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.

Indian Spiced Beef Wraps with Cilantro Mint Sauce

FullSizeRender 2This meat dish has so much flavor it could convert a vegetarian. I’m not a big fan of beef, but I absolutely LOVE all the crazy spices—cilantro, ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, and even cinnamon—packed into this recipe. The contrast between the spiced meat and the chilled cilantro mint yogurt sauce is perfect. Add the fresh cucumber slices and sweet cherry tomatoes, and it’s a dish to die for. In fact, I once thought a guest of ours actually WAS dying (or had broken a tooth) when I served this meal. My son Justin had brought home a pack of starving college guys, and I thought they’d appreciate some quality meat, served up in a format they probably weren’t getting in the school cafeteria. His friend Brady starting moaning after his first bite, and I looked up in alarm. “Are you OK?” Brady sheepishly smiled and said, “I’m fine! It’s just sooooo GOOD.” The others laughed, but concurred.

The original recipe directions said to mix meat, herbs, and spices together and shape into meatballs or sausages, skewer them, and grill them. I tried that the first time I made this, and it was a ton of work, and then the meat didn’t stretch as far as I would have liked. So now I just mix it all together and brown the meat in a pan, and it works great. Now to give credit where credit is due. I got this recipe from the Lunds & Byerly’s Real Food magazine some time in 2010, I’m guessing. I don’t have the exact date recorded with my magazine clipping, but I remember about when Justin would drop in with that particular crew. Good times had by all. 

Makes 6-8 servings

For Spiced Meat:
1½-2 pounds quality lean ground beef (or lamb—if you like lamb…)
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped scallions (aka: green onion, Tom)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

For Cilantro Mint Sauce:
½ cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
½-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, quartered
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt

Serving suggestion:
Flour tortillas*, or corn tortillas (for gluten-free option)
1 cucumber, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow onion, sliced (optional—sometimes we want these, sometimes we don’t!)
Crumbled feta cheese

To make meat: Combine beef, yogurt, cornstarch, and all the herbs and spices in large frying pan. Cook until no pink remains in meat. Keep on low heat until serving.

To make sauce: Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth. Can chill until serving.

To serve wraps: Briefly heat tortilla on hot griddle, then top with warm spiced meat, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and chilled yogurt sauce. Fold in half and eat like a taco. Get ready to be amazed at the flavor explosion in your mouth.

*NOTE: I love to take this recipe up even ONE MORE NOTCH by making my own tortillas. I sometimes do these a day ahead and store in frig with parchment paper between them, and then reheat on the griddle right before serving. Just like the spiced meat, they are truly moan-worthy.

Chicken Pad Thai

FullSizeRenderPad Thai is one of our favorite take-out dishes, but I figured it was one of those dishes best handled by professionals, and not possible to replicate at home. Then I ran across a recipe on Big Bowl’s website, and thought it looked doable. I needed a trip down the ethnic food aisle to find the fish sauce—I never did find the ground dried shrimp (which I’ve never heard of before), so I didn’t use that. Big Bowl’s recipe was poorly written, making it a little hard to follow, so it took some studying to figure out the process and order of ingredients. They also use a full cup of peanut oil for frying and flavor, which I thought would make for a pretty greasy dish. I subbed in some sesame oil, which is a healthier option, and has a great, nutty flavor.

The Big Bowl recipe also had waaaaaay more chili powder and Sriracha sauce than I thought was necessary, so I cut the heat in half the first time I made it. My son Justin and husband liked it, but it was still too much for me because you couldn’t taste the lime and fresh herbs. So the spices you see below are in amounts that hopefully don’t overpower the dish. (If my nose is running the whole time I’m eating a dish, I figure that’s more heat than needed.)

Since rice noodles are gluten-free, I can finally get a “pasta” fix with this dish! But it doesn’t have much vegetable nutrition, with scallions and bean sprouts being the only veggies in it. I might add in some grated carrots and maybe some green peas next time I make it, just to make it more nutritious. Or maybe not! It’s pretty dang good the way it is.

Serves 4-6

1 (14-ounce) package dried rice noodles (also called sitr-fry rice noodles)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, julienned
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1-2 teaspoons bottled chili sauce, like Sriracha sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, using both white and green portions
¼ cup Thai or sweet basil, chopped *
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons ground dried shrimp (optional)
½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
2 cups fresh bean sprouts (1 bag)
Lime wedges for garnish

Put rice noodles in large bowl, and pour very hot tap water over noodles to cover. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until softened but not mushy. Drain thoroughly, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Mix the cornstarch, salt, and another 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil together in medium bowl, and add chicken. Toss to coat meat. Put large frying pan or wok on stove and turn heat on high. Add 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil to pan. Lay chicken strips in hot oil and cook until golden brown on one side, then turn and cook on other side until no pink remains. Remove from pan. Once cooled, cut into bit-sized pieces, and set aside.

In small bowl, mix the lime juice, brown sugar, chipotle powder, paprika, chili sauce, and fish sauce together. Set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil in pan. Add the scallions and stir briefly just to coat with the oil, then add the noodles. Toss the noodles in the pan for 15 seconds or so and then add the chicken. Toss continually until the noodles soften and are coated with the oil, and the chicken and scallion are incorporated. Drizzle the egg into pan and stir to combine.

When the pan is piping hot again, drizzle in the lime juice and brown sugar mixture. After 5 seconds, pull the pan from the heat and toss vigorously to coat. Add most of the basil and cilantro leaves (saving a pinch of each for garnish), the ground dried shrimp (if using), and the peanuts; toss to combine. Add the bean sprouts and toss again. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with a couple wedges of lime on the side. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top before eating.

*NOTE: Thai basil has an anise-like flavor, which is the flavor in black licorice. I only grow sweet basil in my herb pots, so that’s what I used to make this dish. You will probably have to hit a farmer’s market if you want the Thai basil. Sweet basil is the only option in main-stream grocery stores.

Chicken Enchiladas

FullSizeRender-1Fresh cilantro and parsley take these easy enchiladas up a notch in flavor, so much so, that no one will know the main ingredients are store-bought salsa and tortillas. They’re a great make-ahead meal you can refrigerate, then pop in the oven for a simple weeknight dinner. Or dress them up with a side of fresh guacamole and corn chips, plus a green salad, and you’ve got a company meal that wasn’t a ton of work. I got this recipe years ago from a friend who said it came from a low-cal cookbook, but I’ve always used real cheese (not the recommended reduced-fat stuff), and upped the cheese amounts, so I make no claim that this is still a diet dinner.

FullSizeRender-2IMG_1055Make it even easier by grabbing a already-roasted rotisserie chicken, or grill your own chicken breasts or tenderloins for the meat. If neither of those options work for you, fry up your chicken in a pan. Fresh herbs too pricey? You can use dried herbs, but you’ll take a bit of a hit in end-product taste. Fortunately, the lime and garlic will still bring the zip to the recipe, so you’re safe. A blender or food processor is your secret weapon, making short work of the salsa sauce that is the base of this dish.

Not only is this a quick family dinner, it’s a perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for bringing to friends who need a meal post-baby or due to family crisis. Kids will eat it cause the “green stuff” is pulverized into the sauce and won’t offend their picky little eyeballs, and adults love it because it’s not lasagna or spaghetti, the usual drop-off meals. I’ve not yet tried it using corn tortillas instead of flour, but I’m thinking that would sub in nicely for a gluten-free alternative.

2 cups mild salsa (Pace thick and chunky salsa or picante is just fine!)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
½-1 clove garlic, quartered
4 cooked chicken breasts, cubed, or 8 cooked chicken tenderloins, cubed, or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella or monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 flour tortillas or 12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine salsa, cilantro, parsley, lime juice and zest, and garlic in blender or food processor, and pulse until sauce is smooth. Mix half of salsa sauce with cut-up, cooked chicken, ½ cup mozzarella, and ½ cup cheddar cheeses in large bowl, and toss to combine. Place about ¼ cup of meat mixture down center of tortilla, roll up, and place seam side down in a 9″x13″ baking dish. Continue with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over the tortillas in pan, and top with remaining grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes uncovered. (Can also cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days before baking.)

Lime Bars

IMG_1078Feeling citrusy? Try these refreshingly zippy lime bars for a break from all the pumpkin-flavored offerings that take over the world in the fall. These are the same recipe as the lemon bars you’ve all tasted before (they often appear at potlucks or post-funeral lunches), just subbing in lime for the lemon in the same amounts. I won’t give credit to any one source, because it would be easier to tell you who doesn’t post this recipe on their blog or have it printed in their cookbook—that’s how popular it is. I did see one source that suggested the yield was 72 bars. Maybe if you’re feeding mice, you could cut them that small. But not on my watch, no sir! I like my sweets substantial. If your teeth don’t ache from the size of the bar and the concentration of sugar, I’ll hang up my apron for good.

Makes 18-24 bars

Rating: Easy

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 cup butter, cold
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
13  cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
Additional confectioners sugar for topping

Preheat oven to350° Fahrenheit. Combine flour and sugar; cut in butter. Press crust into 13″x9″ pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs on high with whisk attachment until pale yellow. Gradually add sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Continue beating on high. Pour over hot crust.

Bake another 20-25 minutes until golden brown. May need to cover with foil to avoid over-browning towards end. Dust with confectioners sugar. Cool and cut into bars.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

IMG_0618This fresh and healthy Asian salad is perfect for a warm weather lunch, brunch, or served alongside whatever is on your grill for dinner. My sister Susan brought it to a party recently, and it was a hit. She found the recipe on allrecipes.com, but changed it considerably. The original calls for five, count ’em FIVE cloves of garlic, which is way too much raw garlic for a salad. She subbed in soy sauce for fish sauce as she didn’t have the fish sauce on hand, and added bell pepper, snow pea pods, and red cabbage to the vegetable mix. She said she’s also included edamame (boil according to package instruction then chill) when she’s made it previously. The drizzle of toasted sesame oil at the end was also her addition. Isn’t she clever? We thought so!

Serves 6-8

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
4 leaves Napa cabbage, julienned
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, ends cut off
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup salted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine the minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce (or soy sauce, and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break the rice noodles in half and add them to the pot; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.
Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, Napa cabbage, bell pepper, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, and mint in a large serving bowl. Toss well; drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Toss again and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts.
(NOTE: if using a gluten-free soy sauce, this recipe would be gluten-free.)