I used pumpernickel bread for the sandwiches pictured here, but I also like Trader Joe’s 100% rye bread, which I’ve been told is gluten-free. Either of those options gives you more flavor in your bread than straight up white bread. Another bonus! 

Serves 2-3

For pesto aioli
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise (or make your own, recipe below!)
1 tablespoon fresh basil pesto

For sandwiches
Deli turkey, sliced thin
White cheddar cheese, sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Bacon strips, cooked (2 per sandwich, unless you’re Rich)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
Pumpernickel or rye bread, toasted

Slather toasted bread with generous amount of pesto aioli, then layer on turkey, cheese, lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes. Prepare to be amazed.

*NOTE: Aioli has come to be the name given to any flavored mayonnaise. Traditionally, it’s been an emulsified oil combined with fresh garlic. At least that’s the Spanish version. The French version of aioli has an egg added into the emulsifying process, which makes it more similar to mayonnaise than the Spanish recipe. Use the word “aioli” when you want to impress your dinner guests with your mad kitchen prowess.

To make your own mayonnaise (recipe courtesy of Whole30):
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

Pear, Pecan, and Blue Cheese Salad

FullSizeRender-1The bite of blue cheese paired with the sweetness of candied pecans* and fresh pears make for a myriad of flavors in this salad. When pears are in season, it’s a great way to use up a stash that’s all ripened at the same time. (Anyone else have that happen? Green, green, green…oh no! They’re all ripe NOW!) And where did I get this winner? From my friend and co-worker Tom, a single guy who claims to not know how to cook, and who has been my number one blog fan (but not in a creepy “Misery” kind of way…). His Mom shared the recipe with him, which she’d found in the November 2015 edition of allrecipes.com. It was touted as the perfect first course at a Thanksgiving dinner, but my friend Marylee and I made it for lunch on a hot, June day, and it was juuuuuust right. I did make a few adjustments—doubled the amount of pecans (but not the sugar), upped the Dijon mustard, and added some cukes to the salad. They suggested using Roquefort cheese,* as it’s supposed to have the best flavor, but I couldn’t find it at Costco on my weekly trek. So I used run-of-the-mill blue cheese, and it was simply delicious.

Makes 4 main dish, or 6 side salads

For candied pecans:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup pecans

For dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Dash course-ground black pepper

For salad:
1-2 heads romaine lettuce, julienned (about 8-10 cups)
3-4 pears, cored and cubed
1 cucumber, sliced and quartered into bite-size pieces
1-2 avocados, diced
4-6 scallions, sliced thin (aka: green onions)
6 ounces Roquefort or blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

Combine sugar and pecan halves in small skillet on medium heat. Stir gently until sugar has melted and caramelized and adhered to the pecans. Transfer nuts to a piece of tin foil and set aside to cool. (Try to break up nuts as you place on foil.)

In clean glass jar—or whisk in a bowl—combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, garlic, salt, and pepper for dressing. Set aside.

Layer lettuce, pears, cucumbers, avocados, scallions, and blue cheese on a large platter or 4-6 individual plates. Drizzle with dressing. Break up cooled candied pecans, and sprinkle on top just before serving.

*NOTES: If you don’t have time to make the candied pecans and let them cool for your salad, you can purchase Planters honey roasted peanuts, and sprinkle those on top of your salad(s). The snack pack size is perfect for an individual salad. The candied pecans or honey roasted nuts really are an essential ingredient to this salad recipe!

Roquefort cheese is aged exclusively in the Combalou caves in France, and is known for it’s creamy texture, as well as fabulous flavor. No wonder I couldn’t find it at Costco. That’s just too uppity for a big box store.

Greens, Grapes, and Tuna Lunch Salad

IMG_1615OK co-worker Tom, it’s time to stop drooling over my lunch, and make your OWN salad! The base of this recipe is a fresh take on canned tuna, and was from the Whole30 cookbook. But I’ve embellished it to make a salad that I really love for lunch. It all started when we had inadvertently stock-piled on canned white Albacore tuna, and there were cans and cans of it crowding the cupboards. (Anyone else do that? Think, “Oh, I think we need THAT,” as you spot it at the grocery store, when in fact you’re positively swimming in that item already?) This recipe has been a great way to use up the plethora of tuna. You can just as easily use canned chicken—so grab whatever floats your boat! I like to make 4 of these salads at a time, and then refrigerate the ones I’m not taking for lunch. They keep quite well, and it’s a great time-saver for the morning rush.

Makes 4 salads

Whole30 mayonnaise:
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

For tuna (or chicken) salad:
15 ounces (or 3 – 5.1 ounce cans) of white Albacore tuna or all white meat canned chicken, drained and flaked
½ cup Whole30 mayonnaise or Hellman’s real mayonnaise
Quarter of yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in bowl, breaking apart meat with fork. Set aside until rest of salad is assembled.

For base of salad, layer on 4 plates or in 4 plastic containers:
1 head romaine lettuce, leaves rinsed and dried, then jullienned
2 fistfuls of spinach leaves, julienned
3 scallions, sliced thin
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
3 slices of jicama (½-inch thick), cut into ½-inch cubes (optional) *
2 cups green grapes, sliced in half

Top greens and grapes with prepared tuna (or chicken) salad. Serve on plates, or cover container and refrigerate.

IMG_1614*NOTE: Jicama is also called a Mexican potato, and it is a deliciously crunchy addition to any salad. You peel off the tough outer skin with a paring knife, and then slice into sticks or cubes. Sticks can be dipped in dressing along with carrots and cukes. Cubes can top just about any salad. The high water content and slight sweetness make it a very refreshing veggie to nibble.

Greek Salad

FullSizeRender-1Leery of trying a Greek salad without feta and creamy dressing? I was too, until I tried this recipe from the Whole30 book, and enhanced it a bit to make it more to my liking. (Added spinach, avocado, jicama, cilantro, and used cherry tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes…Also layered instead of tossing.) The fresh ingredients and lemony dressing made for a tasty whole meal salad when topped with grilled, chopped chicken breasts. I made four salads—two to eat right away, and two for lunches the next day, but if you’re making it as a side salad, it should serve 6. We loved it, even without our beloved feta crowning the greens.

Serves 4-6

For dressing:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

For salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
½ of a 6-ounce bag of ready-to-eat fresh spinach, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
3-4 thick slices of jicama, diced
½ of container of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ of red onion, minced
1 avocado, chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar of Kalamata olives, drained and halved
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Top with:
Grilled chicken breasts, chopped (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar and whisk or shake. Set aside.

Layer individual serving plates or large platter with lettuce and spinach. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, starting with cucumber, and ending with cilantro. Drizzle with dressing. Add cooked chicken, if desired. Serve.

NOTE: This salad was great second day, not something you can usually say about a pre-dressed salad. I think that layering ingredients and drizzling dressing on top instead of tossing helped things stay fresh. It also helps avoid the dreaded gravity salad situation—when all the delightful heavy ingredients (like cukes and avocados) sink to the bottom, leaving only greens on top. Store in airtight container if making for next day.