Homemade Chicken Pad Thai

I have this problem where I pretty much always want to be on vacation.  Not just at home with time off, but I want to be in a foreign country walking around and trying all the foods.

But that’s probably true for everyone, right?

I’ve been lucky enough to visit my fair share of countries.   Since we’ve been togetherJesse and I have made it a point to go on a trip once a year. We went to China, Peru and Thailand/Cambodia (along with Mexico and Guatemala, do those count if we were visiting family?).  Our 4th year together is looking to be a vacation-less one, since there’s a major expense coming up next year: wedding.

In both Peru and Thailand, we took cooking classes, which has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation.

In Thailand, there are tons of cooking classes.  We went with the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai, because some friends (they have an awesome travel blog!) we met while hiking to Machu Picchu had done it and recommended it.

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It was definitely worth it.  Now that it’s been about 7 months since our vacation, Jesse and I had an itch to make some of the recipes in the cookbook we were given.   So we hit up a local Asian market that I learned about at my new job (yay for supporting small business!), gathered all our ingredients and made this:

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Isn’t pad thai everyone’s favorite?  It’s also pretty easy to make too!  We added chicken to it to make it more of a complete meal, but you can also omit the chicken (or the tofu) if you’d like.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve 2 or 3…

Chicken Pad Thai

80g rice noodles
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 cup sliced tofu (optional)
1 piece of chicken breast, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup of mung bean sprouts
2 tsp tamarind paste (or white vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup water
1 tsp molasses
Pinch of chili powder (or a squirt of sriracha)
Salt to taste

1 tbsp green onion (green part only)
Chopped peanuts and lime for serving

Soak noodles in warm water for 30 minutes until soft.  In the meantime, prepare your sauce.  In a bowl combine water, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste and molasses.   (Note: Here I found a tamarind paste that was basically the whole tamarind, so I had to blend it but in Thailand I used a paste that dissolved.  If you blend, just be sure there are no tamarind seeds in there).  Set aside sauce.

pad thai ingredients

Heat oil in a wok (or large pan if you don’t have a wok like me), until it starts to smoke.  Add chicken, shallots and tofu.  Toss until chicken is cooked and tofu is crispy.  Move the chicken, shallots and tofu to one side of the pan.  On the other side of the pan, scramble the egg.  Once scrambled, toss them all together and add the noodles, carrots, bean sprouts and sauce.  Mix until the noodles are cooked and all is well combined.  Try a noodle and see if you think it needs salt.  Salt as needed.

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Serve with chopped peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Jesse and I devoured this yesterday.  I’m almost a little bit embarrassed to tell you how much we ate.  Ok not really.  We doubled this and ate about 3/4 of it.  Enough said.

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We also discovered that we seriously want a wok.  We made it in a dutch oven pot, which was fine but I think it would have turned out better (texture wise) in a wok.   But it still turned out great.

Since we bought a ton of basic ingredients we’ll likely be making tons of Thai recipes this week.  I can’t complain about that.

What foreign food do you want to learn how to make?

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BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

Jesse and I have been together for nearly 4 years.  In that time, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I eat more than he does.  When you can admit this is when you know you’re comfortable with someone.

Some ladies are dainty eaters.  I’m not judging them.  If you can eat a piece of salmon and some zucchini and be done for the night, then more power to you.  I wish I wasn’t a hangry beast.  I’d probably save a ton of money.  I know the expectation that the woman in the relationship eats about half as much as the man, but that certainly isn’t the case for us.

I think early on in our dating, I probably ate less (at least in front of him), so he wouldn’t think I was the Cookie Monster (I am).  I distinctly remember having a conversation about this with my sister.  I’m 100% positive that at one point she said, “yeah, he doesn’t eat very much. Like pio pio” (FYI, pio pio is the sound little chicks make in Spanish).  This isn’t meant to criticize Jesse’s eating habit; him and his habits are perfectly fine.  I admire his ability to say no to certain foods, yet be able to eat half a wheel of brie.

Now that the new-ness ship has sailed, I can eat three tacos and be a happy camper (while lusting over gelato after dinner); he can eat sunflower seeds with beer and call it a night.  After all, it’s just food.  How much I eat in relation to him doesn’t define our relationship.  It’s just a funny quirk about us.

But some days, we’re equals on the eating front.  Last night, we both ate half a pizza.  Not a regular pizza.  This cauliflower pizza.

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It was delightful.  I bring this all up, because I was thinking about serving size for this recipe.

How many does this serve?  2 hungry people who went to crossfit earlier that day? 4 not so hungry folks? 4 normal people if complemented with a side salad? 6 children?  It’s not clear.

Make it and let me know how much you eat in one sitting.  Like I said, I ate half the pizza in one sitting.  It sounds obscene, but I promise you’ll want to eat at least half too.

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BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

10-12oz cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), grated
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 onion, sliced
1 chicken breast
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
few pinches of salt
1/2 cup BBQ Sauce
2-3 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (or more if you’d like)

There are three main components of this pizza.

1. Make the crust. 2. Cook the chicken and onions. 3. Assemble the pizza and bake.

I suggest doing it in that order but if you want to do 2 before 1, that’s cool too.  Let’s be flexible.

To make the crust:

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Grate your cauliflower.  I did this in the vitamix by cutting the cauliflower into pieces then pulsing it in batches until it looked somewhat like cauliflower rice.  Once it’s all grated, combine cauliflower, eggs, pecorino romano cheese, salt and italian seasoning.   Mix it all together.  Then press the mixture into a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Try to get it as thin as you can so it will be crispy and not soggy.

Once you’ve got it as thin as you can, bake for 15 minutes, take out of oven until ready to assemble.

While the crust is baking cook your onions and chicken.  First, add butter to a skillet, then add the onions. Let those cook until soft (about 10 minutes or longer, let them hang out, they’ll get tastier), put onions into a small bowl or plate.  Cut the chicken into small pieces, then add chicken to the same pan where you cooked the onions.  Season with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder.  Toss occasionally until cooked through, set aside.

Now that your crust is cooked, assemble the pizza.  Spread 1/2 cup BBQ sauce on pizza, top with onions and chicken, then put cheese on top.  I like to put the cheese on top of the toppings to keep the chicken and onions from burning.  Feel free to add a little extra pecorino on top if you’d like.

Bake 10-12 more minutes, until the crust is browned and crispy and the cheese is melty.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then slice and serve.

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Like I said, serving size? I’m not sure.  This pizza probably feeds 2-4.  If you’re like me and you eat a lot, you might want to double this and make two pizzas.  I did.

If you want to make two pizzas just so you have leftovers, that’s also a great idea.

Who eats more, you or your partner? or what’s your favorite pizza topping?

 

 

Salad Spring Rolls

One of my favorite things about living in Orange County was the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants.

Fun Fact: Orange County, CA has the largest Vietnamese population in the US.  

And because of that we were blessed with delicious (and inexpensive) restaurants.

Over the last four years, I’ve become obsessed with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  It’s almost a rule that I must order them any time I go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

I’m sure there have to be amazing Vietnamese restaurants here in the Bay Area, and I will do my best to discover them, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep the memory alive with some spring roll inspiration.

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These aren’t really Vietnamese spring rolls.  They don’t include rice noodles or shrimp or pork.  They’re just vegetables, which is why I call them salad spring rolls.  Despite not being like the tasty ones I get at restaurants, this has become my new favorite way to eat salad.

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They pretty quick, easy and tasty.  The other wonderful thing is you can make them with whatever you have on hand.

Here are some suggestions for filling your spring rolls:

Thai Basil
Lettuce
Cucumber
Carrots
Red Bell Pepper
Bean Sprouts

For Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1-2 tbsp peanut butter, natural
1-2 tbsp sriracha
1-2 tbsp water

To assemble, cut your vegetables into match tickets (i.e. carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) and wash your lettuce and thai basil.   You’ll need to get rice paper.  You can probably find it at any Asian grocery store (or on Amazon).

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Wet your rice paper by dipping it in water for about 3 seconds and you’re ready to go (do one at a time, don’t wet them all at once, because they’re very sticky).  I have a rice paper water bowl, but it’s not essential, and shallow dish to submerge the paper in will work.

Then you can start assembling your spring rolls.   Place some of the vegetables toward the bottom of the circle, like such:

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Fold the right and left sides toward the center, then the shorter side up and roll to cover.  I couldn’t take photos of this process because it requires two hands and I only have two, unfortunately (or fortunately).  But this blog has an awesome tutorial!  Check it out!  

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Once your spring rolls are rolled and ready, make your quick dipping sauce.   Combine hoisin, peanut butter, sriracha in a bowl.  Start with 1 tbsp of each, taste it and adjust to your liking.

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You don’t have to use this dipping sauce, you can also mix fish sauce with water, a bit of sugar and chili garlic sauce and dip!  Or since these are salad rolls, feel free to dip in your favorite salad dressing.  We’re not being authentic here, so anything goes.

But seriously, this hand-held salad options is awesome.  I served it with some mustard rubbed chicken and it was a hit (to Jesse and me, that is, but I think we have ok taste).  I think this is my new favorite summer meal.

What’s your favorite salad or summer meal?

Fancy Deconstructed Breakfast Burrito

It’s been years since I’ve watched cooking competitions like Top Chef, but back in the day, I was an avid watcher.  I remember that chefs took a common dish and made it fancy by calling it “deconstructed.”

You know… Deconstructed Peanut Butter and Jelly would be something to the effect of pan fried bread with peanut butter mousse and roasted berries.

Fancy, right?

Deconstructed was all the rage about 10 years ago.  Is that trend still happening?  I’m not hip enough to keep up with trends, so I’m still doing things “deconstructed.”  Hence this deconstructed breakfast burrito.

Deconstructed Burrito1We all know and love Breakfast Burritos.  But I decided to make a healthier (and fancier? That’s open to interpretation) version for your average weekend morning. Jump on the deconstructed train and make this deconstructed breakfast burrito.  

It has everything you need: eggs, beans, tortillas and… kale. I know, kale has no business being in a breakfast burrito, but we’re being fancy remember! So here it goes…. Deconstructed Burrito2

Fancy Deconstructed Breakfast Burrito

1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup kale, washed and finely chopped
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 lemon, juice only
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
1/4 cup Monterey jack cheese,  shredded
1 cup refried beans of choice
2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat)

Heat olive in a pan on medium heat.  Add onions and cook a few minutes until translucent.  Add kale and cook a few more minutes (about 2-3).  Add tomatoes and cook another minute or so.  Season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemon juice.  You want it to be a little salty since you’re not adding anything to the eggs.

In the meantime, beat together eggs.  Add eggs to pan.  Scramble it all together.  Set aside.

Heat tortillas (either on a pan or in the microwave a few seconds).  Place tortilla on a plate, spread with refried beans, top with scrambled eggs, sprinkle with cheese (about 2 tbsp per tortilla, or more if you want) and serve! You can try to wrap it up or eat it with a fork and knife, if you’re looking to be fancy. Ok let’s be honest.  I always thought the deconstructed this was a bunch of crock.  But that said, this dish is awesome.

Deconstructed Burrito3Call it what you want: Burrito? Kale Egg Scramble? A Hot Mess on a Plate?

Whatever you call it, it’s all sorts of tasty and definitely breakfast-worthy!

What’s your favorite fancy breakfast? I love eggs benedict (is that even fancy?)

Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

I’m currently having a bout of I-don’t-want-to-cook.

It’s a chronic syndrome.  I haven’t quite found the cure, but I have a remedy.

The situation is this:  I want to eat healthy meals, but I’m just not in the mood to prepare them.

An unfortunate result of I-don’t-want-to-cook is a desire to eat bad things.  And thus, I also want to eat fatty sandwiches and burgers (because those are cheap and easy to pick up… but really I should mention Del Taco Bean and Cheese burritos because they’re my weakness).  Today, I almost gave in to a fatty sandwich for lunch, because I was too lazy to pack a lunch.  I got a salad at a local spot.  And while it was healthier than the fatty Reuben I also wanted, nothing beats the healthiness of a home-cooked meal.

So the solution to the chronic I-don’t-want-to-cook (or really I-don’t-want-to-do-dishes) is to get a boyfriend who cooks having lots of healthy leftovers.  I’m a fan of cooking in bulk for the week because I always know there will be a day when I don’t feel like cooking so I might as well be prepared.  My most recent creation is perfect for these days.  You can make it on Sunday and it’ll still be good for Thursday, since there’s no meat involved.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t go crazy with photoshop.  I used yellow cauliflower.  That’s why it’s so bright.  I’m currently making this again with purple cauliflower.  I’m going to bet that will look awesome as well.

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So if you’re like me and you’re having an I-don’t-want-to-cook (or do dishes) moment, this is your solution.  Very little work and lots of deliciousness and nutrients.  So get your cauliflower/lentil on…

 

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

3/4 cup lentils, dry
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
garlic salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 oz goat cheese (optional)

Cook lentils for 20 minutes (or until tender) in boiling water.  While the lentils cook, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Chop cauliflower, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until golden and crispy.

Next make dressing.  Whisk together 1 tbsp olive oil, mustard, vinegar and some salt and pepper.  Now combine all ingredients.  Toss together lentils, cauliflower, cilantro, and dressing.  Top with goat cheese and serve!  This recipe will serve 4.

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  Like I said, this recipe is super easy.  It only takes about 5 minutes of prep work.  The rest is pretty much just the oven and stove doing the work.  That means you can watch Orange is the New Black while you wait for it all to be ready, then take 2 minutes and throw it all together. RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad4

Sounds like a great idea to me.  I have some cauliflower in the oven, now all I need is Netflix.

 

What’s your quick and easy, to-go healthy meal?

Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Leek-y Meatballs

I’m going to be honest.  I’m a terrible meatball maker.  I’m also a terrible meatball namer.  They taste great, but generally look horrible and leek-y? I couldn’t come up with something better?

I don’t know how people get their meatballs to be round and beautiful.  Mine end up a little bit like patties, but they taste awesome.

Because they taste awesome, I really can’t complain.  So let me tell you about these (slightly ugly but delicious) meatballs.

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What I love about these meatballs is that the vegetables are still a little bit crunchy, so they have a great texture.  But what I REALLY love is the peanut sauce that went with it.  I intended to make Italian flavored meatballs with added leeks, but then I tried them and they reminded me of potsticker filling, so I decided to go for an Asian twist.  And thus peanut sauce was necessary.  Peanut Sauce is the perfect addition.  I’m totally into it.    

 

The other magical part of this meal is that it’s almost paleo and 100% healthy.  The paleo part doesn’t really matter to me, but the healthy part does.  I’m always looking for great-tasting healthy recipes, that’s why I’m such a big fan of this.  That said, if the paleo part matters to you, use almond butter or sunflower butter in place of peanut butter and it’s 100% paleo! ZucchiniPeanutNoodles4

Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Leek-y Meatballs

6 zucchinis, spiralized or julienned
1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp olive oil

For Peanut Sauce:

1/4 cup coconut aminos (or low sodium soy sauce, if paleo doesn’t matter to you)
1-4 tbsp water*
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter or almond butter if you want to make it paleo)
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 small knob of fresh ginger (about 1 inch, about 1 tbsp)
1 tsp sriracha, or more to taste (optional)

 

Make meat balls.  Combine turkey, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, leeks, egg, salt and pepper using your hands.  Roll into 25-30 small balls (a little larger than a walnut).  Heat olive oil in a pan.  Cook meat balls about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until cooked through.  Alternatively, you can bake them at 450F on a parchment paper lined sheet for about 25-30 minutes.  (Note: I made these another time but I caramelized the onions and leeks first and it was awesome.  Just saying… in case you want to try that)

 

Next make peanut sauce.  Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until well combined. *I’ve made the sauce with 4 tbsp of water, it’s a bit runny, which I like, but if you want it thicker, use less.  You might need to adjust the coconut aminos to make sure it’s not too salty.

 

Toss zucchini noodles with sauce (reserve some extra peanut sauce for drizzling), plate noodles, top with meat balls and drizzle with extra peanut sauce.   Garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts if you’d like.  If not, just serve and devour.   I’m having a really hard time deciding the serving size for this recipe because I eat massive amounts of vegetables.  This recipe will serve about 4 people, but I got 3 meals out of it with left over meatballs (because I tend to eat more vegetables than meat).

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I’ve made this twice now and loved it both times.  It’s pretty quick and easy, but seriously tasty.  I recommend it, if you’re looking for a tasty meal to add to your healthy dinner rotation.

 

Do you have any awesome meatball-making tips?